Tuesday 24 March 2020

Kofta Curry

Kavab ni curry- curry ma kavab

Kofta Curry 

The word Kofta arises from the Persian word Koftan, meaning to pound-ground, as one does to make a meatball from ground meat. The word "rissole'' can be used as an English reference to what is being prepared.
While there are many different types of koftas, one of the most popular is the Nargisi kofta, which is filled with a boiled egg or half an egg to keep it smaller. The Kashmiri Kofta is often sausage shaped and pan fried in oil infused with cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves to add flavour. Koftas are served with yogurt, raita, and naan. The Persian Koofteh Tabrizi, with its dry-fruit centre filling, also bares similarities.

I like to think that the Kofta curry is a marriage of Persian and Indian cuisines with the umpteen kebobs and the various curries. While the kebobs are grilled over a charcoal pit or not, these koftas are often cooked in the curry itself, allowing them to be soft and supple, as they should be—melt in the mouth and silky in texture. They are delicately flavoured and are an absolute foodie's delight. Alternately, the koftas are pan-fried and then immersed in the curry to absorb the flavours. 
Growing up, I only ever remember having the perfect kofta curry in my neighbours' home in London. A family friend and an exceptional home cook with a heart of gold, she was a wonder in the kitchen despite being rather elderly. I may have been just a teenager then, but I can still recall the textures and flavours. When I asked her, she said, "It's always the ingredients." The meat and the malai-cream make it special. 
While I am unsure if she will find my recipe exacting, it is the closest to hers I have been able to capture. 

Traditionally, beef is used to prepare a "kofta" but she used lamb and so have I. The curry one generally finds on any menu is a tomato-based, yogurt-infused one. But I have prepared my own version of it in order to follow my dream of getting it like hers.

The old Parsi books, have prepared their version with goat, mutton or lamb na kavab, the recipe traditionally used for mini round meat balls served with Dhansak and simply cooked them in a typical Parsi curry. 

A malai kofta curry with saffron rice

Serves 4 to 6 

1/2 kg or 1 lb lamb or beef ground meat
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp cumin powder
8 tbsp milk powder or thick cream
1 tsp salt
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp garam masalo

Mix this well and refrigerate for 30 minutes if you find it too soft to handle. Continue making 10 to 12 koftas (round balls). Pan fry each one on a medium flame until they are golden brown all over. Add 2 tbsp of hot water, cover and steam cook for 10 minutes to allow it to remain soft.
Do not overcook them as they will be immersed and reheated in the curry.
Keep aside.

Grind together 

3/4 cup sweet cashews
1 cup of tomatoes or 2 large tomatoes
2 green chillies
1 cup fried onion
6 full stalks of coriander 
1 stalk fresh mint
1/2 tsp garam masalo
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
2 dry large red chillies or 1 tsp red chilli powder

Cook this in a pan for 10 minutes until the oils separate. 

Add 2 cups of coconut milk, mix well, and bring it to a boil. Add the koftas, cover the pan, lower the heat, and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the desired consistency is reached. Let it rest for 5 minutes. 

Serve hot with white boiled rice, coconut rice, saffron rice, or lemon rice. 


Using milk powder helps it bind easily, and yet once soaked into the curry, the kofta remains soft and succulent.  
Once the kofta is browned all over, cover the pan to allow it to steam cook. This allows it to cook and stay soft at the same time. 
If you prefer a non-nut-based dish, use crushed sunflower seeds. Chestnut flour is also an alternate. 
 If you find the curry too thick, coconut water is a good substitute. Use as much as you need. However, it will leave a sweetened taste.

My published cookbooks are available for sale through myself and on Amazon.

The World of Parsi Cooking: Food Across Borders is a 3 award winning book. It has been self published in July 2019 and will be going into its second print in 2022. 

The Art of Parsi Cooking; reviving an ancient cuisine was published in 2016 by Austin Macauley and continues to be available through amazon book depot book depository and from the publishers.

Photo Credit : Niloufer Mavalvala


  1. the ingredients for this recipe sound delicious. I've never made kofta curry before. Your instructions seem to be very incomplete. Kindly be more detailed as I'd love to make this recipe.

    You also indicate 2 Cups of coconut water. Is it water or coconut milk? Coconut water would make this dish very watery, I would think

    1. Sorry Bea, there was a glitch in the blog page. I have lost quite a bit of lines when the blogging company switched their technical systems 6 months ago. I have updated it and hope you enjoy the recipe.