So, you’ve made your Noodle Soup and you have almost all of a kilo of braised brisket in the fridge? Good! (If this isn’t the case, braise 1kg of beef brisket as per the Noodle Soup recipe, top the stock up to a litre and save it for something that requires a good, strong, warmly spiced boost)
This is a way to feed four people (quite likely with some leftovers) using that leftover meat, a tin of tomatoes and a handful of dry store cupboard ingredients.
Like with almost all curries, this might look like a long list of ingredients on the face of it, but it’s all either essential things any home cook needs to have handy anyway (like onions, garlic, ginger and tinned tomatoes) or dry ingredients that are extremely likely to feature next time you cook a curry (like cumin seeds, turmeric, ground coriander and red lentils). Either way, whether your shopping list features two items or seven, these few little packets and jars are worth having in your house, and aren’t the kind of specialist ingredients that will sit unused for years to come.
You’ll notice that, until the late stages, these two recipes are identical. I’ve used the same masala for both for simplicity’s sake, but you’ll probably find that when you’ve made both of these a few times, or variations thereof, you’ll adjust things, add and subtract to your own tastes.
The object of this recipe isn’t to create an authentic Indian meal, or to make a varied banquet of choices, but just to squeeze two delicious curries out of a single tin of tomatoes, get a second meal from a single cut of meat, and generally have a go-to template for a weeknight curry.
When making curries, especially if it’s not something you do on a regular basis, it might be worth measuring everything out and preparing things before you begin cooking. Once you know what you’re doing, the time spent cooking the onions and the tomatoes provide a handy window to prepare the rest, but on a first go, you’re better of giving yourself as little to do under pressure as possible.
To make this recipe as I do, you’ll either need a stick-blender or a food processor with a heatproof bowl. If you have neither, you’ll end up with a coarser beef masala, which is completely fine.
For four people, you will need:
- Some vegetable oil or ghee
- 120g red lentils
- 2tsp cumin seeds
- Two medium sized onions, finely sliced
- A whole head of garlic, or at least five big cloves, peeled and grated
- Two inches of ginger, peeled and grated
- 2tsp turmeric powder
- 4tsp paprika powder
- 2tbsp ground coriander
- One 400g tin of tomatoes (chopped is easier, but if they’re whole, open the tin and break them up with a pair of kitchen scissors)
- 1kg braised brisket, cut into one inch cubes
- 200ml double cream
- A bag of frozen spinach (you won’t need all of it)
- 2tbsp garam masala (make your own, buy from a dependable brand like Natco, or just get whatever’s available, in that order of preference)
- 50g cold unsalted butter, cut into thin slices
Wash the lentils with your hands in a bowl of water and drain them into a sieve. Do this repeatedly until the water ceases to be cloudy, then set them aside in the sieve.
Measure your turmeric, paprika and coriander into a small bowl, mix together, and set aside.
Put two medium-sized pans over a medium heat. Add a tablespoon of oil to each pan, and then tip a teaspoon of cumin seeds into each. Cook them for a minute or so, stirring occasionally until they sizzle and begin to darken.
Tip the onions into the pans (half in each), stir to coat, and leave to brown for at least fifteen minutes, and anywhere up to 45, disturbing them only with the occasional stir. These onions are the backbone to the flavour of your curries, so you don’t want to take any shortcuts here. Try and regulate the heat, hovering around a low-medium, so they take on a deep golden brown, and soften to a kind of jammy texture, but never darken so much as to burn.
As your onions cook, put the lentils into a small saucepan that has a lid, cover with 300ml cold water, bring to the boil and cook, with a lid on, for 10 to 15 minutes, until there’s no trace of chalkiness when you bite into a lentil. Take off the heat and set aside (without draining!)
Once the onions look done, add half of the ginger and garlic to each pan, stir well, top up with a teaspoon of oil if either are looking dry, and cook for a few of minutes, until the raw smell of the garlic subsides and they begin to soften and take a little colour.
Add half of your ground spice mix to each pan, and stir fry for a minute or two.
Add half the tin of tomatoes to each pan, bring to a boil, turn the heat down to low, clap lids on, and simmer for ten minutes, giving them a stir half way. This should slightly thicken and break down the tomatoes a bit.
Now is the point that your two recipes diverge and take on their own character. It’s also a good point to put some rice on the boil if you want any.
Pour your lentil pan, water and all, into one of the tomato pans. Give it a mix, bring to a boil, put the lid back on, set the heat to low, and simmer gently for another ten minutes.
Pour the cream into the other pan and either stick-blend it right there in the pan, or carefully pour into a food processor, and blend until it’s as smooth as you can make it. Think Takeaway-Curry-smoothness. Add a big handful of frozen spinach, the cubes of beef, bring to the boil, turn the heat right down, and simmer for ten minutes with the lid on.
Once both your curries are done simmering, sprinkle a tablespoon of garam masala over each, and stir in, and place the slices of cold butter into the beef pan, stirring til they melt into the sauce, making it smooth and silky.
Check both for salt, and season to taste, then pop the pans in the middle of the table and call everyone to dinner.
Eat with either rice or warm Indian breads, and whatever else you tend to have with this kind of dinner. We dig all the pickles and chutneys out of the fridge, make a load of microwave poppadoms (against which I will not hear a word), and a bowl of yoghurt which the kids like to add the odd splodge of to their plates. Just eat it however makes you happy because, after all, what’s the point of it if you don’t?