Indian Paneer Lentil Kofta in a Creamy Spiced Fenugreek Sauce

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Indian Paneer Lentil Kofta in a Creamy Spiced Fenugreek Sauce

Koftas are round dumplings of cooked seasoned foods served in sauce that are part of cuisines from the Middle East, India and central Asia, and although koftas were originally made from ground meat, vegetarian koftas made with lentils, paneer cheese, potatoes or other vegetables are popular in India. Given my fondness for "little foods," koftas are a favorite of mine, and I've made numerous versions over the years with many of these ingredients.

French lentils, quinoa and paneer cheese make up the base of these little koftas, to which I've added cilantro, fennel seeds and garlic. Although small, they are quite substantial and can easily serve as the main course of an Indian meal despite the inclusion of some not-so-traditional ingredients. Baked instead of fried, they hold their shape in the sauce in which they're served which, as always, is one of the pleasures in eating koftas. For these koftas, I prepared a fragrant cream sauce made with coconut milk, dried fenugreek leaves, tomato, lime juice and spices. The sauce is so delicious that you'll find yourself scooping the sauce from the plates once the koftas have been eaten. And if you serve the koftas with rice or flatbreads, the sauce is an ideal accompaniment.

Note: If you do not have a food processor, mash all of the ingredients together in a bowl with a potato masher and knead well to evenly combine the ingredients.

Indian Paneer Lentil Kofta in a Creamy Spiced Fenugreek SauceIndian Paneer Lentil Kofta in a Creamy Spiced Fenugreek Sauce
Recipe by
Cuisine: Indian
Published on January 27, 2020

Rich, earthy and hearty baked lentil and cheese balls served in a creamy and fragrant spiced fenugreek sauce

Preparation: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 45 to 55 minutes

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  • 1 cup French or Puy lentils, rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon asafetida (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3 cup cilantro + more for garnish, trimmed and chopped
  • 12 oz (350 g) paneer cheese, mashed
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
Fenugreek sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 1/2 inch piece ginger, minced or grated
  • 2 to 3 green chilies, seeded and minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon asafetida (optional)
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 13.5 oz (400 mL) can coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons dried fenugreek (methi) leaves
  • 1 teaspoon coconut sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • juice from 1 lime (2 tablespoons)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
  • fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
  • To make the kofta, in a medium saucepan, bring the lentils, fennel seeds and 3 cups of water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Drain.

  • While the lentils are cooking, in a small saucepan, bring the quinoa and 1 cup of water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit, covered, for 5 minutes.

  • Fluff the quinoa with a fork, and transfer to a food processor. Add the garlic, asafetida if using, salt, cilantro, paneer cheese, olive oil, and half of the cooked lentils. Process until well-combined, scraping down the side of the bowl as needed. Transfer to a mixing bowl, add the remaining lentils. and mix well, adding a bit more olive oil if the mixture seems too dry to shape. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until ready to cook.

  • When ready to cook, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat an oven to 400°F. Knead the mixture briefly until the spices are evenly distributed. Shape the mixtures into small balls, roughly 1 1/2 inches in diameter. You should have between 32 to 35 balls. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until lightly browned, turning the kofta halfway through the baking time.

  • While the kofta are baking, make the sauce. Heat the oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the cumin seeds, fry for a minute, and then add the garlic, ginger and chilies to the pan. Stir for a few minutes until just golden. Add the turmeric, ground cumin, coriander, chili powder, paprika, cayenne and asafetida if using, and stir for another minute until the spices are fragrant. Add the tomato and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes to soften. Stir in the coconut milk, fenugreek leaves, sugar and garam masala, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for another few minutes to thicken. Stir in the lime juice, sea and pepper.

  • To serve, scoop the sauce into serving bowls and arrange some of the kofta into the sauce. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve hot.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Paneer Lentil Kofta

More kofta recipes to try from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Chickpea Paneer Kofta in a Creamy Cashew Tomato Sauce
Chickpea Potato Koftas with Ricotta Cheese
Mali Kofta (Potato and Paneer Kofta in a Rich Tomato Cream Sauce)
Urad Bean and Quinoa Kofta with Coconut Fenugreek Sauce

Audio Accompaniment: William Basinski - Watermusic II

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