No mincing words on this keema: It’s awesome!

A normal Bengali household thrives on fish. So much so that it is rarely considered non-vegetarian any more! As a result, it’s fish for lunch, fish for dinner, and in any other form possible throughout the day, including in savouries like fish fries and fish cutlets.

However, neither Pooja nor I are big fans of fish. Even our cat Dodo has to be fed his fish, and would rather eat processed kitty food all day!

Pooja, on the other hand, thrives on eggs. Eggs are to her what fish are to the more “Bengali” of Bengalis round us. But not to me. Eggs and my stomach seem to have a perennial ongoing argument.

So what can we agree on? Chicken and mutton. Mutton as in goat meat. No, we don’t get lamb/sheep meat that often in India. Yes, goat meat tastes really good, especially if made the correct way!

What’s the “correct way”, I hear you ask? There are several, and Pooja decided to try one of them today. It’s mincemeat, popularly known as “keema” or “kheema” in India. And no, we are not making kebabs. In fact, this is the final product.

It starts with around 600 gm mincemeat, three diced medium-size firm or slightly soft tomatoes, two and a half potatoes, three onions, peas from 20-30-odd pods and just a little fresh coriander/cilantro leaves at the end. The spices will be detailed as they are added. A little ginger-garlic paste may also be necessary.

Pooja begins by heating some cooking oil in a pan so it stops bubbling and loses its viscosity till its runny like water. Sounds familiar? That’s because that’s how most of any cooking with oil begins. And that’s how I like to tell it, especially for the benefit of my friends out there who don’t cook much, but would like to take a stab at it.

But back to the cooking, where Pooja has just added some broken cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and cardamom. And it’s not much to look at:

The cinnamon may be skipped if you are allergic. After the spices just begin to release their flavours, in go the onions, along with a little salt. The salt can be added any time during the cooking, but here’s a quick word of advice from one of my maternal aunts: Always use less salt than is required. You can always add salt to the finished product, but never take it away if there’s too much in it already!

After the onions have softened, add the tomatoes and stir it around.

Let the tomatoes release their juices, and soften up, while frying along with the onions.

Then, Pooja puts in the peas and the potatoes. The taters, mind you, have already been boiled for a few minutes, because the ones we get here don’t soften so easily.

I was asked about this regarding a different post, so here’s the details. What you see in this next picture is around 25-30 gm dried cumin powder, 10 gm dried coriander powder, and a pinch of red chilli powder to taste. I am not a fan of the chilli kind of heat, but love the spices!

Then, add some turmeric for that beautiful yellow colour and a delicious flavour.

Stir it all around so the veggies and spices interact, and the chatter they generate in the form of flavour is music if your nose can hear it!

Time for the minced meat, which Pooja has first drenched in hot water to let all the bloody parts out, and then strained further. She has then marinated it in ginger-garlic paste.

Put that into the pan with the rest, and exercise that arm. Because this will now require a lot of stirring, for every ingredient will now stew in the juices the others have released.

After that constant stirring for around 10 minutes, which means no part is sticking to the bottom of the pan, Pooja adds some water, which will become the gravy after a little more stirring.

To add a little more kick to the gravy, Pooja now puts in some sour curd, the younger, lower-in-cream-and-fat brother of yoghurt.

And at the fag end, there is some garam masala, which can go in only if you want the food to be spicier.

Add a little more water, and let it simmer till the gravy is as thick as the mincemeat is soft.

And Voilà! The keema is ready. Time to dig in!

Like what we do? Have a complaint? Wanna suggest something? Wanna invite us to dinner? Or simply want more information? Please feel free to contact us!

Meanwhile, “Bhalo kore khan”, and Ramzan/Ramadan Mubarak to all my friends observing Roza. May your prayers be heard, and Iftar bountiful!

Arkadev Ghoshal


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