Indian Ground Meat Curry
I am obsessed with keema curry. Why? Because you can do so many things with it as a meal element. You can make it vegetarian, or vegan, use ground lamb, beef, turkey, chicken, mushrooms, or tofu, etc. And you can extend your meat with peas (keema matar), or carrots, cauliflower (keema gobi), potatoes (keema aloo), or any of your favorite vegetables, to make the dish healthier and more economical. Think Indian bolognese, American sloppy joes, chili or even hamburger helper! It is a good weeknight meal with some rice and naan, and no marination required. For a good vegetarian variation with mushrooms and tofu, see Meera Sodha’s recipe in The Guardian.
While the word keema simply means ground or minced meat, when you see a keema recipe, it refers to a curry with ground meat and often peas. Of North Indian Mughal origin, Keema is popular throughout India, with each region putting its own stamp on it. The variations of deliciousness are endless, as are the spices used. Finally, some recipes use fennel and mace, others don’t; some are intensely spiced (flavored not hot), and some are not.
Keema Curry ~ Make it Your Own
Keema curry is endlessly customizable and impossible to mess up. Here are my 10 ways to use keema:
- Stuffed flatbreads: keema roti, keema naan
- Shepherd’s pie (beef); cottage pie (lamb)
- Samosa filling
- Pizza topping
- Breakfast: on toast topped with a fried egg and a crumble of paneer, or feta
- Toasted cheese sandwiches with keema and mint and cilantro chutney
- Dosa filling
- With pasta (think bolognese)
- A topping for a bed of hummus and a dollop of yogurt
Good for breakfast (stuffed flatbread), lunch (pizza, quesadillas, cheese sandwich), or dinner (bolognese style pasta, shepherd’s pie or simply over rice). I have loved every version of this dish, but here is my quick, weeknight, gotta get dinner on the table quick recipe from the great cookbook Bollywood Kitchen by Sri Rao. Also, this entertaining cookbook pairs Bollywood musicals with his mom’s home-cooked meals. This curry is intense, so it is perfect for stuffing things, or pairing with pasta, and the flavors won’t get lost. I offer suggestions to tame for flavors in the recipe notes below.
See Notes below before you cook.
Weeknight Beef Keema Curry
- 2 tablespoons oil ~ I prefer avocado oil
- 2 pounds ground meat ~ See first Note below
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 cups onions ~ Finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons table or sea salt ~ Substitutions
- 1/4 cup ginger garlic paste ~ 50/50 ginger & garlic puree; make & about or buy
- 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri ground red chili ~ Or 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, OR more to your taste
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 10 curry leaves ~ Optional; coarsely chopped. More for garnishing.
- 1/2 cup tomato puree
- 1/4 cup cilantro ~ Chopped
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice ~ Or more to taste
- 2 tablespoons cilantro, mint, or fried curry leaves ~ Chopped
- Gather your ingredients.
- In a medium pan over medium heat, add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and when hot, add the ground beef (or extra-firm tofu crumbles). Sprinkle with the turmeric and mash the meat into crumbles and stir occasionally for about 7 to 9 minutes, or until completely browned. Remove the meat with a slotted spoon and discard any remaining fat.
- Using the same pan, heat the last tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat and add onion, salt, and curry leaves, if using. Cook until the onions are golden, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat if necessary to keep the onions from sticking, and/or add a tablespoon of water.
- Add ginger garlic paste and stir for 1 to 2 minutes until it no longer smells raw. Add the chili powder, cloves, and cinnamon. Stir, cooking the spices for another minute, then add the tomato sauce or minced tomatoes. Cover and simmer for 6 minutes if using the puree or sauce. If using fresh tomatoes, add another 5 minutes or until the tomatoes are completely cooked.
- Return meat and add peas (if using), to the pan, stirring well and cook for another 7 more minutes. Stirring several times, continuing to break down the meat. You are typically looking for a dry curry; simmer for a few more minutes if necessary. Or leave some liquid if you prefer, depending on your preference and how you are using the keema.
- Garnish keema curry as you wish with cilantro, mint and/or fried curry leaves. Use for sandwiches (aka sloppy joes), saucy over rice, with flatbread, or as a topping for Indian pizza.
- Feel free to used any ground meat you prefer or go vegetarian using crumbled firm tofu.
- To streamline this recipe you can use a store-bought ginger garlic paste and canned tomato puree. Feel free to use fresh tomatoes and make your own ginger garlic paste.
- Keema curry can be eaten the same day, but like many Indian dishes, it is better the next day.
- If you find this dish to be too intensely flavored, Mr. Rao recommends adding a tablespoon of ground, unsweetened coconut to the dish. Or I like to add yogurt.