Kheema with fried onions / rice with spinach


For Indian cooking, my main source has always been Madhur Jaffrey’s rather esoteric, regional book A Taste Of India. However Nils recently gifted me with An Invitation To Indian Cooking, noting that no recipe he’s ever tried from it has ever been less than stellar (epic?) so I decided to give it a try. The book is devoted to the sophisticated Delhi cooking with which Jaffrey grew up.

My dad used to make a Middle Eastern kheema, and ground meat always appeals, so I decided to try that. I didn’t have enough onions, so the fried onions of the title ended up being shallots. The standard onions-ginger-garlic mix gets fried in oil that’s been infused by a quick saute of cinnamon stick, bay leaves and cloves. When the onions are done, you add freshly ground coriander, cumin and turmeric, then yogurt and finally a small amount of tomato sauce. You fry the meat in this soffrito, add nutmeg, mace and salt, bring to a boil with some water and then simmer for AN HOUR. At the end you stir in the fried onions (shallots in my case). It’s divine. And it goes divinely with…

… rice with spinach. Like many Indian dishes, the name implies something simple, but the actual recipe is hard work. I think in this early book Jaffrey was trying to get Americans to make the leap so she recommends Carolina rice, which is what I used, but basmati would definitely have been better. Apparently basmati was hard to find and expensive back then, in the years of the license raj. Anyway, you clean the spinach, have a big pot of boiling water, and wilt the leaves quickly in small batches, remove them to a colander with a stream of cold water, then press the spinach between your hands to remove the moisture. Then chop it very fine. Chop an onion and saute it in oil for 5 minutes, then add the spinach and some garam masala, and saute for 30 minutes. This produces an intoxicating mix reminiscent of those sag dishes in restaurants that you always thought were drenched in butter. Wrong. Now you add the rice (which has been washed and soaking for two hours in salted water), mix it together, and put it all in a casserole with tin foil that has a half-inch hole cut in the top for steam to escape, which goes in an 300 degree F oven for 30 minutes. The combination of the fresh-smelling spinached rice with the rich, aromatic kheema is just right.

8 thoughts on “Kheema with fried onions / rice with spinach”

  1. Gevrey-Chambertin 2002 from Groffier. It was excellent, and stood up to the spices, but was not perhaps ideal.

  2. Need to take you to my favorite Indian joint when you’re in Boston next time. You’ll love it and the proprietor behind it.

  3. Raj, also I made a tomato chutney from Madhur Jaffrey to go with this. Garlic, ginger, vinegar, sugar, salt, blanched slivered almonds and golden raisins. It tastes amazingly like… really good ketchup. Hmm, I wonder where ketchup came from originally?

  4. Interesting. In India, they always prefix the word ketchup with the word tomato — as if there’s another type of ketchup made with something other than tomatoes.

    Have you seen the Madhur Jaffrey cooking DVD from the mid-90’s? They’re pretty damn good and not just vegetarian either.

  5. Raj, I’ve seen ketchups made with other fruit/vegetables. Heston Blumenthal made a mushroom ketchup to a rather ancient recipe as an accompaniment steak in his “In Search of Perfection” series. If there’s a revival, I’m there. Not sure I’m up for making my own

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