If you've never tried it before, you should grind some whole cardamom pods with a mortar and pestle. Inside those green shells are little black kernels that release a potent fragrance when pounded. I used some freshly ground cardamom to flavor lamb kofta made with our frozen stash of ground lamb from Fair Valley Farm. (Fair Valley Farm will be at 19th and Agate this Sunday Dec. 9th from 2-3 PM; if you'd like to stock up on their pasture-raised meat contact them ahead to place your order.)
I packed these cardamom patties with minced shallot and cilantro and rolled them in garbanzo bean flour, which I had on hand and had seen used in a beef kofta recipe from Madhur Jaffrey. To simmer the kofta, my husband made a simplified version of a nut yogurt sauce from Neelam Batra's 1,000 Indian Recipes with garam masala. The final dish was deliciously rich and flavorful, complemented by our stash of homemade Indian pickled beans and carrots and Asian pear chutney. I'm looking forward to making these kofta again, after we restock our freezer on Sunday, to help brighten Oregon's drizzly winter with warm spices.
Cardamom Lamb Kofta with Almond Yogurt Sauce
2 tsp whole green cardamom pods
1 shallot or 1/2 small onion
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
plenty of black pepper
~1/4 cup garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour for dusting
1 Tbsp ghee or butter
for the sauce
1/2 cup whole almonds
2 tsp garam masala
1 shallot or 1/2 small onion
2 garlic cloves
2 cups plain yogurt
1 cup water
1 Tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
1. To prepare the kofta, grind the cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle. Strain out the green shells and put the ground kernels in a mixing bowl. Mince the shallot and cilantro leaves and add to the bowl, along with the ground lamb. Add a generous grinding of black pepper and salt. Mix the meat to combine all the ingredients. Then form into 2 inch-long, finger-shaped patties (recipe will make about eight) and roll them to coat lightly in garbanzo bean flour. To help them hold together during cooking, chill the patties while you prepare the yogurt sauce.
2. To prepare the sauce, toast the almonds in a dry skillet for a few minutes until fragrant. In a food processor or electric spice mill, grind the almonds with the garam masala into a fine meal. Finely chop the shallot and garlic. In a food processor, or by hand, whisk together the yogurt and water until smooth. Heat a large pan and add 1 Tbsp ghee or oil. Add the shallot pieces and cook over medium high heat until they are very brown and crispy. Add the garlic, cook for a minute, then add the almond spice mix and saute for another minute until fragrant. Now turn up the heat and slowly add the yogurt mixture to pan, stirring vigorously to prevent it from curdling. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat and allow it to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes while you brown the kofta.
3. Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add 1 Tbsp ghee or butter. Place the kofta into the hot pan and let them cook, undisturbed, until they are nicely browned. Rotate and cook on the other sides until they are browned all over (about 10 minutes). Now transfer them to the simmering yogurt sauce and allow them to cook through, about another 10 minutes. Taste and season the sauce with salt as needed. Serve the kofta and sauce over rice.