Mince dishes, well specifically mince in sauce, do very little for me. Recipes that many hold in high regard, old favourites like spag bol, cottage pie or lasagne, send shivers down my spine. This is all down to my mum's cooking. My mum is by no means a bad cook, pretty much everything was cooked from scratch and there was always lots of veg, and her willingness for foreign foods has played a big part in my broadness of taste now. She loved cooking with mince though and she would happily serve lasagne, spag bol and chili in the same week, and the week after, and the week after, and so on and so forth. And so whilst the stir fries, fajitas and kebabs have left me loving all foods foreign I've got no time for mince.
Mince and peas holds fond memories for me though. I've only had it a couple of times too, at about age 15 when working as a labourer on a Wolverhampton high rise council estate. I was doing a couple of weeks work for a friend of my dad and every morning I'd leave my house in the Buckinghamshire countryside and make the hour journey up the motorway to the kind of estate I'd never seen before. I'd spend a morning lifting and cutting blocks for block paving and then at lunch head to the chip shop where, alongside the various battered delicacies, you could pay 70p for a polystyrene plate of chips with a ladle of rich, beefy, salty mince and peas poured on top. Whether it was the chips or the flavour enhancer laden gravy, something about that mince and peas didn't have the usual effect.
Back to the present day and last week someone mentioned keema matar, the curried minced lamb dish with peas, and, even though I've never had it before, I started getting cravings. I don't have many books covering food from the Indian subcontinent but I had a look through and luckily my one Madhur Jaffrey book, Quick and Easy Indian Cookery, had a recipe. Looking through it everything in it was easily available from any supermarket so I thought it would make a nice change from some of the slightly less ordinary things I've been blogging recently.
Keema Matar, for 4 people
500gr Minced Lamb
200gr of Tomatoes, fresh or small tin
5cm Bit of Ginger
6 Cloves of Garlic
1 ts Chili Powder
1/2 ts Cumin Powder
1 ts Coriander Seeds
1/2 ts Turmeric Powder
4 TB Natural Yoghurt
1 ts Salt
2 ts Garam Masala
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
1 Fresh Green Chilli
1/2 Supermarket Pack of Fresh Coriander
150gr of Frozen Petit Pois
Roughly chop the onion, garlic and ginger then blitz into small bits in a food processor. Heat some oil in a big saucepan and then fry this mix until it's starting to gain a brown colour.
Add the chili powder, cumin, coriander and turmeric, give a stir to combine then add the tomatoes (chopped) and the yoghurt, turn the heat up a bit and cook till they break down.
Add the lamb, salt and garam masala and 250ml of water and bring to the boil, stirring to break up any lumps, before turning to a simmer and giving 25 minutes.
Finally add the peas, coriander, lemon juice and chili and simmer for ten minutes more.
I served it with a simple flatbread. To make these mix 120gr of strong white, 120gr of wholewheat flour, 160gr of water, 1/2 ts of salt and 1 TB of oil and knead for a few minutes before leaving to rest for half an hour or so. Break off an eighth at a time, roll out to about 15cm diameter and 2mm - 3mm thick then fry in a hot, dry frying pan for 30-45 seconds each side. You should get some brown spots on them in this time, if you don't the pan is not hot enough. If it takes much longer to cook you'll dry them out and they'll go brittle, which is what I tend to do to the first one each time I cook them.
The dish satisfied my craving. It's very soothing to eat, requiring little chewing, and has so much going on in the way of flavours with all the spices, the vegetables and the coriander. The one thing I would change would be to use either coriander powder instead of the seeds, or to give the seeds a good crushing before adding them. The curry has such a soft texture with the mince and peas and I found the crunch of the coriander seeds a bit out of place.