India's varied national cuisine includes an intriguing and diverse selection of dishes made with ground or minced meats artfully combined with other foods and seasonings and shaped into balls, ovals or patties. They are fried, grilled, cooked in sauces or on skewers. These specialties are good the year round but have particular appeal on summer menus.
In India the ground meat keema generally would be goat, mutton, game, or perhaps pork, beef or lamb, depending on regional and religious tastes. All keemas, however, are well flavored with a mixture of "hot" spices, herbs and other seasonings, ground or pounded together and called garam masala.
The ground meat, garam masala, with onions, garlic, and perhaps a citrus flavoring, are simmered slowly as is, or combined with other foods such as fried onions, tomatoes, potatoes, peas, and a liquid such as coconut milk or yogurt. This mixture can be cooked until the moisture is absorbed or served "wet," with a sauce.
Indians are partial to fairly complex dishes made with keema. One of the most popular if koftas, which are round or oval meatballs that take some time to prepare.
Favorite ways of cooking the meatballs are in a flavorful sauce which may differ considerably from one region to another. In Madras, for example, it is very spicy with chilis and includes coconut milk. A northern dish is made with sweet spices (nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon) and yogurt. Still another region has meatballs filled with nuts, raisins and hard-cooked eggs. They are cooked in a spicy tomato sauce.
A more elaborate version, usually served at special family or holiday meals, is nargisi (narcissus) kofta, which features a hard-cooked egg coated with a special ground-meat mixture and fried. When cut into two halves the meatball resembles a narcissus, with the yellow and white of the egg, the deep brown of meat, and the green of fresh coriander leaves sprinkled around it.
Popular Moslem specialties served throughout India are kebabs made with ground meat, ground grains or legumes, spices and seasonings, which are made into a thick paste and formed into oval cutlets, then fried or broiled or put on skewers and grilled. One of the best known, seekh kebab, shaped as a sausage and skewered, is generally grilled over an open charcoal fire.
Other ground meat dishes include pulao, baked meatballs and rice cooked in alternate layers and samasos, deep-fried meat-filled pastries, eaten as appetizers and snacks.
Below are three recipes for Indian ground meat dishes.
APPETIZER MEAT BALLS (12 servings) 1 pound lean ground lamb or beef 1 small onion, peeled and minced 2 cloves garlic, crushed 1 tablespoon ground tumeric 1 teaspoon ground coriander 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1/4 teaspoon chili powder 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1/2 teaspoon pepper 2 tablespoons plain yogurt 1 teaspoon lemon juice
Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Knead with the hands or mix with a wooden spoon to blend thoroughly. Divide mixture into 24 portions. Shape each portion into a small sausage-shaped cylinder. String 2 cylinders onto each of 12 7- or 8-inch wooden skewers. Cook over hot coals on a hibachi or broil in preheated broiler about 6 minutes, until done. Turn once or twice during cooking. Serve at once.
MEATBALLS IN TOMATO-YOGURT SAUCE (6 to 8 servings) 2 pounds lean ground lamb or beef 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1 teaspoon ground ginger 1 teaspoon chili powder 4 teaspoons garam masala 2 eggs, beaten 1/4 cup minced scallions, with some tops 2 cloves garlic, crushed 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger 2 teaspoons lemon juice 1 large onion, peeled and chopped 3 or 4 teaspoons peanut or salad oil 2 teaspoons ground coriander 4 teaspoons ground turmeric 1 teaspoon ground cumin 3 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped 3/4 cup water 3/4 cup plain yogurt 1/3 cup chopped fresh coriander or parsley
Combine lamb or beef, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, chili powder, garam masala, and eggs in a large bowl. Mix thoroughly. Form into rough 2-inch balls and make a depression in center of each. Set aside. Combine scallions, garlic, fresh ginger, and lemon juice. Spoon a little of mixture into each depression. Form meatballs and brown, turning occasionally, on all sides. Remove to a plate. Add coriander, turmeric, and cumin. Cook over low heat 1 minute. Add tomatoes and cook 2 minutes. Cook slowly, covered, 20 minutes. Mix in yogurt and continue cooking about 15 minutes longer, until meatballs are cooked. Stir in coriander or parsley.
Garam masala may be purchased from Indian groceries or made in home by combining several spices. It is an authentic curry powder.
KEBABS (4 servings) 1 pound lean ground lamb or beef 1 small onion, peeled and minced 1 or 2 cloves garlic, crushed 2 teaspoons turmeric powder 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon chili powder Salt, pepper to taste 2 teaspoons plain yogurt 1 teaspoon lime or lemon juice
Combine ingredients in a large bowl. Knead with the hands or mix with a wooden spoon to blend thoroughly. Divide mixture into 8 portions. Wrap around small skewers to form sausage shapes or form into patties. Cook over hot coals or in a broiler, turning once, until cooked, about 6 minutes.