Gluten-free Lamb Kofta Masala Curry

An irresistible combination of lamb meatballs and curry, cooked in a creamy sauce. This Dairy-free, Gluten-free and Paleo recipe does not use breadcrumbs.

Gluten-free Lamb Kofta Masala Curry

Masala is a generic term for a spice mix, rather than a specific curry dish. However, typically it is applied to a mix of ground coriander, turmeric and chilli powder, which is cooked with onions, garlic and fresh tomatoes to form a gravy. Liquid in the form of stock or coconut milk is often added, and then the whole lot is processed through a blender to give a silky smooth texture. The most famous example is the Anglo-Indian creation Chicken Tikka Masala, which adds marinated and grilled chicken pieces – and a large, somewhat inauthentic, dollop of cream. This recipe uses a cashew nut paste to create the characteristic creamy flavour and texture.

Ground lamb has a high fat content, which will render out during cooking. If too much fat is lost, the finished meatballs will become dry and crumbly, which will impact on the flavour and texture. You can prevent this by working the raw mixture for a few minutes, using your hands to knead the mixture. This creates an emulsion by suspending the fat particles in the meat proteins. When the fat particles are surrounded by protein they will hold together, and the fat will remain inside the meatball.

Tips & Tricks

  • Soak the cashews – this softens them up so that you get a creamier texture when blended in a food processor
  • Chop meatball ingredients very finely – coarse ingredients result in crumbly meatballs that fall apart
  • Mix by hand – food processors are too aggressive and ruin the texture of ground meat
  • Work the raw mixture – this develops the meat proteins so that the meatballs hold together better and retain the fat
  • After forming meatballs, refrigerate for at least 30 minutes – this firms up the texture
  • When frying, heat the pan to sizzling point – this creates an instant seal when the meat is added, preventing it from sticking and keeping the moisture locked in
  • Do not overcrowd the pan – this will cause the meatballs to stew in their own juices rather than brown
  • Do not turn for the first minute, until the cooking side has formed a seal – otherwise the bottom will stick to the pan and break apart
serves cooking time
Gluten-free Lamb Kofta Masala Curry
Ingredients Instructions
  • 1/2 cup (75g) cashew nuts

for the spice mix:

  • 6 green cardamom pods
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 whole cinnamon stick, broken in half
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

for the lamb kofta:

  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil (I used coconut oil)
  • 1 onion (130g), peeled and very finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 3 tablespoons desiccated coconut
  • 1 green chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 750g minced lamb

for the curry sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil (I used coconut oil)
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • thumb-sized piece of root ginger (20g), peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons tomato purée
  • 500g fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 200ml (1/2 can) coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) homemade stock (I used lamb stock, but chicken stock works well too)
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  1. Soak the cashews. Cover the cashew nuts in warm water and leave to soak for at least 45 minutes, or overnight if you have the time.
  2. Toast and grind the spice mix. Break open the cardamom pods by crushing with the broad side of a heavy knife. Shake out the seeds and discard the husks. Heat a small frying pan over a medium heat. Add the whole spices (cardamom seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cloves, and cinnamon stick) and dry fry for 1 – 2 minutes, or until they release a fragrant aroma.
  3. Tip the toasted spices into a spice grinder and grind until finely ground (if you do not have a spice grinder, then use a pestle and mortar or the small bowl of a food processor). Add the remaining spices to the ground spice mixture (turmeric, chilli powder, salt and black pepper).
  4. Prepare the kofta. Heat 1 tablespoon of cooking oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and fry for about 4 minutes, until translucent but not brown. Add the garlic and fry for another 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to cool to room temperature.
  5. Combine all the kofta ingredients except for the mince in a mixing bowl. Mix well using a wooden spoon. Use your hands to crumble in the mince. Still using your hands, break up the meat and work the seasoning into the mince. Keep kneading the mixture for a few minutes, until it holds together well.
  6. Shape the mixture into small balls by rolling between the palms of your hands. If they are too crumbly, then work the mixture some more. The mixture should make around 24 small balls. Place the balls on a tray, and transfer to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to firm up.
  7. Cook the curry sauce. Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of cooking oil in a casserole / deep-sided saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and fry for about 5 minutes, until translucent but not brown. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for another 2 minutes. Tip in the spice mixture you prepared earlier, and fry for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  8. Add the tomato purée and chopped tomatoes, stir, and cook on low until the oil starts to separate – about 10-12 minutes (it is important not to rush this stage, as it develops flavour and stops the spices from tasting raw). Turn off the heat and cover with a lid to keep warm.
  9. Drain the cashew nuts. Combine with half the coconut milk in the small bowl of a food processor, and blitz until smooth. Add the cashew nuts and remaining coconut milk to the curry pan, and stir until blended.
  10. Brown the meatballs. By now, your meatballs should be firmed up. Wipe out the large frying pan with kitchen paper, then heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil over a medium-high heat. When a few drops of water sizzle and evaporate upon contact with the pan, add the meatballs. Sear the meatballs in 3-4 batches until browned all over with a caramelised crust – about 4 minutes a batch. Add more cooking oil if necessary. Do not overcrowd the pan, and do not turn during the first minute of frying.
  11. Cook the meatballs in the sauce. Once the meatballs are all browned, bring the curry sauce to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, then gently transfer the meatballs to the sauce. Cover with a lid, and cook for 20 minutes. Do not stir the sauce or turn the meatballs, as this may cause them to break apart.
  12. Gently stir in the garam masala, then transfer to a serving dish and serve hot.






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