Dhungaar-e-Keema or Smoked Indian Lamb Mince is a quintessential recipe from the Indian subcontinent, one that is as simple as it is flavourful. The recipe is quite basic, the underlining key words characteristically ‘andaaz‘ and ‘bhuno‘, terms very familiar to how we cook in this region. Andaaz referring to eyeballing ingredients, and bhuno, ‘the quintessential stirring and roasting’ that gives Indian cuisine its essential character. Be it kebabs, kormas, bhuna gosht or then keema like this, the spice mixes are generally region specific. This Dhungaar-e-Keema or Smoked Lamb Mince is minimally adapted from an old one from @ My Tamarind Kitchen, a blog written by Scotland based Sumayya.It’s an old familiar recipe, one that has roots across this region, North India and Pakistan. It’s strange how similar the culinary vocabulary and cooking methods are. My mother and her friends, who I owe a lot of my initial recipe repertoire to, always had the same two favourite words, ‘andaaz’ and ‘bhuno’. The story was the same with my aunts who I used to pursue relentlessly in an attempt hone my abysmal cooking skills. These words were firmly rooted in the North Indian cooking lingo of the past, a reflection of how recipes have evolved down the ages. We’re down to measures now – teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, grams, ounces in cookbooks, yet ‘andaaz ‘or eyeballing in Indian cooking still rules the kitchen!For recipes other than baking I still pretty much eyeball what goes in, merrily tasting and tossing as I stir. Andaaz is my way to go too. No better way to cook I’d say, though maybe not the ideal ‘cookbook’ for newcomers on the scene, or for people alien to a particular cuisine. The good thing is that I am an obsessive ‘picture taker’ for steps of cooking, and especially when cooking with spices as they keep me fascinated. As a result of that, I usually know how the recipe has progressed and what went it.
This time was of course no different even though I followed Sumayyas recipe pretty much. The steps were familiar since most of our curries follow the same pattern. The only thing different about her recipe was that no powdered spices were included, something that I found quite interesting. I don’t think I’ve cooked often with only a smattering of whole spices and not even a single teaspoon of coriander powder or turmeric.
I did add a few whole spices of my own though. Star anise for one. A new found love for a spice I barely cared for. Shooting for our Masala Dabba series I fell in love with it because of the way it looked. So I included it in a sangria, then in a panna cotta. Then one trip into the heart of South India to Karaikudi,and I was sold on it. It’s quite an integral part of Chettinad cuisine, often thrown in in wild abandon, the aromas filling the air the minute star anise hits hot oil.
Also in went bay leaves, a gift from the garden of my mother’s friend who lives in the UK, but grew up here in India. She carried a bag for us, for me especially, since she knows how fond we are of her recipes, a lot of them inspired from Pakistan. She influenced a lot of my recipe and cooking processes when I had just got married, gingerly stepping into the kitchen for the first time. The rest of course is history … the recipe follows!