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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Ravinder Bhogal

Koftas, keemas and rice paper rolls: Ravinder Bhogal’s recipes for cooking with mince

Ravinder Bhogal's mince recipes – chicken kofte, sloppy joes and crisp pork mince rice-paper rolls.
Mince charming (clockwise from top left): Ravinder Bhogal’s chicken kofte, sloppy joes and crisp pork mince rice-paper rolls. Photograph: Ola O Smit/The Guardian. Food styling: Sam Dixon. Prop styling: Anna Wilkins. Food styling assistant: Connie Simons.

Mince has a reputation for being cheap, uninspiring and bland, but there’s so much more to it than just spag bol and burgers. If you buy the best quality you can afford, and season it imaginatively, mince is versatile, quick to cook and nourishing. From ragu to laab, every culture has a favourite mince dish; these dishes use ground chicken, lamb and pork, and are boldly seasoned with Asian spices and condiments to warm you up on chilly nights.

Chicken and cardamom koftas in yoghurt sauce

The trick to getting a pleasing, springy texture is to mince the meat again in a food processor, so it feels sticky.

Prep 25 min
Soak 1 hr
Cook 1 hr 10 min
Serves 4

2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 green chilli, roughly chopped seeds and all
2 tbsp blanched almonds and 2 tbsp cashew nuts, soaked for 1 hour in enough warm water to cover them
1 medium red onion
tsp white poppy seeds (optional)
2 heaped tbsp ghee
4 green cardamom pods, bashed
5 black peppercorns
1 clove
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 stick cinnamon, broken in half
1 bay leaf
2 dried red kashmiri chillies
75g yoghurt
60ml milk
tbsp finely chopped fresh mint

For the meatballs
2 tbsp gram flour
2 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
1 green chilli, roughly chopped, seeds and all
2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 slice white bread, broken into small pieces
500g chicken mince
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander
¼ tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
Sea salt, to taste

Start by making the meatballs. Put a pan on a medium heat and toast the gram flour for three to four minutes, until it goes a little darker and smells nutty – stir to make sure it doesn’t catch.

In a food processor, blitz the garlic, chilli and ginger to a smooth paste, then add the bread and whizz to coarse crumbs. Add the rest of the meatball ingredients and salt to taste, and blend again until coarse and sticky. With wet hands, roll the meatball mix into 20 even-sized balls and put on a plate or tray.

Wash out and dry the food processor bowl, then whizz the ginger, garlic and chilli, and scrape out. Blitzthe nuts and their soaking water to a smooth paste with the onion and poppy seeds, if using.

Heat the ghee in a large pan, add the cardamom, peppercorns, clove, cumin, cinnamon and bay leaf, leave to sizzle briefly, then add the dried chillies, if using, and the ginger, garlic and chilli paste, and saute, stirring, until fragrant. Stir in the nut paste and cook on a low heat for 15 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk the yoghurt, milk and 100ml water, pour into the pan and season with salt. Bring to a simmer, gently drop in the meatballs, cover and cook for 20 minutes, turning them once halfway. Scatter on the finely chopped mint and serve with rice or hot puffs of naan.

Keema sloppy joes

For the best results, liberally butter the buns and toast in a hot pan before piling in the filling.

Prep 15 min
Cook 50 min
Marinate 1 hr+
Serves 4

3 tbsp ghee
1 heaped
tsp cumin seeds
1 black cardamom pod
, bashed
4 green cardamom pods, bashed
1 red onion, peeled and very finely chopped
1-2 green chillies, very finely chopped, seeds and all
2cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
3 fat garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp anardana (ground dried pomegranate – optional)
3 small tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 tsp turmeric
tbsp kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
tbsp Greek yoghurt
400g lamb mince
Sea salt, to taste
The juice of
1 lime
A handful of chopped coriander
4 brioche buns
, buttered and toasted in a hot pan, to serve

Melt a tablespoon and a half of ghee in a wide, shallow pan, then fry the cumin seeds and cardamom pods until they crackle and smell fragrant. Add the onion, and cook, stirring, on a low heat for 15-20 minutes, until sticky and caramelised.

Add the chilli, ginger and garlic, fry until fragrant, then sprinkle in the cinnamon and anardana, if using. Add the tomatoes, turmeric and kasoori methi, cook until the tomatoes break down, then take off the heat and leave to cool.

Once cooled, mix in the yoghurt, then add the mince and stir to combine. Marinate for at least an hour, and ideally longer, preferably overnight.

When you are ready to eat, melt the remaining ghee in a saucepan and, once it’s hot, fry the marinated mince on a medium heat for 12-15 minutes. Season with salt, squeeze over the lime juice, then stir in the coriander and pile into buttered toasted buns – I like mine with pink pickled onions.

Crisp pork mince rice-paper rolls

For an easy dipping sauce, dissolve two tablespoons of caster sugar in 50ml hot water, then add two tablespoons of fish sauce, the juice of half a lime, a chopped bird’s eye chilli and a finely chopped garlic clove.

Prep 15 min
Cook 40 min
Makes 12 rolls

1 tbsp neutral oil, such as rapeseed
350g pork mince
1 fat garlic clove, peeled and very finely chopped
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 red bird’s eye chilli, deseeded if you don’t like the heat
300g Chinese leaf or napa cabbage, very finely shredded
4 spring onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 handful finely chopped coriander
tbsp chopped mint leaves
Zest and juice of 1 lime
2 tsp fish sauce
tsp soy sauce
tsp sesame oil
fat pinch of caster sugar
Sea salt
, to taste
12 x 22cm rice paper rolls
12 crisp lettuce leaves
, to serve

Put the oil in a frying pan on a high heat, add the pork and stir-fry for six to eight minutes, until browned and cooked through. Push it to one side with a spatula, then add the garlic, ginger and chilli to the pan and fry until fragrant. Mix into the pork, then spoon out any excess liquid.

Add the cabbage to the pan,cook until just wilted, then take off the heat. Stir in the spring onions, coriander, mint, lime zest and juice, fish and soy sauces, sesame oil, sugar and a little salt to taste, then leave to cool.

Soak a sheet of rice paper in a medium bowl of warm water, until softened slightly, then lift it out, put on a board and pat dry with kitchen paper. Spoon a twelfth of the pork filling into the centre of the sheet, fold in both sides of the sheet, then roll up from top to bottom to enclose the filling. Repeat with the remaining rice paper and filling.

Serve the rolls wrapped in lettuce leaves with sweet chilli sauce or another dipping sauce.

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