For a long time, I was afraid of Indian food. I’m not sure why I was intimidated by a particular cuisine, except that maybe I wasn’t exposed to it growing up in Texas. Don’t get me wrong, we did eat ethnic food but Indian wasn’t one on the radar.
When sweet and bubbly Aarti Sequeira of Aarti’s Party won “The Next Food Network Star” last year, I couldn’t wait for her show and to try some of her recipes. She makes Indian food accessible and makes me want to try most of what she cooks!
I knew this recipe was a homerun when Chris told me about six times that “dinner was SO good” and “Oh, we can have this for leftovers!”. He is typically not a fan of ethnic meals (except for Mexican) OR leftovers but this one he was quite ethused about, which of course made me extremely excited and put a huge grin on my face.
If you haven’t cooked Indian food before, give this one a go as a introductory meal. It’s easy and relatively quick, about 20 minutes or so to cook once you’ve chopped the onion and minced the garlic and ginger. The only two spices you may not have on hand are the ground coriander and the garam masala (a mix of ground warm, toasted spices) but if you have a bulk store like Whole Foods, Sprouts or Sunflower Market that sells spices in bulk, this is a great way to test out the waters with new flavors.
I changed a few of the ingredients, increased the peas and omitted the water that Aarti called for but it’s a slight adaptation of her original. This meal was one of her favorites as a child, so if you cut down or eliminated the cayenne, maybe a younger crowd would enjoy this too?
The tradition way of eating Kheema is to bite off a piece of Indian chapatis or pita bread and pick up bits of the beef mixture at a time. I chose to serve this over leftover rice but cooked quinoa would be delicious or even in a lettuce wrap for a low-carb meal.
Kheema: Indian Ground Beef with Peas (adapted from Aarti Party)
2 Tbsp refined (flavorless) coconut oil (canola oil, ghee, butter or other neutral is fine)
1 medium onion, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 (1-inch thumb) fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne, optional (it sounds like a lot but provides a gentle heat)
1 lb ground beef (I used ground elk that was on sale but any ground meat would work here)*
1 can of no salt added diced tomatoes (or could use 2 medium tomatoes chopped + 1/3 cup water)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup frozen peas
2 tsp apple cider vinegar (do not omit!)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus a few extra leaves for garnish (parsley could be subbed)
Choice of cooked rice, quinoa, gluten free tortillas or pitas, warmed or lettuce wrap leaves for serving
1. In a large skillet, warm the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook until golden. Add the garlic and ginger, and saute for another minute. Stir in the coriander, paprika, garam masala, cumin and cayenne, if using and cook for 1 minute.
2. Add the ground meat, breaking up lumps with a spoon, and saute until the meat is no longer pink. Add the tomatoes with juice from can and season with salt and pepper. Stir well and simmer, partially covered, about 5 minutes.
3. Add peas and cook another 5 minutes, partially covered.
4. Stir in the vinegar and chopped cilantro. Taste and season with additional salt and/or pepper if needed. Garnish with torn cilantro leaves and serve with cooked warm rice, quinoa, gluten free tortillas, bread or pitas or fresh lettuce leaves for a Indian-style lettuce wrap. Enjoy!
*Recipes Notes: I stretched the amount of leftovers I had with 2 cups of cooked garbanzos beans. I assume you could make this a vegetarian dish by subbing the 2 cups of cooked chickpeas for the meat and adding with tomatoes.