We’ve been experimenting with plant-based meat substitutes for years…and several of them have been quite good. Lately, the “Beyond” and “Impossible” burgers have been getting all the headlines and we’ve been trying them and their make your own versions (faux ground beef) out. This week, for some reason, my mind went to “what if I made a kofta out of them?” The short answer: Yum!!
Traditionally, there are two kinds of kofta. The Middle Eastern meat kind, think spicy meatballs (which I’ve never eaten, because I’m a vegetarian) and their Indian cousin, the malai kofta (often made with paneer, vegetables, and potatoes in a cream sauce).
This experiment is a cross between the two…and possibly a little healthified…there’s no actual “malai” (cream) in this recipe, though it is plenty creamy and flavorful. You’ll see the seasonings are a hybrid between Middle Eastern/East African (Berbere, an Ethiopan spice blend) and Indian (cardamom, garam masala, etc). You could just make the balls without the gravy. They are plenty flavorful and tasty. Upon tasting them, my husband actually asked me why I was bothering with the gravy (a good sign).
A note on the quantities…this recipe is a little like my grandma’s would have been…if you asked her how much to put in, she would say, ‘uru thuli’ (aka a pinch). The amounts below aren’t precise (I’ll try to do that the next time I make it). I sprinkled the spices in and mixed.
for the Kofte ‘meat’balls
- 1 package of Plant-based ground beef (Beyond makes one). The one I actually used came from Safeway and looked a little scarily like ground beef, stringy lines and all.
- 1 teaspoon/a few healthy shakes Berbere seasoning
- 1 t turmeric
- 1-2 t garam masala
- 1 t garlic powder
- 1 t cinnamon powder
- 1 egg (optional, used as a binder)
- 1 T grated fresh ginger
for the Gravy
- 2 cans of crushed tomatoes (I used Trader Joe’s fire roasted tomatoes, which have a kick from chillies already in the can)
- 3 pods of cardamom
- 3-4 cloves
- 2 t garam masala
- 1-2 t berbere
- 1 t turmeric
- 1 t Asafoetida (if you don’t have it, skip)
- 2 t cinnamon
- 1 T fresh ginger, grated
- 1/4 cup pistachios (Note: the original recipe I read to form this experiment suggested 14 cashews…if I had cashews I would have used them, but we were out, so…pistachios)
- Put your faux ground in a big mixing bowl. Toss in the spices and an egg. Mix around well with a fork. Form into small balls.
- Coat a heavy skillet (i used cast iron) with oil. Heat the oil up and then add your kofte balls in.
- Cook for a minute or so on each side–you’ll see them brown. As they brown, turn them and move the balls around the pan so they cook evenly (my skillet often is hotter on one side than the other).
- When they are golden, set aside. They should be a little crispy. (if you’ve ever eaten Trader Joe’s Meatless Meatballs, that’s the look and texture I was going for).
The ‘Malai’ Gravy
- Put all of the ingredients in a blender, cover and blend until smooth.
- Pour into a saucepan. Add about 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook on medium for about 15-20 mins (Longer is fine, it’ll thicken up a bit.)
- Reduce to a simmer. Drop in your balls and let them soak for about 10 mins.