The most recent series of The F Word (which changed inexplicably mid-series to Gordon Ramsay’s The F Word) played host to local restaurants, pitting them against one another to find the best UK local restaurant. I’m not sure how you compare carbonara to chow mein to see which is “best” but the competition was entertaining enough. The show would have been improved tenfold if it had’ve been only clips of Jean-Baptiste stumbling though a pad thai, but there you go. The winning restaurant was Lasan, an Indian restaurant – what’s this, Gordon has a new book and series based on Indian food out? Well that is a coincidence.
Serendipity aside, I loved the sound of the dish that swung it for the Birmingham curry-house; masala beef with curried pumpkin. It seemed like a skillful blend of techniques and ingredients, and given I have a bit of a home-cooked curry fetish lately I thought I’d give it a whirl. I made some changes to the original: my budget didn’t stretch to fillet this week so used some casserole-type steak and braised it for a long time, and my house is not so spicy so I toned down the chilli element. I also chose to forego mustard oil, substituting oil steeped in yellow mustard seeds for a similar burn. I didn’t have time to grab veal bones so a little beef stock concentrate had to do instead, and finally tinned tomatoes seemed like a decent enough substitute, and I didn’t fancy a real tomato in January being worth cooking with. Other than that I was fortunate enough to grab some khudu, or Indian pumpkin, from a superb little Asian grocer’s near me.
The results? The curry was absolutely delicious. Rich and meaty, while still spiced and sweet was a very complex and deep flavour. The sweetness of such things as cassia bark came through, while the last-minute addition of cashew nut paste brought a richness to the sauce. A triumph. The pumpkin, while tasty enough, was a little watery. If I’d known this in advance I would’ve perhaps salted the squash first to draw the excess moisture out. That said, it was a refreshing taste alongside the rich curried gravy. With recipes like this, I can see why head chef Aktar Islam took the trophy. I’d certainly love to see a book of curries like this.
PS. leftover cashew nut paste, blended with a little cream and sugar and a hint of cardamom, makes an excellent lassi to follow this.
Masala beef with curried pumpkin:
750g casserole beef, diced
For the marinade:
1 tablespoon garlic and ginger paste
2 tablespoons papaya paste
2 tablespoons mustard oil
1 teaspoon tandoori masala
½ teaspoon chilli powder
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
For the sauce:
4 green cardamom pods
3” cassia bark
3 bay leaves
1 large onion, sliced
½ tablespoon garlic and ginger paste
½ tablespoon ground coriander
½ tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tin tomatoes
1 litre beef stock
5 tablespoons smooth cashew nut paste (toasted cashews blitzed with a little water)
For the curried pumpkin:
500g pumpkin, peeled and diced (approx 2cm squares)
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, cracked
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 onion, finely chopped
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground chilli powder
Handful fresh coriander, chopped
- Combine the beef with the marinade ingredients and leave for about 6 hours for the spices to penetrate the meat.
- For the sauce, seal the beef in a large casserole pan then remove to one side. In a little oil crackle the cassia bark, cardamom and bay leaves for about a minute. Brown the onion, then add the garlic and ginger paste.
- Add the dry spices and cook out for a few minutes, add the stock then bring to the boil. Scrape the excess marinade off the beef then add to the pan. Leave to simmer uncovered for 2 hours. Check the beef is tender before serving.
- To finish the sauce add the cashew nut paste and ground cardamom just before serving. Adjust seasoning if needed.
- For the pumpkin, crackle the seeds in a little oil for a minute then add the onion and garlic.
- When the onions have softened add the pumpkin and toss in the mixture. Add the water and cover, cooking quite vigorously until the pumpkin is tender. Top with coriander and serve immediately.