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Chef’s Table: Chef Manu Chandra

Chef's Table: Chef Manu Chandra


We asked India's finest chefs to recreate a childhood dish in a fresh new way as part of our Revival theme this year.


For the meatballs
Mutton keema (Lean) - 1 kg  
Toasted gram flour powder - 1 heaped tbsp  
Hung yogurt - 1tbsp  
Ginger and garlic paste - 2 tsp 
Grated onion - 2 tsp 
Garam masala - 1 tsp
Coriander seed powder - 1 tsp  
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp 

For the masala
Onions coarse grated - 11/2 cups  
Ginger garlic paste - 2 tsp  
Cinnamon stick - 1/2 inch piece  
Black cardamom seeds, crushed - 1/3 tsp  
Dried whole chilli - 3 pcs
Bay leaf - 2 pcs
Green cardamoms - 6-8 pcs 
Mace - 1/3 tsp  
Black peppercorns - 1 tsp  
Mustard oil - 1/3 cup  
Fresh yogurt - 2 cups  
Water - 3 cups  
Garam masala - 11/2 tsp  
Kashmiri red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp  
Fresh coriander chopped - 1/3 cup  
Salt to taste  


Place all the meatball ingredients in a large steel bowl and knead by hand. This takes a while – make sure the mixture is emulsified and pinkish in colour. The keema will start sticking to the sides of the bowl as you continue to mix; a few drops of ghee blended in and kneaded helps. Cover and refrigerate for an hour.  

Make walnut-sized balls of the keema using a little water to wet your hands as you’re doing this. Press them in your fist (mutthi) so you get a tight ball. Place these in a tray and keep aside.  

Whisk fresh yogurt and water in a bowl and keep aside at room temperature.  

Heat mustard oil in a large kadhai or wok till it begins to smoke. Lower heat and add black peppercorns, green cardamom, cinnamon, bay leaf and mace. As they begin to sputter and change colour, add the red chilli and crushed cardamom followed almost immediately by the grated onion. Give it a good stir and begin to cook. As the onions turn golden, sprinkle water and let them come together. Add ginger and garlic paste and cook until the mix is nicely browned and fragrant. Lower the heat.  

Slowly stream the yoghurt water into this mixture, stirring constantly. Be careful not to split the yogurt. As a cheat, one can add a few pinches of cornstarch to the yogurt water if worried about splitting. Let the mixture come to a slow simmer. Stir occasionally.  

Gently lower one kebab at a time into the simmering liquid. Don’t toss them in, for the sake of your hands and the kebabs. One can use a slotted spoon to do the same. Give the kadhai a gentle shake from time to time to evenly disperse the kebabs in the pan. Add the garam masala and red chilli powder.  

Place a lid on the kadhai and let it the kebabs slow poach for 30-40 minutes. One can give the kadhai a gentle nudge from time to time.  

Remove lid – the kebabs would have increased in size, and the mixture would start turning brown. Continue to simmer with an open lid. Season with salt, and using a flat and wide spatula, gently turn the kebabs once. Reduce the moisture till it’s a thick masala and not watery, another 20 minutes. Sprinkle generously with fresh coriander and remove from heat. Give it one turn and let them sit for an hour or so before serving hot with rotis or rice. Serves four. 

For me these always taste better the following day reheated. The flavours all come together. I used to pop them between two slices of bread cold when I was growing up to make a cold meatball sandwich.

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