In early 1996, Henry and I spent part of the blustery winter in London. We’d just graduated from college, and to celebrate, his parents had treated us to a trip. From our little Curzon Street apartment in Mayfair (right in Shepherd Market), we ventured around the city. Besides playing tourist, Henry wanted to catch the world premiere of Trainspotting (and drink beer in the theater) and stock up on Doc Martens in Camden. (It was the mid-90s, after all.) Me? Ever the gastro-tourist, I was there for the food. And you know what they say: when in London, eat Indian food.
Authentic Indian cuisine wasn’t new to me. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, with its large and vibrant Indian and Pakistani communities, I can’t remember a time I didn’t crave great Indian grub: spicy curries, meat and vegetable stews, and rich, fragrant daal—all served with a variety of breads like brick-oven-baked naan, deep-fried bhatura or pan-cooked chapati flatbread.
But the Indian food in London was revelatory, and we ate copious amounts of it. When we spent a weekend in Paris, I got sick and holed up in the hotel; my only directions to Henry were to bring me back macarons and—of all things to eat in Paris—Indian samosas. I was hooked.
You’re a samosa fan, too, right? These fried pastry pockets can be stuffed with spicy vegetables or meat, though these days, I prefer the latter. After all, the meat filling—keema—is the perfect emergency protein: it’s simple to make with pantry and fridge staples, and it’s great with everything from cauliflower rice and sweet potato hash to hearty omelets and crisp lettuce wraps.
For my deconstructed samosa dish, I adapted a recipe for sookha keema (dry-cooked spicy ground meat) from one of my favorite cookbooks of all time, Julie Sahni’s Classic Indian Cooking. The jacket is torn and tattered (and held together with tape), the text-only pages are dog-eared and splattered with curry sauce, but my first-edition copy of Classic Indian Cooking is still my go-to for authentic Indian recipes.
If you’re on a Whole30, you can serve the spiced meat in lettuce cups. Otherwise, you should buy this recipe from Tara Grant of Primal Girl and fry up some Paleo-friendly flatbread for this recipe. (And no, I wasn’t asked or paid to mention Tara’s recipe—I didn’t even sign up to be an affiliate, because I’m not looking to make money off of it. I bought the recipe myself after reading some rave reviews online, and I think it’s well worth the $3.95 price tag. I mean, we spend more on a big cuppa coffee, right?)
Makes 6 servings.
- 2 tablespoons ghee
- 1 large onion, finely minced
- 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons minced ginger
- 2 jalapeno peppers, finely diced
- 2 pounds of ground beef, lamb, goat, or a combination
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 2 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ cup coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- Juice from half a lemon
- ¼ cup minced cilantro
- butter lettuce leaves or Paleo flatbread
Heat the ghee in a large skillet over medium heat and prep your ingredients as the pan gets hot.
Throw the onions in the pan…
Stir fry until translucent, about 10 minutes.
Toss in the garlic, ginger, and peppers and sauté until fragrant.
Crumble in the ground meat…
…and cook until no longer pink, breaking up the pieces with your spatula.
Stir in the turmeric, salt, and coconut milk, and bring to a simmer.
Cover the pan…
…and reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer the meat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
When time’s up, check to see if the liquid has evaporated from the meat. If not, cook the meat uncovered for 5 more minutes or until the moisture is gone.
Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the garam masala, lemon juice, and minced cilantro.
Adjust the seasoning to taste with additional salt, garam masala, or lemon juice.
You can serve the spiced meat in fresh lettuce wraps…
Lil-O was fascinated by the appearance of dough in our kitchen—a rare sight indeed.
When the bread was off the skillet, I broke it into pieces and topped each with keema before shoveling everything in my mouth.
(Trust me: the recipe for this dough is worth your hard-earned $3.95. Go reward Tara for her genius!)