Game meat and Royal India – A wild game Keema recipe
Indian cuisine, just like everywhere else, is very regional. That concept tends to be quite misunderstood, with Indian restaurants focusing on dishes from the fertile farming land of Punjab, which, also happens to be landlocked. But ever since I ended up in the kitchen of our family-run, farm-to-table restaurant, I was intrigued to find out more.
India is as diverse as its religions, food and class structures. It’s a land of extremes – enormous wealth mixed in with dire poverty. Tracing back the history books to the Moghul Empire and the British Raj, the north of India, in places like Rajasthan, is synonymous with not only slow-cooked red meats like lamb or goat but game meat, too.
Even the cooking processes tell us a story. In India, the cow is regarded as holy amongst the primarily Hindu and Sikh populations – which isn’t to say it’s not being served, just mainly in Christian states like Kerala for example. With cows roaming free, there is a lot of poo, which dries to make dung, which is essentially a type of clay. It can and has been used as an abundant alternative fuel source. By the time the animal does the deed, what’s left is mainly grass. The grass is flammable, which means that so is cow dung and even the impoverished has access to it.
Once lit, it produces a low and slow steady heat, which is perfect for braising. That helps to piece together why so many dishes in the north of India revolve around slow-cooked diced meat. When you start to get an understanding of the layering of spices involved, the choice of spices based on geography and the time it takes, maybe it’ll be regarded as more than cheap food.
Anyways, I thought I’d share a Keema (or minced meat) recipe that works well with wild venison, mallard duck, goose or even bear. Instead of a braise, mincemeat using the off-cuts is a good way to not only use all of the harvested animal but also add a little convenience with cooking times.
When it comes to the world of deglazing the pan, the French would use wine, whereas Indians use the acidity in tomatoes. As I live in the Okanagan (British Columbia, Canada), I decided to add in both to create a rich and cozy comfort food that’s perfect with the 2-ingredient flatbread recipe that I’ve given earlier.
Wild Game Keema recipe
- 3 tbs. rendered animal fat or oil
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 onion (finely diced)
- salt (to taste)
- 2 tsp. garlic & ginger paste (equal parts, pounded with a pestle & mortar with a splash of water)
- 1 tsp. turmeric powder
- 2 tsp. The Paisley Notebook’s Garam Masala
- 1 tsp. ground cumin powder
- 1 tsp. red chilli powder (or to taste)
- 1lb wild game mince (venison is my favourite)
- 2 kidneys or alternative offal like liver (chopped finely)
- 3 large tomatoes (puréed)
- ½ cup red wine (optional)
- fresh fenugreek leaves (chopped, optional)
- cilantro for garnish (optional)
- In a large frying pan, heat rendered fat/oil over a medium flame.
- Once heated, add the cumin seeds and bay leaves, sizzle for 10-20 seconds (don’t let these burn)
- Mix in the garlic and ginger paste, cook until golden brown
- Now, the diced onion goes in – sauté with 1 tsp. salt and slightly brown.
- In goes the wild ground game meat of your choice. Let this lightly brown – that’s extra flavour.
- Add the ground spices, remembering that it’s easier to add more heat from the red chilli powder than taking it away. Cook for another 2 minutes or so.
- Stir in the red wine, reduce the heat and cook until the wine has evaporated.
- Now is the time for the tomatoes. A thicker sauce is developing after cooking for approximately 8-10 minutes. You may need to add a little water if it gets too dry.
- Add in the kidneys or livers, adding the chopped fenugreek for the last 8 minutes of cooking on a low flame.
- Check the seasoning and chilli levels.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro or edible wild plants/flowers and serve with Chapatti Roti and cumin yoghurt.
This recipe is being shared from my family to yours, so there are no rules as long as it’s delicious.
I love how there are so many similarities with ingredients and food cultures from around the world and each interaction with another culture brings another dimension or spin – food is a living thing and is made to change. Keep on tasting and exploring.