You know how you can get really subtle curries with delicate, refined spicing? This is not one of those. This is a big, butch curry that whacks you around the head with beefy flavour and lip-smacking texture. But it's actually not that hot - it wouldn't get more than 2 chillies on any curry-house menu.
I was having a frugal cooking week, mostly using up things from the freezer and store cupboard, and decided that the whole Galloway beef shin wanted to become a curry. I was thinking vindaloo, but Paul screwed his nose up at the idea and suggested something with tamarind as a souring agent. That seemed like a good idea to me.
I thought about boning the shin and cubing the meat, but decided that the wastage from that would be, well, a waste. So I cut the meat on the bone into a check pattern (sort of like when you are cutting mango cheeks) and put it in the pot like that. A few hours later the meat just fell off the bone, leaving not a scrap behind. It does mean, of course, that you need to cook it in a bloody huge pot, but there is something very satisfying about stirring an enormous cauldron of food. Slices of beef shin like for osso bucco or even boned shin would work if you can't get a whole one. But it really does need to be shin for the way the connective tissue dissolves into gelatinous ooze.
I made some peshwari naan to go with it. I roasted wedges of butternut, then sprinkled them with spices half way through (like the baked peppered aubergine and potatoes, but I added some cinnamon as well) and served it with some yoghurt drizzled on top. And I dug a jar of aubergine pickle from the cupboard, where it has been happily mellowing for a couple of years.
|Yeast-risen naan, filled with sweet coconut, cardamom and fennel seed.|
Tamarind Beef Shin Curry
1 whole beef shin on the bone
1 black cardamom pod
2 dried red chillies
1 tbs tamarind concentrate
1 vegetable gel stock pot thingy (oh the shame)
1 large onion
5 cloves garlic
2 inch chunk of ginger, peeled
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbs black peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
Seeds from 10 cardamom pods
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
1-2 dried red chillies, extra
Process, or finely dice or grate the onion, garlic and ginger (if processing, add the oil to help it along, otherwise, just mix the oil through after). Scrape half the onion ginger paste into a large casserole or heavy based saucepan with a lid, and allow to cook gently for a couple of minutes while you prepare the meat.
With a small sharp knife, cut around the meat 3-4 times lengthwise and 4-5 times the other way, cutting right down to the bone. Put the hedgehoggy-looking shin into the pot, then scrape the second half of the onion mixture on top, pushing it down into the cuts in the meat. Turn up the heat and brown the meat on both sides. Should be on all sides I guess but it is actually really tricky to turn a piece of meat that big so I only turned it once.
Combine the spices for the spice mix in your spice grinder or coffee grinder or mortar & pestle or whatever you use for such tasks and process to a fairly fine powder. Sprinkle it all over the meat. Tuck the whole dried chillies and the black cardamom pod down into the onion mixture at the base of the pan. Add a good tablespoonful of tamarind concentrate and a vegetable stock pot, then pour over a bit of water - probably about a teacupful (should come about 1" up the meat).
Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer. Cover tightly. At this point I put it in a 140C oven for 4 hours, but you could just do it on a very low heat on the hob. I usually find that there is more evaporation and more chance of hotspots catching on the pan on the hob, so you might need to add a bit more water.
After 4 hours, take it off the heat - by this time the meat should have fallen off the bone completely, so take the bones out. We left it to cool for a couple of hours to allow the spices to completely draw through the curry (plus it freed up the oven for roasting the butternut) and then reheated it on the hob just before dinner, but you can serve it straight away. Or the next day.