Learn how to make Hara Bhara Kabab ~ Mildly spiced Indian vegan spinach and potato kebabs flavoured with fresh herbs and aromatic spices
We made these Hara Bhara Kababs exactly a month ago when LD was recovering from another bout of viral infection. When I say we, it means my 6-year-old and I, mom and son team. Cooking with over enthusiastic kid means fun, but it also means mess! I kid you not. The kitchen will end up looking like a bomb sight with flour covered kitchen floor and counter tops, sauce smeared kitchen cabinets, and a child who is covered with every ingredient that went into that pot or pan of food you are making! Then why teach your kids to cook when it means more of a mess than its worth?! Absolutely. Well, there is not just one, but 101 reasons to introduce our kids to the joys of cooking.
Teaching our kids to cook is one of the most basic life skills we can pass on and most importantly, it gives us the opportunity to teach them valuable lessons. I find him curiously touch, smell and taste the ingredients. This natural inquisitiveness of LD turns into total fascination and then surprise when he watches the dramatic transformation the food goes through in terms of colour, texture and size right before his eyes during cooking and baking. The once firm and hard potatoes turn soft and mushy, the delicate, easy to crack eggs become hard when boiled, the crystals of sugar and salt completely gets dissolved, the fruit is turned to juice and how it becomes one of his favourite treat ice lolly when kept in freezer overnight! If this is not magic, then I don’t know what else is?!
LD learnt to count, identify different colours, do simple mathematics when he was a toddler and cooking these days is a great way to reinforce subjects being taught at his school as well as introduce new ones. LD learnt to read letters, then words and now sentences on food packaging, recipe cards which improves his reading skills as well as learning the meanings of new words that he comes across. Just yesterday he wanted to know what ‘fork tender’ meant. :) He now knows milk and milk produce are good for strong bones, green veggies for iron, citrus to keep that nasty cold virus away, and eating handful of nuts will give him lot of energy to jump on the bed. LD is more aware of the food that’s on his plate and he will eat everything and anything that I cook and serve, as long as they are not garnished with any coriander leaves. ;)
When you are doing something that gives you joy, you don’t easily get distracted by other things. Some recipes can be tricky and most recipes needs to be put together in a specific order. For super active kid who always found it difficult to sit still, this boy of mine has come a long way where he not only closely listens, but also follows direction as he carefully measures the ingredients, halving or doubling them as and when required. Cooking is not just a skill, but an art where making a face out of vegetables on a dosa or pizza is as much fun as decorating cookies and cupcakes with different frostings and sprinkles. Cooking provides endless fun and opportunities for artistic expression and trust me, kids find it quite fun as cooking evokes sensory awareness as they are exposed to new tastes, textures, aromas and flavours. Introducing our kids to ethnic dishes may encourage them to learn more about the culture and people that inspired the dish.
More than anything, cooking with him is a great way for the family to spend time together and not to forget that at the end of it is a delicious plate of food! It’s the time where we laugh, talk endlessly, argue, and most importantly, make memories!
It’s not always plain sailing! There are days when I often run of out of patience, looking all calm and composed from outside but wanting to scream and pull my hair in exasperation! Some days the kind of ‘help’ don’t get food on the table until we are beyond the point of hunger. There’s bound to be some spills, days when he turns on the mixer without lid and the sauce intended for cooking ends up splattered on wall, counter tops, cabinets, on us and everywhere other than curry pot. There are days when cleaning takes way longer than cooking. It’s a fact that letting kids do most things takes vastly longer than just doing it ourselves. But I still try and include him cooking on most days as I know it will help him in a long run as long as he is eager to learn. I am not sure how long this interest in learning to cook will last and when he will stop eagerly running to the kitchen and sitting on the countertop waiting for my instructions, but till then, we both are in a happy place. :)
LD loves helping me in kitchen and including him with some simple chores has not only helped in building skills, knowledge and healthy appetite but also self-esteem. I consider cooking as a basic life skills, much like swimming, learning to read and write, and driving a car. From washing the vegetables, measuring the ingredients and some simple chores since he was 2 and half years old, LD has come a long way where he can identify most of the ingredients and spices, who comfortably peels and chops vegetables, whips eggs and cream, crushes herbs and spices in pestle and mortar, rolls a decent rotis and comfortably stirs a pot of hot curry. As we walk back home from school in the evening, LD and I play little guessing games where I give him couple of clues as what we are going to cook together for dinner. With every passing day, he is getting better at guessing and some days, can identify the dish with first clue.
As the days go, things are getting better as we are more in tune with one another and fall into the rhythm of cooking; the gentle drum of a knife as it slices vegetables on an old wooden chopping board, the noise of stone hitting a stone when the spices and herbs are crushed in my large and heavy unpolished granite pestle and mortar, the aroma of spices frying in a hot oil in the pan, the fragrance wafting from the pan as the vegetables sizzle and shimmer among fragrant herbs and spices. These are simple, beautiful moments, easily lost in a maddeningly busy life we live, but certainly not ordinary! When everything gets overwhelming, it’s time to slow down, wear apron and start cooking as there is nothing more therapeutic than cooking with and for loved ones! Spending time in the kitchen should not only be about the putting a dinner on the table, but the small, gentle, joyous moments along the way.
And when the end result of cooking adventure with the apple of your life is as delicious as this Hara Bhara Kabab, everything else, even the messy kitchen, disappears in the blurry background when we dip them in a sauce and take a bite. Crispy from outside and delicately spiced kababs are loved by kids and adults alike. Loaded with green leafy veggies and pan fried with very little oil, these Hara Bhara Kababs are not only healthy but lip smacking delicious bites that even the picky eaters will enjoy. Mashed potatoes mixed with spinach, coriander and mint leaves and flavoured with just a handful of spices before rolled them into kebabs and pan fried in little oil until they turn crisp and golden brown. They are such a little party pleasers when served as a finger foods and also make a wonderful and wholesome meal when used as filling or stuffing for KaTi Rolls, veggie wraps or in pitta bread along with some salad leaves (baby spinach, arugula or lettuce), sliced veggies (onion, tomato, cucumber, red/white cabbage, avocado etc) and drizzled with some sweet chilli sauce, mint chutney or any dipping sauce of your choice. So, without any further delay, let’s get cooking!
Hara Bhara Kabab (Mildly spiced Indian vegan spinach and potato kebabs flavoured with fresh herbs and aromatic spices)
Prep Time: 15-20 mins
Cooking Time: 20-30 mins
Recipe Level: Easy/Beginner to Intermediate
Spice Level: Low to Medium
Makes: About 12-15
Shelf Life: Best served fresh but can be refrigerated for 2-3 days and frozen for up to a month (read notes)
Serving Suggestion: With spicy green chutney or tomato ketchup (read notes)
250 gms/4-5 packed cups Spinach Leaves, washed and finely chopped
2 large Potato, boiled, peeled and grated
1 large Onion, peeled and finely chopped
½ packed cup Fresh Coriander Leaves, washed and finely chopped
¼ packed cup Mint Leaves, washed and finely chopped (Don’t use the stems)
2-4 Green Chillies, finely chopped or minced (Adjust as per taste)
1 tsp Ginger-Garlic Paste
2 heaped tbsp. Corn Flour
Salt to taste
Oil for pan frying the kababs
1 tsp Garam Masala (Adjust as per taste)
½ tbsp. Dhania/Coriander Powder
1 tsp Amchur/Dry Mango Powder (Adjust as per taste)
½ tsp Chaat Masala (Optional, adjust as per taste)
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
¼ tsp Hing/Asafoetida
1 tbsp Oil
- If using bamboo skewers, soak them in a bowl of water for at least one hour.
- Boil the potatoes in a pressure cooker or in a pan with lid with enough water.
- While the potato is cooking, finely chop the onions and keep it aside.
- Wash and pat dry the spinach. Stack 6-8 leaves and roll them into cigars and chop them finely. Wash and finely chop coriander leaves and mint leaves and keep them aside. Alternately you can pulse the greens in a food processor for a minute or two minutes to chop them.
- Remove the stems and finely chop the green chillies and keep it aside until needed.
- Once the potatoes are cooked through, drain all the water and let it cool little before peeling the skin. Grate the boiled potatoes and keep it aside until needed.
Proceed to make kababs:
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and add cumin seeds and hing. Once the cumin seeds crackle, add finely chopped green chillies and ginger-garlic paste. Stir fry on medium flame for about 1-2 minutes or until the raw smell of ginger and garlic disappears.
- Next add finely chopped onions and sauté until they turn translucent, about 1-2 minute on medium flame.
- Next add garam masala, coriander powder, chaat masala and amchur powder and give them a quick stir.
- Turn off the flame and Transfer the content to a mixing bowl and let it cool down to room temperature.
- Add finely chopped spinach, coriander leaves and mint leaves and mix them well. Next mix in grated potatoes, corn flour and salt to taste to the mixing bowl. Mix them all well.
- If you find the mixture too moist or is stubbornly sticking to your hand, add a tbsp. or little more of cornflour and mix them all well. The mixture should be soft, but not too moist and should easily be able to shape them to kababs.
Proceed to shape and cook kebabs:
- Heat a tawa or griddle on medium flame and while its getting heated, pinch lemon sized portion of mixture and shape them into about 1¼ inch thick and 3-inch-long cylinders/cigars. If using a skewer, tightly press them around the skewer to shape them into cylinders. You can also shape them into patties by rolling the mixture into ball and then gently pressing them down to make about ¾ inch thick round or oval shaped patties.
- Drizzle about 1 tbsp. of oil on the pan and arrange 5-6 kababs or patties in the griddle. Let it cook undisturbed for 3-4 minutes until it turns golden brown and crisp. Then gently turn the kebab or flip the patties and cook them for 2-3 minutes until it turns crisp and golden brown. Make sure that you keep turning the kebab on all the sides so that they are evenly coloured and cooked through.
- While the kebabs are cooking, prepare the next batch by shaping them. Continue cooking the next batch of kebabs or patties same way until you exhaust all the mix.
- Alternately you can grill them in an oven instead of pan frying. Preheat the oven at 180 deg C. Line the oven tray with a greased parchment paper or silpat. Arrange the kebabs in rows, 2 inches apart, and brush them with some oil.
- Grill them for about 15-20 minutes by rolling/flipping the kebabs or patties every 5 minutes to make sure they are evenly cooked and change colour to golden brown. The overall cooking time will depend on the type of the oven, so keep a close eye after 12 minutes of grilling.
- Serve these delicious Hara Bhara Kabab hot with spicy green chutney (recipe below on notes) or with ketchup and enjoy! They also make a wonderful filling for Kati Rolls or veggies wraps or for pitta breads (read notes below to see how to use them in rolls/wraps).
- Adjust the amount of spice and green chillies depending on your spice tolerance/preference. Since I make it for my 6 year old, I keep the spice level low to medium.
- You can also use boiled green peas in the kebab. Cook about ¾ - 1 cup of green peas, drain all the water and mash them well before adding to the kebab mixture. Alternately, you can steam cook the green peas.
- You can also use about a cup of crumbled or grated paneer when making the kababs to get creamier texture.
- We love the flavour of raw tender baby spinach and hence use them raw when making kababs. But if you want, you can blanch the spinach in boiling water for 2-3 minutes and then transfer the blanched spinach into a bowl of ice cold water for 5 minutes to stop them from cooking and to retain their green colour. Press to remove excess water before finely chopping them and use them in the recipe.
- You can replace the cornflour with roasted gram flour to make it gluten-free. Roast about ¼ - ½ cups of gram flour on low flame for about 5-6 minutes or until its raw smell disappears and you get a nice nutty aroma. Use this roasted gram flour as a binding agent to shape the kebab.
- The mixture should not be too moist or sticky. So, adjust the amount of cornflour to get soft, yet easy to shape kabab mixture. You can also add about ¼ cup of breadcrumbs to make the kababs crispier as well as they help to absorb the excess moisture.
- Instead of pan frying, you can grill them in an oven. Preheat the oven at 180 deg C. Line the oven tray with a greased parchment paper or silpat. Arrange the kebabs in rows, 2 inches apart, and brush them with some oil. Grill them for about 15-20 minutes by rolling/flipping the kebabs or patties every 5 minutes to make sure they are evenly cooked and change colour to golden brown. The overall cooking time will depend on the type of the oven, so keep a close eye after 12 minutes of grilling.
- To make spicy green chutney, grind together 1 packed cup of coriander leaves with stems, ½ cup mint leaves, 2-4 green chillies, juice from ½ lime, about ½ cup water and salt to taste to smooth paste. Add more water if wanted to make it little runny chutney.
- Its best to serve these kebabs fresh and hot, but you can refrigerate them for 2-3 days or even freeze them for up to a month. Best way to warm the kebabs stored in fridge or freezer is to cook them in an oven. Preheat the oven at 200 deg C. Line the baking tray with aluminium foil or parchment paper and arrange the kebabs in a row. Place them in an oven and let them cook on both sides for about 8 (stored in fridge) to 15 mins (frozen ones).
- Apart from serving these Hara Bhara Kababs with spicy green chutney and/or ketchup, you can use them as a filling for KaTi Rolls, veggie wraps or in pitta bread along with some salad leaves (baby spinach, arugula or lettuce), sliced veggies (onion, tomato, cucumber, red/white cabbage, avocado etc) and drizzled with some sweet chilli sauce, mint chutney or any dipping sauce of your choice.