Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Kheema (the real deal)

Now, back to food.

My family and I were always part-time meat eaters.
The pattern of meat consumption in our household was sporadic: meat was only prepared 1-3 times a week and was, therefore, a huge TREAT. Meat was served at parties, which usually happened at least once a week, and on another couple of nights depending on how bored we were with the usual ‘ghar-ka-khana’. Almost all the favourites that my brother and I lusted after were “non-veg” (as we like to call it in India). Meat also never made it into our school lunchboxes.

All this led to the rise of the “tastes better than meat” myth that my parents propagated regarding certain veg items. (I say parents, but in all honesty, it was mostly my Dad who presented us with these wild exaggerations of the power of vegetarian dishes that were doctored up with spices usually reserved for meat.) I’ll mention the top ranked offender here, and discuss the rest of these items another time – I think the thought of too many of these dishes at once would overwhelm me.

So, the ultimate outrage was when this “better than meat” myth was applied to the bizarre and inexplicable item: Nutri nuggets. Now these strange, spongy, soy based things were either cubed or minced, (the mince being only very slightly superior), and then cooked up like kheema (a most delicious minced meat dish that tastes nothing like this soy situation). This nutri nugget version frequently turned up in my lunchbox, and I can’t say I remember ANY of my friends being willing to trade on those days.

So I’ll spare you that too, and pass on a recipe for the real thing – kheema – but now you know that you can modify it as you please with any number of vegetarian options and obtain the “tastes better than meat” flavour that my Dad raved about.

This recipe is adapted from one by the amazing Madhur Jaffrey, and is very easy and quick. (It's usually wetter than in this image, but that's your personal preference too).

Kheema (30-45min)

1.5 lb minced meat (I often use turkey, but lamb or beef are richer and more authentic)
Green peas (frozen ones are what I usually use – these are added to taste, 6-7 oz)
1-2 onions (finely chopped)
6-7 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1-2 inch cube ginger (grated or shredded)
Cilantro/ coriander (fresh leaves and dried powder both)
Seasonings to taste (salt, pepper, cumin and garam masala)
1-2 Green chilies (depending on how hot you like it)
Lemon or lime juice (this is critical in my opinion or the dish tastes too meaty and will need heaps of garam masala)

1. Fry onions in medium-hot oil until lightly browned. Add garlic, fry for 1 min.
2. Add the minced meat, ginger, green chilies, dry cilantro powder, cumin.
3. Stir and fry mixture for 5 min, breaking up lumps, add some water to the mix (meat should all be covered in water, no more).
4. Cover the dish and heat on low for 20-30 min until it’s thoroughly cooked and has absorbed the flavours of the masala.
5. Add peas, fresh cilantro, lemon juice, garam masala, and salt to taste.
6. Cook until peas are ready.
7. Taste the mix and add more lemon juice or garam masala depending on your taste.

Serve with rice or parathas : )

Another kheema recipe coming with (with tamaatar as per Priya's request)

P.S. My issues with nutrinuggets seem validated when one of the first things that pops up in a google search about them is a way to make bacterial culture media from nutrinuggets - ew http://www.academicjournals.net/2/detail.php?id=2&jid=ijds&theme=2&issueno=5&articleno=85


Priya said...

hey N! i loved keema on the last bolly night. have you ever made it with any tamatar? i've seen recipes with some chopped tomato (and probably less water)...a Pakistani friend makes it that way.

Nitasha said...

Hi P - Thanks and YES!
The family recipe is actually with tomatoes - I will post that too.

I like it both ways (Madhur J's w/o tomato and with lemon juice; my mum's with tomato and no lemon, much richer recipe actually, especially with lamb meat that has more fat). Coming up soon!

Love, N