It’s butter chicken’s vegetarian cousin – malai kofta.
Originally malai kofta is made with a rich cream based tomato sauce. I lightened this up by making it with coconut milk instead of cream, but it still tastes as rich and indulgent as it should. The key is adding cashews to the curry and blending all the ingredients to form a rich smooth base for the curry.
The curry is totally dairy free, and vegan friendly. You can add any protein to this curry. Like chickpeas, chicken or even fish. But I stuck to the traditional malai kofta.
The kofta are made with a mix of potatoes, paneer and spices. Paneer (a fresh cows milk cheese – almost like ricotta) adds to the richness of the dish. But feel free to leave this out if you are avoiding dairy (e.g. on Whole30). Just sub an extra potato (try sweet potato) in and you are good to go.
I also like to add a few handfuls of baby spinach at the end for a bit of colour and added nutrients. ‘Cause why not?
For the Malai Kofta:
- 1 cup paneer, grated (see notes for a dairy free or whole 30 version)
- 3 large potatoes, boiled
- 2 1/2 tbsp arrowroot flour
- 1 tsp ginger paste (about 1 inch ginger)
- 1 handful fresh coriander, finely chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tbsp raw cashews, chopped
- oil, for frying
For the Curry Base:
- 1 tbsp oil ( I use avocado oil)
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 2 whole cloves (laung)
- 1 whole cardamom pod (elaichi)
- 15 raw cashews
- 1 medium onions, diced
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced
For the Curry:
- 2 tbsp oil (I use avocado oil)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 1 tbsp garlic paste (2-3 cloves)
- 1 tbsp ginger paste (1 inch)
- 1 tsp red chilli powder
- 3/4 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp coriander powder (dhaniya)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup apple juice
- 1 cup water
- 1/4 cup coconut milk
- 2 handful baby spinach (optional)
Prepare the Curry Base:
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large saucepan, Add the curry base spices: cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, cashews and onions.
- Saute till the onions start to turn golden. Add the tomatoes.
- Saute till the tomatoes start to soften. Add half a cup of water if they are looking a bit dry and to help soften the tomatoes.
- Turn off heat and allow to cool for at least 15 mins while you make the kofta.
Prepare the Malai Kofta:
- Mix all the malai kofta ingredients (except oil) together. Wet your hands and roll into golf ball sized balls or log shapes.
- Heat the oil to cover the bottom of a large frying pan and pan fry the kofta till golden brown, flipping often to get it evenly browned all over.
- Set aside and finish off the curry.
Finish the Curry:
- Blend the cooled Curry Base till smooth, set aside.
- Heat a pan with oil. Add bay leaf, cinnamon and saute for 1 min till starting to bubble.
- Add the ginger and garlic paste. Saute on low till fragrant and starting to turn golden. About 1 min.
- Add the Curry Base to the pan. Add the chilli powder, garam masala, coriander powder, and salt. Saute for 3-4 mins till the spices start to release their aroma.
- Cook for an additional 3-4 mins, on medium low, stirring often till the mixture reduces and gets thicker.
- Add water and apple juice to make the gravy. Allow to come to a boil and let it simmer on medium low for about 5 mins. The oil will start to rise to the top.
- Turn heat to low, add the coconut milk and stir to combine. Turn off the heat.
- If using, add the baby spinach leaves and stir to allow the spinach to wilt in the residual heat.
- Plate the malai kofta by placing all the kofta in a single layer in a dish, then pour the warm curry on top. Finish with a sprinkle of cilantro and a drizzle of coconut milk, if desired. Best served with rice (or cauli rice if you are Whole 30).