Test Kitchen: Indian Chickpea and Sweet Potato Kaftas

By Caroline Patrick, Graduate Nutrition Student

We heralded in the Chinese New Year last week with a cross-cultural inspired feast. Indian koftas, sugar cookies, spicy rice noodles, and dumplings were all in abundance. We settled in, drinking tea and munching on Karen’s adorable and delicious whale-shaped sugar cookies, and learned about the traditions of the Chinese New Year from a native Chinese student, Jasper Zhao. In China, this is the mecca of all holidays. Businesses and restaurants shut down while millions of people travel to their hometowns to celebrate with their families. It’s a 3-day event filled with family, food, and fireworks. Different areas of China celebrate with different foods, and Jasper said his family goes all out on the dumplings (so we did too!).

Along with the dumplings, our kaftas recipe was an absolute hit with everybody. Typically koftas are prepared somewhat like meatballs with lamb, beef, pork, or chicken with some added spices. However, in India, they are generally vegetarian given that many people abstain from meat for religious reasons. In place of meat, we used chickpeas and subsequently, they resembled falafels, but were more moist and robust in flavor. Once rolled into balls or patties, they are often fried and put into a rich and creamy sauce. To lighten ours up, we took our koftas on a Mediterranean vacation and whipped up some spruced up Tzatiki sauce that was to die for. Fresh herbs mixed in with dried fruits and nuts made a luscious combination. Our kaftas just couldn’t resist this nutritious dip.

We all groaned when 11 o’clock rolled around and saw it was snowing again. Although, Karen’s apartment located on the 23rd floor of StuVi2 has floor to ceiling windows that overlook the city and Charles River, making the site quite stunning. Before we left, Jasper had one more treat left for us—White Rabbit candies. They are a traditional Chinese milk-candy often eaten during the Chinese New Year. It was just great, almost like a vanilla flavored tootsie roll. According to the Chinese zodiac it is the year of the sheep, goat, or ram (I guess it depends on who you ask), and I wish you all good fortune, health, and longevity.



Sargent Choice Chickpea and Sweet Potato Koftas

Adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Vegetable Heaven

Yield: About 16 2 ½-inch patties


1 medium-sized sweet potato or yam (3/4 lb)
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 large clove garlic
2 scallions, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 teaspoon lightly toasted cumin seeds
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)

2 tablespoons vegetable oil for sautéing

Mediterranean Yogurt:
1 medium clove garlic
1/3 cup parsley
1/3 cup cilantro
1/3 cup fresh dill
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons fresh thyme
3 or 4 dried apricots (a soft, tart variety)
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup toasted walnuts
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups non-fat yogurt (regular or Greek)
½ teaspoon salt
Directions for Sweet Potato Koftas:

  1. Peel and dice the sweet potato or yam, and cook it in boiling water until soft (about 10 minutes). Drain well. You should have about 1 ½ cups of cooked sweet potato. Transfer to a food processor.
  2. Add all the other ingredients, except the flour, peas, and oil. Puree until fairly smooth. The mixture will be very thick. Transfer to a bowl.
  3. Stir in the flour until thoroughly incorporated, then gently stir in the peas. Form into patties. To make them really uniform and professional looking, use a ¼-cup-capacity ice cream scoop or a ¼-cup measure to scoop up portions of the mixture, then pat each one down until is about ½-inch think and 2 ½-inches in diameter.
  4. Place a skillet over medium heat and add a little bit of oil. When the oil is hot, add the patties, and saute for about 8 to 10 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned and heated through.

Directions for Mediterranean Yogurt:

  1. Place the garlic, all the herbs, the dried fruit, and the walnuts in a food processor, and pulse until it forms a paste.
  2. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the lemon juice and yogurt.
  3. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Koftas (each)

Calories 60
Fat 2 g
Saturated Fat 0 g
Protein 2 g
Carbohydrate 9 g
Fiber 2 g
Sodium 160 mg

Mediterranean Yogurt (2 tablespoons)

Calories 45
Fat 1.5 g
Saturated Fat 0 g
Protein 3 g
Carbohydrate 5 g
Fiber 1 g
Sodium 85 g