Koftas in Saffron Sauce

(Photo by orgazmika/Flickr)

Four to six people eat from the same tray, but always from their own corner of it, with hands which have been ceremoniously washed before the meal begins.

Serves 6.


1 kg/2 lb lamb tenderloin
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon Kashmiri garam masala
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons arrowroot or cornflour (cornstarch)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons chilli powder or to taste
2 tablespoons ghee
2 tablespoons oil
125 g/4 oz/1/2 cup finely sliced shallots or brown onions
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
4 brown cardamoms
or 6 small green cardamoms, bruised
4 whole cloves
1 small stick cinnamon
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon saffron strands
2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander


Trim fat from lamb and cube the meat. Divide into 4 portions. Process one portion at a time in a food processor, using steel chopping blade, until it is a smooth, thick paste. Mix in the ground cardamom, garam masala and salt. Combine arrowroot or cornflour with 2 tablespoons cold water and add to meat, mixing well. Form into koftas (large balls). Bring to the boil in a saucepan just enough salted water to simmer the koftas. Add half the turmeric and chilli powder to the water and parboil koftas for 10 minutes.

In another saucepan with heavy base heat the ghee and oil and on low heat fry shallots, ginger and whole spices until onions are soft and fragrant. Add remaining turmeric, chilli powder, paprika and tomato paste. Add the koftas and liquid they were cooked in. Toast saffron strands in a dry pan for 1 minute, shaking the pan and taking care they don't scorch. Turn onto a saucer and when cool and crisp, crush with the back of a spoon. Dissolve in a tablespoon of boiling water and add to pan. Cover and simmer until tender. Sprinkle with coriander and serve hot with pilau or steamed basmati rice.

Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)