There are many meatballs on this blog. Some lamb, some pork and some with no meat at all. Strangely, the blog is devoid of the more traditional beef variety. I’m not sure why that is but I do intend to address the oversight at some point. But yes, Rhubarb & Cod is drowning in meatballs and that may seem like an odd fixation for a blog to have. But I think it makes a strange kind of sense. The meatball, in its most basic form, is devoid of personality. The starting protein of any kind of meatball is relatively bland. And onto that bland, unmolded clay, you can impart just about any flavor your restless, hungry brain can conjure. Case in point – these Butter Chicken Meatballs.
Meatballs in Curry – Alert the Media!
Now, I think it should be pointed out that today’s recipe could easily come off as lazy fusion. Please know I’m not trying to push the ball forward with these Butter Chicken Meatballs. And I am fully aware that simply replacing chicken breast or thigh for ground isn’t what you would call painfully clever. The meatballs just tasted really good and when I make something delicious, I pass the recipe along to you. Plus, the meatball shows up in nearly every culture, so what particular cuisine could I claim to be referencing other than Indian? And one cuisine referenced does not a fusion dish make.
No, what these Butter Chicken Meatballs represent is that unique emotion you experience when you’re desperate for takeout but there’s actually food in your fridge – food you should be eating. And when you have a much-loved SkipTheDishes account and a guilt complex surrounding food waste, you tend to find yourself in this position a lot. Moral of the story: when you have ground chicken teetering on the edge of expiry, you find a way to feed your need for Indian takeaway with it.
Now, for me, no Indian feed is complete without yogurt in some incarnation. I have been known to simply bring a tub of the stuff to the table, scratch that – let’s be real, the couch with me. But since these meatballs were blog-bound, I opted to dress the yogurt up a bit. Enter cucumber raita.
The Cucumber Raita We Deserve
We, in North America, have the nasty habit of boiling down a dish to a single simplified version. I, for example, thought cucumber raita was the only raita. Yes, I know, it ranks high on my list of “dumb white girl” moments. I now know that there are as many different types of raita as there are shades of yellow…Sorry, I’ve been looking into painting my front door and the color yellow has been foremost in my brain. Anyway, there are many forms of raita and now I know and I am delighted to move forward as a more enlightened individual.
Although there are many ways to raita, I let my takeout-loving-heart drive this time. I selected cucumber raita as my condiment of choice. Yes, lame. Boring. Well-trodden territory. All those immensely dull things. Sure, sometimes it’s good to be adventurous but experience has taught me when you have a super-specific craving, you feed that craving. So, I made my cucumber raita because up until two weeks ago it was all I knew.
Now, cucumber raita isn’t a complicated side to make. I did, however, add a few steps to my usual rendition. But I swear I didn’t add steps just for the gourmet-ness of it all. I toasted a few cumin seeds and sauteed some black mustard seeds in oil because it makes such a huge difference to the flavor of the raita. I mean, any cucumber raita is a good raita, but raita with freshly toasted spices is beyond amazing.
Butter Chicken Meatballs: Surprisingly Flexible
So you’ve just made these Butter Chicken Meatballs and their companion Cucumber Raita, what are you going to do next? Well, that’s entirely up to you. I know I usually dictate how most things on this blog should be served. And I’m sure you all follow my directions to a tee…You know what? Just don’t tell me. But with these meatballs, I felt it was better to leave that up to you. We served ours with a mess of greens and some naan. Some of you may choose to serve them on a bed of rice or in a hoagie or wrap. Honestly, I think little mini meatballs would make for excellent game day nibbles. Really, the sky is the limit with these guys, so don’t let me tell you what to do.
So, that’s everything you need to know about these Butter Chicken Meatballs with Cucumber Raita. They make for the perfect snowy, weekday nosh and you can put them in or on top of just about anything.
Butter Chicken Meatballs with Cucumber Raita
- 1 sweet onion coarsely chopped
- 5 cloves garlic peeled
- 1 (1 ½ inch) knob ginger peeled and coarsely chopped
- 454g (1 lb) ground chicken
- 1½ cups cooked brown basmati rice cold
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp Greek yogurt
- 2 scallion thinly sliced, divided
- ½ lime zested
- 2 tsp salt divided
- 3 tsp Kashmiri chili powder** divided
- 2½ tsp garam marsala divided
- 1 tsp turmeric divided
- ½ tsp ground coriander divided
- ½ tsp ground cardamom divided
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- 4 tbsp neutral oil I used canola, divided
- 2 ½ cup tomato puree
- 2 tsp turbinado sugar
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1 tsp fenugreek leaves
- cilantro finely chopped, for sprinkling
- sunflower micro-greens for sprinkling
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp neutral oil I used canola
- ½ tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 ½ cups Greek yogurt
- 4 Persian cucumbers peeled and shredded
- ¼ cup cilantro finely chopped
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ lime juiced
For the Raita
- Place the cumin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat. Toast until fragrant. Take the skillet off of the heat and deposit the seeds onto a cutting board. Give the seeds a quick chop and place them in a medium-sized bowl.
- Return the skillet to the heat and add the oil and black mustard seeds. Saute until the seeds begin to pop. Pour the seeds and oil into a small bowl and set aside to cool.
- Spoon the yogurt into the bowl with the cumin seed. Squeeze any excess moisture from the cucumber and add it to the bowl as well. Toss in the salt, cilantro, lime juice, and the cooled mustard seeds and oil. Stir until well-integrated. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
For the Meatballs
- Place the onion, ginger, and garlic in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and set aside.
- In a large bowl, place the ground chicken along with 2 tbsp of the onion puree. Add the rice, egg, yogurt, half of the sliced scallions, lime zest. Next, toss in 1 tsp of the salt, 1 tsp of the chili powder, 1 tsp of grama marsala, ½ tsp of the turmeric, and a ¼ tsp of the cardamom and ground coriander. Using a clean hand, mix until everything is well-integrated.
- Form the mixture into meatballs, using a heaping tablespoon as a guide. Transfer the meatballs to the fridge and chill for 30 minutes or overnight if you prefer to form them a day ahead.
- Once chilled, pour 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large, deep skillet and place over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the meatballs to the skillet. Sear the meatballs on all sides until well-browned. Transfer the meatballs to a plate and set aside.
- Add the remaining oil to the skillet and pour in the reserved onion puree. Add a pinch of salt and saute until the puree is fragrant and slightly golden in color, about 7-10 minutes. Add the remaining chili powder, grama marsala, turmeric, coriander, and cardamom along with the cayenne pepper and saute for a minute or two more. Pour in the tomato puree, salt, and sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Let simmer, partially covered, for 15 minutes.
- Once the 15 minutes have passed, add the butter and stir until melted and well-integrated. Stir in the cream and bring the sauce back up to a simmer. Place the meatballs in the sauce and cover. Let simmer for 10 minutes, rotating the meatballs once halfway through.
- Take the meatballs off of the heat and stir in the fenugreek leaves. Spoon 4 or 5 meatballs over rice, greens, naan or all of the above. Garnish with fresh cilantro, the remaining scallion, sunflower microgreens, and additional fenugreek leaves. Serve immediately.