Indian Cooking 301 – In this lesson we leverage whole spices to make an authentic meat curry eaten in many Indian households.
Use basic staples like ground meat, potatoes, and sweet green peas, which are the main elements of the dish and are easy to keep on hand in the fridge (ground chicken/turkey/beef/lamb), pantry (potatoes), and freezer (sweet green peas).
At the 301 level you will learn how to kick things into gear and make authentic Indian dishes using both ground spices (like ground cumin and turmeric) and whole spices (like cinnamon stick and whole cloves) that you can find at your local supermarket — no need to go to an Indian grocer.
You will continue to master my 5-10-5 Rule — a cheat sheet I created for my husband Sean of the basic things you need in your pantry to make a variety of delicious Indian dishes.
Keema. It must be one of the most common dinners in many Indian households. Keema is basically a ground meat curry that’s cooked with with ground and whole spices, potatoes, and sweet green peas. My friend Andrea once described it as Indian Shepherd’s Pie. It can be made with any kind of ground meat you like (lamb, beef, chicken, or turkey). My husband Sean routinely offers to make it, as it’s one of the main dishes he knows how to cook on his own — when I asked him why he likes keema so much he said, “Because it’s comfort food, not overly spicy, yet aromatic. It’s meat & potatoes done with an Indian twist.” A good quality ground meat is always handy to keep in your fridge or freezer, especially for busy weeknights. If you grab a large russet potato, grape tomatoes, and some frozen peas, you can make my version of keema on the fly any time you like. We usually pair it with steamed basmati rice or naan. Just the keema (without the peas or potatoes) can make for a lovely filling for a crispy meat samosa as well.
In this lesson you will experiment with using key whole spices again, along with a generous helping of turmeric. Cinnamon stick, green cardamom pods, and whole cloves are a few of the key ingredients in ‘garam masala’ so essentially you are using ‘whole garam masala’ when you make this. As soon as the dish is finished and you’re ready to serve it, take a clean fork and quickly fish out all the whole spices so you don’t get a whole clove in your mouth as you’re eating it — most Indians don’t often do this, and simply move the whole spices to the side of their dinner plates as they’re eating, but I’ve done it both ways.
Lamb Keema with Potatoes and Sweet Green Peas
- 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 2 green cardamom pods
- 2 whole cloves
- 1.5 tablespoons turmeric
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-inch piece ginger root, peeled and minced
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 1.5 tablespoons curry powder
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon red chilli flakes or ground cayenne
- 1 large russet potato, peeled and diced
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped (here I used half a pint of grape tomatoes sliced in half)
- 1 cup frozen sweet green peas
- Fresh cilantro, finely chopped
- Heat oil in a wide non-stick skillet and fry onions (I add a small piece of chopped onion to the oil when I begin so when it starts to glisten and sizzle I know the oil is ready and add all the onions — a great trick that has saved me many times!). Add cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. Add turmeric.
- Fry onions on high heat until very yellow, soft, and a little browned around the edges.
- Add garlic and ginger and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add ground lamb and brown. Add curry powder, red chilli flakes, and salt.
- Once the lamb is browned, add the diced potatoes and combine well. Then add the tomatoes, scraping up any bits from the bottom of the pan, and lower heat slightly to a medium flame.
- Cover and cook through for 10 minutes. Stir a couple of times, always checking the level of your flame/burner — it should be medium or slightly medium-high (main thing is it shouldn’t burn on the bottom). After 10 minutes the potatoes should be cooked and the tomatoes should have wilted into the keema. Add frozen peas and mix well. Cover and continue cooking for 5 minutes.
- Taste and adjust seasonings for salt and heat (red chilli flakes/cayenne).
- Top with finely chopped fresh cilantro before serving.