Although meatballs are enjoyed around the world, we in the US usually think of them as something to have in a tomato sauce over spaghetti or to pick out of a mysterious brown gravy with a toothpick. In India they are made with lamb and served in a savory yoghurt sauce. Called koftas, they make a delicious light dinner. I have adapted this recipe from New Indian Home Cooking by Madhu Gadia (HPBooks, NY 2000).


1 pound lamb[i]

1 egg

1 tsp. salt

2 medium onions

1-inch ginger peeled and coarsely chopped or 1 tbsp. ginger paste

4 to 6 large cloves garlic

2 or 3 green or red Serrano chilies

Vegetable oil (I use Canola)

1 tsp. whole cumin seeds

½-inch cinnamon stick

½ cup yoghurt (low-fat works best)

½ tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. ground coriander

1 tsp. Indian chili powder (or to taste)


Grind the lamb in a meat grinder or chop in a food processor.  (You could use commercially ground lamb but it is likely to be fattier.) Mix the lamb, egg, and ½ tsp. salt in bowl using your hands. Form into meatballs about 1½ inch in diameter, packing as tightly as you can. You should have eight koftas.

Pour about ¼ inch of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the koftas in the hot oil turning them carefully with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towels along with any bits of meat that have broken off into the oil. Pour off all but a tablespoon or so of the oil. (Alternatively you could bake the koftas on an oiled baking sheet in a 450° oven for about 20 minutes.)

Puree the onions ginger, garlic, and chili in a food processor until they are a thick uniform paste. Suppress the temptation to eat it right out of the processor bowl!

Heat the oil in the skillet until near smoking. Add the cumin seeds and cinnamon stick. Fry for just a few seconds until they become fragrant. Pour in the onion puree—be careful, it will splatter a bit. Turn the heat down to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until light golden brown.

Add the yoghurt to the onion mixture stirring vigorously to blend. Add the turmeric, ground coriander, and chili powder. Continue to cook, stirring for a few minutes. Add about one cup of water and stir to combine. Put the koftas into the sauce and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for about ½ hour. If the sauce is too runny at the end of that time, remove the lid and allow to reduce to the desired consistency.

Serve over basmati rice.

Serves 2 to 4

[i] Because the lamb we get in the US tends to be rather fatty, I like to cut a leg of lamb into lean cubes rather than cook it whole. I freeze the cubes in one pound bags and thaw them in the microwave as I need them.


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