Home - is where I want to be / But I guess I'm already there /I come home -
she lifted up her wings /
Guess that this must be the place...
- Talking Heads, "Naive Melody"

Thursday, September 17, 2009

660 Curries - Kheema Mutter

Although I don't post there very often, I do still spend a fair amount of time hanging out on the Cooking Light bulletin board, where there is always some new recipe or interesting food-based discussion going on. Most of those discussions run pretty short--a half dozen posts, a couple of pages at most, unless it's one of the regular features.

Or the discussion of 660 Curries. This one was swelled, admittedly, by the fact that the author dropped in to answer questions and provide encouragement--surely a model of self-promotion in the Internet age, and I mean that as a compliment--but even without that it took on considerably more life and enthusiasm than most similar threads I have seen.

After all of that, I finally picked up a copy of the book. It certainly did look interesting, and challenging. An opportunity arose to use it this week after I picked up some grass-fed ground beef at the farmer's market. At six bucks a pound, I didn't want to make meatloaf, so I was glad to find a recipe that was new, would put the meat to good use, and didn't require me to buy or make anything particularly exotic--the one problem with the book, I gather, being that you really need to have a spice grinder and an Indian market, neither one of which I have readily to hand.

I am far from an inexperienced cook, but all the buildup I had read actually left me a little bit nervous about making the recipe. I was very careful to chop, measure, and otherwise lay out my ingredients before I started. This is generally a good idea anyway, but I must admit it's something that I've gotten sloppy about; most of what I've been cooking this summer has been forgiving enough that if it cooks an extra few minutes while I dig out a utensil, or I have to leave out some herb I don't have on hand, no one really notices. I am under the impression that Indian cooking is not like that, so for once I followed the recipe very carefully

Kheema Mutter (Spicy Indian Ground Beef)
660 Curries, Raghavan Iyer
2 T canola oil
2 t cumin seeds
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
3-5 fresh green Thai, cayenne or Serrano chile peppers
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 T minced ginger
2-3 cinnamon sticks 
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 lb lean ground beef
2 t coriander seeds, ground
1 t cumin seeds, ground
2 t kosher salt
1 t ground turmeric
1 cup frozen or fresh peas
2 T chopped cilantro
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook briefly, until they sizzle, turn reddish brown and are fragrant, about 5-15 seconds. Immediately add the onion and stir fry until limp and golden, 5-10 minutes.
Add the ginger, chile pepper, garlic, cinnamon sticks and bay leaves. Cook until caramel-brown, about 5 minutes.
Break up the ground beef and add it to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beef is browned. Sprinkle in the coriander, ground cumin, salt and turmeric and stir to coat the meat evenly. Reduce the heat to medium low and cover the pan, simmering for 10-12 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of water and let the meat simmer for 5-8 minutes. Add peas and cilantro, cook until peas are done. 
Serve with basmati rice and, if you wish, a chutney.

The only change I made was to use a jalopeno pepper, because that's the only kind the market had. I used one large pepper, wary of the potential heat in the result. What came out of the pot was pleasantly spicy but not at all overwhelming, certainly not as searing as I momentarily feared it would be. It was balanced perfectly by the basmati rice, as it should have been. It was not, all my fears aside, particularly difficult, and I will absolutely make it again--and also, I hope, many other recipes from this book.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of this one.

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