Spicing up Swedish food /2 – Köttbullar dopiaza

Start with half a kg of your favourite frozen, Swedish meat balls (köttbullar) to feed 2 people.

Though meat balls are now quintessentially Swedish, their origin lies in meat koftas from Turkey going back to around 1750 after King Charles XII’s adventures in the Ottoman Empire. Indian koftas also derive from the Middle East but have accumulated spices and changes of ingredients along the way. Today lamb or mutton or chicken mince is used to make koftas in India but not beef or pork. Spices are used generously and even all vegetarian koftas are used. Frozen meatballs in Sweden usually consist of minced beef or pork or a beef/pork mix  or chicken. They also contain, in various quantities, onions, milk, egg, breadcrumbs, and flour. They are usually seasoned with just salt and pepper and sometimes a little cinnamon.

In an Indian kofta curry, the koftas themselves would be spiced as would the curry. Do-piaza means two onions and any dopiaza dish uses a large quantity of onions added in two separate steps (hence two onions). In this dish the relatively bland köttbullar are marinaded in spices prior to cooking the dopiaza.

Ingredients: 500 g frozen köttbullar, 5 medium onions. 100 g crushed tomatoes, 2 teaspoons chillie powder, (one teaspoon chillie powder can be replaced by 2 green chillies if available), 3 cloves garlic,  2 cm ginger, 2 teaspoons coriander powder, 1 teaspoon cumin powder, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, seeds from 3 cardamom pods, 1 teaspoon black peppercorns, ½ teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon garam masala, 100 ml plain yoghurt, fresh parsley or dill if coriander is not available.

Mix a marinade of the yoghurt with the coriander powder, cumin powder, cardamom seeds and 1 teaspoon chillie powder. Add in the defrosted köttbullar and make sure that they are all well coated in the marinade. Leave in a fridge for at least 3 hours (overnight is fine).

Chop two onions coarsely and 3 onions very finely. Ginger and garlic should be peeled and crushed (a ginger garlic paste being ideal).

Use a heavy skillet pan with a closely fitting lid.

Heat some oil in the skillet and saute the coarsely chopped onions till they are just softened and translucent. Put aside into a bowl.
Heat some more oil and at high heat fry the cumin seeds and black peppercorns till they spit. Reduce to medium heat and add the rest of the chillie powder and allow to fry for 10-15 seconds. Add the finely sliced onions the ginger, the garlic and the green chillies (if any). Saute together on medium heat for 1 – 2 minutes.

Add the köttbullar together with all the marinade. Add the crushed tomatoes. Braise for 5 -8 minutes on medium heat. Now add the turmeric and stir well. Reduce to very low heat, cover the skillet and cook/simmer for 15 minutes. 

Add the coarsely chopped onions and garam masala. Stir gently and cover again. Leave on low hear for a further 10 minutes.

Garnish with fresh coriander (or dill or parsley).

Serve hot with a long-grain rice.



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