Vegetarian Shammi Kebab Patties

A non-success, but a qualified non-success. Next time, it will be successful.

I would never call myself an Indian-cooking expert, but I do a fair bit of it, and am comfortable enough with most of the ingredients and procedures to improvise. I’ve also made quite a few of these fried garbanzo flour items, (like the recently-posted Cabbage Kofta) and am at the point where I don’t need a recipe to follow for the basic preparation. This was different, though, since it contained ground black garbanzo beans, an ingredient I hadn’t used before, and it was intended as a kebab patty rather than as a dumpling to put in a sauce or yogurt. My plan was to serve these with kebab-style broiled veggies, rice pilaf, and a yogurt sauce. Everything else in the dinner came out great.

This recipe was billed by the author (Neelam Batra, just so you know where I’m directing my complaint) as a meat-style kebab patty for vegetarians. She says, “It is very easy to pass these kebabs off as the authentic ones made with minced lamb or goat meat, because they look, taste, and smell like them. It’s a shame when they get thrown in the trash by vegetarian friends (especially at large gatherings) who mistakenly think they are being served forbidden foods.”

That’s high praise, right? I thought so too. Unfortunately, the recipe didn’t quite live up to that level of hype. It was also unclear how much water the beans should be cooked in, and because of that lack of clarity, it was then not clear how much water was needed in the batter. I added 1 cup, which seemed like the most reasonable interpretation of the recipe, and it was clearly too much. After adding the remaining ingredients and processing them, I tried deep-frying one dumpling, and it disintegrated in the oil. Too much water. I ended up adding double the garbanzo bean flour specified in the recipe, along with more than a corresponding increase in the seasonings, and the dumplings were still extraordinarily bland. I will say that the finished product was meat-like in that it was mild and somewhat chewy, but it wasn’t a result I’d try to achieve again.

To be fair, Batra’s recommendation on cooking the black garbanzo beans works very well, and none of my beans split, always an issue with garbanzos. Next time I cook regular garbanzo beans, I’ll cook the beans for a shorter time and let the pressure drop by itself rather than dousing the cooker with cold water as I usually do. On re-reading the recipe, I was able to figure out how much water she wanted where, but it wasn’t clear on a first read-through or when I was making the recipe.

Next time I try to make this recipe in particular, I’ll probably make the beans a greater proportion of the mixture, and add some onion and garlic to boot. At that point they’re starting to get into falafel territory, I know, but the Indian spices will keep them from going too far that way.

Ingredient note: Black garbanzo beans are different than regular garbanzo beans. They’re smaller, darker, and have a more pronounced beak. They’re also supposedly even better for you than regular garbanzo beans, but I don’t have a research study to point you to right this minute.

1 c. dried black garbanzo beans, soaked
3 c. water
2 t. garam masala
2 t. salt
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 1/2-in. piece fresh ginger, peeled
1 c. firmly packed cilantro, soft stems included
2 c. garbanzo bean flour
oil for deep frying

Place the garbanzo beans and 3 c. water in a pressure cooker. Bring to pressure and cook for four minutes after the regulator starts rocking. Turn off the heat and let the pressure drop by itself, 10 to 15 minutes. Open the pressure cooker and check to see if the bans are tender. If not, cook for another minute or two under pressure, with additional water if required. With the food processor fitted with the metal S-blade and the motor running, puree the garlic and ginger together. Stop the motor, add the cilantro, and process until smooth. Stop the motor and add the cooked garbanzo beans, the garam masala, the salt, and 1 c. of the cooking liquid and process until smooth. Remove the mixture to another bowl and shape into small balls with the use of two spoons.

She asks you to deep-fry them at 350-375. I think mine would have blown apart at that temperature. I think mine were deep fried at about 275-300 on my thermometer. Next time I’ll provide a more comprehensive answer.

I know, why would I want to go through this debacle again? It’s such a good *idea*, though.

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