Saturday, December 10, 2011


An all-time favorite dish of mine is keema -- a spicy soya granule stew made in the same way as my family has always made it, except without the real mince meat. It's smokey, spicy, slightly tart, and offers texture to vegetarian cuisine. Once you know how to properly cook keema, you can make shepherds pie, hand pies, use them in spaghetti sauce, a chili, or enjoy it traditionally with flatbread or regular bread. My husband loves it and even though I always make extra, it never lasts for the above suggestions.

For this stew, it's important to brown the onions thoroughly. This can take 20 minutes, but it is what imparts most flavor into the stew. The other is long, slow cooking. I use my trusty pressure cooker, which cooks this dish in 35 minutes, but otherwise it could take up to an hour to make the soya granules completely tender. It's worth it though, because you can make a lot and freeze for later, and it's one of those comfort foods that everyone just loves.

A word about tartness: I consider tartness to be very important here. My mom uses yogurt to make the stew thicker and add tartness, in addition to the tomatoes. I like that option, but when I don't have yogurt around, I squirt in some lemon/lime juice and that works just as well.

Serves 4 - 6

2 1/4 cups dried soya granules
1/4 cup canola oil
2 large onions, diced
1 1/2 tbs ginger, grated
1 1/2 tbs garlic, grated
2 chopped green chilies or 1/4 tsp chili powder
400g (14oz) chopped tomatoes (from a tetra pack)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tbs vegan Worcestershire sauce
3 medium potatoes, cubed
1/2 cup yogurt (optional)
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
A handful of fresh coriander

1 cinnamon stick
3 cardamom cloves
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp ground cloves or 5 whole cloves
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin

1. Rehydrate the soya granules: In a large pot, add the soya granules and 4 cups boiling hot water. Allow to hydrate for 15 - 20 minutes. Then, add to a strainer, and using a potato masher, squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

2. In a heavy bottom pot, heat the oil on medium-low heat and add the onions with a pinch of salt, cinnamon stick, whole cloves, bay leaf and cardamom. Stir occasionally so that it doesn't catch on the bottom. Cook until the onions are a dark golden brown, about 20 - 30 minutes.

3. To the onion mixture, stir in grated ginger and garlic, chopped chilies, cumin, coriander, turmeric and cook for one minute.  Then stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, potatoes, the drained soya granules, 1 - 1/2 cups water and salt. Simmer for 30 - 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are cooked. 5 minutes before turning off the heat, add the yogurt and frozen peas, if using.

If using a pressure cooker: Cook the tomatoes and soya granules for 10 minutes, then add the potatoes and put on the pressure cooker lid. Reduce the heat to low and cook until one whistle blows.

4. When the stew is cooked, stir in some chopped coriander and squeeze in some lemon, if not using yogurt.

Serve with flatbread or regular bread, and a side of sliced red onions that have been mixed with lemon and salt.


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