Whenever I am about to go back to Karachi my mother always asks me what I want to eat when I get home. The answer always is “qeema paratha” which usually prompts my mother to say “you’re your fathers’ daughter; he also wants qeema all the time”.
I have always loved a good qeema, but since living abroad I practically crave a ghar ka qeema. I don’t mean bihari style qeema, or galawat ka qeema or any of those other varieties that are commonly found in restaurants: I mean the kind of qeema that mama’s make. To say that it has been my nemesis thus far may sound dramatic, but it is true.
Ground beef here doesn’t taste the same and it certainly doesn’t smell the same. In fact some times it smells pretty darn icky. It has taken considerable trial and error and even the occasional chucking of the final product to get me to a place where I am happy with the end result. I don’t even keep the achar (pickle) bottle handy any more – God knows a few spoonfuls of it has rescued many bad qeemas!
The fresh minced ginger makes a significant difference in overall flavor so please please walk away from the pre ground stuff. If you don’t have time to finely mince then use a box grater and shred it. This recipe is fairly basic so you’re welcome to tweak it by adding more or less tomatoes, throwing in some green bell peppers at the end (yum), subbing peas out for the potatoes etc.
Happy Cooking 🙂
1 lb lean ground beef
1/4 – 1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 small diced onion
1 inch piece cinnamon
2-4 whole cloves
6-8 whole black peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp ginger
8 cloves garlic (2 spoons ground)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp red chilli powder (add more for a spicier qeema)
3/4 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 large potato or 2 small – approximately 1 cup
1 tsp of garam masala (optional)
3-4 chillies – sliced, halved, or left whole
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
a few squeezes of lemon juice
Open up your ground beef and let it air out in a bowl for 10-15 minutes, this helps manage the smell. Chop your onions into a small dice, finely mince your ginger (see below) and garlic, slice the potatoes into 1 cm cubes or whatever strikes your fancy, and roughly chop the tomatoes.
This dish is best made in a wok so if you have one pull it out otherwise use a pan that’s 8-10 inches wide so you can brown the meat and build flavor. Heat your oil in the pan on medium-high heat and add the cloves, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, and cumin seeds. When the seeds sputter and darken then add your chopped onions. Once the onions become soft and translucent add your minced ginger and garlic to the pan and saute for two minutes. Now go in with your spices, cook for another minute and add in your ground beef.
So here’s the thing – a good qeema is well cooked and the stir frying is what makes the difference between a qeema with depth and one that is so-so. So get your stirring arm ready and first cook the meat so that the excess water dries up, then saute till brown. Take a taste if you like, adjust salt.
Now add your tomatoes and potatoes and crank up the heat to get the tomatoes to release some of their water. Add a splash of water and when it gets nice and bubbly turn the heat down and let simmer covered for 15 minutes till your potatos are almost done. Now turn the heat up and saute to make sure the qeema has absorbed that lovely tomato flavor . Cook till the qeema is as dry as you like it to be, add garam masala, cook for a few minutes and then top with cilantro, chillies and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve with chapati or naan and a side of raita (spiced yogurt).