Kofta balls (ish) with yogurt sauce

I went grocery shopping this morning and bought some plain yogurt to use in curry dishes, but as I learned last week, when you’re only cooking for one, you only need half as much yogurt as they sell in the grocery store, so I wanted a way to use the rest of it.

Then I remembered a dish a friend of mine made for us in college a couple of years back, which he called “kofta balls.”  It was modeled after something we’d had at the Duschanbe Tea House in Boulder, and since he’d let me help him cook it, I knew that it was easy to make and better still, quick to prepare, so I gave it a shot. I had to make some changes along the way to compensate for my imperfect memory of the original recipe, but I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out, so I wanted to share the recipe as it resulted:

I just made two servings (one for me, and one for me on Monday), but the recipe below is doubled so it should serve 4. Total time is probably 30-40 minutes.


Everything pictured above, plus bread crumbs:

Olive Oil

1 cup chopped onion

2 cloves chopped garlic

1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes

1 1/2 tablespoons curry paste

1 can (15 oz) of white cannellini beans

3/4  cup of chopped almonds

1 egg

2 1/2 cups bread crumbs (UPDATE: If you’re using real breadcrumbs this is probably far too much. What I should say is, tear up one slice of bread per serving. If you have better breadcrumbs on hand, just add them as necessary when you’re rolling the balls. See below.)

1 small container (6 oz) of plain yogurt

1 1/2 tablespoons of chopped mint

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

lemon juice

The steps:

Like so many good recipes, this one starts by cooking the onions in bit of olive oil. Cook the onion with the pepper flakes until it’s just about to go soft, then throw in the curry paste and the garlic and let it cook for a minute or two as well (just don’t let it burn). Mix up the paste so that it coats the onions.

Toss the beans, the almonds, and the contents of the pan into a food processor. Top the result with the egg. Incidentally, I think the first time we made these we used garbanzo beans, but since I had already bought the cannellini beans and only had plans to use half of them, I gave them a try, and they worked out perfectly.

Blend well:

I remember last time we made these, the blending eventually made the mixture thicken up into a pretty solid paste, but in my case it stayed a little runny. I presume this might be because I used just one whole egg in my half recipe, so you might not have that problem if you’re cooking all 4 servings.

Still, I did have the problem, and I realized that there was no way I was going to be able to make “balls” out of my mixture– just puddles. A better-prepared chef would probably know what they were supposed to do and add some flour or something. But I didn’t have flour and didn’t know if that would work, so I tore up some slices of bread into crumbs. I ended up using two slices, which made a little more than a cup of crumbs. If it matters, I was using whole-wheat bread.

Roll the crumbs together with the puree from the blender. It should make maybe 16 balls or so. Don’t forget, the mixture from the blender has raw egg in it, so you should be careful where you do the rolling and clean up appropriately.

I put them on foil over a baking sheet (I don’t know if this matters either, except that I remember my friend doing it last time and they do have a tendency to stick). I didn’t grease the foil, but I wish I had. Also, they’re not going to spread, like cookie dough, so don’t worry about leaving too much room.

Then I set the oven to broil and waited for it to preheat (I wish I’d been thought to do that ahead of time too). I put the baking sheet in and checked on it periodically, and found that after 2-3 minutes, they were starting to burn on top but were still not cooked through in the center, so I tried to roll them over; this might have gone better if I’d greased the foil. It’s possible also I should have made the balls smaller or something, or that if I hadn’t used the bread crumbs, the burning wouldn’t have been an issue. Whatever you do, you need about 5-6 minutes total in the oven. You may also want to drizzle some oil over them before you put them in to broil.

While they’re cooking, you can mix up the yogurt sauce: just combine the yogurt , paprika, and mint in a bowl and stir ’em up well. You may want to add a little salt at this point too, as I had to add some eventually.

This makes a great little sauce, and it’s even kind of pretty. I don’t usually like mint things a lot but if the yogurt is tangy enough (use Greek yogurt, maybe?) then it doesn’t overpower, and as NPR recently taught me, the combination of mint and paprika can be fantastic.

Finally, pull the kofta balls out of the oven and drizzle them with lemon juice, to taste. There’s probably  a good way the lemon flavor could be added to the mix along the way, but as far as I’m concerned it works fine to just sprinkle it on at the end. Spook some of the yogurt sauce over the top or on the side, and you’ve got a meal. The result was a little different from what I remembered, but it was pretty delicious nonetheless, and quite filling. If you try it, let me know how it turned out, and what improvements you suggest.


About Colin West
Colin West is a graduate student in quantum information theory, working at the Yang Institute for Theoretical Physics at Stony Brook University. Originally from Colorado (where he attended college), his interests outside of physics include politics, paper-folding, puzzles, playing-cards, and apparently, plosives.

3 Responses to Kofta balls (ish) with yogurt sauce

  1. Paul West says:

    The top picture makes these look delicious! Does it really take two and a half cups of bread crumbs? The curried dish I used to make with the Pataks paste seems to have lost favor, so it will be great if I can make your recipe work for us. Nice food processor you got yourself! Does broiling work better than just baking? Are the almonds raw or toasted?

  2. Colin West says:

    Good– because they were, in fact, pretty delicious. And no, I’m probably being misleading when give that quantity, because I didn’t have “bread crumbs” I had slices of bread which I tore up at the last minute into makeshift breadcrumbs. So real, dried out and finely crumbled “bread crumbs” would probably take up much less volume. You could also probably just use flour; I really was just trying to thicken up the mixture a bit.

    The food processor is small but should work well for my needs, and didn’t cost very much, so I figured it was a keeper. I made a smoothie in it tonight to drink after I got back from the gym. I’m glad you have some curry paste around; I was worried that you wouldn’t have any, but if you do it makes it really easy. I just found it was cheaper to buy the paste than to buy an entire jar of all the necessary spices; also a lot of curry-type recipes call for a bit of tomato paste and obviously it’s not practical to add a tablespoon of tomato paste whenever you please, but since it comes in the curry paste it works out well.

    Broiling probably isn’t necessary, now that I think about it. We probably did it that way the first time since real kofta are made with meat, and we thought it would be nice if they were crunchy on the outside but softer inside. On the other hand, you could probably do the same thing baking if you just got the timing right, plus you might not have to turn them halfway through.

    I put the almonds in raw, and didn’t notice any downside, but now that you mention it I think last time I made these we toasted them. It’s nice when you can really taste the almond flavor, so toasting just a bit might be a good idea.

    I think you guys (and you in particular) would really like these, so you should try them out sometime. I know they take a few items we don’t regularly stock but they’re a nice treat, they’re quick to make, and they reheat pretty well in an oven if there’s leftovers. They’d probably also be great alongside some rice or stir-fried veggies.

  3. Moominmamma says:

    I was wondering about broiling vs. baking, too. Broiling only uses heat from the upper elements in the oven, so that is why they were burning on top but not yet cooked through. A little experimentation will be going on, I’m sure, and the results will be made known to you.

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