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 chapatis in her lunchbox, munching away whilst we shopped at Chatswood, near Sydney. Not even the chance to go to McDonald’s 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 style curry but doesn’t have a 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 with the tartness of the tamarind.
Wherever it comes from and whatever the reasons for its structure, it remains our favourite beef dish.
beef with tamarind and ginger recipe
- pressure cooker
- 800 g chuck steak - cut into 4cm pieces
for the marinade
- ½ cup coriander leaves - chopped
for the marinade
- Heat a small frypan over medium heat. Add the coriander, cumin and fenugreek 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.
- Place the meat in a large bowl. Add the ground coriander, cumin and fenugreek seeds, turmeric and garam masala. Work the spices well into the meat using your hands. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.
- Heat ghee in a pressure cooker pot on low heat. Add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Stir well.
- When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the onion and sprinkle with salt. Fry until onions are soft and starting to go brown at the edges. This will take at least ten minutes
- Add the garlic and chilli, then fry for another two minutes or until the raw garlic aroma has gone.
- Add the meat to the pot and mix well. When gently bubbling add the tamarind liquid and stir until well combined.
- Seal pressure cooker and cook on low heat for twenty minutes.
- Release pressure naturally and open the cooker. The meat should now be cooked and tender. Most of the fat should be rendered from the meat.
- Add the ginger and mix well.
- Turn the heat up and, stirring frequently, reduce the sauce to a thick consistency. Do not allow the bottom of the 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. This should take around 15 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and allow to sit in the cooker, 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 stovetop. Prepare as above, but instead of putting it in the pressure cooker, simmer on low heat until the meat is just cooked – this may take up to two or three hours. You may need to add water, 100ml at a time, to keep it moist and prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Do not allow it to become too watery. Once the meat is cooked continue from the step of adding the ginger.