Here’s an odd recipe I concocted one afternoon when I had ground beef and pork on hand and not a whole lot else.
I thought about sloppy joes. My Mom, who’s German, would not often make something so “American,” but she would surprise us now and then with sloppy joes, made from scratch, which I took too.
I wanted something less tomatoey and more spicy, though.
My kitchen is generally well-stocked with spices and spice mixes, so I looked around to see what could be had for the ground beast. Enter butter chicken masala spice mix from MDH. I like their products. They’re imported from India and much more reasonably priced than versions produced in the US for American cooks. Buy them in Indian markets, such as Vik’s in Berkeley. They’re perfect when you don’t have time to mix your own blends and can’t deal with a grinder, though you’ll want to check the ingredient list to see if any doctoring is called for. In the case of this mix, you must add a little fenugreek. I haven’t a clue why MDH does not include fenugreek in its butter chicken spices, since it’s integral to the dish, but there you go.
Note that butter chicken and chicken tikka masala are not the same, though my guess is that the chicken tikka masala spices would be fine in this dish, too. Take a look at whatever you have on hand and make sure it’s balanced. For example, don’t use something really heavy on the star anise, unless you want it that way. You want a little heat, too, so if the mix has no dried red chili powder, add a bit. Cayenne works fine. Sniff the spice mix for balance.
The best ground meat for this is lamb, but you can use a combo of beef and pork, which works very well. Ground chicken and turkey are too lean and will result in a dry dish.
You can serve this over rice or on buns with a dollop of really good, plain yogurt.
If you can make this a day in advance, that would be excellent, because it’ll taste better and you can easily remove remaining fat that will have solidified in the fridge.
Make enough for two meals.
Indian-style Sloppy Joes
Serves 8, or two meals for 4
3 pounds ground meat (lamb is great, pork and beef (90% lean) mix is good, poultry – no)
1 large onion, chopped so finely that it’s almost pureed (in food processor)
1/4 cup cashews, ground into a fine paste with 1/4 cup water (food processor)
2 – 3 tablespoons butter chicken spice mix (if spice mix is missing fenugreek add a pinch; ditto ground red chili pepper)
1 extra large tomato, coarsely pureed
1/2 – 1 cup chicken stock or water
Rice or buns
Really good, plain yogurt
1). In heavy-gauge Dutch oven or other vessel, fry meat until it’s a bit browned. Usually will not need oil for this because your ground meat should have sufficient fat.
2). Remove meat with a slotted spoon to a bowl; cover with foil and set aside.
3). Remove all but a couple tablespoons of the rendered fat from the cooking pot and place pot over low flame.
4). Add the onion and brown slowly, stirring often. This will take a good 15 minutes. Keep the flame low. You want to caramelize the onion a bit, but first the liquids have to cook off. Be patient and don’t burn the onion!!!
5). Add the cashew paste and fry the whole mass for a moment or two, turning the flame up to medium.
6). Add the spices and fry this mass for a moment or two.
7). Add the tomatoes and fry the mixture for a couple of minutes.
8). Add the ground meat and combine well.
9). Add stock or water so that there is barely a quarter-inch of liquid above the meat.
10). Stir and bring to a simmer.
11). Cover and simmer over very low flame for about 20 minutes, adding a bit of stock or water now and then, but only if needed.
12). Remove cover, stir, and allow to simmer for another few minutes until most of the liquids have cooked off.
13). Skim visible fat (it’ll no doubt be bright red from the spices…)
14). Serve over rice or on a bun with a little yogurt on top.