Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ball Curry

There is kofta curry and then there is Pam's ball curry. A difference? It's not just semantics! It's a question of regional spices, Goan flavor and importantly, following stalwart advice of her mother-in-law! So I do the same. The recipe, written on a scrap of paper years ago, now encased in a protective plastic sleeve, sits in a bulging binder. Hastily written, I almost always have to decode the scrawl. Even as I read I can hear the Mini's voice telling me how much coriander to use. How I must add Bassein vinegar for that authentic taste. How the masala should be ground fine. Who is this voice of authority you ask? She was ma in law's gem in the kitchen. Minnie Mai is the culinary enchantress, who turned out potato chops, burnt curry, rechaad fish, chili fry....I could go on and on with this litany of Goan goodness, for thirty years in Pam's Bombay kitchen.. She also makes authentic Chinese, mouthwatering sev poori and the best caramel custard. Let me not forget her legendary chapattis at breakfast. I give much deserved credit to my mother-in -law for teaching Minnie the art of homestyle Goan food. Now retired, she now spends her days cooking at leisure for her family.

With Mini's voice in my ear I gather provisions for ball curry. Some beef, cilantro, chilies, coconut and onions. All these within easy reach in my kitchen. Alas, I have no Bassein vinegar, having put my bottle to good use. I do have some malt vinegar, which I am told by Pam, will work adequately. There is something therapeutic for me, in making meat balls. I love the squish of meat between my fingers. The aroma that arises is intoxicating. When I grind fresh spices, I can hear Mini telling me to make sure the masala should be one smooth paste. That I should fry the balls gently in a little oil. That I should always taste the gravy before eating.

Serves 4

Green Masala
1 cup Cilantro
2-3 Green Chiles
1/2 cup grated fresh Coconut
1 tablespoon Coriander seeds
1 teaspoon Cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon Poppy seeds
1" piece Cinammon
3 Cloves
1 large coin Ginger
4-5 Garlic cloves
1 pound ground Beef
1/2 cup fresh Breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/2 teaspoon Malt Vinegar
1 large Onion
4-5 Curry Leaves
3-4 tablespoons Canola oil
1/2 cup Water or more as needed
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt

Put green masala ingredients into blender and grind till smooth. Add water, a little at a time as needed. Scrape masala out of blender and rinse blender out with water. Save water to add to the gravy.

Divide masala in half.

Break up the beef into a bowl.

Add half portion of masala to beef.

Sprinkle breadcrumbs, salt and malt vinegar over beef.

Squish beef with your hands so everything is well mixed and it takes on a greenish patina.

Roll beef into smooth balls and keep aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil, preferably in a nonstick saucepan. 

Add balls to hot oil and cook till light brown and crusty. They do not have to cook all the way through. Drain onto paper and keep aside.

Peel and cut onion into small dice.

Heat 2-3 tablespoon of canola oil in a saucepan over medium heat.

Splutter curry leaves in hot oil.

Scatter onions over oil and sauté till translucent for a few minutes. They should not brown.

Add remaining half of masala into oil and sauté constantly for a few minutes. 

Slowly add water from the blender as well as the 1/2 cup portion to masala to make gravy. Salt and bring to boil.

Drop balls into bubbling gravy, cover and let balls cook for 7-8 minutes.

Remove lid, raise flame to high and let gravy cook down till thick.

Serve ball curry with rice or chapattis. 

 A recipe from the past is forever enshrined in my collection. To know that we eat what our grandparents did, is always a connection forged. Often Pam regales me with her mother in law's culinary stories. She has taught me well. With every bite we go back to that happy place. Voices from the past encourage me walk this path again and again. I do, with joy in my heart and my treasured recipe binder in hand.

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