So here we are, twelve days into our stay here in Ireland and I must say I am liking it very much. We are still staying in temporary accommodation but we are starting to get in touch with property agents and will be viewing several apartments in the coming weeks. For now we are calling a converted barn home. It is out in the lovely Irish hills about an hours drive away from the city centre. A bit of a commute but we don’t expect to be here much longer, and it really is beautiful out here so I ain’t complaining much.
What I love about this place is that is has so many skylights put in that it allows me to take great photos of my food. The kitchen has a five burner gas stove and oven too. Only thing is I am still not used to the settings on this oven so when I tried baking cookies the other day I ruined the first batch and almost set off the smoke alarm in the house.
The sleeping area is up those spiral stairs, in the loft.
The weather has been somewhat colder than we are used to in Amsterdam at this time of year, but we have put that down to altitude. Where we have been practically living in a hole in the Netherlands, here in the Irish hills we are roughly 700 ft above sea level. When it rains, and it does so like four times in a day, the fog rolls in thick and fast making it hard to see the end of our own driveway.
Ireland is also livestock country … there is sheep and cows EVERYWHERE! You hear them, you smell them … and sometimes they even come to your house (by accident)!!
On the weekend, a paddock gate was mistakenly left open. I was on the couch live streaming the Eurovision Song Contest on my laptop, the boyfriend was dozing off on the couch opposite. Suddenly he jumped up and ran to the front door muttering — “oh, deary me”. As he flung the door open we were greeted with about twenty dairy cows in the front yard, all moo-ing loudly and stamping their feet. We got the farmer on the phone and he sent some people round to round them all up in the middle of the night. Eventually they managed to get the job done and nothing got too badly damaged.
The nearest town is about a ten minute drive from where we are and it is where we do most of our shopping. What we have discovered here is that:
a) food is much more expensive compared to what we’ve become accustomed to in the Netherlands
b) chicken has now become a luxury we can juuuust about afford
c) if you like beef and pork in large quantities, then Ireland is where you want to be
Well the good news is we now live in a country that has an abundance of lamb/ mutton products. And what better time to savour it all than in spring! The first spring lambs have hit the shelves at the butchers and they all look divine. Leg joints, rib racks, shoulders … the rest gets turned into sausages and hamburgers … mmm!! So I got me half a kilo of lamb mince and proceeded to make dinner once we got home.
Lamb Kofta Curry
For the meatballs:
500 g minced lamb
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
½ cup fresh bread crumbs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ras el hanout spice mix or garam masala
1 whole egg
bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
bunch of mint leaves, chopped
For the curry gravy:
1 large red onion, finely chopped
5 cloves garlic + 2 inch ginger, minced together (or use store bought ginger-garlic paste)
2 green chillies
3 green cardamom pods
1 inch stick of cinnamon
¼ tsp tumeric powder
½ cup raw cashew nuts
2 large tomatoes, pureed
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground chilli powder
150 mls water or mutton broth
60 mls cold cream
½ tsp garam masala
Salt to taste
Bunch of mint leaves and coriander leaves to sprinkle over the top.
Now, I am a novice at cooking Indian food as I have said so many times in the past. Learning to cook with such a wide range of spices whilst also keeping the delicate balance of flavours in the food takes a bit of practice. I am much better today than I was say a year ago. I have also built up an impressive collection of Indian spices, whole and ground up versions, and they have all come with me from the Netherlands to Ireland. Spices (the good ones) are not cheap so they are counted as valuable to me, hence why I put my foot down on moving day and said they were all coming with.
This recipe is adapted from my favourite Youtube Indian cooking channel, Vahchef. I have learnt many things from this guy and am learning more everyday about Indian food and methods of cooking them.
So, we start with the meat balls first. Easy peasy, just chuck in all the ingredients listed above and mix mix mix until you have distributed the ingredients evenly throughout the meat mixture. Don’t overdo the mixing otherwise you will end up with an unpleasant pink mush that will look seriously unappetizing and will result in tough meatballs.
Mince that is going to be used for meatballs, meatloaf or hamburgers should always contain some fat in the mix. Fat keeps everything nice and moist and tasty. If you use 100% lean mince then you could end up with a dry meatball which is crumbly when you bite into it. The choice is yours to make.
The bread crumbs is there to make everything light and bouncy … both very good characteristics to have in meatballs. Breadcrumbs absorb any excess liquid from the eggs and meat juices, then they swell up and keep the meatball moist from the inside. If you do not have access to fresh breadcrumbs, you may also add a handful of cooked day-old rice for similar effect (like in the original Vahchef recipe).
Always taste for seasoning as you go along. The last thing you need is to sit down at the dinner table and discover that your meatballs are under seasoned, too salty or just plain bland. Different blends of spice mix will give varying flavour profile to whatever you are trying to season. So I always pinch off a bit of the meat mixture, pan-fry it off and have a little taste. I chose to use a Moroccan spice blend called Ras el Hanout coz it goes so well with lamb and really brings out the flavour of the meat.
Set the mixture aside for about 20 mins then begin to roll them into meatballs in any size you so desire. I made mine about the size of ping pong balls.
Now there are several methods of cooking these off, but the main thing here is the balls are always cooked once before being cooked again with the sauce later. You can choose to steam these off, or coat them in a light dusting of flour before deep-frying them. I have chosen to brown them off in a hot pan for ease and less washing up.
Just pan-fry until they are nice and brown on the outside and until a nice crust has formed to hold all the meat in. They do not have to be cooked 100% coz you will finish cooking them in the sauce later. Cook the meatballs in batches so you don’t crowd the pan. You want them seared, not boiled! Take them out of the pan and set them aside to chill out while you get the curry gravy going.
There are many versions of kofta curries in India and I am sure the recipe varies from household to household. Today tho, I shall be a good girl and follow the recipe closely; this is after all a learning process.
In the same pan you fried the meatballs in, add a little more veggie oil then sautee the chopped red onions and green chillies. It’s okay for them to take on a little bit of colour, just be sure not to burn them. Add some salt to draw out excess moisutre from the onions. Also add the whole spices (if using): green cardamom, cloves and cinnamon stick. I only had whole cardamom pods so I threw those in, leaving out the cloves and the cinnamon stick. I felt that I would make up for it later by adding in some extra ras el hanout spices to even it out.
Next, add in the ginger-garlic paste and some ground tumeric. Once the ground up spices are added to the pan you should always be mindful of the heat and never walk away from the pan.
This curry is mild in its heat profile, and the sauce is thickened with a nut paste. To make the nut paste simply place raw cashew nuts into a small food processor with some water, say 100 mls. Blitz everything together until a smooth paste forms. Chuck this paste over the sauteeing onions in the pan. It is best to do this type of cooking in a non-stick skillet or pot coz once the nuts go in you want to keep them from sticking to the bottom. Nuts burn easily.
Now add in the ground coriander, ground cumin, ground chilli powder or more ras el hanout spices. Mix everything around then add in some water or mutton stock to thin out the spice mix if it thickens too much.
Place the two large tomatoes into the blender and blitz to form a puree. Add this puree to the pan with all the spices. At this point I allowed the sauce to cook a little, then transfered everything to a saucepan of appropriate size because the skillet in this house does not come with a lid. So much for minimizing the washing up eh?
Anyway, cover the pot, lower the fire and let it simmer gently until some of the oil rises to the surface.
Drop all the meatballs into the sauce along with any of the juices that have collected on the plate. Cover the pot again and simmer for 10 – 15 mins on very low heat. Then turn off the fire and leave the pot on the stove with the lid on while you get the rice or naans ready for dinner. Just before serving drizzle some fresh cream over the top, a dash of garam masala and garnish with lots of freshly chopped mint and coriander leaves. This dish turned out divine!!
The smell of the curry is amazing. It filled our house and wafted out the front door …oh, heavenly. The smell intensifies when you stir the chopped mint and coriander thru the sauce and that ras el hanout spice blend worked wonders for the lamb meatballs. If only ‘scratch n sniff’ was a real thing on food blogs.
The meatballs were flavourful inside and out. They had a nice juicy texture and the seasoning was just right. The sauce was thick and creamy and bursting with huge flavours yet is was not a mess. It was mildly spicy (only half a teaspoon of chilli powder) and everything else was in perfect balance … oohmmm!
Eat this with plain hot rice or naans or palau … either way you will not be disappointed. You can even serve this as an entree, I guess but you will simply leave people wanting more, which is kind of cruel.
As I explore ever further into the realm of Indian cuisine I am increasingly amazed by how brilliant their food is. I mean, curries are intricate stuff, yet so many of us take them for granted as casual takeaway food. NO! Curries are wholesome, nutritious cooking for the soul … for it feeds you from within and makes you feel happy. If you are not a fan of the meat dishes then cook one of over a thousand varieties of the lentil versions instead. Spinach, cottage cheese, boiled egg … all these can be turned into a smashing curry one way or the other.
My friend Claire has sent me a dozen mini cookbooks for my birthday last year and among them is a book solely on famous Indian dishes. It is currently sitting in a box in the Netherlands but we’ll go pick it up in a couple of months. In the meantime, perhaps you wanna take time out and try this curry for dinner tonight. If you are a novice then perhaps try one of my simpler recipes linked below.
~ ENJOY!! ~
Other curry recipes you might be interested in: