One cuisine that I always struggle to cook is Indian and I am talking about westernised Indian not even the authentic version. I love Indian food but the recipes either seem to take hours to cook, involve deep frying or use some unusual spice that I can’t find easily. However, I love the flavours and would like to eat it more. I have sort of crossed off one of my issues. I have found a couple of speciality stores near me that do stock a pretty wide range of spices but it is still an extra step in the chore that is grocery shopping. I love pottering around food markets looking at all that lovely produce and sauces and tasting items. But when it comes to the nuts and bolts grocery shopping that I do each week, not so much. Plus buying unusual spices can get expensive if you aren’t buying them regularly.
Given my shift to eating healthier, the deep frying is pretty much off the table when it comes to me cooking. Not that I have completely given up on lovely deep fried food but it tends to be a special treat when I eat out.
There are a lot of Indian recipes that don’t need deep frying but they do tend to take a lot of time to cook – think slow simmering to instil all those flavours. Of course I could always just turn to takeaway or eating in Indian restaurants and when I lived in the UK, I went out pretty much every Wednesday night with a group of friends for Indian. Sometimes the food was dire but on the whole it was delicious if a bit fluorescent in colour. And I really came to appreciate Indian style food when I went out to dinner with my Aunt and Uncle to their favourite Balti restaurant in Birmingham. The flavours that restaurant incorporated into their dishes were spectacular and there wasn’t that layer of oil you often see at the cheap restaurants. Just fabulous.
This year, as part of challenging myself in the kitchen, I have set my sights on conquering at least one or two Indian dishes. Lamb Keema seemed to be a good option as it didn’t have the crazy cooking times of a lot of the other recipes and I had most of the spices in my cupboard. I tried one recipe and it was snoozeville. It just tasted like mildly flavoured lamb. I then tried this recipe for Aloo Keema which includes potato and I have a bit of a thing for curried potato. While it was better I didn’t think it was good enough to share with you. I decided that Lamb/Aloo Keema was just not for me and that I would have to find another Indian dish to learn. I generally like my curries with lots of sauce to flavour the rice or dip my naan in and this is dry curry.
I made two serves of the Lamb Keema and popped the second one in the freezer for a day when I was pressed for time. That day rolled around on Sunday and I whipped this lamb out of the freezer and did a microwave reheat. And what a lovely surprise that was! I wouldn’t have thought the flavours would have developed in my freezer but they obviously had and they were just fabulous. There is an interesting article on the science behind this on Forbes.
I should warn you that this is a fairly oily dish by my standards (but not deep fried oily). I loved the oiliness but it won’t be for everyone. I will definitely be making this one again but leaving it overnight to do its magic or freezing if for later.
To cook two serves, I used the following ingredients:
- 250 g minced lamb (ground lamb)
- 1 medium potatoes, cubed
- 1.5 tbs vegetable oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 green cardamom pods, cracked open
- 1 cm piece of cinnamon stick
- ¼ of a onion, finely chopped
- 1.5 tsp of minced garlic
- 1/2 tbs minced ginger
- 1/3 cup of canned diced tomatoes
- 1/8 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tsp kashmiri chili powder (adjust to tolerance)
- 1.5 tbsp plain yogurt
- salt to taste and coriander to garnish
Ground spice mix:
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 3/4 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp black pepper (adjust to tolerance)
- 2 cloves
- 1/4 tsp fennel seeds
As you can see I didn’t actually grind much of my own spices as I didn’t want to add to the pre ground spices I already had in the house – I don’t use them quickly enough as it is with just cooking for one. To make my ground spice mix, I popped everything in the mortar and pestle and gave them a good bashing until the cloves and fennels seeds were fairly well ground. I probably should have reduced the amounts of the pre-ground spices to match the equivalent of the whole spices in the original recipe but this worked for me.
I battled with getting the cinnamon stick to the right size. I ended up lots of little shards but that seemed to be ok – just be careful to take them out before you eat.
In terms of following the recipe, I pretty much followed the instructions as given. My oil wasn’t smoking at the start but the smoking oil always freaks me out a bit so I rarely do this when called for in a recipe. Plus my electric stove is slow to cool so as the recipe then requires you to turn down the heat to medium I figure that by not getting it super hot, it might cool a bit as instructed. But that is probably not quite the right thing to do to temper the spices. This article has some interesting facts on what tempering means in Indian cooking. As the article says, be ready to move quickly once the spices are tempered – mise en place is definitely need for this step of the recipe.
Prep time was about 15 minutes by the time I had tidied up the cinnamon that had flown around the kitchen and ground the spices. You will probably be able to do it quicker if you are more coordinated than me. Cooking time is an hour. But 25 minutes of this is just checking that it is ticking along nicely and not sticking and from what I have read of Indian recipes, this is pretty good going.
The recipe is fairly high in calories – about 580 but it is pretty much a meal in itself. The original recipe suggests serving with naan but I found that the potato was enough of a carb to make this a meal for me, albeit it a lightish one.