Baked Cabbage Kofte with Spicy Tomato Sauce

Ok so these kofte have a bit of a story to them. A few years back there I was minding my own business, walking through my little town, when a sprightly man with an interesting ponytail mohawk thing dressed all in red popped up in front of me. I figured he was asking for charity donations and, in an effort to keep hurrying on, handed him a quid expecting nothing in return. However – quick as a flash – he thrusts a tiny book into my hands and was off before I could even question him. I looked down at the book in my hands, bewildered, before I realised who he was. A very speedy and efficient Hare Krishna.

I very nearly dismissed the book as a piece of propaganda, but was intrigued and had a flick through. Now, they certainly are on to something because beyond the first half (which covers the benefits of vegetarianism and of following the Hare Krishna lifestyle), they had included a whole bunch of fantastic vegetarian recipes from around the world. And I’d managed to get this book for a quid! Seemed like a good deal to me. Of course, my family was cautious and unconvinced, but we all wanted to give the recipes a bit of a try. I flicked through to a random page and happened on these kofte. A couple of years of tweaking later and here we are.

They may not be the most beautiful things, but alongside a bright salad and some tabbouleh these are guaranteed to excite carnivores and vegans alike. Besides, beauty isn’t everything – it’s what’s inside that counts! And these kofte do not disappoint – they are soft and crumbly at heart with a browned, crisp exterior. And the tomato sauce? It’s rich and colourful, bringing depth and balance to the whole dish.

Around two kofte each should do the trick. My kofte aren’t alone in the featured image! Look out for my tabbouleh and carrot and cabbage slaw, coming soon!

Adapted from ‘The Higher Taste’ from the Society of Krishna Consciousness – makes around 16

Ingredients
Kofte (makes around 24)
1 head of cauliflower, rinsed and blitzed to a rice-like consistency
1/2 head of white cabbage, rinsed and grated
180 g gram flour
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cayenne
a
Tomato sauce
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
200 g tomato puree
1 tsp dried basil
black pepper
1 tsp sugar
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Not so beautiful now, but have faith – they will turn out just fine! If you want to be really adventurous, or don’t fancy the spice, you can cut out the cayenne pepper and substitute ground coriander… It’s just as good.

Method
Prepare the kofte
Combine all the kofte ingredients in a large bowl until well mixed. Pay particular attention to the gram flour, ensure it is fully combined. With wet hands, grab a tablespoon full of the mixture and mould into a ball, before squashing slightly into oval-ish patties (it stops them rolling away!). Take a baking tray and lay down some grease-proof paper. Lay the raw kofte out onto the tray and place into a 220C oven to bake for around 25 minutes. They should be golden on the upturned side. After this time, flip them over and bake for another 25 minutes until brown and crisp. Remove them from the oven once more to flip for a final time, this time shove them in for around 15 minutes. They should be golden and crispy on the outside, but soft and tender within…

Prepare the sauce
This is the quickest thing to make! When the kofte have five minutes left to go, get everything ready. In a small saucepan over moderate heat, fry the garlic lightly with a touch of olive oil and toast the bay leaves for a minute before adding the other ingredients. Stir and raise the heat to bring to a light simmer. Consistency here is a matter of preference – I prefer the sauce to be slightly pourable so I tend to add 2 tbsp water before simmering. Anyway, after 5 or so minutes the sauce should have reduced somewhat and be ready to serve, piping hot with the freshly baked kofte.

Note
As a student, of course I am always looking for ways to stay efficient – it is unlikely that I would need to make 24 kofte up at any time. A little hack I’ve found is to put any remaining kofte mix into a freezer bag and flatten it out to the edges. Then, using a blunt edge (thin rolling pins and rulers work well), divvy the bag up into squares. Then, when you fancy some kofte magic, just break off as many squares as you wish.

Extra sauce is a little trickier to deal with – in my family it usually ends up as a condiment for the next week, it will keep well covered in the fridge for a few days (simply bung in the microwave for a minute to warm it up). If you really want to go to town, the extra flavouring of the tomato puree mix can lively up plain pasta sauces – it works fabulously in spag bol.

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