Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hara Bhara Kabab Masala ( Spinach cheese balls in a creamy tomato sauce) - Favourite appetizer goes mainstream

This recipe is an adaptation or enhancement of something that I learned years ago - the Hara Bhara Kabab, when it was not common to see this kind of a 'kabab' on restaurant menu cards. They served a version of it at our club. Very different from now, when almost every small joint that opens up in our Pune neighbourhood has things like Hariyali kabab, Hara Kabab etc. So one fine summer many moons ago, when we kids were being especially troublesome, some family elder heard about a cooking class and dispatched self and cousin there, hoping to keep us busy for at least a few hours. The 'class' turned out to be much better than expected, and I am pretty sure it lent a hand in developing some of my culinary instincts. Some things I learned there are even now coming into vogue, and I really admire the lady who taught us and wonder how she was sort of advanced for the time. There used to be 2-3 things made everyday and we could take some home, so by the time we got home, there used to be a bunch of rowdy kids - cousins and siblings - waiting on the doorstep, ready to sample the exotic fare we had 'cooked' that day.

We were taught this Hara Bhara ( Green) Kabab recipe in the 'Appetizers' section and it has been the star of several cocktail parties at our home. The basic ingredient is spinach, and to balance it there is potato and paneer and a bare min of spices. Since I did not have much else, and needed something for dinner, I decided to make a sort of kofta curry out of this and serve it with rice to make a complete meal. The initial part - the Kabas - can also be eaten by themselves with some dipping sauce - yogurt and mint will go well with this. I have made an additional Makhni type gravy or a tomato cream sauce to accompany these balls/croquettes/koftas.
I used the Appe Patra or Ableskiever pan to 'fry' the kababs, instead of shallow or deep frying them. This is one gadget which is certainly NOT overrated. My only peeve is that it did not reduce the smoke generated, as compared to using a frying pan.
The recipe is as follows -

For the Kabab -
1 cup frozen/blanched spinach tightly packed
1 cup boiled and mashed potato
1 cup Paneer shredded ( Can use tofu or farmers cheese or Queso Blanco)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp black pepper
Salt to taste

For the Sauce -
1 cup crushed tomato
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup half and half or cream ( low fat or fat free)
1 tbsp crushed Kasoori methi
1 tsp Garam masala
1 tsp honey
salt to taste

1) Mix and knead all the ingredients of the Kabab given above. Make sure that all the water is drained off from the spinach. This should make a thick mixture.
2) Adjust pepper such that the mixture tastes strongly of pepper. Pepper is the dominant flavour here, like in a vegetable cutlet
3) Make small balls with it, roughly the size of a ping pong ball
4) Heat the Appe pan on the stove top and add one drop oil to each mould. Place one ball or kabab in each mould and keep turning with the skewer until all sides are uniformly crisp and brown. Drain these on a paper towel.
5) Now for the sauce - Puree the crushed tomatoes and cashews in a blender until smooth. Alternately you can add cashew paste to the crushed tomatoes.
6) Heat the tomato cashew mixture till it bubbles. Add all the spices like garam masala, salt and honey.
7) Add the half and half. I use low fat or fat free versions. This is optional and we are adding a little just to lighten the colour and get a 'creamy' look. The creamy taste is obtained from the cashews and they will lend a richness to the sauce. So although there is some fat content added through the nuts, it is of the healthy kind and not dairy fat.
8) Crush some kasuri methi and add it to the sauce. Simmer for five minutes and take off the stove.
9) While serving, place 2-3 kababs in an individual serving bowl and ladle some sauce on top. DO NOT add the kababs to the sauce in advance, as they will very likely dissolve or soften and crumble.
10) Serve with Hot Parathas/naan or steamed rice

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