My family moved to India from Kuwait when I was just out of high school. At a confused end of teenage years, academic pressures and moving countries left me at very angry-at-the-world grumpy seventeen year old. To add to the pain, we were shifting to a town. A remote town.
There was nothing much to do at first. No scratch that, there was nothing to do at all. Cousins, whom now I know where ticketed by Ammi came to hang out with me, often returned disappointed in my lack of interest to create a conversation. The only activity that felt remotely similar to my life in Kuwait was reading. I begged cousins to borrow books from the school library. I asked them to hunt down people who might have used books. Most of the books I gathered had been left unattended for years. I felt a terrible comfort in those yellowed pages, sniffing through the smell of old pages that sometimes would surprise me with the stale smell of dried roses. Days would pass into nights, and I would for all I can remember, sleep reading.
Ammi was worried of course and tried hard to comfort me. She cooked my favourite meals, made us evening snacks which she knew I love with a cup of coffee and bought a whole lot of ice cream for desserts. When it all failed, she casually (as if she hadn't planned all this already) asked me if I would like to teach at the town school, since they have a teacher on leave and are looking for temporary replacement. She didn't wait for my reply.
Technically, I was going to teach mathematics to tiny kids, but it turned out to be the most tremendously life changing, character building experience of my life (a story, I want to tell but can't find right words for it just yet), so much so that I continued to teach for next two years. It was first of many things and making first real friends was one of them. A vegetarian friend forced me to try malai koftas (cheese dumplings in creamy tomato sauce) despite my repeated plea about not liking paneer. I didn't end up loving it back then, until one day she made the koftas with bottle gourd instead.
The melt in mouth vegetarian 'meat balls' were extra spicy dunked in a creamy tomato sauce that was pleasantly sweet. While some were soft and plump from cooking in the sauce, there were a side of crispy koftas as extras that the staff would enjoy during class breaks. I still continue that tradition by always making extra crispy koftas on the side,.
Please note that considering the requests, I have started writing most of my recipes in metric measurement for consistent results but for most part you can adjust the measurements as most Indian cooks would.
For the koftas *
500 g zucchini
250 g potatoes, boiled
100 g spring onions, finely chopped
3 tbsp chickpeas flour
2 tbsp white rice flour
1 tbsp garam masala
20g coriander leaves, chopped
2 green chilies, chopped
1/4 tsp cumin powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Oil for frying
For the sauce
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 Indian bay leaf (tej patta)
1 Indian cinnamon stick
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chill powder
2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala
300 g tomatoes, finely chopped
200ml light coconut milk
1 tsp lime juice
* this makes double the koftas than you would require but it is what the cook gets to eat for cooking and munching. Halve the recipe otherwise.
Grate the zucchini and mix it with the rest of the ingredients for kofta. It might feel a little loose and sticky but once it hits the oil it will crisp up nicely.
Fry them in batches until light golden brown.
For the sauce, add oil in a pan and add the dry spices. Once they sizzle, add ginger and garlic paste, tomatoes and all powdered spices.
Let the tomatoes cook down completely. Remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf and blend rest of the ingredients in a blender until spoon. Mix in the coconut milk.
Return the mixture to the pan, add 1/2 cup water and let it simmer at low flame for 10 minutes.
Add the lime juice and mix well. Line the koftas in the pan and lightly shake the pan to coat and move the sauce. Season with salt.
Cook until the sauce is thick. The sauce gets thicker as it sits so if you plan to serve it later, add a splash of water and heat it before serving.
We like it with some cumin rice with a side of simple onion salad but it is also great with flatbread like naan or pita bread too.