12:24 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category ,

Old-school Beef Madras



Is anyone else feeling a bit chilly? Aside from a few days summer swan-song of glorious sunshine last week, Devon is feeling decidedly autumnal. That mulchy, bonfire and wet leaf smell hangs in the air in the afternoons, and we've already had a light frost or two. Steviant and I picked the early blackberries on August bank holiday weekend and tucked them up in the freezer ready for a crumble sort of day. I don't think that day is far off.

Yesterday evening, armed with some stewing steak from Sandra-up-the-lane's own cows, Mum and I decided the only right and proper thing to do was to make a beef curry. The recipe is from a brilliant old Reader's Digest book, The Cookery Year. First printed in 1973, it's a brilliant book on seasonal cooking and eating. I think it is just as relevant today when you consider the current trend away from expensive and shady food that is more well-travelled than your average gap-year student.
The beef madras recipe is delightfully old-fashioned, and the finished dish a retro pub style staple. Proper English style curry, totally tasty and unequivocally naff. I believe in in for a penny, in for a pound so we served this curry with yellow rice. (Not trendy saffron rice, oh no. Just plain boiled rice with a shake of yellow colouring, tack-tastic). We ate it with poppadoms, a chopped salad, cucumber and mint raita, the ubiquitous mango chutney and retro accompaniment of chopped bananas. To really make my grandmother proud, I would have liked some bashed-up peanuts, but c'est la vie.

The only amendment I made to the recipe was to swap the medium curry powder for hot. Our heat tolerance has improved since the 70's, and I find medium curry powder a bit of a waste of time in the spice stakes. However, if you are serving the dish to someone sensitive, or from the past, feel free to ignore this change.

The Ingredients:
1 1/2 lb chuck or stewing steak
I large onion
2 cloves of garlic
3 oz lard or dripping (yes, really!)
1 1/2 tablespoons heaped curry powder
2 pints of beef stock (we used the knorr jelly stuff, as we are not yet in the habit of boiling up beef bones, and if it's good enough for Marco...)
Juice of half a lemon
2 bay leaves (dried is fine)
Salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons tomato puree

Peel and finely chop the onion and garlic. Melt half the lard in a heavy bottomed pan, stir in one tablespoon of curry powder and fry over a low heat, stirring continuously, for one minute. Add the onion and garlic and fry for a further 2 minutes. Pour in the stock and lemon juice, and add the bay leaves. Bring this to the boil and simmer over a low heat for 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, trim any fat and gristle from the meat and cut it into 1 inch pieces. Season the meat with salt and freshly ground pepper and dust with the remaining curry powder. Melt the rest of the lard in another pan and fry over a high heat, until it is brown on all sides. Strain the curry stock through a coarse sieve over the meat; stir in the sugar and tomato puree and simmer the meat for about 1 1/2 hours or until tender. (nb. We simmered ours for 45 mins, and that was fine, but if your meat is poorer, you will need to do it for longer). By this time the stock will have reduced and become a thick sauce. At this stage, more curry powder may be added; it should be lightly fried in a little fat before being added to the sauce. Set the curry aside to cool, Skim off any fat which has settled on the surface before reheating the curry to serve.