Zippy Zucchini Koftas with Aromatic Tomato Sauce

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Zippy Zucchini Koftas with Aromatic Tomato Sauce

Hello and Welcome to This Spicy Life…

Zucchini – what’s not to love? From the quirky name to the tender, summery taste. It’s extremely adaptable and can be used in all types of cooking. I love to make a quick stir-fry in a little bit of olive oil and garlic, but I love even more to make (and eat) little vegetarian “meatballs” called Koftas. They are hearty and flavorful and make an excellent entrée. Koftas are sometimes very firm, sometimes soft and tender. They are almost always served with a sauce of some type – tomato, cream, butter and even spinach or other green sauce.

Not only is this an easy recipe, it looks impressive. The sauce is flavorful and spicy, with varying layers of heat and savory spices to compliment the koftas and rice. This is a good recipe to make when you have guests since you can make the koftas and sauce ahead of time and put them together right before serving. However, don’t let the koftas sit in the sauce for too long as they will become mushy and soak up all of the sauce.

Zippy Zucchini Koftas with Aromatic Tomato Sauce

Serves 4 – 6

Ingredients for the Koftas:

  • 1 1/2 cups zucchini, washed and grated
  • 1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped finely
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 to 2 cups chickpea flour (besan)
Method for the Koftas:
  1. Place grated zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with the salt. Set aside for a minimum of 10 minutes, allowing the moisture to drain away from the zucchini. Squeeze out as much water as possible and place the zucchini in a bowl.
  2. Add the chopped onion and all of the spices and baking powder and mix together well.   
  3. Mix in 1 cup of the chickpea flour. Add more chickpea flour a little bit at a time to make a fairly thick batter. There should be plenty of moisture in the zucchini and onion so that you don’t have to add water. If for some reason it is too dry, just add a tiny bit of water to make a thick batter. It should be able to hold the shape of a ball but not be too stiff. Taste the batter for chili and salt level and adjust to taste.
  4. Heat a pan of oil for deep-frying (usually deep-frying is done at 350F). Very carefully drop the batter by the spoonful into the hot oil and fry for 3 – 5 minutes (this will depend on how wet your batter is and the size of your koftas). Turn the koftas to ensure even browning and remove from oil when they are evenly browned. If you aren’t sure if the kofta is cooked through, test one before frying more. Drain the cooked koftas and set aside.   
Ingredients for the Tomato Sauce:
  • 3 tsp oil
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 cloves
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 1″ piece of cinnamon stick (or scant 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder)
  • 1 tbsp garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 /2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 3 cups tomatoes, chopped (use fresh or canned)
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • pinch of sugar or agave (optional)
Method for the Tomato Sauce:
  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. 
  2. Add the cumin seeds, cloves, peppercorn and cinnamon and stir around for 30 seconds.
  3. Add the onions and garlic and allow to cook until the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
  4. Stir in the cumin powder, coriander powder, chili powder and turmeric and allow to cook for 30 seconds longer. Add a bit more oil if things are starting to stick.
  5. Turn the heat to medium low and stir in the chopped tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and sugar/agave (if using). Allow to cook until the tomatoes are nicely reduced to an almost smooth sauce. You can add a bit of water if the tomatoes need more time to cook. This step can take anywhere from around 10 minutes to 30 minutes. 
  6. Turn off the heat. Carefully remove the cloves and cinnamon stick (if used) from the pan. 
  7. Remove about 3/4 of the sauce to a blender and mix until smooth. Return the blended portion to the pan and stir together. (I do this so that the sauce remains a little bit chunky. If you want a totally smooth sauce just blend the entire batch of sauce. Alternatively, you don’t have to blend the sauce at all or you could use an immersion blender to get the consistency that you like.)
  8. Add water to the sauce if it is too thick. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary.
  9. About 3 minutes before serving, add the koftas to the sauce. Serve over rice or with naan. (Don’t let the koftas sit in the sauce for too long as they will become mushy and soak up all of the sauce.)   

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