Though our family served this only on special holidays such as Christmas or Easter, this is comfort food all the way. I usually use small or medium potatoes, as they take less time to cook than larger ones. Ground beef can be substituted for lamb.


  • Kheema, or minced meat, appears in several variations throughout India; in this version,

    Flavor Equation Flavor Equation Nik Sharma

    chouriço adds a pop of sourness and heat to the savory profile of the meat.

  • A tiny splash of fish sauce amplifies the umami nature of the filling.

  • Vinegar adds sourness to balance the stronger flavors from the spices and meat.

  • Tomato paste adds to the savory character of the meat.

  • The mashed potatoes retain moisture and stay soft due to the addition of fat.

  • Panko crumbs provide a layer of crunchiness.


For the lamb kheema:

  • 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 medium white onion (9¼ oz [260 g]), diced

  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

  • 1 in [2.5 cm] piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced

  • 1 green chilli, minced

  • ¼ cup [55 g] tomato paste

  • 2 tsp garam masala, homemade (below) or store-bought

  • 1 tsp ground turmeric

  • 1 tsp red chilli powder

  • 8 oz [230 g] peas

  • 8 oz [230 g] carrots, cut into 1 in [2.5 cm] matchsticks

  • 6 oz [170 g] chouriço

  • 2 lb [910 g] ground lamb

  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour

  • ¼ cup [60 ml] malt or apple cider vinegar

  • ¼ cup [10 g] chopped cilantro leaves

  • 1 tsp fish sauce

For the mashed potato topping:

  • 1 medium russet potato (1 lb [455 g])

  • 5 oz [140 g] crème fraîche or sour cream

  • ¼ cup [55 g] unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature

  • 1 tsp ground black pepper

  • Fine sea salt

  • ½ cup [25 g] panko crumbs


Preheat the oven to 400°F [204°C]. 

To prepare the lamb kheema, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until it turns translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, and green chilli and sauté for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste, garam masala, turmeric, and red chilli powder and cook until the spices are fragrant, 30 to 45 seconds. Add the peas and carrots, and sauté until tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the chouriço from the casing and break it into small bits. Add it to the skillet and cook until the sausage starts to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Break the lamb into chunks and add it to the skillet. Sauté until the lamb starts to brown, 4 to 5 minutes. At this stage, you can remove some of the excess fat using a large spoon and discard. Sift the flour over the meat and fold it in to coat evenly. Add the vinegar and cook, stirring, over low heat until the liquid has almost completely evaporated. Remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro and fish sauce. Transfer the meat to a large baking dish and level with an offset spatula. 

Rinse and scrub the potatoes under running tap water. Place the potatoes in a large pot with enough salted water to cover them by 1 in [2.5 cm]. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then lower the heat to medium-low. Cook until the potatoes are completely tender but not mushy, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain the potatoes and set them aside until cool enough to handle.

Peel the potatoes and discard the skins. Mash the potatoes in a large bowl with the crème fraîche, butter, and pepper until smooth. Taste and season with salt. Spoon the mixture onto the meat in the baking dish. Level with an offset spatula. Sprinkle the panko over the layer of mashed potatoes and bake until the top is golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.


My Garam Masala

This is my regular garam masala; note the absence of a few aromatic spices such as fennel and a smaller amount of green cardamom in this version.

Yield: Makes about ¼ cup[25 G]


  • 2 Tbsp cumin seeds

  • 2 Tbsp coriander seeds

  • 1 Tbsp black peppercorns

  • 2 dried bay leaves

  • One 2 in [5 cm] cinnamon stick

  • 12 whole cloves

  • 1 whole black cardamom pod

  • 3 or 4 green cardamom pods

  • 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg


Heat a small, dry stainless-steel or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Turn the heat to medium-low and add the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, black pep­percorns, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, and green and black cardamom pods. Toast gently by rotating the pan to circulate the spices until the spices become fragrant, 30 to 45 seconds. Be careful not to burn them; if they do burn, discard them and start fresh.

Transfer the toasted spices to a small plate and let cool completely. Transfer the cooled spices to a mortar or spice grinder. Add the nutmeg and grind to a fine powder. Store the spice mix in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.

Reprinted from The Flavor Equation by Nik Sharma with permission by Chronicle Books, 2020

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