Malai Kofta is a another classic dish from the northern parts of India. The food in this part of the country is greatly influenced by the myriad invasions we have had: the Aryans, Mughals, Greeks, Persians, Huns, Turks, Arabs, Afghans, the Portuguese, Dutch, French and the English – have all made their made their contributions in various ways.
The cuisine in north India reflects the wonderful fusion of Indian, Middle Eastern and Persian styles of cooking and is characterized by its fragrant rich sauces, aromatic herbs and spices, saffron, milk and fresh cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, ghee (clarified butter), dry fruits and nuts. The ingredients combine to create rich, regal dishes, an elaborate feast to all senses.
A dish for special occasions, Malai Kofta is delightful vegetarian alternative to meatballs (Malai = Fresh Cream; Kofta=Dumplings made from homemade cheese here). The koftas made with paneer/Indian cheese, stuffed with nuts and raisins are simmered in a buttery, creamy fragrant herbed sauce. This also happens to be a popular dish that diligently makes a “must” appearance in most Indian restaurants. This recipe is meant to be rich as the name suggests. If you are planning on reciprocating the unforgettable experience in a good Indian restaurant please do not cringe on using milk or cream in this dish. Some recipes use yogurt instead of cream/milk. I would not recommend that if you want the traditional taste. If you are ready to settle for a less rich and not so traditional taste, go ahead and use substitutes. This is something I do not cook everyday. If you order this dish in the restaurant and you do not think of calories, you should not feel guilty if you are making the original way at home. As for ourselves, when we do make it, it is done as regally as it is supposed to be.
Malai Kofta/Cheese Dumplings simmered in a Creamy Sauce
Ingredients: (serves about 8-10)
- 2 cups makhani masala (Read through the recipe of the makhani masala carefully and DO NOT add any milk or cream to the makhani sauce at this stage. You will use milk or cream later in different amounts)
- 1.5 cups half and half or heavy cream
- 4 cups whole milk
- 1 tablespoon cashews, soaked and ground into a paste
- 3 teaspoons kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves available at the Indian groceries)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- paneer koftas (about 30-35)
- few tablespoons of grated Paneer, for garnish (optional)
Note: Instead of whole milk, all cream/half and half may be used, OR instead of cream/half and half whole milk may be used. Using all cream/half and half makes it too rich for our tastes, so I use a combination of milk and cream. If you want it milder, use all milk and no cream.
Heat a thick bottomed wide pan (make sure the pan is wide enough to hold the koftas in a single layer), put 2 cups of makhani masala(without any cream/milk added to it). Add the milk & cream (in the amount mentioned in the ingredient list here), cashew paste, 2 teaspoons kasoori methi and sugar; cover and simmer at very low flame for about 15-25 minutes.
Uncover and add the koftas in the sauce in a single layer; simmer more 2-4 more minutes and serve immediately.(if you are not serving immediately, make the sauce and save it. Simmer with the koftas only when you are ready to serve).
Garnish with grated paneer and the rest of the kasoori methi before serving.
Serve with flatbreads, pulav, jeera rice. This is a classic dish, elegant and rich enough to be savored at any occasions; be it a mingle of friends, a birthday bash, an anniversary or even in a wedding. Or simply because “I want it”!
Note on this recipe: This is not the only way the Malai Kofta is cooked; there are numerous interpretation of this dish. After several trials I have settled on this recipe which is very very close to the “Restaurant Menu” kind which we like. Some sauces use onions and cashews and they are equally good, while some recipes use only vegetables for the kofta instead of the paneer.