Kheema with Ramps and Peas
I’ve rapped on before about kheema and my love of this pan-Indian culinary delight. Part of what makes me love it so much is how adaptable it is to different tastes, seasons, and ingredients. So, when I got my first bunch of ramps of the season, I knew I wanted to figure out a way to include them in a celebratory kheema.
My thoughts on ramps are in a constant state of turmoil. On one hand, though I do like them, and find their gentle allium bite very pleasing, I don’t really understand the mania around them and the screaming frenzy with which they’re advertised on every spring menu. For my money asparagus and rhubarb are the more exciting spring appearances at the farmers’ market.
But I suppose there is something in their being foraged and not cultivated—the first freely given gift of the warm season, an earnest of better things ahead. So I try to be measured in my jubilation, while still making abundant use of these first little spring treats, hopeful signs of a greater bounty on the horizon.
This is an exceedingly simple dish. It comes together in under fifteen minutes and involves almost no prep work at all. I cut the ramp bulbs finely and sauté them along with spices and some tomato paste to lend a little body and depth to the thin sauce that forms as the ground beef cooks. The long, blade-like leaves of the ramps I leave whole because I particularly love how they wilt and run through the kheema in little bands of soft oniony green.
I think this kheema goes particularly well with wheat rotis, dhal, and a little achaar, but it’s equally delicious with some hot rice, rasam, and a drizzle of ghee. However you choose to eat it, I hope it brings you some springtime joy and puts you in the mood for the summer produce just around the corner.
KHEEMA WITH RAMPS AND PEAS
1 bunch ramps, washed, trimmed, and divided into bulbs and greens
2 tsp garam masala
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp dried mint, crumbled
1 lb ground beef or lamb
1.5 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 cup shelled garden peas (frozen work well here)
Ghee or rendered beef fat to cook
First, make sure that the ramps are rid of any dirt. Finely chop the ramp bulbs. Leave the greens whole and set aside.
In a wide skillet or Dutch oven, heat one tablespoon of the ghee or beef fat over medium heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the chopped ramp bulbs and a teaspoon of salt and cook, stirring often, till they have softened slightly, just about a minute.
Add the garam masala and continue to cook for another two minutes, until the aroma of the spices turns toasty and rich. Take care not to burn the garam masala.
Add the tomato paste and use the side of your spatula to break it up and distribute it through the oil in the pan. Cook, stirring and pressing with the side of your spoon, till it turns a shade darker.
Add the dried mint and stir just to combine.
Add the ground beef to the pan along with a big pinch of salt
and, using the side of your spatula or wooden spoon, break it up and stir it so that it evenly browns in the pan. Continue cooking for another five to seven minutes, or until the meat is uniformly brown and no more clumps remain.
Add the ground pepper and lower the heat. If the beef seems like it’s in danger of sticking, add up to a quarter cup of water to the pan. A lot of ground beef will naturally give off some water as you cook it—if this is the case, don’t worry about adding more to the pan.
Add the peas to the pan, partially cover with a lid, and allow to cook for five more minutes.
To finish, taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Add the ramp greens to the pan and stir through till they are wilted and folded into the ground beef.
Serve hot with rotis and dhal or rice and rasam.