South Indian spiced beef with pink onions

South Indian spiced beef with pink onions


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Beef, although not that popular in Indian cooking, is a favourite among the Syrian Christian community of Kerala, a state in Southern India. Beef was a regular at our Sunday family lunch sessions that would stretch well into the late evening hours. We'd all gather at my grandmother's after church eagerly looking forward to the elaborate lunch ahead, especially as she prepared all the dishes from scratch. She used to make the best beef roast, and although this recipe is very close to that one, it's definitely got that one small factor missing - all the love she poured into her dishes for her grandkids.

Traditionally the beef is not slow roasted, a pressure cooker makes this job much faster and easier. If you would rather do that, then cook the marinated meat with 1/2 cup water for around 4 to 5 whistles. If you find there is lots of water in the cooker when opened, evaporate it on high heat and continue with the remaining steps.

The pink onions I have used here are much milder than the red onions which mean they don’t need to be nicely browned for the final roasting, but just sautéed until they change colour.

That way the taste comes through, but not in a way that overpowers the dish. These onions are perfect for all those South Indian dishes that use onions in abundance and I'm glad to have found them here. For additional flavour, I sautéed some sliced onions in oil and used it to garnish the dish. It was fab.

Dice the beef into cubes, making sure you get them about the same size for even cooking. Grind together the cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and all the other powders together in a spice mill to get a fine powder
Add the finely diced pink onions, ginger and garlic pastes, vinegar and salt to the ground powder and mix well
Marinate the beef with this mix and keep aside for about half an hour. Marinating is completely optional but is advised
When ready to cook, transfer the marinated meat into a heavy bottomed pan, add about 1/2 cup of water and cook covered on low-medium heat until the meat is completely cooked through. This process could take up to 1 1/2 hours
Keep checking occasionally. If you find that there is no water left in the pan, keep adding around 1/3 cup each time. Don't add too much water, because you want a semi-dry consistency (as opposed to a curry) with the masala nicely sticking on to the beef pieces
When the meat is cooked to perfection (do a taste test), and there is no water left in the pan, take it off heat and set aside
The meat freezes well at this point. Once completely cool, transfer them to resealable bags and freeze. Continue with the next step once you thaw the meat
Heat oil in a large frying pan and add the mustard seeds. Cook until they start to splutter. Add the pink onions and curry leaves and sauté on medium heat until the onion slightly changes colour - do not wait until it completely browns
Tip in the meat, scraping down the pan to ensure you get as much masala out as possible, and slow-roast the beef and onions until the meat is dark in colour
Keep stirring the meat on and off so it doesn't keep sticking to the pan, and if needed add some more oil. Serve hot with some rice and poppadums
Serve hot with some rice and poppadums
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