Wednesday, November 29, 2006

An easy and classic Indian meal

Although the prep work involved is, well, involved, Indian food - at least the North Indian type I make - is pretty damn easy.

If you want an un-tricky but tasty and versatile dish, give kheema with fried onions a try. The dish is ground meat (in this recipe, lamb) with many spices and fried (really just sauteed ad nauseum) onions, and while it could be eaten alone, it is a more likely candidate to be served over rice; with naan, pooris or chapatis (these three with kheema would be an alternative to pita-and-hummus or chips-and-dip); or as a filling for samosas (deep-fried stuffed breads) or fruits and vegetables (tomatoes, squash, eggplant and okra all work well).

Unless you're wicked fast at prep, you will profit from doing all the prep work before you turn on the stove. For handiness, I put the three sets of spices into separate little dishes.

Kheema with fried onions

Spice set I
2 bay leaves
1 three-inch stick of cinnamon
6 whole cloves

Spice set II
1 tablespoon cumin, freshly ground
1 tablespoon coriander, freshly ground
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 teaspoon salt (this is a maximum, in my opinion)

Spice set III
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon mace, freshly ground
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne

one large yellow onion, halved and both halves sliced into very thin half-rings (this is much easier than trying to slice a whole onion into very thin rings)

one-half of a large yellow onion, finely chopped
five cloves garlic, finely chopped
a 1-inch cube of fresh ginger, finely chopped
3 tablespoons tomato sauce (if you're planning to stuff tomatoes with the kheema, hollow them out during the prep and use the hollowed out stuff - at least six tomatoes worth - in place of tomato sauce)
3 tablespoons plain yogurt
1.5 pounds ground lamb

In a large dish, heat three tablespoons or so of oil over medium to medium-high heat. When hot, saute/fry the onion ring halves until browned (but not crispy), about 10 minutes. Remove from oil (if there's any left) and set aside.

Now the part you need to be attentive for:
  • Add a tablespoon of oil to the dish and add Spice set I.
  • When the bay leaves turn brown, add the chopped onions, garlic and ginger. Fry for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown at the edges.
  • Add Spice set II and fry for three minutes.
  • Add the tomato sauce and fry for three minutes.
  • Add the yogurt and fry for three minutes.
  • Add the ground lamb and brown thoroughly, breaking up any chunks as you go.
  • Add 1/4 cup water (unless you are stuffing tomatoes and added a lot of watery tomato innards already).
  • Add Spice set III, stir, bring to boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes.
After the 45 minutes or so, remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves (don't bother trying to find the cloves; they're fun to eat anyway!) and stir in the reserved onions.

If you're planning to stuff fruit or vegetables, here's the ones I've done:
  • Squash - Cut an acorn squash in half, scoop out the seeds and bake uncovered (in a casserole with 1/4 to 1/2 inch of water in it) at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, or until the squash reaches your desired firmness/cookedness level. Then scoop kheema into the hollow, bake for 5 minutes and serve.
  • Tomatoes - Cut lids on the tomatoes (like you would for a Jack-o'-lantern) and scoop out the inner membranes and seeds. I use a grapefruit spoon for this task.
  • Eggplant - Just slice off the cap (the stem end), then prepare the eggplant by cooking it in boiling, salted water until it is just tender. Drain the water (duh), scoop out the insides and stuff the eggplant. It won't need much time baking, maybe 20 minutes at 350 degrees. You can affix the cut-off cap with toothpicks if you're tricky.
  • Okra - Use large, fresh okra. Simply (ha-ha) slit the okra with a sharp knife and stuff as full as you can with kheema. Bake on a cookie sheet for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.
I like the squash and okra best. The squash is sweet but that's simultaneously offset and complemented by the kheema. The okra is just plain tasty, even better than deep-fried, in my opinion.

The tomatoes are good, but when baked can be almost cloying. Tasty, but easy to get too much of.

The eggplant is also tasty, but a lot of trouble for not much return. Mostly, it is amusing to feel the inside of the eggplant after you have scooped it out and compare it to something else you may have touched in a similar manner.

1 comment:

lulu said...

God that sounds good!