Some people think it’s odd that us Sindhis cook macaroni like a sabzi. In fact, I’ve grown up eating macaroni ki sabzi with tomato and sweet peas, in our spicy green coriander seyal masala, as well as with meat. The story of how macaroni became a part of our culinary tradition is a bit shifty; some say it came to us by way of all the travelling Sindhi traders would do, while others claim to have cooked it for many decades now, making everything but the classic mac and cheese. The macaroni of my childhood were long thin tubes with penne-like ridges on them. This had a meatier bite to it than the smooth elbow macaroni we are so used to now.
The dish I’ve made here crosses the spicy macaroni keema sabzi with a traditional Shepherd’s Pie. The most obvious difference is the use of ghee or clarified butter to cook the lamb. It also borrows from a classic Haleem because I’ve used dal and broken wheat or lapsi in the recipe, as well as some rose petals. The rest of the powdered masalas will all come out of your spice cupboard, promise. The lamb dish is then blanketed with a creamy mash and transferred to the oven where it cooks under the grill to a golden brown. If you’re able to look past the whole ‘it’s-a-pasta, it-doesn’t-belong-in-there’ barrier, you’ll appreciate this dish a lot more. The chill of January seems like the best time to be tucking into this hearty pie that’s big on flavour and a surefire way to impress any guests you may be entertaining.
Keema Macrolyun Bake
Yield 6-8 servings
This dish crosses Sindhi keema macarolyun with an English Shepherd’s Pie. It also borrows ever-so-slightly from a Haleem because I’ve used dal and broken wheat or lapsi in the recipe to thicken the filling and make this a wholesome bake. Once the mutton mince is cooked, it is blanketed with a creamy mash and transferred to the oven where it cooks further under the grill to a golden brown.
Mutton 700g, from the shoulder, minced and any bones reserved for stock
Yellow Moong dal 2 tbsp
Broken wheat/Lapsi 2 tbsp
Lime 3/4th, juiced
Oil 2 tbsp
Onions 3, medium-sized, finely chopped
Ginger-garlic paste 2 tbsp
Garam Masala powder 1 1/2 tsp
Ajwain/caraway seeds 1 1/2 tsp, powdered
Dry Rose petals 1 tsp, powdered
Cumin powder 1 tsp
Turmeric powder 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder 1 tsp
Chilli powder 1 tsp (or less)
Green chillies 2, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Mutton stock 1 litre, from any bones that your butcher sends you
Ghee 3 tbsp
Dry Macaroni 100g
Frozen Green Peas 3/4 cup, boiled for 10-15 minutes till soft
Fried onions 3-4 tbsp (optional)
Fresh coriander 3 tbsp, for garnishing
For The Mash
New Potatoes 1/2 kg, boiled till a fork can pass easily through it, then peeled
Cream 1/2 cup (Amul cream works well here)
Milk 3/4 cup
Cheese 100g, plus more for topping the pie
Salt and pepper
Begin by marinating the lamb with the curd and the lime juice and setting it aside. Meanwhile on a hot tawa toast the dal and the wheat together, and proceed to powder it to a fine mixture. Set this aside as well.
Make the mash by peeling the potatoes and mashing it with milk, butter, cheese, salt and pepper while it is still hot. I like the consistency of my mash to be a bit chunky, but if you like it more creamy, pass it through a ricer or a fine metal sieve, or simply blitz it.
Heat the oil in a pan. Add the finely chopped onions together with the ginger garlic paste and fry this for two to three minutes. Then, add the minced lamb to this and bhuno, that is work the mixture vigorously over a high heat for 15 minutes, sautéing well. The lamb will let out a lot of water and when it starts to dry out again, you continue with the remaining dry spice powders. Add in the garam masala powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, chilli powder, ajwain powder, powdered rose petals, chopped green chillies and salt. Give it a good stir.
Add to this the litre of lamb stock and the ghee. Cover the pan, lower the heat to a simmer and cook till the mince is soft. Then add in the roasted dal and wheat mixture followed by hr dry macaroni and the peas. Stir well and let it cook uncovered till the macaroni is almost done and the mutton mince mixture looks reduced. Check seasoning and transfer this mixture to an oven-safe casserole pan.
Scoop over the mash and use your fork to evenly spread it out all over the casserole to cover the lamb mixture. If you have prepared fried onions, you’d have to layer them on before you add the mash. Finish with some more grated cheese, if you like.
Bake this pie for 30-45 minutes till golden brown on top and you can see the lamb mixture bubbling through the edges. Serve hot from the oven with bread to mop up any gravy.