Safaid keema (ground meat & potatoes)


Meat and potato comfort food with wonderful Indian spiciness.  Another old recipe by  Julie Sahni clipped from a newspaper who knows when.  I just researched her and found that she is a chef and teacher of Indian cooking and has written several Indian cookbooks. I also found this recipe online in many different versions, so either she has changed it, or others have. (For example, they all list ground cumin as one of the spices, but don’t use the seeds at the end. I really like the seeds.) I did add peas on my own, and I see the others all have done the same.

We ate this as is (with big dollops of yogurt) because to me our carbs, the potatoes, were already in the pan. However I see that others serve it over rice. I’ll list my original recipe here and note my slight changes.

  • 5 tablespoons corn, peanut or vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
  • 1 1/4 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 4 medium potatoes, about 1 pound, peeled ( I used red, but I think any firm potato would be fine)
  • 1 Tbsp. finely chopped garlic
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh ginger root
  • 1 1/2 pounds lean ground lamb or beef
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 tsp. ground cardamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2/3 cup unflavored yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tsp. salt, optional
  • about 1 cup of frozen peas, or as many as you’d like
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet and add the onions.  Cook, stirring often, over moderately low heat, about 15 minutes, or until onions are golden brown.  Do not let them become dark brown or the sauce will become dark.
  2. Cut each potato in half or in quarters (depending on the size; I cut mine so I had 1-inch thick disks; I thought they would take too long to cook if I only halved them.) Drop pieces in cold water and set aside.
  3. Put the cumin seeds in a skillet and cook, shaking the skillet, until they are lightly browned.  Do not burn!  Pour the seeds from the skillet and set aside.
  4. Add the garlic and ginger to the onions and cook, stirring, about two minutes longer.  Add the meat and cook, stirring and breaking up any lumps with the side of a heavy metal spoon. Cook until the meat loses its raw look.
  5. (The recipe calls for lean meat, but if you have quite a bit of grease in the pan, drain it from the meat now. Also possible later, but might be easier now)
  6. Drain the potatoes and add them to the meat.  Add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, cayenne, yogurt and milk. Add the salt if desired. (In newer versions of the recipe I’ve seen online,  1 1/2 cups of water is added at this point. I did not do that. I did not have a “sauce,” at the end; just wonderfully spiced meat with potatoes. I did add a tiny bit more milk at one point to keep it moist. If you want a sauce, try adding water and/or chicken broth at this point.)
  7. Bring to a boil, cover and let simmer about 35 to 45 minutes. Check carefully and do not allow the sauce to stick and burn. (Without that extra water, burning might be possible, but OK to add a little more milk or yogurt if necessary.) I also checked for taste and added a little more of the spices to taste.
  8. In the last few minutes, I thought of adding the peas so I threw them in, frozen.  It didn’t take long for them to heat up in the skillet. Be careful not to break the potato pieces. You want potatoes cooked through, but not so soft they turn into mashed potatoes.
  9. Remove from heat.  First time I made this, I thought it was too greasy so I removed some of the grease at this point, but it would be better to do it earlier on.
  10. Add roasted cumin seeds and stir gently. Serve with yogurt.  Cucumber and yogurt salad makes a nice side. Chutney also goes well according to author, but we used only yogurt and loved it.
  11. Yields 4 servings.

I always have some fresh herbs around.  I chopped some mint and cilantro to sprinkle on top, but it tastes wonderful without it.  We ate the leftovers two days later and I think it was even better. So, this is a good one for a make-ahead dish.  Also, freezing is recommended.

Just found this recipe in a 1983 New York Magazine article online.  That is probably exactly where I cut it out from!  33 years ago!

Published in: on January 6, 2016 at 10:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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