The word “keema” refers to both the ingredient—ground or minced meat—and to the stew-like dishes—not a million miles from chili—that are often made with it. In India the most common kind of keema by far is that of mutton or goat. In the US where goat/mutton is not as easily found I mostly use ground beef—though ground turkey does well in these preps too. In fact, I would say that it is in this kind of preparation that beef comes closest to substituting for goat in Indian cooking. That’s just my opinion, of course, and it shouldn’t be taken as implying that beef doesn’t have a place of its own in Indian foodways. No matter what the Hindu fundamentalist dispensation that is well into the process of destroying what remains of India’s secular fabric will tell you, beef is an Indian ingredient too.
Like everything in the Indian home-cooking repertoire, as a dish the name “keema” does not refer to any set preparations but a rough genre. The spices used vary as do the other things that go into the dish. Potatoes and peas are common but I’ve eaten and made keema with all kinds of veg from sweet corn to cauliflower. And I’ve eaten and made it in all kinds of consistencies from a fairly runny curry to almost dry. This particular version, which I made this past week, falls in the middle in terms of consistency and deploys potatoes and green peppers as the veg. There’s one non-traditional ingredient in there that works very well.
- 1 lb ground beef
- 2-3 medium potatoes, diced (I don’t bother peeling them)
- 3-4 large hot peppers, seeded and cut into chunks
- The following ground together to a coarse powder: 1 tspn hot chilli powder, 1 tspn cumin seeds, 1 tspn coriander seeds, 1 tspn black peppercorn, 1 tspn Sichuan peppercorn, 1/2 tspn fenugreek seeds, 1/2 tspn haldi/turmeric powder
- The following pureed together: 1 medium red onion,1 cup chopped tomato, 1 tspn’s worth of garlic, 1 tspn’s worth of ginger
- 1 tspn jaggery/brown sugar
- 2 cups water
- Salt to taste
- Heat the oil over medium heat and add the diced potatoes. Saute for 5 minutes or so.
- Add the peppers and saute together for another 3-5 minutes.
- Add the powdered spices and saute for another minute.
- Add the ground beef, mix in thoroughly and saute till the meat is “browned” and the oil begins to separate.
- Add the puree and salt, mix in and cook over medium-low heat, stirring all the while, till oil begins to separate again and the raw smell of the onion paste is gone.
- Add the water and the sugar, bring to a low boil and simmer over medium-low heat, uncovered, till the potatoes are cooked.
- Serve with hot chapatis or parathas.
- I used 1 hot wax pepper and two large Anaheim peppers. None were particularly hot. It’s the fruity green capsicum flavour that you’re really after here though.
- If you want more or less heat just dial the chilli powder and black peppercorns up or down to taste.
- The consistency is really up to you. Once the potatoes are done, taste it and see what you think. If you want it less runny you can just raise the heat for five minutes or so and reduce it quickly.
- As with all Indian meat curries this will taste better on the second day.
- You can, of course, eat this with rice but in my opinion hot chapatis and keema are a match made in heaven. And whole wheat tortillas are an acceptable substitute for chapatis.