Tomato Beef Curry

62 Comments

It’s not out of disrespect for Indian cuisine that I don’t often use recipes from my Indian cookbooks. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Indian cuisine is our favorite cuisine, if we had to pick only one. As a result, I quite often turn a soup into a curried soup, lentils into curried lentils, or seafood crepes into a curried version. And I don’t mean simply adding curry powder.

Cooking Indian food is about being familiar with Indian ingredients. When I began cooking, I followed recipes in order to learn about Indian cuisine as well as other international cuisines, but now that I’ve been cooking for almost 40 years, I enjoy creating Indian-inspired dishes without relying on recipes.

I want to point out that I’m very aware of the various regional cuisines, meat-based and vegetarian, that exist in India, from the south to the north, from west coast to east. So of course I’m generalizing when I refer to its cuisine when there isn’t only one.

My first experiences were from this ancient cookbook, from the Time-Life Foods of the World series.

Eventually I purchased other cookbooks over the years, and that’s when I figured out that many recipes – again, generalizing – are similar. Most begin with onion, ginger, and garlic, for example, cooked in clarified butter, or ghee.

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A meat, poultry or seafood curry can be prepared in a yogurt-based sauce, or one that is tomato based. Some are enriched with creamed nuts, like almonds or cashews, which are some of my favorites.

Regarding spices, there are many. Cumin, cardamom, coriander (seeds and leaf), turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon, pepper, garam masala (as varied as curry powder), cloves, fennel, saffron, and more. Some recipes contain many spices, some only 3-4.

Sometimes chile peppers are included for heat – both fresh and dried. But, of course, the temperature can be controlled.

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So following is an example of an easy beef dish in a curried tomato sauce. It was done in 15 minutes.

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Tomato Beef Curry

6 ounces ghee, divided
1 1/2 pounds beef tenderloin, cut into cubes
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 – 1″ piece of fresh ginger, diced
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon black pepper
Cayenne, to taste
4 ounces drained diced tomatoes
4 ounces tomato purée
2 teaspoons garam masala
Fresh cilantro, optional

Heat 3 ounces of ghee in a heavy pot over high heat. In batches, brown the cubed beef, then place in a bowl until all the beef has browned; set aside.

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In the same pot, add the remaining ghee and lower the heat to medium-low. Sauté the onion, ginger, and garlic for a few minutes, being careful not to let them brown.

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Then add the salt, spices and, if using, cayenne pepper. Stir well and cook for about 1 minute.

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Add the diced tomatoes and purée. Stir, then let the mixture cook at a gentle simmer for about 5 minutes.

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You want the mixture fairly thick. Because I am using beef tenderloin in this recipe, the cooking time is minimal.

Add the browned beef from the bowl, including all juices, to the sauce.

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Stir to coat the beef and cook for about ten minutes, uncovered; the beef should be tender. Remove from the heat.

Just before serving, add the garam masala and stir.

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Normally I would sprinkle fresh cilantro leaves over the curry, but I decided instead to make a cilantro rice as a side dish, seasoned only with cumin and coriander.

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If this dish is too meaty for you, chickpeas can be added.

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If you want the dish creamier, you can add some heavy cream, a bit of yogurt, or even creme fraiche to the sauce.

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Many years ago I turned friends on to Indian cuisine, and my friend Claire bugged me to show her how to “cook” Indian. I told her that there is no difference in cooking techniques with Indian cooking, but she didn’t seem to believe me. So she came over once, and we cooked maybe 4-5 dishes. And we had a wonderful dinner. Her verdict? She wasn’t impressed! I don’t know what she thought I’d be doing in the kitchen, but it’s the same pots and pans, knives and spoons. She now cooks Indian food! Everyone should!

62 thoughts on “Tomato Beef Curry

  1. A great meaty dish to showcase your Indian cuisine repertoire. I too have that very same cookbook that I received as a gift. I’ll have to say I also favor Indian cuisine as being on my top 3 list of cuisines…but then I’m biased. My family comes from Goa, (south-west) India which was ruled by Portuguese for many years. So we have the flavors of Portugal melding with the flavors from India. You’ve written up a great post highlighting the spices and methods of Indian cuisine. Well done :)

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  2. Lovely recipe Mimi. I too like Indian food but rarely cook it but we as a family often have a takeaway from our local excellent Indian restaurant (even in Michelin) mainly on account of it being more difficult to get out now there’s the grandson. But when we can, we go there! Those Time-Life books are brilliant. I’ve got some from years ago.

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    • I owe those cookbooks so much! In retrospect I should have been somewhat intimidated with them, but I was too naive to know better. They taught me so much about international cuisines. You’re lucky to have great Indian restaurants nearby. Plus, you can get naan, which I have never been able to make successfully. Maybe I can ask my husband for a tandoor this Christmas!!!

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  3. I’m crazy for Indian food, especially curry, which is about the only dish I try to prepare at home. Your recipe is a bit different from others I’ve made so I look forward to trying it.

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  4. Delicious Mimi! If I had to pick I would probably pick Indian as well. It adds so much flavour and oomph to soups and everything. There is an Indian restaurant nearer town that does the most amazing masala dosai (lentil pancakes filled with spicy potatoes) that have much been on my mind lately. Love tomato in a curry.

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    • Oh, how nice. I’m about 75 miles from a decent Indian restaurant. I also love parathas – the stuffed breads with the like of potatoes and cilantro. Don’t know if that’s what they’re called where you live.

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      • Oh bummer, that’s a long way away! Yes we do, some paratha is stuffed and some isn’t, we also have naan bread which is either plain, garlic or stuffed. They are both flatbreads and I think paratha is a bit flakier and supposedly made from wholewheat flour and naan is made from white flour.

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  5. I also started off with that Time Life book around 40 years ago, and now I have a shelf full of Indian cookbooks, around 30 or so. I don’t eat meat, so I wont be making this dish, but Indian cuisine is, as you mentioned, very regional and provides lots of excitement for vegetarians.

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  6. Indian is one of my favorites too, in fact we eat Indian a lot, and esp lately as I’m planning to post a whole month of vegetable curries posts for March. Madhur Jaffrey features highly on my bookshelf too.

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  7. Great post, Mimi. I’ve only been introduced to Indian food recently, and love it. I’m still developing my sense for it, and this helps. I always thought that beef isn’t consumed in India, but I don’t really know. This would also be great with lamb fillet.

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    • I know people who say they won’t try Indian food because their stomachs don’t do well with spicy food. I really don’t know if it’s multiple spices or they think that the food is all hot, as in chile pepper hot. No matter what, they’re missing out!

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  8. OMG! I remember those Time-Life spiral cookbooks of the world series. My mom subscribed and seeing that picture takes me back in time instantly. I bet those books are still in my dad’s bookcase. I’ll have to cook next time I’m in Florida. Gorgeous inspiration for you curry. GREG

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    • Thank you! When I married in 1982, those were all I had, so I went through them all. Well, Scandinavian was a little iffy… I should have been intimidated by the scope of all of these international cuisines, but I was naive and just wanted to learn how to cook. I at least was familiar with various cuisines, including Indian, thanks to my mother.

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  9. I love how delicious this looks, and how straightforward it sounds. I’m sure I would whip this up on a weeknight after work. Tenderloin seems like a great choice, too. Would it be very different if you used olive oil instead of gee?

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  10. Made with beef tenderloin, this curry must be absolutely wonderful. My husband just brought home some Indian breads yesterday so I can see this on my dinner table this week.

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  11. Love Indian food! And there are such a variety. I could easily be a vegetarian if I lived in India — so many different dishes. But I do like meat, so I’m glad you’re using it in this dish. Terrific looking dish — nice combo of flavors. And you’re right that once you learn a few things about using spices, Indian cooking is much like any other.

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    • I know what you mean. A squash and dal curry is just as appealing to a curry with meat, and even healthier! I only wish I had a tandoor – I’ve never had good luck making naan.

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  12. This is a beautiful and healthy dish. I can’t wait to try it as I seek tasty meals without too many carbohydrates.
    RuthAnn Ridley inspiringcuisine @earthlink.net

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  13. Indian food is our “go-to” comfort food, as well. Level this recipe – so unusual to see beef in an Indian recipe, although I know some regions use beef often.

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  14. I do enjoy Indian food, although I know almost nothing about it. Have out checked out “The Colors of Indian Cooking”, a blog written by my cyber-friend Kathy Gori? If not, you have a treat in store. She does some brilliant work.

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