Consider yourself warned; this is not the meal to make to impress your boss or as a romantic dinner for two. Don’t get me wrong, the recipe is fantastic! But you really don’t want anyone you’re trying to impress to see you with gravy running down your arm as you try and get every last drop off your plate. It’s not a pretty picture folks, but it is great curry.
2 cups plain whole milk or low-fat yogurt
2 cups grated English or Persian cucumber (unpeeled)
1 clove garlic, minced
4 sprigs fresh mint, leaves only, minced finely
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons golden raisins
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 (1-inch) pieces cinnamon bark
6 whole cloves
4 whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (more if you’re feeling feisty!)
1 heaping tablespoon Ginger Garlic Paste*, recipe follows, or 6 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped and 1-inch thumb fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium red onion, sliced very thinly
1 serrano pepper, sliced in half
2 pounds boneless beef top sirloin, trimmed of all excess fat, cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the riata, whisk the yogurt until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients, plus a little freshly ground black pepper if you like. Stir and chill.
For the wet masala: In a small skillet over medium-high heat, toast the cumin seeds, cinnamon bark, cloves, and peppercorns until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour into a spice grinder and process until powdered. In a small food processor or blender, combine the toasted spice mix and the rest of the wet masala ingredients. Process until smooth.
Place a large (preferably nonstick) pot over high heat and add the oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the onions and serrano pepper. Stirring frequently, saute the onions until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Don’t let them burn! Turn the heat down to medium-high if they’re starting to burn.
Add the ground wet masala, taking care because it will sizzle wildly and steam up your glasses, if you wear them. Stir quite vigorously and turn down the heat if it’s bubbling too furiously. Don’t wash the food processor bowl yet. Keep stirring, with short pauses, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the masala comes together as one mass, about 2 minutes. Also, you may see little droplets of oil on the perimeter of the masala. That’s a good sign!
Quickly add the meat and stir, coating the meat in the masala. Stir and cook about 5 minutes until the meat browns.
Remember that dirty food processor bowl? Fill it with 1 cup of hot water (from the tap is fine), swirl it around so it picks up any leftover masala, and pour that into the pot. Add salt and pepper, stir, bring the curry to a boil, and then turn it down to a simmer. Cover and cook 30 minutes. Then cook with the lid ajar for another 10 minutes to thicken the gravy slightly. Check the meat at the end of the cooking time; it should be tender and not chewy at all. Adjust the salt if you like, and serve over rice or with naan** and with the cucumber riata as an accompanying side.
Tips and Tricks:
For the riata I used Greek style yogurt (it’s thicker) and about twice as much mint as the recipe calls for. Aarti used a fair amount when she made it on TV and I like mint. I also used more raisins (about 1/3 cup) and more salt (surprise, surprise).
In making this recipe again I would cook the meat covered for 20 minutes and with the lid ajar for 20 as I ended up with a looser gravy and had to reduce longer. As a note, however, I did not measure the water that I used to “clean” the mini food processor bowl and it was probably 1 1/2 cups in reality.
I ate this meal almost like an Indian-style fajita, hence the fact that the consumption was less than graceful. You could, I suppose, be civilized and use a fork and a knife, but where is the fun in that?
This recipe serves 4 people.
*Ginger Garlic Paste:
1/2 cup cloves garlic, whole
1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled, 1/2-inch slices
1/4 cup canola oil
Throw the garlic, ginger, and canola oil in a mini-food processor and let it go until it forms a semi-smooth paste. There will still be tiny little pieces in there, but overall, it should resemble a paste. Any left overs can be stored in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 weeks.