Kheema Pav

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One of my favourite dishes is Kheema Pav, which is mince served with the ubiquitous Mumbai bread rolls. There are many versions of this dish, mainly variations in the way the meat is cooked. As an apprentice Marine Engineer I used to spend a lot of time in and around the Mumbai docks, where there is an abundance of the small Muslim cafés and restaurants. These restaurants specialise in a multitude of meat dishes cooked in a particular style, that are not easily available elsewhere. And so, the Kheema Pav served there has a particular nostalgic attraction in my mind. After many years of trying to recreate the taste at home, I came across a recipe that triggered ‘that taste‘ in my mind (thanks to Farrukh Aziz). And now, finally,  I’m able to make my version of this wonderful dish, tweaked to be healthier, with the use of alternate meats (like chicken or turkey) and much less oil than they use in the restaurants, but still with the key flavours that remind me of those idyllic days.

Ingredients

  • 1 kg minced or ground meat (see Notes)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • 2 small sticks of cinnamon
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 2 tbsp coriander powder
  • 2-3 tbsp garam masala
  • 3 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2 inch ginger, grated
  • 2 large onions, chopped fine
  • 3-4 tomatoes, chopped fine
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 1 bunch dill, chopped
  • 1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
  • Handful of frozen peas
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt, to taste
  • Fresh dill and coriander, to garnish
  • Pav (soft white rolls)

Method

  1. Put the pan on high heat and add the oil. Once it’s hot, add the fennel, cumin, peppercorns, bay leaves and cinnamon. Once they start to release their aroma, add the ginger and garlic and cook until the raw smell of the garlic goes. Don’t let the garlic burn.
  2. Add the onions and cook until the onions turn soft and translucent.
  3. Add the mince and sauté well. Keep stirring and mixing, ensuring that the meat doesn’t clump up. Once the meat starts to brown, add the tomatoes and the tomato purée and continue to cook. Mix and stir it frequently so that the tomatoes blend into the meat, and that the meat doesn’t stick or burn.
  4. When the aroma of raw tomatoes goes away, add the turmeric, chilli powder, coriander powder and garam masala, and mix it in. Cook for 5 mins or so and then add the chopped dill, dried fenugreek leaves and the peas into the meat and continue to cook.
  5. When the meat is cooked and well browned, you will see it releasing some of the fats and oil. You will also notice some of the meat in the corners of the pan starting to get slightly crispy around the edges. At this point, check the seasoning and add salt as required. Add the lemon juice and stir well.
  6. Garnish with chopped fresh dill and chopped fresh coriander.
  7. Serve with pav.

Notes

  • I prefer to use a mixture of poultry (chicken or turkey) mince along with red meat (lamb or pork) mince in a ratio of 2:1 or 1:1. But really, any meat will work. I’ve made this using only poultry mince as well and it tastes delicious, but it just means that because of its low fat content, you need to pay more attention to it while it’s cooking to prevent it from sticking and clumping up.
  • The dish is fairly dry and does not have any gravy. In the cheaper restaurants, it floats in oil, but I reduce the amount of oil used to cook it.
  • If you want to get a really deep flavour, you could also finely dice some chicken liver (around 200g) and add it at the same time as the rest of the meat. If you’ve chopped it fine enough, you will not get pieces of liver in your mouth, but the dish will taste so much richer and meatier.
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