Bengali Inspired Summer Kheema (ground meat curry) is a delicious one pot dish that celebrates the bounty of the mid-late summer harvest. Affiliate links have been used to link to items I am discussing.
People, if it is not one thing it is another lately. The cough is mostly gone, still waiting on the results of various tests and doctor appointments when… the air conditioning broke. And after one of the coolest summers I have ever lived through, we had a serious heat wave this week. And then normal August weather “returned” for the first time this August– which is to say it is still stinkin’ hot. Seriously I have refused to even have my laptop on my lap this week. So…. yeah, more apologies. Still here. Still cooking–oh wait, definitely not cooking. But still thinking about food!
So clearly this Bengali Inspired Summer Kheema was not made this past week. No, it was made a few weeks ago when we were mysteriously having fall weather in mid-August– which makes it a great recipe to share now, when fall is coming up soon (right? Right!?!? Tell me the cool weather is coming back!). It is also a great one pot meal to make while we are still getting local corn, tomatoes, potatoes and zucchini.
I would go so far as to call this Bengali Inspired Summer Kheema a basic kheema (or keema, an Indian ground meat curry) with one big exception. The curry begins with caramelizing sugar, to which you add mustard oil after it has been caramelized. I got the idea from Monisha Bharadwaj’s fantastically encyclopedic The Indian Cooking Course: Techniques – Masterclasses – Ingredients – 300 Recipes (also featured in my 10 Best Foodie Things about 2017). I have used this book several times and have yet to be disappointed. Anyway, I made a different curry for my sister from this cookbook that started with the caramel–and while I was not happy enough with the resulting curry (no fault of the recipe, the goat I used was all bone and no meat) to share it, I was completely intrigued with the caramel and decided to try it in a kheema.
I could not pick out the flavor of the caramel (as opposed to, for example, Vietnamese caramel sauce), but I can definitely attest to the fact that this kheema is rich with terrific depth of flavor that could not be attained with plain table sugar (caramelizing the onions also adds to this). As you guys know, I am always interested in learning about different dishes and techniques from other countries–especially India, whose food I adore– so from that perspective alone it is worth trying. It also does not add as much time or complication to the recipe as you might think. That little sugar caramelizes relatively quickly once it starts, at which point your only concern is making sure it does not burn. Have the mustard oil and whole spices ready to go before you start!
I got the idea of caramelizing sugar and then adding mustard oil to begin a Bengali curry from Monisha Bharadwaj. From that point on the curry is my own.
- 4 t sugar
- 2 T mustard oil
- 8 whole cloves
- 3 2-inch cinnamon sticks (cassia)
- 1 T brown mustard seeds
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 T cumin seeds
- 3 large onions, chopped
- 1 T (heaping) minced ginger
- 2 T (heaping) minced garlic
- 2 T (heaping) tomato paste
- 1 t minced fresh chili pepper, to taste (more if you can handle the heat)
- 1/4 t ground turmeric
- 1 t ground cumin
- 1 T ground coriander
- 3 t garam masala, divided, to taste
- 3 lbs ground beef
- 4 medium red potatoes, diced
- 2 medium summer squash, diced
- 2 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
- 1 cup sweet corn
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/3 cup whole fat greek yogurt
- juice of half lemon or lime, to taste
- 1 T sugar, optional to taste
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, optional
In a large pan, sprinkle the sugar with a few drops of water over medium high heat. When it starts to bubble, stir it and let it caramelize until a rich medium brown.
Add the mustard oil with the whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, and mustard seeds. Partially cover the pan to prevent the popping mustard seeds from escaping.
When the mustard seeds have slowed in their popping, remove the lid and add the bay leaves and cumin seeds. Let roast until browned and fragrant, which will happen quickly.
Add the chopped onion and stir it into the spices. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions have begun to caramelize. Keep a little water by the cooktop to sprinkle over the onions if they start to stick or scorch.
Add the ginger, garlic, tomato paste, minced chile pepper and turmeric. Stir and let the onions continue to caramelize another 5 minutes.
Add the ground cumin, ground coriander and 1 teaspoon garam masala. Stir and let the spices roast briefly.
Add the ground beef. Break up the clumps and stir it into the onions and spices. Let cook for 2-3 minutes and then reduce the heat to medium. Continue cooking until the ground beef is browned.
When the beef is browned, mix in the potatoes with a pinch of salt. Let them get a little browned by cooking for 5 minutes without stirring.
After the 5 minutes, add the squash, tomatoes and corn with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until the tomatoes start to break down and release their juices, about 5 minutes.
Add the 1 1/2 cups of water and bring to a boil. If your curry looks super saucy, let it simmer uncovered. If it looks like there is no liquid to spare (it certainly should not look dry), cover the pan. Either way let simmer 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender and the zucchini is crisp-tender.
Turn the heat to low.
Remove several spoonfuls of the curry and mix it into the yogurt. When the yogurt is quite warm, stir it into the curry with 2 teaspoons of garam masala and the lemon or lime juice. Stir to incorporate.
Taste for sugar, more salt, more garam masala or more lemon or lime juice. Add the cilantro if using (I had just a little to garnish my pictures with from a struggling plant outside so I am sure the dish will be ok without it). Serve hot with rice or flatbread (we almost always opt for Basmati rice).
Looking for a Bengali Inspired Summer Kheema collage to pin?