Food Talk
When mince matters
Pushpesh Pant brings to us the joys keema delicacies

HOW many times we are told not to mince matters and come straight to the point? Well, we have always taken this as a slur to one of our favourite delicacies. We can’t imagine anyone not liking mince aka keema. True, most butchers botch up the job. The temptation is strong to mix discarded scraps with the ordered mince — fatty bits, fibre, shreds of skin and all. This is what it seems to have given mince a bad name.

People are reluctant to order shami and kofta in most eateries as "suspect" items created with stale and unhealthy meat. This is a great pity as some of the most delightful delicacies are keema based.

In Hyderabad, the traditional breakfast is kheema khichadi, dum ka kheema is another traditional offering and a delicately spiced dainty morsel inside the pastry like luqmi brings it alive.

Keema Mutter was not so long ago a staple on Sundays at home in the Punjab and Delhi and garnished with slices of hard-boiled eggs the celebratory centrepiece. The dhabas girdling the GT Road were ranked as much for their dal and saag as for the keema kaleji combo.

A little mince goes a long way and can be dished out in a variety of ways to show off your innovative culinary skills. Blend it with rajmah and the deshi chilli con carne avatar can dazzle the guests. Marry it with curry leaves, mustard seeds and, grated coconut and you encounter an unexpected Chettinad cousin.

It pairs well with almost any vegetable — potato, tomato, eggplant, fenugreek and, of course, the peas. Left over mince can be used to fill samosas or curry puffs. The beauty is that the mince can be prepared as a bake, a gravy dish or dry accompaniment to rice or roti.

Friend Shafik ur Rehman Durrani from Bhopal once surprised us with a steamed kebab — an idli look-alike studded with green chillies and laced with mint that took our breath away. If you are pathologically health conscious, you can try this one with chicken mince.

And it was another friend Rashmi Dar who taught us how not to succumb to bullying butchers and ensure that we receive our pound of flesh (minced) rukha — sans fat — to make flawless Kashmiri kofta. Miyan Siddiq from Jama Masjid nourished us with keema with gobhi and saag for countless weekends during our student days in the mid 1960s in the last century. Pray tell us how can we ever stop mincing matters?

The vegetarians need not drool enviously. They can mince almost anything they choose to obtain a kosher mince — yam, mushrooms, pumpkin with skin and even ginger.

Bhuna Keema


Minced mutton 1/2 kg

Green peas

(fresh or frozen-parboiled) 150 g

Onions (medium, sliced) three

Ginger paste 1 tsp

Garlic paste 1 tsp

Turmeric powder 1/3 tsp

Red chili powder 1 tsp

A large sprig of green

coriander (chopped)

Small mint leaves (chopped)

Green chilies (chopped) 8-10

Lemon juice 2 tbsp

Oil 1/2cup

Salt to taste


Heat oil in thick-bottomed pan. Add the onions and fry until golden brown. Then add ginger and garlic pastes and continue stir-frying till the paste changes colour. Add salt, turmeric and chilly powders and three quarters of the chopped coriander, mint and green chilies. Fry on low-medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Add the mince and fry till moisture evaporates and the mince is dry. Pour a cup of water, cover and cook for about 20 minutes. Add green peas, raise heat, and boil away excess water. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the meat, and garnish with the coriander, mint and green chilies.