In Lincolnshire, the first zucchini of the season are met with wild enthusiasm, which quickly turns to apprehension because of the constant challenge of finding new and interesting ways to cook them. Over the years, this is the dish my family never tires of. The kofta are tasty by themselves, but submerged in the sauce at the last minute they make for a nice summery curry.
Serves 4 to 6 as a main course (makes 24 kofta)
FOR THE ZUCCHINI KOFTA
2½ pounds zucchini
2 cups breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon ground red chile
1 tablespoon chickpea flour
FOR THE TOMATO SAUCE
2 medium yellow onions, finely chopped
1¾-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 x 14-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1½ teaspoons garam masala
1¼ teaspoons ground red chile
2 teaspoons honey
3 tablespoons ground almonds
1¼ teaspoons salt
Preheat the oven to 400°F and line two baking pans with lightly oiled foil.
Next, grate the zucchini—either in a food processor, using a grating disc, or with the coarse side of a box grater. Transfer the grated zucchini to a sieve over a bowl and sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of salt. Mix well, using clean hands, and leave for 30 minutes.
In the meantime, make the tomato sauce. Put 3 tablespoons of oil into a large lidded frying pan over medium heat and, when hot, add the onions. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until soft and golden, then add the ginger. Cook for a further 3 minutes, then add the crushed tomatoes. Mix well, cover with the lid, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then add the cumin, coriander, garam masala, and ground red chile, and mix well. Add the honey, ground almonds, and salt, and mix again. The sauce will be quite thick now, so slowly add ¾ cup hot water to bring it to a nice consistency, then cook for a final 5 minutes and remove from the heat.
Take a handful of zucchini at a time and squeeze out as much water as you can, then transfer to another bowl. The zucchini should now weigh around 1 pound or a little more. Add the breadcrumbs, garam masala, ground red chile, and chickpea flour and mix together. Take a golf-ball-sized bit of mixture, roll into a ball, and place on a baking pan. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, then put the pans into the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until crispy on the outside. Heat the tomato sauce, carefully lever the kofta off the pans using a palette knife, and drop into the sauce.
Serve with rice, and cucumber and mint raita, or beet raita.