Monday, August 14, 2006

Napa Cabbage and Hempseed Kofta

Need some hemp recipes? I’ll make some hemp recipes. Hemp seeds turn up in traditional Lithuanian cooking, and in some older documents from Poland. They seem most likely to have been used during lent and times of scarcity. I tried this hemp milk recipe, which makes a nice enough milk, and I probably won’t be able to resist the carrot coffee on the same page. I just love this sentence: “Store dried carrots in a tightly covered container, so that they are always at hand when desire for carrot coffee arises.” I was tempted just now to write something skeptical about the likelihood of a desire for carrot coffee arising, but I know as soon as I did that I would be haunted by a desire for carrot coffee day and night. You know how that always happens.

Most of the hemp seed recipes I was able to find on the web are connected with hemp advocacy sites and really, the less said about all that the better. As Kenny Shopsin says in a recent documentary about his restaurant, “I’m not saying I have high standards or anything, but they’re gonna put this in their mouth!”

For my first try at hemp seed cooking (not counting hemp milk), I decided to try to adapt one of the amazing recipes from Yamuna Devi’s 1987 masterpiece The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, originally published as Lord Krishna’s Cuisine. I would love to be able to write recipes like these. You can tell from the photo that I’ve put quite a few miles on this book in the past nineteen years. I hope to write a little more soon about how important this enormous, inspiring, and consistently reliable cookbook is to me.

This recipe is very close to the recipe in Devi’s book. I used Napa cabbage rather than head cabbage, and I took the extra step of salting the cabbage overnight only because I had a particularly bitter batch. You can probably skip that step, but the salted cabbage is softer and easier to handle. I reduced the amounts of coconut and chickpea flour in the original and added toasted hempseeds, which you can find in health food stores and from

It seems like lots of work, but all you really have to do is shred the cabbage, combine the ingredients, and cook them.

Napa Cabbage and Hempseed Kofta

Adapted from Yamunas Devi’s Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking

About one generous pound Napa cabbage or other cabbage—4 cups shredded cabbage

¾ cup hulled hemp seeds, also called hemp nuts or hempseeds, one tablespoon set aside for garnish

2 medium jalapenos

3 tablespoons grated coconut

1 teaspoon each turmeric, garam masala, salt, and baking powder

about 5 braches cilantro—generous ¼ cup chopped leaves, one tablespoon set aside for garnish

1 cup or so vegetable oil in which to fry the kofta. I used peanut oil

¾ cup chickpea flour (besan)

Shred the cabbage as finely as possible (I was very glad to have a processor for this task), and sprinkle it lightly with kosher salt. Allow the cabbage to rest a several hours or overnight and squeeze out excess liquid. If you are in a hurry, you may skip this step.

Heat a cast iron skillet over a low flame. Toast the hemp seeds in the skillet, stirring constantly, until they are a light gold and have lost their bitter smell—about ten minutes. Do not allow them to get darker than a pale gold.

Remove seeds and veins from the chiles and cut them into a tiny dice.

Combine the ingredients except for the chickpea flour and set aside. Heat the oil in a round-bottomed pan like a wok. When you are ready to cook the kofta, add the chickpea flout to the cabbage and form the mixture into walnut-sized balls. Fry the kofta, about five at a time in the hot oil and set them aside to drain on brown paper or paper towels. Serve them with chutneys and sauces of your choice and sprinkle with reserved seeds and herbs. Devi suggests a wonderful seasoned tomato sauce recipe.

Sorry the delicious kofta were camera-shy. I will have to make these again soon and take a picture.

Have a look at Weekend Herb Blogging for other herbal adaptations.

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Blogger Kalyn said...

Very interesting. I haven't ever heard of eating hemp seeds before. I also haven't heard of making kofta from veggies either. This sounds like a fascianting book.

9:08 AM  
Blogger the chocolate lady said...

Thanks Kalyn,

Hemp seeds have not been much used in cooking outside of Lithuania, but with renewed interest in high-protein cooking, they might be the next big thing. I don't entirely understand the chemistry, but it seems that their "amino acid profile" makes them a more "complete" protein source than soybeans or even most meats. I must add the disclaimer that so far the USDA and other sources on nutrition statistics do not list hemp seeds and all the data I have found are from sites that are selling hemp seeds. I don't think thay are deliberately misleading, but they are interested parties.

5:49 PM  

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