The kheema you should start with….


I guess there are just about a gadzillion versions of kheema. This is the version of the basic staple recipe that I prefer of the various ones I’ve tried. Leave out the peas, add spinach instead, or smoky pureed eggplant (see another chapter for making this), or….


  • 450g minced lamb (or beef)
  • 4 tblesp ghee/oil
  • 200g onions sliced coarsely
  • 4 large cloves garlic chopped finely
  • 2” piece ginger chopped finely
  • 1 teasp ground cumin
  • 2 teasp ground coriander
  • half teasp tumeric
  • 1 teasp chilli powder
  • tin of tomatoes plus juice, chopped
  • peas
  • fresh coriander, chopped


Over medium high heat, heat the ghee and then fry onions, stirring constantly until a deep brown. Turn heat very low, add ginger and garlic, fry for a minute or so before adding all the ground spices, stir for another minute or so, DON’T BURN THE SPICES!!!

Turn heat back up, add the meat and stir to brown, being vigilant to break it all up, no big lumps please.

Add the tomatoes, bring to the boil, cover and then turn down to a vigorous simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, check now and then to make sure it isn’t drying out too quickly. At the end, it should be dry, with the oil seeping out. Add the peas a few minutes before serving and lastly, the fresh coriander. You may, for the last few minutes of cooking, turn the heat up high and stirfry to make sure it is a nice brown colour. In my opinion, if you’ve started out the right way, you won’t have to do that.

Serve with rice.

See another post for turning this into samosas.

(I’ve used Sameen Rushdie’s recipe for this post)


Kofta meatballs

So where were we? Singing the praises of mince. Mmm. Amazing what you can do with it in so many different cuisines, not least Indian. This recipe is always a huge hit. I serve it with the sauce and rice as a main dish. The sauce is utterly divine, it would be a shame to waste it, though you can, if you prefer, make it disappear.

Delicious cocktail koftas
By: Madhur Jaffrey
Serves: Makes 30 meatballs and serves 6 for snacks, 4 for dinner for the meatballs

• 450g minced lamb
• 0.5 tsp salt
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• 1 tsp ground coriander
• 1/4 tsp garam masala
• 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
• 2 tbsp fresh, green coriander, very finely chopped
• 3 tbsp natural yogurt
For the sauce
• 5 cloves garlic, peeled
• 2.5 cm cube ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
• 4 tbsp water, plus 300ml
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• 1 tsp ground coriander
• 1 tsp bright red paprika
• 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
• 5 tbsp vegetable oil
• 2.5 cm cinnamon sticks
• 6 cardamom pods
• 6 cloves
• 100g onions, peeled and finely chopped
• 100g tomatoes, peeled and chopped (a small can of tomatoes may be substituted)
• 4 tbsp natural yogurt
• a little salt


1. To make the meatballs: Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs. Dip your hands in water whenever you need to and form about 30 meatballs.

2. For the sauce, put the garlic and ginger into the container of a food processor or blender along with 4 tablespoons water. Blend until you have a paste. Put the paste in a bowl. Add the cumin, coriander, paprika and cayenne. Stir to mix.

3. To make the sauce: Put the oil in a heavy, 23-25cm wide pan or frying-pan and set over medium-high heat. When hot, put in the cinnamon, cardamom pods and cloves. Stir them for 3-4 seconds. Now put in the onions and fry them, stirring all the time, until they are reddish-brown in colour. Turn the heat to medium and put in the paste from the bowl as well as the chopped tomatoes. Stir and fry this mixture until it turns a brownish colour. When it begins to catch, add 1 tablespoon of the yogurt. Stir and fry some more until the yogurt is incorporated into the sauce. Now add another tablespoon of yogurt. Incorporate that into the sauce as well. Keep doing this until you have put in all the yogurt. Now put in 300ml water and the salt. Stir and bring to a simmer.

4. Put in all the meatballs in a single layer. Cover, leaving the lid very slightly ajar, turn heat to low and cook for 25 minutes. Stir very gently every 5 minutes or so, making sure not to break the meatballs. Towards the end of the cooking period, you should scrape the bottom of the pan just to make sure the sauce is not catching. If necessary, add a tablespoon or so of water. Remove the lid and turn the heat up to medium-low. Stir gently and cook until the meatballs have a browned look. All the sauce should now be clinging to the meatballs and there should be just a little fat left at the bottom of the pan.

5. When you are ready to eat, heat the koftas gently. Lift them out of the fat and shake off any whole spices that may be clinging to them. Stick a toothpick into each kofta if serving with drinks.

6. If you have these koftas for dinner, you could leave more of a sauce.

Kheema Palak: one variation


more or less as Rosemary Moon does it in Classic Indian Cuisine


4 tbsp ghee
half a teasp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 fresh chilli finely chopped
1” piece of ginger, peeled and very finely chopped, or grated or crushed
6 cloves garlic, ditto
500g minced lamb or beef, best quality
1 large onion finely sliced
2 cinnamon sticks, c. 2” each, broken up
half a teasp ground turmeric
1 tbsp ground cumin
half teasp freshly ground black pepper
340g fresh spinach leaves chopped, or 225g packed frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 teasp salt
200g canned tomatoes, chopped or several ripe fresh tomatoes, skinned and chopped
1 teasp garam masala


Heat half the ghee in a wide, shallow frying pan over a medium heat and fry the mustard seeds until they start popping. Add the cumin seeds, green chilli, ginger and half the garlic. Stir and fry maybe half a minute. Add the mince and cook until all the liquid evaporates, maybe 10 minutes. Set aside.

Heat the rest of the ghee in another frying pan (or empty the first one) over medium heat and stir in the rest of the garlic. Add the onions and cinnamon sticks and fry until the onions are lightly browned, stirring frequently. Reduce the heat and add the turmeric, cumin and black pepper. Stir and fry for a minute and then mix in the spinach thoroughly. Then add the mince and again thoroughly mix. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

Increase the heat a little, add salt and tomatoes, cook for a few minutes and then add the garam masala and keep cooking another few minutes. Remove and serve.

From Classic Indian Cuisine Rosemary Moon

Saag gosht: two ways, Jaffrey’s and Rushdie’s.

An Indian shelf would scarcely be complete without a recipe or two for this.

Saag gosht a la Madhur Jaffrey

8 tbsp vegetable oil
0.25 tsp black peppercorns
6-7 cloves
2 bay leaves
6 cardamom pods
175g onions, peeled and finely chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2.5 cm cube ginger, peeled and finely chopped
900g lamb shoulder, cut into 2.5cm cubes
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
0.25-0.75 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp salt
5 tbsp natural yogurt
900 g fresh spinach, trimmed, washed and finely chopped or 900g frozen spinach, thawed out
0.25 tsp garam masala


1. Put the oil in a large pan and set over a medium-high heat. When hot, put in the peppercorns, cloves, bay leaves and cardamom pods. Stir for a second. Now put in the onions, garlic and ginger. Stir and fry until the onions develop brown specks.

Now add the meat, cumin, coriander, cayenne and 1 tsp salt. Stir and fry for 1 minute.

Add 1 tbsp of the beaten yogurt. Stir and fry for another minute. Add another tablespoon of the yogurt. Stir and fry for a minute. Keep doing this until all the yogurt has been incorporated. The meat should also have a slightly browned look.

Add the spinach and the remaining 1 tsp salt. Stir to mix. Keep stirring and cooking until the spinach wilts completely. Cover tightly and simmer on a low heat for about 1 hour 10 minutes or until the meat is tender.

2. Remove the lid and add the garam masala. Turn the heat to medium. Stir and cook another 5 minutes or until most (but not all) the water in the spinach disappears and you have a thick, green sauce.

3. Note The whole spice in this dish are not meant to be eaten.

PS: My experience with particularly tough looking meat, in this case some gravy beef.  I cooked it for an hour with extra water added to cover the meat completely, then reduced it to what it would have been otherwise, added the spinach, cooked for another hour or so. Did that yesterday, ate it today. It was divine, the meat melted in the mouth, the spinachy sauce was creamy.

And Rushdie’s version

900g boned leg of lamb
2 bunches spinach washed & finely chopped, less stems
175g onions finely chopped
1 tblsp garlic finely chopped*
1 tblsp ginger ” “*
225g tomatoes ” ”
6 tblsp cooking oil
½ teasp tumeric**
1+ teasp chilli powder**
2 teasp ground coriander**
2 green chillies finely sliced

1. Fry onions til golden. Add garlic and ginger, fry 1 min and add ** spices. Stirfry for a few minutes and then add meat.

2. Brown meat while stirring to mix well.

3. Add tomatoes and 120 mls water. Cover and simmer for 25 mins. Check for sticking and add water if necessary. At end of this period can add 120 ml water. If cheap meat continue this process for longer. Should be half cooked at least.

4. Add spinach, mix well. Continue cooking slowly over low heat until meat is absolutely tender.

5. Turn heat up, add chillies, stir-fry till extra moisture disappears and the sauce is thick, rich and clinging to the meat.

I used to think this was better than the Jaffrey recipe, but now that I’ve revisited MJ’s recently and was greatly enamoured of it, I’m not so sure. Maybe it needs a cook off.

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Indian pancakes

I’ve had some besan flour sitting about for a while now and finally got around to trying Indian pancakes yesterday.

Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe from World Vegetarian Cooking was my first reference, but it is quickly obvious that one doesn’t need a recipe.

Ingredients for 8 pancakes

  • 2 cups of flour, sieved to remove lumps
  • dry spices such as salt, pepper, tumeric, chilli, garam masala, cumin ground or whole
  • 2 cups of water
  • wet ingredients might include garlic, ginger, spring onions, finely chopped tomatoes, coriander, or spinach wilted in a little water, thoroughly drained and chopped.


Mix the dry spices into the flour and then the flour and water: it is suggested that this is done slowly, eradicating lumps being more easily done when the mixture is less runny. Mix in wet things.

I was cooking for two and used two pans at a time. Otherwise leave in a warm oven while you are making the rest. Heat non-stick pans (mine are about 6″ at the base circumference) with a teensy bit of oil at a medium high heat. Put into each in a few tablespoons of the mixture, mixing it just before as the solids sink. Swirl the mixture to the edges of the pan. The base will turn reddish brown in places and around the edges when ready to flip. It will be about a couple of minutes each side.

From the pan food: we ate these in the kitchen while waiting for the next ones to cook.


What you put in the basic mixture will depend on what you are doing with them. We had the pancakes quite plain yesterday, by way of wet ingredients only spring onion, because we were having them with a vegetable dahl and a chickpea dish with a chutney on the side.

Half the batter then sat overnight and we knocked off the rest for dinner. In this case I added spinach and spring onions to the mix. We had a simple yoghurt, tomato and mustard seed dish on the side.

You can stuff and fold them if you wish.

This is fabulously easy, lends itself to ‘what’s in the cupboard?’, cheap, uses very little oil.


I could easily imagine these for breakfast, if the mixture’s already prepared. One of MJ’s suggestions is sesame seeds, added to the top before flipping, they’ll get nicely toasted. She also points out that you can omit all the Indian spices and make these a more European thing, but I love the Indianness.




Meat Maharaja

Meat Maharaja – and a detour into pornography

I will never understand the fact that it is obvious to me that all the best cookbooks have almost no pictures and yet what people buy are books with pictures. ‘Oh’ they will say ‘I need the picture, it’s what makes me want to cook the dish’. Rubbish! The ingredients, the story of the making as it unfolds, this is what makes your imagination understand the dish. Not a picture, least of all one by a food ‘stylist’ who has patently faked what you look at. And yet, this seems to be the cooking version of sexual pornography. Just as men are all too happy to watch ummm, actresses, pretending to have orgasms, so women seem perfectly content to know that these pictures are fake and yet not be the least put off by that. Amazing. The book for this recipe – Classic Indian Cooking – is no exception to the rule. Full of fabulous recipes, no pics, nobody has heard of it!

The title of this one is absolutely not the least of an exaggeration. This is a royal dish. I love it.

4 tbsp ghee
2 large onions, peeled and roughly chopped
1” piece of ginger, ditto
4-6 cloves garlic, ditto
1 fresh green chilli, seeded and chopped
1-2 dried red chillies, chopped
150g natural yoghurt
1 teasp black cumin seeds
3 teasps ground coriander
1 teasp garam masala
1 teasp turmeric
freshly ground black pepper
1 teasp salt
2 tbsps white poppy seeds, ground
1 kg leg of lamb in 1” cubes

2 tbsps blanched almonds, ground
2 tbsps fresh coriander leaves chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
30g unsalted pistachio nuts, chopped

Melt half the ghee over a medium heat and fry the onions, ginger, garlic and fresh chilli until the onions are just soft. Remove, cool a little and then blend/food process with the yoghurt to create a puree. I use a Bamix stick thing for this. Leave.

Heat the rest of the ghee over a low heat, we do not want the ghee to be too hot, and add the black cumin and then the other ground spices along with the poppy seeds. Fry for a minute or so, add the meat, increase meat to heading towards high and fry until browned, five minutes or so. Cover the pan, lower heat and let the meat cook in its own juices for fifteen minutes or so, stirring now and then.

Stir in the yoghurt and onion puree, mix well. Rinse out the container with the warm water and add this to the meat. Add the salt, bring to the boil, then simmer at very low heat until meat is tender, stirring now and then. The sauce will get thicker and require more attention towards the end of this process. If possible now leave overnight before finishing the next day thus: add the almonds and half the coriander leaves and stir uncovered for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice and mix.

Garnish with the crushed/chopped pistachios and the rest of the coriander leaves. Serve. Utterly divine.

Pilau rice

This is a Rosemary Moon recipe I hadn’t made for yonks. In salad days I’ve been known to add marinated BBQed kebab chunks.

I made this as part of my Geneva on a severe budget cooking experiment: 4 weeks on 20CHF a day. This dish is lovely and it costs all of about 3.50CHF to make. And that’s buying the best aged basmati from my local Indian grocer. Don’t buy rice from the supermarket. The difference between it, and what you can get at an Indian shop is enormous. Just ask for the best they have: you can’t go wrong.

Pilau rice with chana masala
Pilau rice with chana masala


basmati rice to 450ml line in a measuring cup
a couple of tablespoons of ghee
1 large onion cut in half from top to bottom and sliced finely
4 garlic cloves peeled and finely diced
8 whole cloves
8 green cardamom pods, tops slit open
2-4 inches cinnamon stick in pieces
8 peppercorns
1 teasp turmeric
600ml water
chicken stock cube or salt to taste, perhaps 1 teasp
butter for frying
30g dried sultanas
30g slivered or flaked almonds


Wash rice and soak for 30 minutes, then drain for 30 minutes.

Melt ghee in saucepan and gently fry onion over medium heat, stirring, until it softens and then starts to brown. Add the garlic and whole spices and fry, stirring until onions are golden brown. Add rice and turmeric and cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes. Turn heat down and keep cooking and stirring for another couple of minutes – don’t burn! Add stock or water and salt, bring to boil while stirring now and again. Cover, turn heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it sit another 10 minutes or so. In a small pan heat the butter and fry the sultanas and then the almonds. Stir gently into the rice with a fork.

This adds 20 minutes cooking time to the rice because it takes so long to cook the onions, but it’s worth it.

Serves 2 for 3 meals. Reheat in non-stick pan.