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.
Lamb 650 to 700g, minced at the butchers, the bones reserved for stock
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
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
Lamb stock 1 litre, from the bones
Ghee 3 tbsp
Coriander leaves 1/2 bunch, finely chopped
Frozen Green Peas 3/4 cup, boiled for 10-15 minutes till soft
Fried onions 3-4 tbsp (optional)
For The Mash
Potatoes 1/2 kg (tikki potatoes), boiled till a fork can pass easily through it, then peeled
Cream 1/2 cup (Amul cream works well)
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 smashing it together 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. Do not process in a mixer or food processor please.
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 it’s water and when it starts to dry out, you continue with the remaining dry spice powders. Add in the garam masala powder, ajwain powder, powdered rose petals, chopped green chillies and salt. Give it a good stir for a whole minute.
Add to this the litre of lamb stock and the ghee. Cover the pan, lower the heat to a simmer and cook till the meat is tender. Add in the roasted dal and wheat mixture, then add the macaroni and the peas, then stir well. Let it cook uncovered until the macaroni is almost done and the lamb mixture has 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 when you spot the lamb mixture from below bubbling through the edges. Serve this with some fresh chopped coriander leaves on top and some bread on the side.