Mum’s Beef Kofta Curry

Max Nye

Prep time: 25 minutes, Cooking time: 1 hour and 5 minutes

6-8 serving

Indian Bagdadi meatballs in a curry sauce

Photo by Armando Rephael

Max Nye - Indian Baghadi_Meat Balls_0244
Photo by Armando Rephael

When Max Nye’s mother Esther was around 30, her great-aunt Ruby called her out of the blue to inform her it was time she learned the family recipes. They stem from a community of Jews who migrated from Iraq and other neighboring countries to India starting in the 18th century. In their new home, they created a unique cuisine that blends Iraqi and Indian flavors and Jewish traditions. Among the recipes passed down is this beef kofta curry, which Max’s recommends for Rosh Hashanah. Serve it alongside rose harissa and pea pilau.

To learn more about Max, his community, and his Rosh Hashanah table, read the full story on the Jewish Food Society’s recipe archive.


  • 1 ½ pounds (24 oz) ground beef
  • 3 medium-sized onions, finely diced, divided
  • ½ cup + 2 teaspoons breadcrumbs
  • ⅓ cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • ¼-inch piece of ginger, finely diced
  • 4 ½ teaspoons ground coriander, divided
  • 3 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
  • 3 teaspoons Kosher salt, divided
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric, divided
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 ½ teaspoons of garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons of curry powder
  • 1 ⅔ cups tomato purée
  • 3 tablespoons of tomato paste


  1. Start by preparing your kofta balls. In a large mixing bowl, combine the beef, 1 diced onion, breadcrumbs, cilantro, garlic, beaten egg, ginger, 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1 ½ teaspoons cumin, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon turmeric. Using your hands, mix all the ingredients until well combined. Shape them into 40 meatballs, about 1 heaping tablespoon each, and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. 
  2. In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, sear the meatballs for 5-6 minutes until they are browned on all sides. Once done, transfer them to a plate with a slotted spoon, and repeat with the remaining meatballs.
  3. Make the curry. Saute the two remaining diced onions in the same pot over medium heat for 12 minutes. Then add the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 2 ½ teaspoons of ground coriander, 1 ½ teaspoons of cumin as well as the garam masala and curry powder. Add 2 tablespoons of water, give everything a good stir, and fry for 2-3 minutes, ensuring the spices do not burn. Then add in the tomato puree, tomato paste, and 2 ⅓ cups water. Mix well.
  4. Gently add in your kofta balls, increase the heat and bring the curry to the boil. Lower to a simmer, and cook for 45-55 minutes, stirring intermittently until the cooking liquid has reduced into a thick sauce. Serve warm with rice.

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