I love curries. I think that this is at least in part because they combine, in gastronomic harmony, two other things that I love; chillies and slow cooking. Chillies are an important part of many of the world’s major cuisines. Although they did not originate there, India is not surprisingly the world’s largest producer and exporter of chillies. Chillies are good for you. An excellent source of vitamin c they also yield beta carotene, folate, potassium and vitamin E. They stimulate the appetite and improve circulation. They are also a powerful decongestant and can help to clear blocked sinuses (sometimes even when we didn’t know our sinus needed clearing!). One thing I I have learnt is to taste your chillies before cooking with them so you know the heat level you are getting. It makes it much easier to work out how much to use.
This dish has about ½ hour of preparation and 2 hours of cooking time. It freezes well and is always better the next day. It serves 6-8 depending on how hungry your guests are and how many accompaniments you serve with it.
oil (I use rice bran oil)
2 medium brown onions, thinly sliced
1 inch ginger sliced and cut into thin batons
1 garlic clove crushed
2 fresh red chillies, seeded and very finely sliced
1 tsp turmeric powder (or 1 inch fresh turmeric crushed if you can get it)
1 stalk lemongrass, lower part very finely sliced
1 kg chuck steak or other braising steak cut into even bite size pieces
400ml tin light coconut milk
5 japanese or finger eggplants sliced thickly then halved
1 tblsp tamarind paste
10 curry leaves
Preheat your oven to 160 degrees.
In a large ovenproof casserole dish or claypot heat about a tablespoon of oil and sauté on medium heat the onions, ginger, and garlic until nice and fragrant. You will know when it is fragrant – the smell will envelope you and the others in your house will suddenly appear in the kitchen wanting to know what’s cooking. Next you add the chillies, turmeric and lemongrass. Crank up the heat and add the meat, moving it constantly so that it browns evenly. Add the eggplant and mix through. Add the coconut milk and water stirring through the whole dish. The meat should be just covered by the liquid. If not, add a little bit more water. Finally add the curry leaves and tamarind and put it in the oven to forget about for at least two hours.
I always suggest you check it at 1 ½ hours, because each oven is different and each piece of meat will be too. I have been known to let mine cook for 3 ½ hours. When it is done the meat should be very tender and moist.
Serve it with basmati rice, pappadums, a cucumber & carrot raita and a hearty appetite.
And to drink? Always a hard match when it comes to curry. Beer works well, as do some young dry reds. With this one, it is up to you.