Keema is one of my favorite foods. Soon to be one of yours.
This is probably the ultimate one-pot comfort food of my childhood. It even beats mac and cheese, which is saying something because mac and cheese.
Any given Saturday afternoon in the 1990s, you could find my dad making huge messes in the kitchen, staining the countertops and all the wooden spoons in the house with turmeric. Keema was one of the many things that graced the giant pressure cooker (he makes everything in a giant pressure cooker or a giant cast iron skillet... nothing else). I make mine a little differently than he does, but the basics remain the same. This easy, spiced ground lamb or beef is typically studded with peas and potatoes, and that's how I make it too (though if I'm doing a Whole30 I'll leave out the peas).
Keema isn't just common in my dad's pressure cooker, but also across India and Pakistan. Even if you haven't heard of keema (or kheema) before, you may have eaten it inside a samosa. (Yeah, it's that stuff! You love that stuff, right?!)
You can eat it straight up or with rice, put an egg on it for a breakfast hash, stuff it into naan or make those samosas we were just talking about. I sometimes make a spicy honey with toasted cumin and chili powder and mint-coriander chutney and serve it as if it was a deconstructed samosa. Just depends on the day.
gluten-free recipe (paleo, whole30 with easy omissions)| serves 4
- 2 medium yellow onions, minced
- ghee or olive oil for frying
- 1 T jalapeño, seeded and minced (approximately one medium pepper)
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
- 1 T garam masala
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander
- 2 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 lb. ground beef or lamb
- 1/2 tsp pepper, to taste
- about 1 tsp salt, maybe more to taste
- 2 medium potatoes, diced
- 3 Roma tomatoes, diced
- 1 cup frozen or fresh peas
- juice of one lemon
- chopped fresh cilantro to garnish
- Using a big pan or Dutch oven (or pressure cooker, if you are my dad), fry onions in ghee or oil on medium high heat, stirring frequently until they start to caramelize. Be patient — this can take a little while but it really sets the groundwork for all the layers of flavor.
- Clear a little space in the pan, add a little more ghee or oil to that spot if the pan is dry. Throw in the jalapeño, ginger and garlic there and fry for a minute or two until fragrant.
- Add the garam masala, cumin, coriander, turmeric and cinnamon into the pan and stir to coat everything quickly. Add a little extra ghee or oil again if the pan seems dry.
- Add the ground meat to the pot and brown thoroughly.
- After the meat is browned, add salt and pepper to taste. I usually start with 3/4 tsp and wind up somewhere between 1-1.5 teaspoons. It's okay to be liberal because potatoes love salt.
- Add the tomatoes and potatoes. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked through, stirring regularly. About 10-15 minutes.
- Once the potatoes are done, taste and adjust spices, salt and pepper as needed.
- Add the lemon juice and peas. Cook for another couple of minutes until the peas are tender. They are tiny and don't take long!
- Top with fresh cilantro right before serving.
- This recipe was originally published in 2013, but updated (and upgraded) in 2017. It's almost exactly the same, but the old version didn't include peas or potatoes. It also used a 16 oz. can of diced tomatoes instead of the three fresh Roma tomatoes. It tastes great either way, but I prefer to use fresh tomatoes.
- If you are a paleo pal or doing the Whole30, leave out the peas since they are legumes. For low-carb, leave out the potatoes (and you won't need to simmer it as long — it'll be super quick!). You can always sub or add other veggies like spinach.
- If you like your keema spicier, you could substitute a couple of serrano peppers for the jalapeño or add some cayenne pepper to taste.
- I make keema often so I started prepping a keema masala (i.e. spice mix). That way, I don't need to pull out seven jars every time I cook it.
- Eat with roasted curry cauliflower or cauliflower rice.
- Potato cutlets with keema. We used to make them on my dad's birthday when I was little. It's like a mashed potato pancake, stuffed with keema meat and fried. I promise to cook these someday and then make the Internet a recipe.
- This is a super easy recipe to make in huge batches! I quadrupled this recently for a family Christmas Eve party and made it in two big pots early in the afternoon. When the potatoes were almost done (but not quite), I stopped cooking on the stove and combined both pots into one giant slow cooker and mixed it all up. I kept it on warm for a few hours before dinner (stirring occasionally) and then added the peas about 10-15 minutes before we ate so they didn't get overcooked.
- If you want to make a big batch just for yourself, it also keeps really well in freezer bags.
Hope you enjoy your pile of meat! If you have any requests for future Indian fare (or anything else), please let me know in the comments!