Monday, February 3, 2014

Gluten Free Little Dumplings, Nettle Koftas in Yogurt Sauce

   The lack of rain this dry Winter has left us with little to choose from at the Friday Organic Farmers Market here in Sonoma. There are some squashes and mushrooms, but the one thing that has been plentiful have been nettles. Yes, the old fairy tale standby is found regularly and plentifully every Friday morning. Ever since I got turned on to nettles by Paula Wolfert, I've been snapping them up whenever I can get them.

   Some people are lucky and they grow wild near their houses. The stuff that grows wild near ours is Miners Lettuce and that's not up yet. Even when it is, it's a favorite nesting spot for the local cats so we won't go there. At 2 bucks for a big bag, nettles are a cheap deal around here and a very versatile vegetable if you're not in thrall to a troll being forced to make nettle coats for your brothers who have been turned into enchanted geese that is....

   Nettles, aside from their stinging capacity can easily be substituted for spinach in most recipes and vice versa. Just think of them as spinach with attitude. So when I went looking for a recipe to prepare with them, I ran through the usual suspects. At first I thought Nudi, a version of gnocchi, or rather naked ravioli. In looking up the recipe I quickly learned that the recipe I was looking for started with a silent G, otherwise you get quite a different naked experience, one I can't show you.
Of course there's also the other Nudie who showed up  thanks to Lord Google. Nudie Cohn the famous tailor to Elvis, and assorted other musical stars

Wrong Nudie

Adding the silent G to nudie and dropping the e left me with gnudi.

Right, but still the wrong gnudi
   I wanted to use the nettles in an Indian dish and since they make a great substitute for spinach in any saag dish it was pretty easy. One of my favorite Indian dishes are koftas. Koftas are small meatballs that can be made with either meat or just plain vegetables and one of my favorite  sort of koftas are spinach koftas. Spinach koftas are a sort of spinach gnocchi, only the Indian version is gluten free so they're perfect for any gluten intolerant friends or family. Nettles standing in for spinach in this recipe make the perfect substitute. If you haven't got any nettles where you live, just use spinach, either frozen or fresh will do.

   The only thing tricky about nettles are the stingy part which can cause pain and a rash if you don't handle them correctly. This is a lot easier than it may sound so don't be alarmed, just follow the nettle handling directions on my blog and you won't have any problems. Served in a light yogurt sauce, once you get the hang of it, these little dumplings are fast and easy to make.

Nettle Kofta In Yogurt Sauce

Here's What You Need:
1 lb fresh nettles or spinach frozen or fresh
1 and 1/2 cup besan flour
1 red onion chopped finely
1 tomato finely diced
1 tsp ground cumin
2 Tbs  fresh chopped cilantro
1 and 1/2 cups plain yogurt
4 Tbs besan flour
1 Tbs oil
2 tsp black mustard seed
1 tsp fenugreek seed
6 fresh curry leaves
1 onion finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric
salt to taste
1/2 tsp Kashmiri chili or 1/4 tsp cayenne mixed with 1/4 paprika

Here's What To Do:
Prepare the nettles the same way shown here.
if you are using spinach, boil it for 1 minute and then pour it out and run cold water over it. Press the water out of it and chop it.
If you are using frozen spinach, defrost it and press the water out of it then you're ready to go!
Finely chop the nettles or spinach.
Mix them with the chopped onion and tomato.

Add in the cumin.

Blend in the besan (garbanzo flour).

You an add up to 1/4 cup of water to make a smooth mixture. If it's too  soft you can always add more besan.
Add in salt to taste.
Mix everything together well.

When the mixture is a smooth dough, set it aside.

In a large bowl mix together 4 Tbs of besan flour, 1 and 1/2 cup of plain yogurt.

Blend everything together into a smooth batter.

Add in 3 cups of water.

Set it aside.
In a large skillet heat 1 Tbs of vegetable oil. I use coconut oil.

When the oil is ho,t toss in the fenugreek seeds and the mustard seeds.

Add in the curry leaves.

When the mustard seeds start to pop add in the chopped onion.

When the onion starts to turn a light golden brown add in the turmeric and Kashmiri chili.

Stir them around for a moment or two then add in the yogurt, besan, water mixture.

Bring everything to a boil and then lower the heat and simmer everything for about 10 minutes.
Taste the yogurt sauce for salt.

Meanwhile, back at the nettles or spinach.
Take a teaspoon of the mixture, dampen your hands and roll the mixture into a ball.

Set the balls aside.

Pour vegetable oil into a small wok or kadhai. Fill it about 2 inches deep. Heat the oil and when it is hot drop the balls into it.

Fry them gently until they turn a light brown.

Place the nettle or spinach balls into the warm yogurt mixture.
Warm the koftas in the yogurt sauce and when they're heated through, sprinkle them with a bit of chopped fresh cilantro and serve them up.

   There they are, soft pillowy little puffs and gluten free too, in a creamy yogurt sauce. Serve them with chapatti or a side dish of rice. Simple, and a perfect dish for a Meatless Monday. Coming up next, the simplest, easiest Persimmon ice cream ever.Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


  1. I wish I could somehow teleport that dish right onto the countertop I am writing this on! I've tried nettles I think only once, many years ago, in a restaurant in Milan. Impossible to find around here, as far as I know.

    You know that I cooked with turmeric for the very first time this week? Hard to believe, I know. I should get out more.... What a beautiful color and flavor it gave to my oyster stew, looked a bit like your gorgeous sauce.

    1. Thanks Frank. Nettles were new to me a couple of years ago also until Paula Wolfert told me I could find them and our local farmers market and that I should try them. They were amazing and it wasn't until I made nettle koftas that I realized how like gnocchi or gnudi they are!
      Welcome to the wonderful world of turmeric. It's soooo good for you also.

  2. Have been readind your blog, and connect to it daily for new recipes.
    Just made this delicious recipe this evening as I had everything in under hand.
    So simple and yet lovely to serve (and eat..!)
    Thanks a lot for the time you spend sharing.

  3. Liked the addition of nettles to this as nettles have more iron content than spinach. First time here. Glad to follow you. Do visit mine if you find time and leave your valuable comments.

    1. Thanks so much, I'll be popping over to your blog also!

  4. Man, oh, Man. Those look fantastic, Kathy. And I have all the ingredients on hand! All but nettles, which I doubt I could get unless I drove to Austin. But I think I'll try them with spinach



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