Turkey Kheema: Spiced Ground Meat

Every now and then I ask someone in my family for a recipe. Unfortunately, while my mom and aunts are amazing cooks, they seem to lack the ability to write recipes that I can follow. They all seem to get by fine on each other’s recipes, but I need more instruction.

I asked my mom for a recipe which she kindly sent. I called her up and took some notes which resulted in this:

recipe question

Needless to say I have no idea how to banish the sombu or if I believe my mom when she tells me that things are “not needed”. This is actually one of the more clearly written recipes. Sometimes I get things that are just a list of ingredients with directions such as “stir masala and cook until done cooking”. It’s a more sketch version of the Technical Challenge from The Great British Bake-off.

Luckily, I can tell you how to make this ground spiced meat. After several (years) of trial and error I’ve formulated a version that tastes good and doesn’t require you to buy 7 different spices. You probably have most of these in your pantry already.

A note on authenticity: There are numerous variations on this. I could probably do a week’s worth of posts on different variations with different levels of complexity. I was going for something that tasted “right” without being complex. 

Kheema (spiced ground meat)
Ingredient List:
1 Lb of ground meat of your choosing (I used turkey, 85% lean. Others have used pork with great success)
1 medium red onion – diced quite finely. Yes, you need to use a red onion or it will taste too sweet
1 bulb of garlic – peeled and grated or finely chopped. I used about 15 cloves of the pre-peeled stuff
2 Tbsp. of grated ginger
3 ripe medium tomatoes chopped
5 Tbsp. of coriander powder
2-3 Tsp. of chili powder (the kind that is just ground chilis) – may need to add more or less to taste
3/4 tsp. of cinnamon
1/2 tsp. of turmeric if you have it
1-2 tsp of salt.
1 tsp. lemon juice or apple cider vinegar with mother (I used Braggs which is much less harsh than some of the other brands). Balsamic could also probably be used but may have a slightly different flavor if you don’t have apple cider with mother. Really go for the lemon is you’ve got it.
Optional: chopped cilantro for garnish/a fresh bite. I personally feel this is necessary,  but I know some people don’t like cilantro.
Heat a generous slash of oil (~4-6 Tbsp) over medium low heat in a pan. You really don’t want this to dry out. Cook the onions, garlic and ginger for ~10 min. It should not burn or brown much. Cook with the lid on and stir occasionally. When everything looks good and well cooked add the tomatoes. Put the lid back on and cook (stirring occasionally to prevent burning) until the tomatoes are broken down have released their juices. You generally will also see the oil float to the top which means it is ready for the next step!
Add the coriander, cinnamon, turmeric, and chili powder. Stir everything together and cook for a minute or two (want the rawness to cook off).
Add the meat and stir everything together well. Put the lid back on for ~ 7 min and then break up the meat with your cooking implement so there are no large chunks! Add ~1tsp of salt to start with– you will likely need some more, but it’s a good place to start. When it’s all cooked add the lemon juice or vinegar and cook for a minute or two. Cook until all the water has boiled off. It shouldn’t be in a soup, but not desiccated either.
Turn the heat off and stir through the cilantro. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Serve with rice or roti and yogurt on the side!
**Image credit goes to Wes–this is the pork version! Sadly, I didn’t have time to remake and photograph it before I left for my exam exile

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