Historical Anglo-Indian cookbooks are rife with curries based on minced, or, to an American, ground meat. These curries come in many permutations and two forms, either as a sort of slurry or as the more appealing meatballs bathed in sauce. They just call them ‘ball’ rather than ‘meatball’ curries.
Mincing beef was hard work in a typical Raj kitchen; pound, pound and pound the meat some more in the absence of a meat grinder, so this raft of recipes was no mere vehicle for unpalatable leftovers. The Anglo-Indians understood that grinding the meat before infusing spice, chili, coconut and the like diffused those flavors to best effect. The Editor’s recipe steals from many others to create her own ball curry.
The britishfoodinamerica recipe mimics Anglo-Indian culinary enthusiasms by incorporating what would have been disparate seasonings to an eighteenth century Indian. The hybrid works quite well.
You will want a blender or food processor to make the sauce. For four; easily doubled at constant proportion.
For the meatballs:
- ½ lb ground beef
- ½ lb ground pork
- ¼ cup breadcrumbs
- 2 eggs
- 1 or 2 minced chilies
- ¼ cup minced cilantro
- 1 Tablespoon minced ginger
- grated zest of ½ lemon
- about ¼ cup minced onion
- 1 teaspoon garam masala or tandoori masala
- about 4-5 Tablespoons neutral oil
For their sauce:
- about ½ teaspoon red chili flakes
- 2 smashed cloves garlic
- another Tablespoon minced ginger
- heaped ½ teaspoon turmeric
- about ½ cup minced onion
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 can coconut milk
- juice of ½ lemon
- chopped cilantro
- chopped scallion greens
- Combine all the ingredients except the oil to make the mixture for the meatballs, then form it into 12 balls; each should be a little bigger than a golf ball.
- Brown the meatballs in a skillet big enough to give them some room in the oil over medium high heat; you want them to color but not cook thoroughly. Increase the heat to high if necessary.
- Set the meatballs on paper towel to degrease them and remove all but a film of oil from the skillet.
- Make the sauce. Blast the chili flakes, garlic, ginger and turmeric to a paste.
- Fry the second tranche of minced onion over medium to medium high heat until brown, then add the spice paste and stir fry for a scant minute.
- Add the bay leaves, then the coconut milk.
- Bring the sauce to a boil, immerse the meatballs in it and reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Cook the meatballs until done, usually in about 15 minutes, rolling them gently from time to time.
- Add the lemon juice, then serve the meatballs and their sauce with rice under a scattering of the cilantro and scallion.
- Lamb is an excellent alternative to the mixture of beef and pork. You could use turkey but will lose a lot of flavor.
-Lime works well as well, as an alternative to lemon, both the zest and the juice.
-The Editor has taken liberties with the seasonings of other recipes but all the other recipes take liberties with each other too. Take such liberties. Do you like mint? Use it instead of cilantro in making the meatball mix, use less turmeric; do what you like.
-Some recipes simply simmer the balls in their sauce without frying them first. You would gain time but lose flavor.
-‘Light’ coconut milk is one of the few palatable ‘lite’ products. Your sauce will be thinner but you will save a lot of calories and fat.