It’s hard to have a social life when you’re moving around a lot. We’ve moved 10 times in the past 6 years. It takes time to find people that are on the same frequency as you, and of course, it requires effort. You have to go a little outside your comfort zone to try to get people to come to your house, and to go into theirs!!! With every move, my husband and I had the same conversation, the gist of which was that when we settle down somewhere and get established in a community, we will not be like others; we will look out for new people, and we will invite them over and help them to get settled. Well, we have yet to really put our roots down somewhere, so let’s see. Like everything else in the world, I’m sure it’s easier said than done.
But I have discussed this with a lot of people, and the answer that I usually get is that we already have so many friends and such a large community, that we don’t see the need to make any effort for newcomers. And I find this attitude extremely disappointing, because we are always on the receiving end of it.
Unfortunately, mosques cannot be relied upon as centers that help in such a situation. And it’s not just about the mosque or imam either, it’s about the mindset of the community. There has to be a general understanding or inclination of people to be aware of new members coming into the community, and to help them find a place in it.
The best way to make friends is through someone you know who knows someone else and so on, through colleagues or through your kids’ school.
But there are communities where the center plays a vital role in establishing newcomers, and makes it the responsibility of the entire community to see to it that they are. Sadly, this is not the case in the Muslim community. When in fact we have such a clear example of this happening with the Prophet (pbuh) and his fellow Muhajirin of Mecca and the Ansars of Madina. The Ansars were given the total responsibility of helping the migrants settle down. They shared half of their entire wealth with them. But this has become just a redundant textbook lesson for us. Even though it can be applied daily, we completely ignore its relevance in today’s time.
Here I have to cite an example of someone who went out of the way for us. We were in Jackson, MS, and ran into a Pakistani family at the mall. Like a lot of other times, we chatted a bit and exchanged numbers. What usually happens after that is that both parties feel awkward about calling, and then they just forget about it. But this time was different. They were hosting a dinner party and they called and invited us.
We went there, we had a wonderful time and I made friendships that have lasted well beyond our having moved from there several years ago. And when the time came, I was happy to pass it forward, and invited a family to my house that was new there, at a friend’s suggestion, even though I hadn’t actually met them.
I always appreciate what my friend did for us. It’s hard to believe but my time in Jackson turned out to be one of the best times ever. It’s amazing how much a few good friends and playmates for your kids can improve the quality of your life. So, I would like to encourage everyone who is reading this to think about one new person to invite next time you’re hosting. 2-3 extra people won’t make such a difference to you, but it can mean more than you know to them. And you can make Nargisi Koftay!
Nargisi koftay, a dish that was served to royalty in the sub-continent, are meatballs stuffed with boiled eggs. They are named after the flower ‘nargis,’ or narcissus. Just like the narcissus, which has a beautiful golden yellow trumpet on the inside, surrounded by white petals; when you cut open the meatballs, you can see the yellow egg yolk on the inside, surrounded by the egg white, surrounded by the meatball. What a beautiful analogy!
Boiled eggs are a very popular and well loved accompaniment in desi cuisine and are used as a garnish for many foods. They are served with meat, chicken, chickpeas, lentils, vegetables like potatoes, cauliflower, pulao, biryani and even with desserts like gajar ka halwa (carrot halwa) and zarda (or meethay chawal; sweet rice). They add something extra to the dish, elevating it.
Stuffing has a similar effect. It immediately lifts any dish from ordinary to extraordinary, common to exceptional, regular to remarkable. Bring the two together and you have a winning combination. Nargisi koftay are very upscale, and can really add grandeur to any dinner party.
There are two main things that have to be achieved:
- The meatballs should be strong enough to hold their shape around the egg and not break or fall apart, yet the meat should be tender.
- The meatballs should be cooked through and there should be no trace of pink when you cut them open.
- 1 lb ground beef, lean
- ½ onion, medium
- handful fresh cilantro
- 3 green chillies
- 1 tsp minced ginger
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1 heaped tsp salt
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 heaped tsp corriander seeds, ground
- 1 tbsp corn masa flour
- 1 tsp garam masala OR crushed seeds of 2 black cardamoms, a pinch of ground cloves, a pinch of cinnamon powder, a pinch of ground black pepper
- 5-6 eggs
For the gravy:
- ¼ cup oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 roma tomatoes, chopped
- 1 tsp minced ginger
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- ½ tsp red chili powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp cumin
- 1 tsp ground corriander seeds
- ¼ tsp heaped turmeric
[Double the gravy ingredients if you like a good amount of gravy.]
Method: (Click on the thumbnails to enlarge)
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Add eggs and simmer for 10 minutes or until the eggs are hard-boiled. Peel and set aside.
In a food processor, combine ground beef, onion, cilantro and green chillies. Transfer to a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Mix with your hand to combine. Do not over mix. Divide the mixture into 5-6 equal parts.
Fry the onion and tomatoes in the oil on medium-medium low heat until golden brown. Remove from heat and add about ¼ cup of water. In a blender, blend until smooth. Return to the heat and add the garlic, ginger and all the spices. Fry for 1-2 minutes. Keep the heat on medium low while you make the meatballs.
Flatten the meat mixture in the palm of your hand and place the egg on it. Form a meatball around the egg until it is fully covered and smooth. The egg should not be showing and there should be no cracks. Press the meatball firmly around the egg. Carefully place into the prepared gravy.
After placing all the meatballs, add ¾ cup of water. Cover and cook on almost low heat for 50 minutes to 1 hour. (Check after 45 minutes to make sure that there is still enough water and the meatballs are not sticking to the bottom of the pot.)
Turn the meatballs over. Add another ¾ cup of water, and spoon some of the gravy over the meatballs. This will help the flavor to sink into the meatballs. Cover and cook for another 50 minutes to 1 hour.
After all the water has evaporated, carefully move the meatballs around a little so that they don’t stick. Add about ½ cup of water, or as much gravy as you would prefer to make. Adjust the seasoning and bring to a boil. Turn off the heat.
Place into a serving dish and cut the meatballs in half. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.
Because of food allergies in our household, this recipe is gluten-free. If you don’t have masa flour, you can substitute with cornflour, breadcrumbs or half a slice of bread soaked in water.
I use lean ground beef in this recipe. Regular (full fat) is softer but it also has a certain aroma from the fat that is hard to get rid of when you’re not bhoonofying it, as is the case here.
I usually make 6 meatballs with 1 pound of ground beef. I think that last time, I made the meatballs a little thicker and ended up with only 5.
The quantity of salt and chilies in the recipe are only to be used as a base. Please adjust according to your taste.
Processing the meat and blending the onions and tomatoes is not necessary. If you don’t have a food processor then finely chop everything. Processing and blending just adds some finesse. But don’t deprive yourself of this delicious meal if you don’t have the machines!
Why did my meatballs fall apart?
They were too soft. Either the meat had a high fat content, too much onion, or too much flour. These ingredients make the beef tender, but it’s important to use only a little bit otherwise the meatballs will fall apart. If they only cracked a little here and there but held their shape overall, then I would call it a success!
I cook the meatballs for 2 hours, turning once. Whenever I’ve tried to reduce the cooking time, I’ve seen traces of pink on the meat. It might not be the most efficient strategy, but it achieves my purpose. So until I learn a better way, that’s my method and I’m sticking to it!
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