Indian Keema Takes Cottage Pie To A Spicy New Level

Nothing says "comfort food" like ground meat and potatoes. Today, we're exploring one simple way to elevate cottage pie — a Northern English dish made from ground beef and diced veggies with a layer of mashed potatoes on top, all baked together in a casserole dish. This St. Patrick's Day fave is about to get a whole lot spicier with the introduction of keema.

If you haven't tried it before, keema (aka "kheema" or "qeema") is a traditional North Indian dish made from ground lamb and slow-simmered aromatics. We're talking onions, garlic, green chiles, and spices like cumin, turmeric, ginger, garam masala, and Kashmiri chili powder, among others. The spiced ground lamb dish is stirred with peas and tomatoes and served with pita, naan, rice, or roti. It's also used as a filling for samosas and in biryani. This keema cottage pie is a when-worlds-collide cultural culinary fusion that's greater than the sum of its parts — and it's all about the spices. Plus, it makes for a one-pan meal impressive enough for parties yet low-key enough for family dinner on busy weeknights. (Pro tip: For easy entertaining, you can assemble keema cottage pie ahead of time and slam it in the oven right before dinnertime.)

Time to crack open the spice cabinet

Both cottage pie and keema use a similar veggie lineup, so to make this fusion dish, you can largely refer to your classic go-to cottage pie recipe. To incorporate the keema flavor profile, add the spices directly to your meat and veggies as they cook, or simply blend turmeric into your mashed potatoes before layering them on top. Kashmiri and/or serrano chiles turn up the heat, so you can adjust your dish to be as mild or spicy as you like. Serve with a few generous pats of butter on top, or a dollop of tangy Greek yogurt to help balance out the dish's spicy profile. In an airtight container, it'll keep for four days in the fridge or three months in the freezer.

Ideally, opt for ground meat with at least 15% fat content to ensure a soft, rich bite. You can swap the lamb for ground beef, depending on your taste preference. (Just know that if you do, it'll technically be a "shepherd's pie" now, not a cottage pie.) Goat is also a popular protein option for keema in India. Feel free to exercise a little creative liberty with the filling, too. Leeks, cashews, coriander, paprika, cayenne, cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon are all fair game. You could even use ginger-infused mashed sweet potatoes instead of a classic spud mash.