Being stuck at home during this enhanced community quarantine has given me an appreciation for preparing complex Indian dishes with different steps and components. Complicated preparations give me something to do while I wait for e-mails and fill idle time. However, today was a bit different since I needed to clean out my fridge and inventory the contents that I needed to use up immediately. I had about half a kilo of stringy beef in the freezer which I bought randomly during a previous quarantine grocery run. I didn’t really know what I was going to do with the beef when I bought it, but it was cheaper than usual and I thought it would be a great diversion from the bags upon bags of breast fillets and thighs that I purchased to be made into any quick meal. Instead of the usual dishes that require various steps, I opted to do a slow-cooked beef curry that would only take a quick saute for browning in a pan, and then a rich and robust, and spicy gravy developed over hours and hours of simmering.
Now hold up. Beef in Indian cooking?
Let me preface this with a quick clarification. Indian cooking is very diverse as every region has specific laws on cattle slaughter. For religious reasons, beef is not generally consumed in most states of India. However, there are Muslim and non-Hindu Indians who eat beef, and whilst there are states with strict bans on the slaughter of cattle, there are also some special areas where beef is traditionally consumed. I want to show the diversity of Indian cuisine and while I love pollo-vegetarian dishes within Indian cuisine, I also crave beef occasionally.
With that, I decided to make bhuna gosht, tender pieces of red meat in a rich sauce made from ghee, dahi, spices, and tomatoes.
For meat-eating Indians, bhuna gosht is a great option since it uses a lot of the traditional Indian spices and cooking techniques. For instance, making yoghurt as a base for a thick gravy produces a creamy and rich texture that is unparalleled by any other thickening agent. I also love the tempering of spices that creates a very flavourful oil that is just great on top of a mound of soft basmati rice. Of course, the magic ingredient is a generous sprinkle of garam masala which gives us that strong and warm curry taste. Most Indian friends I know who eat meat prefer lamb or mutton, though. Like I mentioned, beef is really hard to come by unless you are in certain parts of India that has relaxed laws on butchering cattle.
Also, when I did my research for this dish, I noticed that most blogs would credit bhuna gosht to Pakistan and Bangladesh, but there are also several versions within India itself, such a creamy version from Kashmir and an extra spicy version from Hyderabad.
For this recipe, I just dumped all of the sauted ingredients in the pot and simmered it for 5 hours over slow-c0ok, going back to the kitchen only to do the occasional stir. Bhuna gosht is usually good on its own, but for extra heft, I added a handful of pre-soaked chickpeas which beautifully soaked up the oils from the gravy.
Ampol said it looked a lot like menudo, and he may be right, but menudo (or any tomato-based Filipino curries and stews) doesn’t really have that spicy kick.
I’m running out of Indian recipes to make! What else should I cook in the next few days?