This is our family and friends’ favourite dish by a significant margin, and is one of the first Indian dishes I ever ate. If you have ever eaten Indian food at our home, there is a good chance we served this.
If I announce I am cooking Indian, the kids say, “Dad, can we have the beef curry?” If Karenne invites people to dinner, and I’m cooking, they say “Is Keith cooking the beef curry?”
I recall my daughter, young and in her stroller, with this curry and a chapati in her lunchbox, munching away whilst we shopped at Chatswood, near Sydney. Not even the chance to go to McDonalds had any effect. Whenever my parents came up to Sydney they always requested this dish.
It is one of the early recipes in my grandmother’s cookbook. The provenance is unclear, but does seem to come from a time she lived in Kolkatta, or Calcutta as she knew it. It is a thick, rich and hot dish, with the sourness of the tamarind offset by the sweetness of the ginger.
By style, it is similar to a Madras (Chennai) style curry, but doesn’t have the tomato base. Adding the ginger late in the cooking process is unusual; I think, but cannot substantiate, that this was probably an error by the cook. He forgot to put the ginger in the usual onion, ginger and garlic base, and only added it later. Whatever the reason, it works so well. The natural sweetness of the ginger comes through, and contrasts well with the tamarind tartness. I think this is a case of “if you can’t fix it, feature it”.
Wherever it comes from, and whatever the reasons for its structure, it remains our favourite meat dish.
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 3 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
- 50 g ghee
- 1 tbsp black mustard seeds
- 1 brown onion chopped
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- 3 red chillies chopped
- 2 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 800 g blade steak cut into 5cm pieces
- 250 ml tamarind water
- 60 g ginger peeled and finely julienned
- 12 curry leaves
- ½ cup coriander leaves chopped
Toast and grind coriander, cumin and fenugreek seeds.
Heat ghee in a pressure cooker pot. Add mustard seeds.
When mustard seeds start to pop, add onion, and sprinkle with salt. Stir-fry until onions are soft, golden, and starting to go dark brown at the edges. Add garlic and chili, and stir-fry for another two minutes.
Add one cup of cold water to reduce heat in pan, then add the ground coriander, cumin, fenugreek seeds, and the turmeric and garam masala. Stir for another minute until a thick paste forms.
Add meat to pot, and stir until the meat is covered in spice paste. Reduce heat to a low simmer. When gently bubbling, add tamarind liquid, ginger and curry leaves. Stir until well combined.
Seal pressure cooker, and cook on low heat for twenty-five minutes.
Release pressure naturally, and open pot. The meat should now be cooked, and tender. Most of the fat should be rendered from the meat.
Turn heat up and stir frequently to reduce the sauce to a thick consistency. Do not allow bottom of pot to burn, and do not stir too vigorously, as the meat may break up. It should have a darkish brown colour, with large pieces of meat in a thick, clinging sauce.
Turn off the heat, and allow to sit in pot, covered, for about five minutes. Fats and oils will separate out as temperature falls. Stir these gently back in, sprinkle with coriander leaves, then serve.
- If you don’t have a pressure cooker, this can be cooked on the stove top. Use a very gentle low simmer, but it may take over two hours. You want the meat cooked enough that you can cut it with a fork. During the cooking, add water, 100ml at a time, to keep it moist, and prevent it sticking to the bottom of the pan. Do not allow it to become too watery.