Friday, February 12, 2010

Slow Cooked Beef Bangla Style

  I cook 7 days a week. I cook because I love it. I cook because with my writing I work out of my house. There was one brief period when we decided to have an office at a studio. We were working at Warner Bros and they said, "you guys want an office?" so we said, "sure".
 Well, having an office meant actually having to put pants on that didn't have a drawstring and wear actual shoes to work. We also spent a great deal of time looking out the window of our office  and getting passes for friends to come on the lot. As to getting work done? Not so much. We wound up goofing off at work and then having to come home and work at night. In the meantime, I'd developed a nasty late night pork rind habit. We never worked away from our home office again. So even though I'm home most every day, I still like things that make cooking easier. Whether it's a fancy company meal or just family style, a little help is always appreciated.
   Nothing makes a company dinner or lunch easier than clay. Nothing. I'm not kidding here. Remember all those crock pots from the '70s and the modern electric slow cookers of today? They're just a modern twist on the oldest cooking method of all, clay.
   Last Sunday we had company for lunch. I cooked the entree slowly in a pomaire clay pot on Saturday afternoon and warmed it gently in the clay while I was preparing Sunday's lunch. The result was flavorful and incredibly tender. It also left me a lot of time to mess around with falooda noddles and such the next day without worrying about the main dish.
  I was  looking for something interesting to cook and I thought why not beef?
  Beef is not something one associates with Indian cuisine, but like any large country, different things are eaten in different areas depending on the background and beliefs of the people who live there.
  This dish comes from Bangla and is cooked  bhoona style.
  Another reason to cook beef: I happened to have some nice local grass fed stewing beef and I knew that this cooking style was exactly suited to a meat that is not exactly fatty and might be tough cooked any other way.
    I cooked this beef with spices slowly for about three hours or so in a clay pot, then transferred it to a Pyrex dish to be stored overnight in the fridge. The next day I checked for any solid, hardened fat that might have risen to the surface. There was none. If there had been, that would be the time to flick it off the dish before re-warming and cooking again. In re-cooking and warming, the dish retains all the flavor of something cooked with the fat, but without the fat which is removed before serving. A little trick  that Paula Wolfert taught me.
  The recipe originally came to me via Mangoes and Curry Leaves, one of my favorite Indian cookbooks. This is my adaptation.
    Slow Cooked Beef Bangla
   1.) Cut 1 1/2 lbs stewing beef into small bite-sized pieces and set it aside.
 In a spice grinder mix together
2.) 1/4 tsp each of
black mustard seed
cumin seed
fennel seed
fenugreek seed
nigella seed
3.) In a clay pot or a heavy regular pot heat
3.) 3 Tbs of vegetable oil
Add the spices and cook them until they become aromatic and darken or the mustard seeds have popped.
 Toss in
4.) 1/2 tsp turmeric
5.) 2 tsp coriander
6.) 2 bay leaves
7.) One 2 inch piece of cinnamon stick
8.) 1 Tbs of finely chopped ginger mashed to paste
9.) 1 Tbs of finely shopped shallot or garlic mashed to a paste
   Stir the mixture around and fry it up for about 30 seconds
  Add in
10.) 2 cups thinly sliced onions
    Turn the heat to medium anmd stir fry the onions and spices till the onions have turned translucent and soft. This should take about 10 minutes or so.
11.) Toss in the beef pieces and 4 green chilies sliced into thin rings
Stir everything around, tryng to brown the meat a bit on all sides. Add
12.) 1 cup of water Note if using clay, always use warm water, so that you don't shock or crack your pot
13.) Toss in 2 Tbs of fresh lime juice
 Bring everything to a boil and when it's bubbling  add in
14.) 1 tsp salt
15.) 1 tsp of sugar
    Now, turn the heat down to medium and partially cover the pot and simmer away for 2 to 3 hours until the beef is nice and tender and the sauce has thickened. Cooking the dish this way allows it to cook slowly while you attend to other things. I'm not saying one should go out ice skating or hang gliding and just leave this dish on the stove. Keep an eye on your pot, occasionally stirring so that nothing sticks or burns. This is especially important if you're using clay. but at least cooking this  dish in this manner does not chain one to the kitchen.
 When the dish is done. It can be refirgerated and served the next day allowing the flavors to blend and mellow. Before serving chop
16.) 1 cup of fresh cilantro and
You might also fry up some extra onions and scatter them across the top of the dish.
Serve this with fresh lime wedges.
 This dish serves 4 hungry guests.
It works really well with a simple rice or dal and rice pilaf and a vegetable. I added in some chapattis because I am greedy and must have my chapatti.

And a raita with a bit of boondi as this was a company event. I don't break out the boondi for just anybody.

  So, to sum it all up cooking in clay can be a relaxing way to prepare an otherwise complicated meal. It also tastes amazingly good.  If you're looking for clay pots you'll find several links on my website to some of my favorite places.
 Cooking in clay is one example of cooking as they did in the good old days that makes for a lot less work.


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