Saturday, February 06, 2010

Keema: "Minced" Meat Curry with Potatoes and Peas

Here is an updated version of what our kids loved when they were young. It is a "minced" (ground) meat curry with peas, which we called "children's curry" back then.

This is actually a classical curry from north India, a Punjabi dish. The meat there, of course, should be ground lamb, which "keema" implies. Beef would be religiously offensive in India, which is predominantly Hindu. On the other hand, in Pakistan, a Muslim country that includes the western half of the state of Punjab, beef is perfectly OK, assuming it has been properly ("halal") slaughtered.

Personally, I prefer lamb on the basis of flavor. But it is expensive, so I generally use a mixture of the two meats. The spicing is deeply aromatic. Hot pepper is, traditionally, used sparingly. The base of the curry gravy is caramelized onions, but tomato and yogurt are typically included too.

While the curry is principally ground meat, peas are a traditional accompanying ingredient. In this case it's called "Keema Muttar." "Keema Gobi" is minced meat curry with cauliflower, and "Keema Alu" is minced meat curry with potatoes.

The recipe below is for meat with peas and potatoes, or "Keema Muttar Alu."

This should be accompanied with basmati rice (see my blog posting of 1/26/08) or the flat bread known as nan. A yogurt raita (see my blog posting of 4/25/08) is the typical condiment.

The recipe serves 8, with leftovers.

Minced Meat Curry with Peas and Potatoes -- Keema Muttar Alu

2 medium-large onions, chopped
3 tablespoons canola (not olive) oil
4 cloves garlic
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large stick of cinnamon
4 whole cloves
4 whole cardamoms
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 pounds ground lamb, beef, or a mixture of the two
1 large baking (russet) potato, peeled and cut in 1-inch cubes
4 tablespoons tomato paste (1/2 of a 6-ounce can -- freeze remainder in plastic bag)
2 teaspoons salt, plus to taste
1/2 cup yogurt, beaten in the cup
12 ounces frozen peas
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro, including part of stems, plus more for garnish

Fry onion in oil in heavy pan, stirring frequently, until becoming golden brown. Reduce heat.

Pound in mortar, puree in food processor, or finely mince garlic with ginger. Stir into fried onion mixture, along with whole spices. Fry gently 2 minutes.

Add ground coriander, cumin and turmeric. Stir and fry 2 minutes, adding a little oil if too dry.

Add water, paprika, cayenne, black pepper and meat. Mix well so meat breaks up before it starts to cook.

Simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add potatoes. Simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.

Add tomato paste, salt and yogurt. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until potato is tender when pierced with a toothpick.

Add frozen peas. Simmer just until fully heated. Taste and add salt, if necessary, to make the curry just slightly salty (the vegetables will soak up more salt).

Remove from heat. Stir in cilantro.

This is best made ahead, refrigerated, then reheated to serve. Taste, and add salt, if needed. Sprinkle with a little chopped cilantro when serving.

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