Food talk

To mince matters

To mince matters

Hari mirch ka keema

Pushpesh Pant

We have always had a weakness for mince — be it in the form of kebab, kofta or in a pie or patty. The good old keema kaleji curry makes us drool and, of course, the role that mince plays in rara gosht is nothing short of stellar. We have enjoyed keema samosa and keema pulao but have found mince delicacies missing from restaurant menus in the recent times. The reason, it seems, is that customers are apprehensive about the quality of meat that goes into the mince. The thumb rule should be: procure from a butcher trusted over time and try to get it minced in front of you, preferably not in a machine but done manually with a heavy cleaver from boneless chunks. And in there we digress again!

Now, what do you cook after you have laid your hands on the mince? Kebab and kofta are too complicated for a person as lazy as the writer of these lines. In winters, we like to pair it with methi or a little bit of saag. And when the rains come calling, we treat ourself to hari mirch ka keema. When we had it for the first time, it had been done to perfection at the royal spread laid out for his guests by Tika Aishwarya Singh of Kangra in Himachal Pradesh. The recipe was given to him by his father-in-law, scion of the erstwhile royal house of Sailana in Madhya Pradesh. We dare not experiment with that sublime classic. Hence, what we offer our readers is a simpler home-style recipe from a friend’s family repertoire.

Hari mirch ka keema

Ingredients

  • Mutton mince 500g
  • Green chillies 200g
  • Onions (sliced fine) 100g
  • Garlic-ginger paste 1 tbsp
  • Bay leaf 1
  • Whole red chilli 1
  • Cloves 2-3
  • Black peppercorns 1/2 tsp
  • Cardamom (brown) 1
  • Cinnamon stick 2-inch piece
  • Coriander powder 1 tsp
  • Cumin powder 1/2 tsp
  • Oil 1/2 cup
  • Salt to taste

Method

  • Heat oil in a pan and when it reaches smoking point, add the bay leaf and whole spices to it. As these change colour, add onions and stir fry till translucent. Then add garlic-ginger paste and continue stir frying for another minute. Now put in the mince and stir fry on high flame, breaking the lumps. Take care not to brown the mince too much. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the powdered spices dissolved in a little water to avoid scalding. Add salt and let the mince cook for about 20 minutes; scrape the bottom of the pan to ensure that the mince isn’t burnt. Add half a cup of hot water, if required.
  • As the mince cooks, wash the chillies and cut into 1-1/2 inch pieces. Heat a little oil or butter in a pan and glaze the chillies in it. Do not fry or allow to blister. When the mince is done, add the chillies and mix well. Garnish with fresh coriander/mint and thin slices of lemon.
  • The mince should retain enough moisture to be equally enjoyable with bread of choice or steamed rice. We strongly advise to eschew garam masala as the idea is to enjoy just the flavours of mince and green chillies.

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