I am a very happy man as i write this post.
That sort of happiness that you get when you achieved something after multiple attempts. What did I get? Well, I cracked the code for recipe for Kheema Pao or simply mince and bread. I know its not that difficult to make mince and bread. We Mangalorean have a recipe we make all the time and so do the Goans. I like those as well; but honestly, I love eating mince the way it is prepared at the Irani hotels. I first tasted this way back during my college days. I studied at St. Andrews College in BAndra. Now, Bandra is blessed with some lovely options for eating. Right from high end, plush five stars to non-descriptive place that you would enter if you you were to go by the eye. A few furlongs away from college was one such Irani hotel. With the meagre resources at our disposal those days, eating out was a luxury. But this Irani hotel was one place we visited once on a while, to celebrate a birthday in the group or simply the fact that we had cleared our semester without any backlog. Truth be told, i don’t really remember how, when and why I ordered Kheema Pao the first time (I wasnt a food writer) but i remember falling in love with the way it was made. There was something about it; nothing earth shattering but something warming and comforting. See, that is it about food being simply cooked; it touches your soul.
Post college, life happened. I for quite a while worked at Churchgate, Mumbai’s CBD and home to quite some Irani cafe’s. We would step out for lunch ocassionally and at times a mid morning snack. Quite often, I’d tuck into the kheema pao. Surprisingly, the dish seemed quite similar except for a slight variance in spices. A few attempts to create the similar dish at home failed. I was advised by folks at home to stick to the mangalorean recipe which was best. But thats also because we Mangaloreans are a grumpy lot when it comes to recipes. Any other recipe than the one you or your mother has is bound to be an absolute failure.
Now, some days back I happened to be in Bandra and I passed the Irani hotel. I was delighted to see it still there and doing brisk business. I decided to grab a bite more out of nostalgia than hunger. What did I order? Well you could take a guess. Did it taste the same. Of course. Nothing has changed. I tried my luck and called the guy who attended me. I wanted to know the secret of this recipe. “Is mein kyaa masale padte hain?” (what masalas do you put in this) I questioned. He gave a blank look, then looked up to the ceiling fan moving slowly as a protest at being made to work in his old age. Finally, he answered vaguely “Sab masalo ka taste aana maangata hai” (You need to taste every masala). Well, not entirely, but some part of the riddle had been solved. I was competent enough to try it out once again. One thing that I observed, in common is the garnish of fresh ginger and green chillies. I loved the sharpness from the ginger and the heat from the chillies. Its not really a very spicy dish. The spices are more supporting actors to the medley of mince and onions. Please don’t skimp on the oil, you need to have that circumference of oil around your mince. That is where the real taste lies.
It was a very simple dinner but I went to bed a very happy man. I also kept some aside for the next days breakfast and boy, my day was made.
One more request, please have it with bread and only bread. Anything else, would kill the romance of this dish.
- 450 grams mince (I used chicken. You could use mutton or lamb)
- 100 grams green peas (optional, I didnt use)
- 100 ml unflavored vegetable oil
- whole masalas ( 4 cloves, 4 cardamom, 3 sticks of cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cumin)
- 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 inch piece of ginger, minced
- 2 green chillies, finely chopped
- 2 small onions, finely chopped
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- Powder Masalas (1 tbsp red chillies, 1/2 tsp turmeric/ 1/2 tsp garam masala/ 1 tbsp corriander [for garnishing])
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Juice of half a lime
- For Garnish (A Few sprigs of corriander, finely chopped/ 1 1/2 piece of ginger and 2 green chillies, roughly chopped)
- Heat oil in a pan. When it is medium hot, add in the spices and let them splutter.
- Once the spices begin spluttering, add in the ginger, garlic and chillies and cook till fragrant.
- Add in the onions, and let them sweat till translucent. Dont entirely cook the onions.
- Once the onions are slightly pinkish, add the tomatoes and cook till soft.
- Add in the mince and the green peas (if using). Cook for 5-7 minutes.
- Take some water in a small mixing bowl, add in all the powdered masalas and add it to the mince. Give it a good stir and mix well so that all the masalas and meat integrate well.
- Add in the salt and pepper. Cover and cook for another 8-12 minutes.
- Check once if the meat is done. If done, add the corriander powder and give it a good mix.
- Once meat is cooked. Add the lime juice, and the corriander leaves.
- Add the chopped ginger and chillies and serve with toasted bread (if you like)
- Done. 🙂