As a kid, whenever we would go out for dinner with parents it was mandatory to have Malai Kofta (Paneer or Indian cottage cheese balls in creamy cashew gravy). I was never a big admirer of this dish if I say so. This dish always intrigued me. When dad used to ask me what I want, like a broken record my answer would always be anything with paneer but not malai kofta. This dish never excited me till now. When I met Jerry, I was taken back with shock when I found him ordering this very same dish during one of our dinner trips. It made me think hard what is about this that even someone so remotely related to North Indian cuisine loves it. There must be more to this dish that catches the eye.
On our recent trips to Chicago, we discovered a new Indian restaurant by accident. Accident cause we and our friends were struggling to decide where to go for dinner, when suddenly at the last moment someone popped the idea to try the much acclaimed ‘girl and the goat’. When we reached there, we found that the entry is based on mere reservations and who do you think can get a table in that restaurant without reservation and that too on a saturday night?(!) Well out of all options, we started walking and suddenly saw ourselves standing in front of an Indian restaurant named Jaipur (P.S Jaipur is a historic Indian city).
The food wasn’t much to our expectations but there was one thing that reminded us of India. They had the best Naan ( Indian bread baked in a clay oven). It was the perfect kind: soft that melts in the mouth and crispy enough so you can dunk it in a gravy but not the kind that makes it chewy. Then we decided to give a try to some other recipes as well in particular malai kofta which left us disheartened. That started my quest for perfect Malai kofta and Naan recipe.
After several trial and errors, last night I tried on a recipe and it made me proud.
It serves a complete meal but it needs some pre-planning. You can buy ready made paneer (Indian cottage cheese) or you can make at home as well. This dish won’t leave you disheartened, trust me.(!)
- Around 1 lb paneer ( If making at home then from ½ gallon of whole milk)
- Salt to taste
- 2 tbsp corn starch plus additional for rolling
- 1 tsp Cardamom powder (optional)
- Oil for frying the balls
- ¾ cup cashews, boiled in water and then turned into a paste form in food processor
- 1+1/4 large yellow onion, cut in pieces, boiled in water till soft and turned into paste in food processor
- 3-4 whole green chillies, slit in half
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 3-4 cardamom pods (optional)
- 1 tbsp garlic paste
- ½ tbsp ginger paste
- 1 tsp sugar
- Salt to taste
- 1 tbsp oil for cooking
- Grate the paneer and then mash it up with hands. Add salt, corn starch and cardamom powder. Mix it up nicely and roll it into small balls. Coat each bowl with additional corn starch and keep aside. Heat oil in a heavy bottom skillet. Fry the balls for 50-60 secs making sure they get done on the outside but they don't turn brown. Keep stirring them slowly while frying as it helps in even cooking.
- Keep them aside.
- Now boil the cashews in 3-4 cups of water. They will start floating on top once they are done. Rinse them with cold water and make paste.
- Chop the onion in big pieces and boil in water for 10-15 mins. Make a fine paste and keep aside.
- Take a heavy bottom pot. Add oil. Once hot, add bay leaves and cardamom pods. Add onion paste and let it cook for 6-7 mins. Add ginger and garlic paste and cook for 3-4 mins more. Add cashew paste and green chillies and cook for another 7-8 mins while continuously stirring. Make sure you keep it stirring till it starts losing oil or it will stick to the pot. Once done, add around 2 cups water to it. Mix it and let it cook on low flame for 10-15 mins. Add sugar and salt and taste.
- Add balls in the gravy and serve hot with naan.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2+1/4 tsp yeast
- ½ cup warm milk (any fat content)
- 4-5 tbsp yogurt
- Salt to taste
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 tsp olive oil
- Garlic paste for brushing (optional)
- Butter for brushing
- In a bowl, mix flour with salt and sugar. Warm half a cup of milk and add yeast to it. Let it sit for 5 mins. Add this milk to flour mix and mix. Add yogurt and oil. Mix it all up till it all comes together. Transfer it to a deep bowl as it will become 2-3 times of its size. Cover it and keep it in a warm place for 3-4 hours.
- Before rolling, kneed the flour for few minutes and use flour if too sticky. Break it into small balls. Sprinkle the working surface with flour and roll them in elongated shapes or as desired. Brush one side with water. Take a heavy bottom skillet with a lid. On nicely warm skillet surface, place the wet side and cover. Let it cook for like 30-40 seconds and then flip. Cover and let it cook for 40 seconds more. See if it has brown spots which shows that it is cooked but not burnt. Smear with butter. You can smear with garlic paste as well to have garlic flavored naan.
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Richa Singhal saysJanuary 28, 2013 at 3:41 PM
omg :)..my mouth started watering as soon as i read your blog is about malai kofta and naan..i have always loved malai kofta since besides paneer that is the only other tasty option when you go to restaurants in India. It has always seemed a complicated dish to me since you have to make these rolls and then prepare gravy. I am so delighted you tried it and then posted it in your blog.
I will definitely try your recipe this weekend. I dont have a food processor so grinding would not be possible. I will just fry onions and see if I can mash some cashews manually.
Aparna B. saysJanuary 29, 2013 at 10:01 AM
YUM! Next time you’re in Chicago try going Raj Dabar, or going onto Devon Ave. for Viceroy. Those are my favorite Indian restaurants in the city 🙂 I’ve never made Malai Kofta…but I do love paneer so maybe I should try it sometime!
naivecookcooks saysJanuary 29, 2013 at 10:46 AM
I will surely go! Yep try this recipe..I like it because it is simple and tastes just like you get at restaurants! Thanks for commenting 🙂
henatayeb saysJanuary 30, 2013 at 1:44 PM
I had never heard of malai kofta before.. they look delightful