This beef shatkora curry features a citrus fruit to provide a contrast to the richly spiced meat. It is a Bengali dish from the Sylhet region of Bangladesh where it is called shatkora mangsho.
The fruit is shatkora, an intense and bittersweet citrus fruit that resembles a lime with a knobbly outside texture. This fruit is native to Sylhet, and is hard to find outside Bengal. I have, however, found an alternative, which I will explain shortly.
I first recall eating this dish in a Bangladeshi restaurant in London. Sometime later I went to my grandmother’s notes and discovered this recipe. The dish itself is quite robustly spiced, whilst not being excessively hot. The ideal texture is to have a thick gravy, clinging to the meat, which you should be able to cut with a fork. You will only achieve this texture by the long, slow braising. No shortcuts with the cooking of this recipe.
The problem with getting the shatkora put me off working on this recipe. I have only occasionally ever seen them in the markets of Little India in Sydney. I then watched an Indian cooking TV show where this dish was featured, but they substituted grapefruit for the shatkora. I tried this substitution and the results were quite amazing. Some further research showed me that this substitution is very common. Pink or ruby grapefruit is often used, but we found that the tartness that a normal grapefruit provides is more like the original recipe.
Perhaps not quite authentic, but certainly a wonderful, richly spiced beef curry with citrus tones, exactly as the dish should be.
I recommend that getting shatkora is the best way to go. The second best way is using grapefruit. But whatever you do, take the time to cook this dish slowly.
- wide pan with lid
- 800 g chuck steak - cut into 4cm pieces
for the gravy
- 3 tbsp mustard oil
- 10 cloves
- 10 green cardamom pods - broken open
- 3 sticks cassia
- 3 black cardamom pods - broken open
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 2 brown onions - halved and thinly sliced
- 2 tsp salt
- 10 cloves garlic - crushed
- 50 g ginger - finely grated
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 5 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
- 75 g ghee
- 300 ml water
- 1 tsp garam masala
- Heat a small pan over medium heat. Add the coriander and cumin seeds and toss gently until the seeds start to colour and become aromatic. Remove from the heat, allow to cool, then grind to a fine powder.
- Core, then remove the seeds and pulp from the tomatoes. Blend to a puree with as little water as possible. Set aside.
- Juice the shatkora, then, using a sharp knife or vegetable peeler, cut off about one-quarter of the outside skin. Remove all the white pith to leave behind only the zest. Cut the zest into thin strips. Set aside with the juice.
- Heat the mustard oil in a large, heavy-based lidded pan over medium heat. Add the cloves, green and black cardamom pods, cassia, bay leaves and black peppercorns. Stir and allow them to sizzle for a few seconds.
- Reduce the heat to low, add the onions and sprinkle with the salt. Cook gently for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and light brown in colour.
- Add the garlic and ginger, then cook for three minutes or until the raw garlic smell has gone.
- Add the turmeric, chilli powder, ground cumin and coriander. Fry for one minute, stirring well.
- Increase the heat to medium, then add the beef. Cook, stirring frequently, for ten minutes or until the beef is evenly coloured.
- Add the pureed tomatoes and the ghee. Mix well and cook for a further three minutes. Add the water and stir until well combined.
- Once the curry starts to bubble, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 2 hours, or until the beef is almost tender. Stir occasionally.
- After the curry has been cooking for 2 hours, add the shatkora zest and juice. Mix well, raise the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for another 30 minutes or until the beef is tender and the gravy has reduced and thickened around the beef.
- Remove from the heat, add the garam masala, stir gently, then serve.
- Shatkora are available fresh or frozen from some Indian markets. They are an intense and bittersweet citrus fruit that resembles a lime with a knobbly outside texture. If they are unavailable, you can use a grapefruit. Use the juice and rind from half the grapefruit.
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