One of my favorite vegetables is lotus stem / kamal kakdi / bhee or nadru as it is called in Kashmir. Versatile and deliciously crisp and with a lovely pattern inside this rhizome can be used in curries, stir fry, kebabs, koftas, pickles, chips, honey glazed crisps, stews and much more. I have a recipe of Kashmiri Nadru Yakhini that you can try. Lotus stem is also very high in iron, calcium and dietary fibers.
The vegetable loses color very fast when peeled and cut so it is better to keep it in water. It also has a short shelf life so needs to be refrigerated. The tender fresh lotus stem oozes out a milky substance that’s the sign if freshness. Choose the creamy white, unblemished ones.
Nadru kebab or lotus stem kebabs are an exotic starter for the vegetarians. Many people think that vegetarian kebabs are an oxymoron but the vegetarian kebabs are as delicious as their cousins and are light on palate too. So what if they do not come from the lamb shoulder (Gosht). If made correctly you can not tell the difference between a mutton shammi and a bhee shammi. That’s how delicious they are. It is amazing what all you can do with it.
So, let us get straight to the recipe:
Tender fresh Lotus stem – 3-4 small
Boiled Potato – 1 medium size
Ginger – 1 tbsp, finely chopped
Green chilies – 2-3, finely chopped
Fresh coriander leaves – 2 tbsp – finely cjhopped
Ghee – for shallow frying
Cloves – 4-5
Black cardamom – 2
Green cardamom – 3-4
Cinnamon stick – 1 inch
Bay leaves – 2
Black peppercorns – 6-8
Freshly ground pepper – 1/4 tsp
Kashmiri red chili powder – to taste
Garam masala powder – 1/4 tsp
Chaat masala – 1/4 tsp
Roasted cumin powder – 1/4 tsp
Salt – to taste
Clove, nutmeg and mace powder 2-3 pinches
Fennel powder – 1/4 tsp
Onion -1 medium
Bread crumbs or Popped amaranth seeds – for coating (optional)
Sattu / roasted chana dal power – 2-3 tbsp or as required.
Choose the lotus stem that is sealed from both end to avoid dirt inside. Prefer the tender ones as they will be less fibrous and easy to cook.
Wash, peel and cut the lotus stem in 2 inch cubes. In a pressure cooker add the cubes with all the whole spices and just enough water to cook. ( The bhee should be submerged). Give it 2-3 whistles. It should break easily but still be firm.
Meanwhile thinly slice the onions and fry them in a little ghee till they are crisp. It should be done on low flame to ensure even browning. Take them out and make a paste of these crisp onions on a silbatta or roughly grind. This is optional and you can add finely chopped raw onion to the mix or avoid it too. Browning of onion gives the kababs a nice taste. 1-2 tbsp of this paste is enough.
Drain the water and whole spices, cool and grate the lotus stem. Also grate/ mash the boiled potato. Grating the lotus stem helps it retain the meat like texture.
In a large bowl, add the grated lotus stem, potato, green chili, chopped ginger, coriander greens, onion ( chopped or browned paste) all the powdered spices, salt, sattu and mix properly. Adjust the spice threshold and the salt at this point.
Make walnut size balls and flatten them to make shammi kababs. Roll them on bread crumbs or crushed cornflakes or popped ramdana as I did. You can omit this step too. The coating makes the kebabs crisp.
Heat a non stick taw or frying pan and add some ghee to it for shallow frying the kababs. Keep the flame to medium so that the kebabs get cooked properly from inside too.
Place one kabab to test that it retains the shape, if it does add a few more but DO NOT crowd the tawa as the ghee temperature will lower and the kebabs won’t fry properly.
If the kabab breaks, add a little more binding to the mixture.
Once the kababs turn nice brown from one side, flip and let it brown from the other side as well.
Take them out on absorbent paper to remove excess ghee.
Serve these delicious nadru shami kababs with mint coriander green chutney, onion rings and lemon quarters.
Use ghee, it is the game changer. No compromise on this.
I usually add soaked chana dal to the lotus stem while boiling and grind it on sil batta instead of using gram flour ( besan) or sattu. If you wish to make it with chana dal, soak 1/2 cup chana dal for 2-3 hours and then add to the lotus stem and whole spices while you pressure cook. Once cooked, take it out and grind. You can also roast the dry dal and grind to a coarse powder and add. I like the taste of sattu but omit if using chana daal.
Onion is optional too. The kababs taste awesome without it too.
Some people blend the lotus stem mixture to a fine paste for kababs but I prefer them to be a little meaty. Grating is a better option in my opinion.
I don’t add too much potato, just enough to help in binding.
If you make these do let me know your experience.