I LOVE spices! Particularly those of the indian and middle eastern variety. You can liken my kitchen pantry to a spice bazaar. Having compiled a list (just so I could keep track of what’s in my pantry) I have:-
- Amchur (mango powder)
- Asafoetida (Hing)
- Bay Leaves ( ok, they should be under herbs but I use the dried leaves for home-blended garam masala)
- Black Peppercorns
- Caraway Seeds
- Cardamon Pods (green and black)
- Cayenne Pepper
- Chilli Powder
- Cinnamon (bark, stick and ground)
- Coriander Seeds (whole and ground)
- Cumin Seeds (whole and ground)
- Curry Powders (assorted for meat, poultry and fish)
- Dried Chillies
- Fennel Seeds
- Fenugreek Seeds
- Five Spice
- Garam Masala
- Mustard Seeds
- Nigella Seeds
- Saffron Threads
- Star Anise
So, am I a consummate spice lover? You betcha! With such an array of aromatics, even the simplest dish can be transformed into something magnificent. Take this Turmeric Chicken dish for instance; minimal ingredients and fuss-free cooking - perfect when you can’t be stuffed cooking an elaborate meal. I do love my meat but I can be a very happy vegetarian when there’s such an abundance of spices to liven up some of my favourite pulses (lentils and beans) and vegetables like eggplant, tomatoes, okra, pumpkin, aloo (potatoes), cauliflowers and more!
Whenever I cook with spices, the meal is often a labour of love; I find it all very therapeautic, be it roasting the spices to release their intoxicating perfume and then bashing them into smithers, stewing or braising spice-rich curries, blending up an accompanying chutney or cooling raita with a few spices tossed through and there’s the making of rotis and parathas as well – so warming and comforting.
These lamb koftas are delicious; the flavours of warming spices and green chillies are balanced and yoghurt imparts a tang as well as a tenderising effect on the lamb mince. As winter approaches and my mint leaves are getting punier by the week, a mint and coriander chutney is in order; luckily my coriander patch is thriving robustly. The chutney complements the meaty koftas so well and to complete our meal, I improvised a wholemeal and besan (chickpea flour) roti.
wholemeal and besan (chickepea) flour roti/flat bread
roughly break the koftas to make wrapping easier
Lamb Kofta with Mint & Coriander Chutney
(adapted from ‘A Little Taste of India’)
1 small onion, roughly chopped
5 cm (2 inch) piece of ginger, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 green chillies, seeded and roughly chopped (I used 1 large green chilli)
15 g (1/2 cup) coriander (cilantro) leaves
2 tablespoons thick plain yoghurt (I used greek yoghurt)
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) minced lamb
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin (I toasted cumin seeds and ground them to a powder)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander ( I toasted whole coriander seeds and ground them to a powder)
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
2 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 – 4 tablespoons oil
Blend the onion, ginger, garlic, chopped chilli and the coriander leaves together in a food processor until they form a paste. If you don’t have a food processor, use a mortar and pestle, or finely chop everything together with a knife. Add yoghurt to the paste and mix well.
Put the lamb in a bowl, add the paste and mix by hand, kneading the ingredients into the meat until thoroughly combined. Add all the spices, and the salt and pepper, and mix again to distribute evenly. Cover and refrigerate for 1-2 hours to allow the flavours to develop and also to make the mixture firmer and therefore easier to handle.
Wet your hands and roll small handfuls (about a heaped tablespoon) of the mince mixture into small balls (wetting hands prevents the mixture from sticking to your hands). You should have about 30-40 meatballs (I rolled mine slightly larger)
Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan. When hot, but not smoking, add 10 meatballs in a single layer. Brown on all sides by gently shaking the pan for 2 – 3 minutes. Don’t be tempted to turn them over with a spoon or they may break up. Test a kofta by breaking it open. If it is cooked through, there should be no pink meat inside. If the meat is still pink, cook for another minute or two. Remove and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining meatballs. Mint and coriander chutney is the perfect accompaniment but other chutneys are also suitable.
Mint and Coriander Chutney
(adapted from ‘A Little Taste of India’)
30 g (1 1/2 cups) mint leaves
30 g (1 1/2 cups) coriander (cilantro) leaves
1 green chilli (small)
1 tablespoon tamarind puree
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3 tablespoons thick plain yoghurt ( greek yoghurt is perfect )
Wash the mint and coriander leaves. Discard any tough stalks but keep the young soft ones for flavour.
Blend all the ingredients together in a blender or food processor, or chop everything finely and pound it together in a mortar and pestle.
Taste the chutney and add more salt if necessary.
Note: If you want a creamier, milder chutney, stir in the yoghurt ( instead of blending it with the other ingredients)
Wholemeal and Besan (Chickpea) Flour Roti
140 g wholemeal flour
60 g plain flour
50 g besan (Chickpea) flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoons chilli powder
2 teaspoons oil
125 ml lukewarm/tepid water
Sift the flours, salt and chilli powder into a bowl and make a well in the centre. Add the oil and water and mix to form a soft pliable dough. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl; cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into 4 – 5 balls. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each dough ball evenly to a circle about 1 – 2 mm thick. Cover with a cloth to prevent dough from drying out.
Heat a non-stick frying pan until hot, cook one roti at a time. Cook each side for 1 minute; turn and cook for a further 1 – 2 minutes (you can press lightly with a tea-towel. It will puff up slightly). Cook until you see a smattering of brown patches on the roti.
Remove the roti and keep warm, wrapped in aluminium foil while you cook the remaining rotis.
Serve warm with a smear or ghee or butter.