Thursday, October 27, 2011

#164 At the Festival Of lights with Shahi Paneer Malai Kofta

N's Indian Sweets for Diwali!!
Happy Diwali to those who welcome the festival of lights!! Diwali or Deepavali means a 'row of lights' and is another festival of Indian origin. What is the significance of Deepavali? During the night of Deepavali the myriad little clay lamps seem to silently send forth the message "Come, let us remove darkness from the face of the earth." It is through light that the beauty of nature and the world around us is revealed or experienced and why lights are displayed at entrance doors.  A festival of celebrations when fireworks, colorful rangolis, social gatherings, sweets, new clothes are shared with neighbors and friends. An indication of warmth to bring out light to those whose lives are in darkness -that is the true spirit of Diwali.

While everyone was busy making sweets by normal Diwali tradition, I took a different route this time making a Shahi Kofta curry with vegetable pulao. The term Shahi means 'Royal'. We always enjoy the Mughlai style of cooking with rich ingredients such as almonds, cashews, heavy cream and paneer so that turned out to be the Diwali dinner. Paneer Malai Kofta is a vegetarian dish so rich and creamy it involves many steps of patience in rolling, stuffing and making Koftas (normally deep fried to golden brown).  I can't say my version is healthy by any means. Although I was sure to bake the Koftas, the luscious gravy was rich with almond paste and heavy cream.  This is just another vegetarian alternative to meat balls with a bit of nuts and raisins stuffed deep in the center of the paneer balls- a direct reflection of dairy rich food fit for royalty.

I will be demystifying two important Indian ingredients Cumin and Garam Masala with this recipe.
Cumin or Cuminum cyminum is the seed of a small flowering herb from the parsley family and not as much in use as it was about 5000 years ago. It's healing properties for digestive disorders and antiseptic properties are highly recommended in Ayurvedic medicine. When used in seed form, they are rich in iron and stimulates the secretion of enzymes from the pancreas, this in turn helps absorb nutrients into the human body and therefore helps detoxify.

Now the 'Magic Spice" or Garam Masala is literally translated to "Warm Spice" in English. There are as many variations of Garam Masala as there are regions in India, or you can say as there are Indian cooks because the aroma of the end product depends on the proportions of raw spices used in its entirety.
Most of the spices are dry roasted to bring out the flavor and then powdered. South Indian Garam Masala (as it was made in my Grandmother's kitchen and I make at home)is a combination of
cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, nutmeg and fennel seeds toasted in a dry heavy skillet over medium high heat. Once this mixture cools down, it is powdered and stored it in an airtight container for upto 3 months.  I prefer to add a higher proportion of fennel seeds to tone down the aroma of the Masala. When ready to use add the spice to the curry towards the end of the cooking process.

If you toss it in when you start cooking the meat or vegetables the aroma is given off during the processand much of the flavor will be lost. Notice the use of Garam Masala in this recipe the sprinkling of it at the end adds an instant flavor into the gravy.  If you prefer to use store bought Garam Masala, it must be cooked into the curry since is not freshly ground and the aroma has become less fragrant.

•For the koftas:
•2 Tblspn mashed potatoes
.2 softened crumbled slices of whole wheat bread
•1  30 oz carton Full cream Ricotta Cheese and 2 Tblspn Flour
•2 tbsps of  heavy cream
•1/2 tsp red chilli powder
•1/2 cup chopped nuts (almonds and cashewnuts)+1/4 raisins chopped fine mixed for filling

•Salt to taste
•For the sauce:
•3 tbsps Olive oil
•2 large onions quartered
•2 tomatoes quartered/ or 1 14 oz can of crushed tomatoes is perfect.
•2 tbsps garlic paste
•1 tbsp ginger paste
•2 tsps coriander powder
•1 tbsp cumin powder
•1 tsp red chilli powder
•2 tbsps nuts (cashews and almonds) ground into a thick paste
•Salt to taste
Whole cream- 1/2 cup

•2 tsps freshly ground garam masala

1. Drain the Ricotta Cheese of all the water and mix with 2 Tblspn FLour. Spread in a flat pie plate and bake at 350 degrees for 30 mins.
2. Mash the potatoes, soaked and drained bread, baked ricotta and cream together. Add the kofta chili powder and salt to this mash and mix well. The resulting dough should be firm. If not add some more boiled potato.
3. Make this dough into balls, flatten each ball and place 1/2 a tsp of the nut and raisin mix in the center of each ball. Roll into perfect rounds or oblong cylinders.
4. Spray Olive oil spray over the koftas after arranging them on a lined baking sheet, broil and bake for a few minutes each until  pale golden in colour.
Optionally: If you feel up to it, you can deep fry these koftas in hot oil and remove and drain them when they are light brown in color. For health reasons, I prefer to bake or broil them.

5. For the gravy, first heat the 3 tbsps of oil in a deep pan and fry the onions till light brown.
6. Grind into a paste along with the tomatoes, onions, ginger, garlic, coriander, cumin and red chilli powders.
7. Put this paste back into the pan and fry till the oil begins to separate from the masala.
8. Add the nut paste and fry for another 2-3 minutes.
9. Add 1 cup of warm water to this masala to form a sauce/gravy. Mix well. Season with salt.
10. Bring the sauce/gravy to a boil and then reduce the fire to a simmer.

11. Gently add the kofas to this sauce/gravy and cook uncovered for 2-3 minutes.
12. Turn off the fire and sprinkle the garam masala all over the top of the dish and the rest of the cream. Cover immediately and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
Serve with hot Naans or Jeera Rice.


  1. These sounds divine, and what a wonderful celebration. I love paneer, but have actually only tried the frozen dinner at Trader Joe's! I'm sure yours is much, much better.

  2. I love your description of this celebration. Such a beautiful holiday! I also enjoyed reading your description of Garam Masala, that's one I've been curious about. Now I look forward to using it.

  3. mouthwatering and delicious curry...

  4. Luvly kick of nuts stuffed kofta in the bed of yummy gravy...

  5. Beautiful with all those spices and that creamy thick gravy in which the koftas are sitting pretty comfortably.

    You bet garam masala and spices are the must into Indian food.

    Thanks so much for your comments on my blog and looking forward to more exchange of recipes.

  6. Beautiful recipe Malli, and happy Diwali! I love reading about other festivals and how other people celebrate them around the world, as well as the delicious and interesting celebration food they eat. This looks great - thank you so much for sharing :)

  7. Happy Belated Deepavali! :D I hope you enjoyed your homemade food that day.

  8. making it this weekend...sounds absolutely delicious Malli..;)
    Tasty Appetite

  9. what a fun celebration and what a wonderful dish to go along with it! the thick gravy is my favorite part

  10. Belated Diwali wishes..thanx for visiting my space..very delicious, rich n lovely curry..

  11. Thank You for a most interesting and informative post. I enjoyed reading about the festival of lights and the Garam Masala.Your recipe sounds absolutely delightful.

  12. Kofta looks very lovely Malli. It was nice reading your writeup. Hope you had a great time with Diwali :)

  13. tempting and delicious curry...absolutely yummm

  14. Oh, so beautiful and I love everything stuffed inside!

  15. They look delicious and unique, never seen such a dish. And I wish I also have a boxful of diwali sweets


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