Is Hamburger Gravy a thing that ever graced your childhood table? My mom made it for us on heavy rotation. Her recipe is very simple, with browned ground beef and sliced onion topped with a can of cream of mushroom soup. She served it over smashed boiled potatoes. It was basic, comforting nourishment for my sister and I on cold, dark winter evenings after a long day at school. I loved it as a child, and still do. It's creamy, meaty and served piping hot.
My husband, eternal hater of "bland north american food" (his words, not mine), is the only reason I don't have a from-scratch version of my mom's dish making a regular appearance on our own table. But keema, he loves, and it's basically India's answer to my mom's hamburger gravy. The same thing on flavour steroids.
I know that Indian food can be intimidating because of the bucket-load of ingredients called for. I hate that. With this recipe (and many, truly) you actually have major leeway. The fresh ingredients (onion, ginger, chile, garlic and tomato), are enough to carry the dish on their own. The dry spices each add their own depth, but by all means do not feel like you have to take three buses to little India to buy fenugreek. (Although, let me just say, fenugreek is a wildly delicious, unique flavour and I beg you to buy it if it ever crosses your path organically.)
Even just the toasted cumin seeds would make this curry taste delicious. (And if you don't have whole cumin, sub in a slightly lesser amount of ground.) See? Flexibility.
I adore lamb, but you could use beef instead if you like. Or swap in half of the meat for lentils - that would be delicious, I'm going to do it next time. More flexibility!
For those not sure if kids would eat it, my two (18-months-old and 3) both gobbled it up for three days in a row. I usually mix some full-fat plain yogurt into their rice to cut the spiciness (and it does double duty to hold the rice together on their forks, preventing rice-ageddon all over the table and floor). They love it. And I love sharing comfort food with them that reminds me of my own childhood and draws on my husband's.
- Cook Time
- Prep Time
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil + a bit more
- 3 medium onions, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
- 2" piece ginger, minced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tbsp garam masala or curry powder
- 1 tsp ground fenugreek powder
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cayenne
- 2 cups diced tomatoes & their juices
- 2 lbs ground lamb (or 1 lb ground lamb and 1 can of lentils)
- 1 cup water
- 1 russet potato, peeled and diced
- 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
Heat oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat, then add onions and cook until soft and golden, about 15 minutes (this is an important flavour-building step, don't rush it). Push the onions to one side and add the cumin seeds to the other along with another glug of oil. When they're a shade darker and fragrant, add the jalapeno, ginger, and garlic and cook, stirring everything together for a minute. Add remaining spices and stir to coat, then add tomatoes. Cook this mixture for a few minutes, until you see oil shimmering on the top.
Add salt (about 2 teaspoons of kosher), lamb, water and potato and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until potatoes are tender and lamb is cooked through, about 20 minutes. Taste, and add more salt as needed. Sprinkle with cilantro just before serving.