Back in university, I was lucky enough to room with my friend Sarah, who wasn’t just an all-round lovely human but also a talented cook and baker. One of her signature dishes was keema, a minced lamb or beef dish prepared as a curry, amply spiced and endlessly comforting. I loved it so much that it soon became a running joke between us.
Since then, Sarah has shared various keema tips with me. Just a few weeks ago, a new message popped up that simply read: “New favourite keema recipe” and included a link to a recipe for “dhaba-style keema”. She noted the recipe was unusual in its inclusion of milk, but said it made the keema extra creamy and indulgent. I liked it because it reminded me of Marcella Hazan’s classic bolognese, which also incorporates milk. She also mentioned that, instead of beef or lamb, she’d used vegetarian mince to great effect.
Like many, I’ve been keen to cut back on my red meat consumption, so I purchased Beyond mince for the first time, open to the experiment. Reader, I was wowed. Not only did the Beyond mince taste richly savoury, it worked flawlessly as the heart of this dish, perfectly incorporated with the spices and aromatics. I don’t know if I’ll ever make meaty keema again.
I served this with steamed rice, though naan or another flatbread would work excellently as an accompaniment. Another excellent companion was Baron Brewing’s Culprit NEIPA, a 7% golden juicebomb. I’ve long thought NEIPAs and curries make a natural match and this pairing affirmed that: both alike in aromatic potency and intensity, the beer’s mango-like sweetness and soft body making it a perfect quencher of chilli heat.
So while you could absolutely make this keema with beef or lamb, I’d encourage you to give the vegetarian route a try, at least this once – and to keep a can of NEIPA handy for when you do.
Adapted from Spice Cravings
For your spice mix:
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon hot chilli powder (optional)
¼ teaspoon cloves
2 fresh or dried bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
For your keema:
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large onions, finely diced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
Fine sea salt, to taste
1 2-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 bird’s eye chillis, minced
450g vegetarian mince (I used Beyond)
2 tablespoons tomato purée
225g tin chopped tomatoes
60ml milk (or your preferred alternative milk, to make it vegan)
Juice of 1 lime
Fresh coriander, to garnish
Fresh mint, to garnish
Basmati rice and/or naan or other flatbread
1. In a small bowl, add all the ingredients for the spice mix. Set aside.
2. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat and add the vegetable oil. Once hot, add the onion and cumin seeds, as well as a good shake of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5-6 minutes, or until the onions are softened and translucent. Add the minced ginger, garlic and chillis, and cook for 2-3 minutes more, or until they've lost their raw smell.
3. If the pan is looking a little dry, add any additional oil. Raise heat to medium high and add the mince. Cook, stirring and breaking up any clumps of the mince with a wooden spoon, for 5-6 minutes, or until browned and cooked through.
4. Next, add the spice mix. Stir through and cook for 1 minute, or until very fragrant, before adding the tomato purée. Mix through and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until its colour deepens to a brick red.
5. Add the tinned chopped tomatoes and water. Stir through and then turn the heat down to low. Cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Season to taste and add the milk. Cook for 5-7 minutes more, or until well incorporated and thickened. Turn the heat off and stir through the lime juice. Taste and season with any additional salt or spices, if preferred.
6. Divide the keema between bowls and garnish with the fresh coriander and mint. Serve with steamed rice and/or your preferred flatbread on the side.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound and all-around lover of tasty things. You can follow her at @clairembullen. For more recipes like this, sign up to our HB&B All Killer No Filler beer subscription - you'll receive Claire's recipe and food pairings, plus beer reviews and expert tasting notes with up to 12 world-class beers - like this one - every month.