Kofta curry with stuffed parathas and cucumber raita

Simon Hopkinson doesn’t care what time of year it is–these curried delights will always be welcome.

Apologies this month for offering up two recipes with a lot of ingredients, so not affording me much space to introduce them! However, they are very, very delicious and, although Easter has passed and springtime is upon us, there will always be time to enjoy a well-made curry.

The parathas are wonderful, too. I buy mine from Tesco (the Shana brand is the best and found in the freezer cabinet), but I see they are also available from Morrison’s and Asda, too. Use the ‘original’ parathas, but if you ever come across the wholemeal variety, these are the best of all. As well as the raita served with them, I can never resist a little lime pickle and mango chutney, too. And who would?

Kofta curry (serves 4)

For the koftas
4–5tbspn vegetable oil
2 large onions, finely chopped 6 cloves garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1tbspn coriander
1tbspn cumin
1tbspn garam masala
2tspn turmeric
1tspn cinnamon
750g minced lamb
2tspn grated fresh ginger
1tspn freshly ground black pepper 2tspn sea salt
2tbspn chopped fresh mint
1 large egg, beaten
2tbspn tomato purée
500ml stock (a lamb stock cube dissolved in boiling water is fine)
2–3 large red dry chillies (usually quite mild), broken into pieces
4–5 cloves
4–5 cardamom pods

For the lemon pilau rice
40g butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
200g basmati rice (I always use Tilda and never wash it)
320ml water
1 bayleaf
1 small lemon, zest removed with a potato peeler in thin strips and the juice squeezed into a small jug
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
A small knob of extra butter

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Fry the onions and garlic in the oil until golden brown. Add the coriander, cumin, garam masala, turmeric and cinnamon and stir in well. Quietly fry the spices for a couple of minutes and then cool on a plate. Mix about half of this into the minced lamb, together with the ginger, pepper, salt, mint and egg. Form into balls the size of a walnut and put onto a tray.

Tip the remaining onion/spice mix into a good-size casserole pot and add the tomato purée, together with a little more oil if it seems dry. Cook the tomato over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until rusty coloured. Add the stock, chillies, cloves and cardamom pods. Now, carefully drop in the koftas and allow to simmer until they’re cooked through—about 30–40 minutes.

Note: if there seems to be too much oil generated on the surface of the curry (depending on the fat content in the lamb), then remove it with a few sheets of paper towel. Keep the curry hot while you prepare the rice.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 ̊C/ 350 ̊F/gas mark 4. To cook the rice, melt the butter in a roomy pot that also has a tight-fitting lid. Add the onion and cook gently until lightly coloured. Tip in the rice and stir around a bit in the butter and onion until it’s well coated. Pour in the water, add the bay and slowly bring up to a simmer. Meanwhile, finely cut the strips of lemon zest into small slivers and pop them in the pot, together with a little salt and pepper. Once the rice is simmering, put on the lid and slide it into the oven. Cook for 15 minutes.

Remove the rice from the oven, don’t lift off the lid and leave to sit for five minutes. Now, take off the lid and fluff up the rice with a fork while also pouring in the lemon juice. Lay a tea towel over the pan and then clamp the lid on tight. Leave it for another five minutes; this allows the rice to steam, which will then be absorbed by the towel.

Finally, remove the lid and towel and stir in the knob of butter to glisten the rice. Serve with the koftas.

Stuffed parathas with cucumber raita (serves 4)

700g potatoes, unpeeled
2tbspn oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 medium-hot green chillies, finely chopped
1tbspn hot Madras curry powder (or paste)
1 x 300g tin Farrows marrowfat peas, well drained
1 scant tbspn tamarind paste
2 heaped tbspn chopped coriander
4 parathas, defrosted
1 egg, beaten

Steam or boil the potatoes in their skins, until tender. Cool, peel and cut into chunks. Gently fry the onions, garlic and chillies in the oil until golden. Add the curry paste and stir around for a minute or two to cook the spices.

Remove from the heat, tip in the peas, potatoes and tamarind. Stir in a little salt and the coriander, while also breaking up the vegetables somewhat at the same time. Decant into a bowl to cool completely. Pre- heat the oven to 190 ̊C/375 ̊F/ gas mark 5.

For the parathas, I like to roll them a little thinner before stuffing them with the mixture; say about 2cm wider, on a well- floured surface, then place them in the fridge to rest for 20 minutes, layered between cut-up sheets of baking parchment, so that they don’t stick together.

To stuff the parathas, simply brush each one with beaten egg around their edges, place about a tablespoon and a half in the middle and fold the paratha over to meet the other side. Lightly press down so that the filling spreads a little, then lightly seal the edges with your fingers. Place on a greased baking tray, brush with a little beaten egg, then press the tines of a fork around the edges, to pretty them up a bit.

Finally, make two small insertions in the centre using the point of a sharp knife. Bake in the oven for about 20–25 minutes or until slightly puffed and golden brown.

To make the raita, mix plain yoghurt with lots of chopped cucumber and mint, a little green chilli, a pinch of sugar and salt and a squeeze of lime juice.