We recently returned from a wonderful vacation to the Maldives where we had the opportunity to sample some amazing curries. The Maldives are only about 500 miles from the Southern tip of India and it’s normal for many of the resorts to have a variety of Indian inspired dishes on their menus. This is as close as we’ve come to eating what I imagine is very authentic Indian food, and since we’ve returned I’ve been craving a really good curry and especially one from Kerala or Goa which, given their proximity to the Maldives, is the Indian food most represented on the menus. This Kerala beef curry or beef Nadan captures all the wonderful flavours that are characteristic of food from that region. You can make this as spicy or as mild as you like, the version below produces a medium hot curry but if I were serving this to the whole family I would tone down the chilli element. Don’t be put off by what may seem like a long list of ingredients because the actual cooking and preparation are all very simple. A trip to India is on our bucket list but I think it may be a few years away, in the meantime this curry will help keep my cravings at bay.
Ingredients – Serves 4-6 and freezes well
I kg beef, cubed – I used chuck
2 medium sized tomatoes, diced
2 medium sized onions, sliced
3 long mild long green chillies, cut into large pieces. If you want less heat remove the seeds or even just add one chilli but leave it whole
8 cardamom pods
8 black peppercorns
3 dried bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
3 star anise
Leaves from 2 strands of curry leaves
5 good sized cloves garlic
2 inch piece of ginger
100ml ghee or coconut oil or vegetable oil
½ teaspoons chilli powder – use can use less if you prefer a milder curry
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
Coriander leaves – for garnishing
Place the bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black peppercorns and star anise in a dry skillet and cook over medium heat for a few minutes to lightly toast them. Cool slightly then grind them in a coffee/spice grinder or in a mortar and pestle, set aside.
Heat the oil in a heavy based saucepan. Add the garlic, onion, curry leaves and a pinch of salt and cook until soft and slightly golden. Add the ginger and cook for another few minutes. Next add the chilli powder, paprika, coriander, turmeric and a small amount of water (about 3-4 tablespoons) and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, green chillies and beef. Fry the beef until it changes colour and then add a heaped teaspoon of salt. Add enough boiling water to just cover the meat. Bring to a simmer and cook, partially covered for about 1½ – 2 hours or until the meat is just tender.
Check the seasoning and add more salt if you need to. The second part of the cooking process is to turn up the heat and let the curry cook on a rapid simmer until the liquid is nicely reduced and thickened. The amount of time this takes will vary depending on how much liquid there is but you can roughly count on 20-30 minutes. This stage of the cooking process not only thickens the sauce but also intensifies all the flavours and takes the meat to the fork-tender stage. Make sure you are nearby whilst the curry is reducing and stir it often to ensure it doesn’t catch and burn. Once the sauce is at the desired consistency add the ground spices and stir them through well. Garnish with coriander leaves before serving.