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If a recipe for chicken meatball curry isn’t something you’ve spent much time considering, I get it (although I do hope after reading this that you’ll consider it much more, and add it to your list of good things to cook). Over the past few weeks, though, I’ve been thinking about meatball curry a lot.
A little context: you might have noticed that in general, I try to keep recipes around these parts pretty family friendly. That’s partly self-serving: if I’m testing a dish multiple times it’s helpful, and creates less food waste, if I can serve it for dinner without too many complaints from the peanut gallery.
The family friendly recipe approach also works because I’ve discovered in my years of writing and talking to people about food that widely appealing family dinner kinds of dishes are the ones most of us (including me) always want more of. The dinnertime grind is real.
But back to the meatballs. I love Indian food, and so does my husband. Before kids, we ate it often and happily. Then our boys came along, and as they’ve grown and begun eating with us, despite efforts to make them adventurous when it comes to food, they do not like spicy food the same way we do. This is sad and not altogether surprising, but rather than narrow our meals to a small range of currently acceptable tastes, I’m always looking for ways to introduce them to foods I think they’ll come to appreciate.
And this, friends, is how we come to chicken curry meatballs, an inauthentic hybrid dinner which is gentle enough for kids and bold enough for adults, especially when doctored with a little extra chilli or spicy chutney. I don’t know many kids (or adults, for that matter) who don’t like a meatball, which makes this a pretty easy sell all around.
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The best spices to use in a chicken curry
I don’t know that there’s a single ‘best spices’ or ‘best curry powder’ to use for a curry of any kind, because the type and level of spice is always down to personal preference.
In this dish you can use any curry powder you like, which gives the freedom to make it very spicy or barely tingling, and with a multitude of different flavor profiles. I like hefty amounts of cumin and coriander in curry, with a little mustard and turmeric, but buy or make the spice blend which suits you best (for bought, I can recommend this butter chicken blend if you’re keeping things mild, or a deep and rich Madras style powder for a medium heat).
If you keep a lot of spices on hand and want to replicate my exact (and very mild) curry powder mix, stir together:
· 2 tsp ground cumin
· 2 tsp ground coriander
· 1 ½ tsp mustard seeds
· 1 ½ tsp ground turmeric
· ½ tsp ground cinnamon
· ½ tsp chili powder
Secrets to tender meatballs
Now that you’re sorted on the spices front, let’s get to the meatballs. In this recipe I’ve recommended chicken, but just as with the spices, change it up to suit. I’ve made this curry with both beef and lamb meatballs, and I’m certain it would also work well with turkey mince.
I’ve made a lot of meatballs in my time and learned a few tricks to making sure they’re tender and delicious.
· Firstly, finely chop all the ingredients, especially the onions. When they’re chopped very finely instead of in large pieces, it helps them combine more easily with the meat.
· Make sure the meatballs retain a little texture by not overmixing. All the ingredients need to be well combined, but if you mix too much they’ll become rubbery and dense.
· Mix by hand so you can see and feel when the mixture is properly combined.
· Don’t squash them too much! When you form each little ball, squeeze enough so it holds together but don’t compress the life out of it. I use a small cookie scoop to get the shape and size right, which has the added bonus of being fast.
If family friendly meatball dishes are your thing, you may also enjoy these recipes:
Stovetop meatball curry vs steam oven meatball curry
Most of you will be here wanting to learn about making this curry in a steam oven. It works beautifully, as today’s photos show. If a steam oven is not your thing, though, I’ve given two methods, because you can also make this dish all in one pan on the cooktop.
Each method has its pros and cons. Cooked in combi steam, the meatballs become super tender, retaining their moisture and flavor really well. The dish also doesn’t need a lot of stirring when made in a steam oven, although you do have to open and close the oven a few times to add ingredients.
A stovetop meatball curry allows for more all-over browning of the meatballs but you’ll need to pay careful attention to turning them, and to stirring the sauce so it doesn’t catch on the base of the pan. This is also a dish which spits and spatters a lot, making a bit of a mess of your stovetop!
What to serve with meatball curry
We most often serve this meatball curry with steamed rice and a dish of crushed chilli on the side for adults. Steamed green beans make a good vegetable accompaniment. If we’re feeling fancy we might add naan breads, poppadums, yoghurt or an Indian mango chutney.
If you’re making this in a steam oven, you’ll see that the meatballs are cooked using a hot combi steam setting, which makes it impossible to steam rice at the same time. I almost always cook the curry a day or two ahead of time, which lets the flavors develop and mellow, and also means my steam oven is free to cook rice just before serving. I reheat the meatballs in a separate pan in the steam oven while the rice is cooking.
Happy cooking, see you here again soon.
Chicken Meatball Curry
- 1 lb chicken mince
- 1 cup breadcrumbs fresh, lightly packed
- ½ bunch coriander leaves only, finely chopped (use the top half of the bunch for this and the bottom half for the sauce)
- 1 red chilli a long chili, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tsp curry powder mild, medium or hot, your preference
- 1 tbs oil If using stovetop method, add 1 tbs extra. I use rice bran oil but sunflower or light olive would also be fine
- 1 onion large, finely chopped
- 1 knob ginger 2.5cm/1in piece, peeled and minced
- ½ bunch coriander root and stem only, minced (use the bottom half of the bunch)
- 2 tbs curry powder additional to the above 2tsp; mild, medium or hot, your preference
- 14 oz tomato puree 1 can, or crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup coconut cream
- Extra coriander for serving
- steamed rice optional, for serving
- naan breads optional, for serving
- poppadums optional, for serving
- chutney optional, for serving
Combi Steam Oven Method
- Set oven to 400°F/200°C, combination steam setting. If your oven has variable steam, use 30% (if not, don’t worry! Just set to combination or convection steam and the oven will figure out the steam level for you).
- Make the meatballs. Mix the mince, breadcrumbs, coriander, chilli, garlic and 2 teaspoons curry powder in a large bowl (reserve the other 2 tablespoons curry powder for the sauce). Form into tablespoon-sized meatballs – I get around 30 meatballs using my favorite handy scoop – and place into a shallow baking pan.
- Cook the meatballs until they’re browned, around 12-15 minutes, then remove from oven and set aside.
- While the meatballs are cooking, start the sauce. Put the oil, onion, ginger and coriander into an ovenproof baking dish or casserole pan. Put in the oven (same settings as the meatballs) until the onions are softened, about 6 minutes.
- Add the remaining curry powder to the pan and cook for a further 3 minutes to toast the spices, then stir in the tomato puree, water and coconut cream. Return to the oven for 10 minutes to heat through.
- Add the meatballs to the sauce and give everything a gentle stir. Return to the oven until the sauce is thickened and the meatballs are fully cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.
- Serve with extra coriander and steamed rice or naan breads.
- The meatballs will keep, covered in the fridge, for 3-4 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. They can be reheated in your steam oven using the steam only setting.
- Make the meatballs. Mix the mince, breadcrumbs, coriander, chilli, garlic and 2 teaspoons curry powder in a large bowl (reserve the other 2 tablespoons curry powder for the sauce). Form into tablespoon-sized meatballs – I get around 30 meatballs using my favorite handy scoop – and place on a plate.
- Heat a frypan over medium-high heat and add 1 tbs oil. Cook the meatballs in batches, turning until they’re browned all over, then remove and set aside.
- Once all the meatballs are browned, put the remaining 1 tbs oil, onion, ginger and coriander into the same pan. Saute until the onions are softened.
- Add the remaining curry powder to the pan and cook for a further 3 minutes to toast the spices, then stir in the tomato puree, water and coconut cream. Bring to a simmer.
- Add the meatballs to the sauce and give everything a gentle stir. Lower the heat to keep the sauce at a gentle simmer and cook until the sauce is thickened and the meatballs are fully cooked through, about 20-25 minutes.
- Serve with extra coriander and steamed rice or naan breads.
- The meatballs will keep, covered in the fridge, for 3-4 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. They can be reheated over low heat in a saucepan, or in short bursts using medium power in the microwave.
- This recipe is easily doubled and makes a brilliant freezer meal.
- You can adjust or remove the fresh chilli in this recipe to suit your preference, especially if the curry powder you’ve got is very spicy.
- Curry powder is listed twice; that’s not a typo! You need 2 teaspoons in the meatballs and 2 tablespoons in the sauce.
- You’ll need one bunch of coriander in total, use the top half (leaves and tops of stalks) in the meatballs and the lower stalks and roots in the sauce.
- I’ve specified breadcrumbs, however these meatballs can be made gluten free by substituting around half a cup of cooked brown or white rice in place of the breadcrumbs.
- For gluten and grain free, a half cup of minced paneer or firm/drained ricotta cheese works in place of crumbs or rice – the meatballs will have a softer texture but are delicious and tender.
Over to you – if you try this recipe I’d love to know about it! Share your comments below or on Facebook, tag @steamandbake on Instagram, or pin all your favourite Steam and Bake recipes over on Pinterest!