Ground coriander (Recipe: curried turkey meatballs)
A favorite post from the earliest days of The Perfect Pantry, updated with new photos, recipe and links.
Once upon a time...
Our granddaughter Sabina knows that all good stories begin this way.
Once upon a time, the Sultan Schahriah, who had caught his sultana cheating on him, resolved to marry a different woman every day -- and to have her beheaded on the following morning, so no wife could ever get the chance to be unfaithful to him again.
(Sound familiar? It's the premise of The Thousand and One Arabian Nights.)
Scheherezade, daughter of the Grand Vizier, begged to become his next wife, so she could put a stop to this nonsense. To forestall her own death and the death of any other unlucky bride, she crafted a story-within-a-story so intriguing that, night after night, the Sultan spared her life.
In one tale, she told of a merchant, childless for forty years, who was "cured" by a love potion containing coriander. And though this story was very old (the tales were first published in Arabic in 850 AD, from stories handed down through generations before that), Scheherazade might have gotten the idea from the Chinese, who for thousands of years had used coriander as an aphrodisiac.
Coriander (both the leaf and the seed have the same name; cilantro is the Spanish name for the fresh herb) may have been named after koris, the Greek word for "bedbug", as it was said they both emitted a similar odor. Maybe not, according to some scholars, but I'm one of those people who doesn't like the taste or aroma of fresh coriander (it smells like bedbugs to me), so I like this theory.
Native to western Asia and the Mediterranean, coriander is cultivated in eastern Europe, India, the US and Central America, and it features in the cuisines of all of those regions. After the seeds are thoroughly dried, they're often roasted before being ground with other spices to form the basis of curry powders, masalas, harissa, ras el hanout, advieh, baharat, and dukka.
Like all ground spices, coriander will degrade fairly quickly. Store it in a jar on your spice rack for up to 6 months, or buy in larger quantities and keep in the freezer for up to 18 months, decanting small amounts at a time into your spice rack jar.
Considered one of the "sweet" spices, it finds a home in the kitchen pantries of Mexico, France, Russia, North Africa, Iran, India, and the West Indies.
And it's cooked into dishes like carrot and coriander soup, Indian spiced black-eyed peas, potatoes Anna with cinnamon and coriander, vegetable tartlets, coriander madeleines -- dishes so intriguing that Scheherazade's Sultan would, I'm sure, have loved them.
Curried turkey meatballs
Adapted from Indian Food Made Easy, by Anjum Ananad, this recipe originally called for lamb and cilantro, but I had turkey and parsley in the refrigerator and the turkey made for a much lighter dish. The meatballs and gravy were delicious as is, but you can serve them over basmati rice or noodles, or stuffed into a pita sandwich. Serves 4.
For the meatballs:
1-1/2 lb ground turkey
2 Tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3/4 tsp garam masala
1 tsp minced ginger root
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg
3/4 tsp kosher salt
For the sauce:
1 medium-large onion, minced (set aside 3 Tbsp for the meatballs)
3 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
2 bay leaves
1 small (2-inch) piece of cinnamon stick
1-3/4 cups chopped canned tomato (I use Pomi)
2 tsp minced ginger root
3 large garlic cloves, minced
3 cups water
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chile powder (cayenne), or to taste
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
Kosher salt, to taste (3/4 tsp or more)
Handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
In a large bowl, using your impeccably clean hands, mix all ingredients for the meatballs, adding 3 Tbsp of the minced onion (the remainder will go into the sauce). Do not overmix, but be sure the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Set aside while you make the sauce.
In a deep sauce pan, heat the canola oil. Add the remaining onion, bay leaves and cinnamon stick, and saute over medium heat until the onions are golden brown, 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes, ginger and garlic. Cook until the oil comes to the surface, 4-5 minutes, then add 1 cup of water. Continue cooking until the water has evaporated, stirring occasionally, 3-4 minutes. Then stir constantly for 3 minutes; at this point the mixture will be a bit dry. Add the powdered spices and salt, and the remaining water. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 5-6 minutes while you form the meatballs.
Form the turkey into meatballs approximately 1-1/2 inches in diameter (the size of large walnuts). Set the meatballs into the sauce, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, shaking the pan every 2-3 minutes to turn the meatballs and coat them with the sauce. Uncover the pan and continue to cook the meatballs for 3 minutes. Add the parsley, and shake the pan or gently stir. Serve hot or at room temperature.