In early 1996, Henry and I spent part of the blustery winter in London. We’d just graduated from college, and to celebrate, his parents had treated us to a trip. From our little Curzon Street apartment in Mayfair (right in Shepherd Market), we ventured around the city. Besides playing tourist, Henry wanted to catch the world premiere of Trainspotting (and drink beer in the theater) and stock up on Doc Martens in Camden. (It was the mid-90s, after all.) Me? Ever the gastro-tourist, I was there for the food. And you know what they say: when in London, eat Indian food.
Authentic Indian cuisine wasn’t new to me. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, with its large and vibrant Indian and Pakistani communities, I can’t remember a time I didn’t crave great Indian grub: spicy curries, meat and vegetable stews, and rich, fragrant daal—all served with a variety of breads like brick-oven-baked naan, deep-fried bhatura or pan-cooked chapati flatbread.
But the Indian food in London was revelatory, and we ate copious amounts of it. When we spent a weekend in Paris, I got sick and holed up in the hotel; my only directions to Henry were to bring me back macarons and—of all things to eat in Paris—Indian samosas. I was hooked.
You’re a samosa fan, too, right? These fried pastry pockets can be stuffed with spicy vegetables or meat, though these days, I prefer the latter. After all, the meat filling—keema—is the perfect emergency protein: it’s simple to make with pantry and fridge staples, and it’s great with everything from cauliflower rice and sweet potato hash to hearty omelets and crisp lettuce wraps.
For my deconstructed samosa dish, I adapted a recipe for sookha keema (dry-cooked spicy ground meat) from one of my favorite cookbooks of all time, Julie Sahni’s Classic Indian Cooking. The jacket is torn and tattered (and held together with tape), the text-only pages are dog-eared and splattered with curry sauce, but my first-edition copy of Classic Indian Cooking is still my go-to for authentic Indian recipes.
If you’re on a Whole30, you can serve the spiced meat in lettuce cups. Otherwise, you should buy this recipe from Tara Grant of Primal Girl and fry up some Paleo-friendly flatbread for this recipe. (And no, I wasn’t asked or paid to mention Tara’s recipe—I didn’t even sign up to be an affiliate, because I’m not looking to make money off of it. I bought the recipe myself after reading some rave reviews online, and I think it’s well worth the $3.95 price tag. I mean, we spend more on a big cuppa coffee, right?)