Afghan Kofta and Challow Recipe

Apr 26 2016

Kofta challow is a comfort foods, much like meatballs and spaghetti.  Kofta is a Middle Eastern and Indian term to refer to meatballs or legumeballs.  They are usually served simmering in a sauce on a bed of rice, or on skewers alongside flat bread.  Challow is rice, plain or flavored.  Basmati or jasmine rice is usually paired with the kofta and it’s flavorful sauce, much like how one would serve meatballs with pasta.  In Afghanistan and neighboring countries the use of meat is an important sign of wealth, though the same dish served on the Indian subcontinent will likely be made with besan (chickpeas) instead of meat.  Next time you’re in the mood for spaghetti and meatballls, try this instead.  It is perfectly suitable for those who are looking for a gluten free dinner, too.


Koftas (Meatballs)
1 pound of ground beef, lamb or combination of the two, moderately lean*
1 medium onion, finely grated
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped cilantro (coriander) leaves
*For a vegetarian version substitute 2 cups mashed chickpeas, 1 cup mashed potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 cup ricotta or other fresh cheese for the ground meat. *

Korma (Sauce)
Oil for frying (about 3 to 4 tablespoons)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 Afghan short pepper, minced and seeded (use a jalapeño or Hungarian wax if short pepper is unavailable)
1 clove of minced garlic
32 ounce can of diced tomatoes, or 2 pounds diced fresh tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablesoon ground coriander seed
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 cup broth, plus additional broth or water as necessary
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

Challow (Rice)
1 cup brown basmatti rice
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon ghee, butter, or olive oil
2 whole cloves
1 whole cardamom pod
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds

Mix together the kofta ingredients in a large bowl until well combined.  Use the mixture to make 2 inch balls, and place on a plate.  Let the koftas rest in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes before frying.

In a deep skillet or French pot heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the onions.  When the onions start to become translucent add the peppers, garlic and koftas.  Move the koftas gently around the pan with the vegetables, until they are golden brown on the outside.  Once the koftas are browned, add the tomatoes, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, ground coriander, and broth to the pan.  Add additional broth or water until the koftas are at least half way covered by liquid.  Turn the heat down to a simmer, and cover.  Cook for 15 minutes, then gently stir.  Recover and cook for another 15 minutes or until the kofta are cooked through.  Stir in chopped cilantro, and remove from heat.

While the kofta are cooking, prepare the rice.  Add all the ingredients at once to the rice cooker and then set.  If not using a rice cooker, add all the ingredients into a heavy bottomed pan over high heat.  Bring to a boil.  Turn heat down to medium, and cover.  Cook until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.  Remove from heat and fluff with a fork before serving, remove cadramom pod and whole cloves if desired, before serving. 

To serve, place a large scoop of rice in the middle of the plate.  Ladle two or three koftas and a generous amount of the korma over the center of the rice.  Serve with some flat bread or boulanee to make a complete meal.

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