My plate is frequently home to a generous serving of rice. It certainly kicks the ‘recommended’ nutritional chart to the side and leaves me feeling bloated and ready for bed. Since the weekend reached dizzyingly hot temperatures, it became clear that I could no longer afford to feel like this (the built-in flotation device around my waist - AKA love handles - was not doing me any favors either).
To feel good about myself this summer I knew I had to investigate my infatuation with rice. My findings: Rice was most of the time a mere vehicle with which to eat other things. That was an empowering moment for me. Tonight, I made a dry sautéed ‘chili- keema’ which is usually made with chicken or ground goat meat. Typically, I eat this dish with rice or roti (Indian bread). Of course, there is nothing wrong with either rice or roti; it’s just that some of us don’t know our limits. For those of you, who are like me, switch out the rice for lettuce to make ‘lettuce cups filled with beef’. Not only does it taste great and add texture, the meal becomes exceedingly lower in carbs.
I decided to make keema with ground beef instead of my habitual ground chicken. The flavor of beef for this dish is a livelier choice, which is necessary since there is no gravy to bolster the taste. While I was in ‘investigation-mode’ I experimented with different types of lettuce too and the winner for me was romaine because it was pliable enough without being lifeless and dry.
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In India, this dish is often made stuffed in slightly wilted cabbage leaves but I love to combine the spicy and hot ground beef with the cool, crisp and hydrating lettuce leaves. This dish is great as a snack, a main course or even a picnic dish leaving you feeling lighter and less bloated than white rice or roti would.
- 1lb ground lean beef
- 1 medium sized onion, rough dice
- 1 tbsp. chopped diced ginger
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp. tomato puree
- Chili powder
- ¼ tsp. turmeric
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ½ red bell pepper, diced
- ¼ cup frozen peas
- 1 green chili, chopped
- ¼ cup of fresh mint, finely chopped
- 1 handful of cilantro, chopped
- 8 romaine leaves, washed and dried
1) Heat oil in a pan, add cumin seeds. When seeds start to crackle, add onions and cook on high heat until the onions start to brown from the sides. Add the ginger, turmeric, chili powder and red bell pepper. Cook for a couple of minutes and add the tomato puree and cook for a couple of minutes
2) Add the beef and break down with a spoon for a uniform texture, cook until it turns brown and begins to stick to the bottom of the pan (this gives a nice roasted flavor)
3) Add the frozen peas and ¼ cup of water. Cook until the peas are tender and the water evaporates
4) Check for seasoning
5) Fill romaine cups with ground beef, garnish with chopped cilantro, mint and green chilies
Saira Malhotra is a classically trained French chef and graduate from the French Culinary Institute. A British born Punjabi, Saira has grown up around food which started from her family pizza business in a small suburb of London. Having studied in France and Italy and living in the Big Apple for the past 12 years, Saira has brought her European, Asian and American influences together via the palate and communicated through her food blog ‘Passport Pantry’.