Cheese-Stuffed Malai Kofta

Malai Kofta

Wotchers!

Haven’t done one of these for a while – it’s Deja Food!

Softly spiced vegetable ‘meatballs’ in a rich and creamy onion gravy.

Actually, the ‘gravy’ is worth making by itself – it’s SO creamy and SO flavourful, I could eat it as is with bread to dip and a crunchy salad – Nom!

Many Malai Kofta recipes have the cheese grated and mixed with the vegetables and potatoes. I prefer to have a cube of sharp-tasting cheese in the middle to act both as a surprise and to cut through the richness of the sauce. The downside of this approach, of course, is that without the cheesy ‘glue’ to hold them together, the vege-balls are a little less sturdy. Chilling in the freezer and gentle handling whilst cooking on the pan should reduce the possibility of them falling apart. Alternatively, grate the cheese and fold in with the rest of the ingredients.

This recipe is perfect for using up leftover vegetables and potatoes, yet glamorous enough to pass off to the family as a freshly-created dish.

*poker-face* Not that I’d ever do that.

*crickets chirp*

ANYHOO…

The recipe can be adapted to whatever vegetables you have to hand. Suggestions for alternative ingredients are given in the recipe.

Originally published in The Guardian Readers’ Recipe Swap: Meatballs.

 

Cheese-Stuffed Malai Kofta

Makes 12.

Serves 4 children, or 4 adults as a starter, or 2 hungry adults as a main course, or 1 peckish adult and 2 ravenous children, or a family of 4 as a side dish, or….you get the gist.

For the kofta:
400g mixed cooked vegetables
200g cooked potato (1 large)
0.5tsp coarse-ground black pepper
0.5tsp salt
0.5tsp garam masala
0.5tsp amchoor (dried mango powder) or sumac or 1-2tsp lemon juice
1 heaped tablespoon cornflour
60g cheshire/feta/goat cheese or paneer or vegetarian cheese – cut into 12 cubes
3tbs oil for frying

  • Chop the vegetables.
  • Grate the potato.
  • Mix together with the salt, pepper, spices and cornflour.
  • Divide into 12 x 50g balls.
  • Make a hole in each ball and press in a cube of cheese.
  • Mould the vegetables around the cheese and shape into a ball.
  • Put the koftas onto a plastic tray and place in the freezer to firm up while you make the sauce/gravy.

For the gravy
2 large onions
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger
60g cashew nuts
60ml plain yoghurt
2tbs oil
1tsp dried fenugreek leaves
2tsp garam masala
1tsp salt
60g tomato paste concentrate
1tsp chilli powder (optional)
250ml double cream or crème fraîche or unsweetened evaporated milk
125ml milk

  • Peel the onions and the ginger and blitz to a puree in a food processor.
  • Make a puree of the cashews and the yoghurt with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
  • Heat the oil in a pan.
  • Add the onion mixture and fry over a low heat for several minutes until translucent.
  • Add the cashew mixture, spices and tomato paste. Stir for 2-3 minutes until thoroughly combined.
  • Add the cream and milk and stir thoroughly.
  • Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
  • If you prefer a smooth sauce, give it a quick blitz either with a stick blender or in a liquidiser. Additionally, if the sauce is a little thick, add water to thin it to the right consistency.
  • Return to the pan and set aside to keep warm while the koftas are cooked.

To finish:
1. Heat 3tbs oil in a wide, shallow pan.
2. Add the chilled koftas and brown them on all sides. Toss gently, otherwise they might break apart.
3. Ladle the sauce into a warmed serving dish and arrange the koftas on top. Alternatively, go crazy and arrange the koftas in the warm dish and pour the sauce over the top.
4. Serve with naan breads to mop up all the sauce.


Bierocks

Bierocks

Wotchers!

This week’s recipe is another great comfort food and snack item that originates in eastern Europe, and migrated from Russia, through Germany and travelled with the food traditions of German immigrants to North America. Variations are also known as Fleischkuche, Runza’s, Kraut Pirok and Cabbage Burger.

A soft, white bread dough is stuffed with a mixture of seasoned beef mince, onion and cabbage – and that’s it. You’re thinking it sounds a bit plain and dull? Yes, me too when I first read about these, but reading the reviews of these buns on recipe sites and blogs,  you discover that these simple stuffed rolls have a huge fan base out there – so much so that they are made commercially in the US. The mix of meat, onions and cabbage is moist and savoury and comforting. Sometimes the most flavourful things come from the simplest of ingredients.

These rolls are best served warm, and served with salad they can be a simple and tasty lunch. Alternatively, they also freeze well – great for grab-and-go weekday lunches, they will have defrosted by lunchtime can be warmed up either in an oven or microwave.

Although the basic recipe is delicious, you can also add a little extra flavourings to your taste. The most popular variation includes a little sauerkraut with the cabbage: I personally wasn’t keen, but then I only had shop-bought sauerkraut to try it with. Home-made sauerkraut is probably much better. The second variation I tried was to add a little cheese. I went with some grated Grana Padano (a strong Italian cheese similar to Parmesan, but much cheaper) for maximum flavour without adding too much bulk to the filling. I really liked this little addition, but please do try the original mixture too – it really is delicious.

You can use any cabbage, but I like both the colour and texture of the Savoy cabbage – it holds its colour really well and makes the filling look fresh and juicy as well as taste that way.

Bierocks – Makes 12

Bread Dough
500g strong white flour
1 sachet fast action yeast
1 large egg
1 tsp salt
1.5 tsp sugar
100ml whole milk
100ml boiling water

Filling
500g lean beef mince
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 small Savoy cabbage, finely shred
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
grated Grana Padano cheese (optional)

  • Make the bread dough:
    • Put the flour, yeast, egg, salt and sugar into a bowl.
    • Add the boiling water to the milk and add gradually to the mixture until it comes together into a soft dough. You may need more liquid, depending on the moisture in the flour and egg.
    • Knead the mixture for ten minutes, cover and set aside to rise for an hour.
  • Make the filling.
    • Heat a non-stick saucepan over a medium high heat and crumble in the meat. No need to have any oil, even lean mince has a certain amount of fat in it which will come out as the meat cooks.
    • Stir the meat around until it is browned and shiny.
    • Add the onion and continue stirring while the onion softens.
    • Finally add in the cabbage and cook until the cabbage has softened – probably no more than 2-3 minutes.
    • Stir in the salt and pepper, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  • When the dough is risen, tip out and pat down.
  • Divide dough into pieces weighing 75-80g.
  • Roll dough out into a 15cm square.
  • Put a measure of the cooled filling into the middle of the dough. I use an 80ml measuring cup.
  • Add 1 teaspoon of the grated cheese, if using.
  • Bring the corners of the dough together and pinch along the edges to seal in the filling. What you will end up with looks like the back of an envelope.
  • Turn the buns over and place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  • Dust the buns with flour and set aside to rise for 15-20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C, 160°C Fan.
  • Bake the buns for 15-20 minutes until lightly browned.
  • Remove the buns from the oven and immediately cover the baking sheet with some tea-towels. This will trap the heat and create steam, which will soften the crust of the buns.
  • Eat warm.

Cheese and Potato Pies

Cheese and Potato Pies

Wotchers!

I love this recipe for lots of reasons: it’s Deja Food, it’s comfort food, is simple, cheap, quick to put together and it’s deliciously tasty.

I’ve included a couple of twists in this seemingly simple recipe that elevates it into something really special.

The pastry is a new version of shortcrust that I have adapted from a Victorian bakers’ book. It includes cornflour, which makes the pastry extra crispy, which isn’t always easy with an all-butter pastry, and it has a really smooth, dry feel which makes it very easy to handle. I’ve thrown in some rosemary to pump up the flavour in the pastry, and the filling is simplicity itself – just diced, cooked potatoes and cheese – but with a secret ingredient that makes these pies completely awesome.

I like chutney. I’ve always liked the sharpness from the vinegar, the spiciness, the touch of sweetness – and I’ve made my fair share of them too. The secret to a good chutney is time – leaving it for two to three months after it’s made so that the flavours can develop and the throat-catching harshness of the vinegar can mellow. Taste it too soon and everything is much too strong. Which brings me to the secret ingredient: Sainsbury’s Basics Tomato Chutney. Now, you know I love you, Sainsbury’s, but you’re just not aging your Basics chutney, are you? Pop that jar open and whoosh! The whiff of vinegar and spice is mighty powerful. However, if you bake a little of this chutney into these pies something magic happens: all the harshness of the vinegar disappears and just add a piquancy that breaks up the pastry/cheese/potato combo. Don’t worry if you don’t live near a Sainsbury’s – Basics Tomato Chutney seems to be a staple in most of the major supermarkets.

These pies are great for packed lunches and picnics or just a quick and comforting lunch at home.

Cheese and Potato Pies – makes 6-8 individual pies

225g plain flour
60g cornflour or rice flour
140g butter
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
ice cold water

4-5 medium cold boiled potatoes
strong cheddar cheese – grated
Basics tomato chutney

1 large egg, whisked

Individual foil pie dishes

  • Put the flours, rosemary and butter into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • With the machine running, gradually add the cold water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  • Tip the mixture onto a floured surface, knead smooth then wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Cut the potatoes into centimetre  cubes and put into a bowl.
  • Add grated cheese to your taste and season with salt and pepper.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180ºC Fan.
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge and cut off two thirds.
  • Roll this piece out thinly to a thickness of 3-4mm and line your greased pie dishes, making sure there is enough pastry over the sides of the dishes to allow for joining the lid.
  • Put a layer of cheese and potato into the bottom of each pie shell.
  • Add 2-3 teaspoons of tomato chutney and spread into a thin layer.
  • Fill the pies with the remaining cheese and potato mixture
  • Roll out the pastry for the lids. Wet the undersides with a pastry brush dipped in waterand press them onto the tops of the pies firmly.
  • Trim off the excess pastry with the back of a knife.
  • Crimp the pastry edges by pressing into them with the tines of a fork.
  • Wash over the tops of the pies with beaten egg and cut a small hole in the pastry lids to let out steam.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes, depending on the size and shape of your pies, until the pastry is crisp and golden.
  • Cool on a wire rack.

Dutch Pea Soup

Dutch Pea Soup

Wotchers!

This is a fantastic winter warmer of a soup – I say soup, but it’s more accurately a meal in a bowl, with its thick, hearty mix of dried green peas, vegetables and flavourful meats. It is the sign of a good soup if your spoon can stand upright in your bowl!

In Friesland, the northern region of The Netherlands where my husband’s family come from, there is a marathon speed-skating race called The Elfstedentocht . It runs for approximately 200 kilometers in a huge circle around the eleven cities of the region. Because, for safety reasons, the ice needs to be of a minimum thickness for the race to proceed, sometimes there is as little as 48 hours notice for both competitors and spectators, although there is a frenzy of excitement for weeks as temperatures fall and the possibility of the race being staged rises.

Most of the country stay at home to watch the race, but the diehard enthusiasts flock to the start/finish town of Leeuwarden and all along the route to cheer on the skaters. To keep themselves warm during the race, spectators eat Snert or Dutch Pea Soup.

You need to start at least the day before you want to serve the soup with soaking the peas. The rest of the cooking can be completed on the following day, but this soup improves with keeping, so starting it even earlier is not a problem. This makes a large quantity of soup, easily enough for 8-10 people, but it freezes well.

I’ve adapted this recipe to ingredients available in the UK. If you’re planning any outdoor activities over the holiday period, then a flask of this soup will be a fantastic addition to the day.

Dutch Pea Soup

400g dried green peas

1.5 litres water
1 boneless pork chop
1 smoked ham hock or small smoked gammon joint
2 large carrots – sliced thickly and diced
1 large onion – chopped
1 celeriac – peeled and cubed

1 bunch celeriac leaves or celery leaves roughly chopped
2 leeks – rinsed and sliced
1 large potato – peeled and chopped
12 peppercorns
1 bayleaf

1 U-shaped smoked sausage

a handful of flat-leaf parsley – chopped
1 sharp apple – peeled and cubed

  • The night before: Put the peas into a large bowl and cover with water. Leave to soak overnight.
  • The next day:
    • Drain the peas.
    • Put the water, peas, pork, ham hock, celeriac, carrots and onion into  large saucepan and simmer gently for 3 hours.
    • Add the peppercorns and bayleaf, leeks, potato and celery leaves.
    • Simmer for a further 1 hour.
    • Remove from the heat.
    • Remove the bayleaf and fish out the peppercorns (optional, most of the time I leave them in).
    • Fish out the meat.
    • Trim away all fat and discard. Shred the pork and ham/gammon and return to the saucepan.
    • Slice and dice the smoked sausage and add to the saucepan.
    • Warm the soup gently until heated through.
    • Using a potato masher, gently crush the vegetables a few times – you’re not aiming for a smooth puree, just a comforting, thickened mix.
    • To serve: Spoon into bowls and stir through the chopped parsley and the apple – it really lifts the flavour and makes what might be a rather heavy soup, light and fresh.