Beef Olathiathu (Spicy Roast Beef)

Kerala Style Beef Ularthiyathu1
Happy New Year! I want to wish each one of you God’s richest blessings in 2015. May the new year bring you good health, peace, happiness, and prosperity.

Beef olathiathu is my all-time favorite Kerala beef recipe. It’s my sister, Leela’s, signature dish and I’m sharing it as a gift to my readers for all the “likes” and comments you made on my Facebook page and here on my blog. I hope you will treasure this recipe as much as I do!

Thanks to my sister, (my Ammama), for teaching me how to make this traditional Syrian Christian dish. In Kerala, in the old days, the meat would be cooked in an urali – a heavy metal vessel, which retains heat for a long time. Today, the urali is replaced with the modern pressure cooker.

The beef is cooked and roasted in coconut oil, which complements the spices perfectly. If you prefer, you may use peanut or grape seed oil. But then, of course, you will lose some of the authentic flavor and aroma. Make this dish for New Year and enjoy the compliments!

Beef Olathiathu (Spicy Roast Beef)
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves: 6

1 pound beef, (washed, drained, and cut into ¾-inch cubes)
40 dry red chillies, (reduce the number depending on heat and your preference)
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black pepper corns
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1-inch piece cinnamon
2 cardamoms
6 cloves
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cup fresh or frozen coconut pieces, (cut into 1-inch, thin chips)
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
5 tablespoons coconut oil
½ cup thinly sliced shallots
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1 tablespoon white vinegar
½ cup water
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 sprigs curry leaves

In a small non-stick pan, over medium-low heat, dry roast the chillies, coriander, pepper, cumin seeds, cinnamon, cardamom seeds, cloves, and fennel seeds until they smell fragrant. Cool completely and grind to a fine powder in a coffee grinder. Set aside.

Mix the coconut pieces, turmeric powder, and salt in a small bowl. Heat two tablespoons of oil in a pressure cooker over medium heat. Add the coconut pieces and fry until light brown. Add the ground spices, half the shallots, ginger, garlic, vinegar, beef, and water.  Close the cooker and bring to full cooking pressure, on high heat. Reduce to medium heat and cook for ten minutes or until the meat is tender. The amount of time will depend on the cut of beef and your pressure cooker. Allow the cooker to cool gradually. Open the lid and dry roast the beef until all the water evaporates.

To season the meat, heat the remaining oil in a small non-stick pan, over medium heat. Add mustard seeds and when they splutter, add the curry leaves, and shallots. Fry until the shallots turn brown. Add the seasoning to the meat in the pressure cooker. Place the pressure cooker over medium heat, stir and roast until all the pieces are well coated with the spices. You can garnish this dish with sprigs of fried curry leaves, if you desire.

Beef Rendang

Beef Rendang3

In a Facebook poll of the world’s 50 best foods, CNN named Beef Rendang as #1. It is an Indonesian dish that is made by simmering beef in coconut milk and spices. I tasted this dish for the first time when it was made by my friend in California. I was hooked and I learned how to make it from The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon. Over the years my recipe has evolved and taken on a life of its own – sometimes because of the lack of certain ingredients like candlenuts and fresh turmeric leaves. If you can’t find these ingredients, you can still make this dish without them and it tastes great. It takes time and effort to make this dish so make a large quantity. It keeps well and develops more flavor each day.

Rendang is a traditional dish from the Minangkabau ethnic group from Indonesia. It is also popular in neighboring countries like Malaysia and Singapore. The beef is cooked for hours in a myriad of ingredients. Some of which were unfamiliar to me until I started experimenting with other world cuisines. And, a few ingredients were difficult to find. So this recipe is not for the faint of heart!

Rendang gets its dark chocolate color from roasted and ground coconut. It is called kerisik and one of the steps in this recipe tells you how to make it. There are several steps to this recipe so follow them carefully. The cooking process is laborious and the list of ingredients long, but the end result is definitely worth the wait!

Beef Rendang
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 2 hours
Serves: 6-8

3 pounds beef, (chuck steak or shortribs, cut into large cubes)
¼ cup oil
1-inch piece cinnamon stick
5 whole cardamoms, lightly bruised
2 cloves
2 cups thick coconut milk, (use Thai canned coconut milk)
1 cup chilli water (reserve the water in which you soak the dry chillies – see below)
3 tablespoons tamarind pulp
2 tablespoons palm sugar, (or brown sugar)
3 kaffir lime leaves

Blend into a paste:
1 cup finely sliced lemon grass, (5 stalks, white part only, dry outer layers removed)
½ cup water
25 dry red chillies, (seeds removed, soaked in 1 cup hot water for 30 minutes, save water)
3 cups roughly chopped shallots
2 tablespoons roughly chopped garlic cloves
2 tablespoons roughly chopped ginger
2 tablespoons finely sliced galangal
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh turmeric

Add the lemon grass and half cup of water to a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Strain the dry red chillies and reserve the chili water to use while making the rendang. Add the soaked chillies, shallots, garlic, ginger, galangal, and turmeric to the food processor and run until there are no clumps left and you have a smooth paste. Scrape the bowl down several time during the process. Set aside.

Dry roast and powder:
2 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon whole black pepper

In a small non-stick pan, over medium-low heat, roast the coriander, cumin, fennel and black pepper until fragrant. Cool and grind to a powder. I use a coffee grinder which I use only to grind spices. Alternately, you can also use these ingredients in their powder form. Set aside.

To make the Kerisik, (roasted, ground coconut paste):
1 cup frozen grated coconut or fresh grated coconut

In a non-stick pan roast the grated coconut over medium-low heat until it turns light brown and fragrant. Cool and grind in a coffee grinder until it turns oily. Set aside.

Add oil to a large heavy bottomed pot and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers add the cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves. Fry for 10 seconds and add the lemon grass, red chillies, shallot, garlic, ginger, galangal, and turmeric paste. Fry, stirring constantly, until fragrant and the moisture evaporates. You will also see oil along the edge of the pot. It will take about 10-15 minutes to do this. Add the ground coriander, cumin, fennel, and pepper. Fry for a minute and then add the beef. Stir and roast until all the beef is well coated with the spice blend.

Next add the coconut milk, chili water, tamarind pulp, palm sugar, and salt. Turn the heat down to medium-low, cover with a lid and cook for two hours. Stir the rendang periodically during this time to make sure it is not catching to the bottom of the pot. Cook until the meat is tender and the liquid evaporates.

Once the meat is tender, add the kerisik and kaffir lime leaves. Gently stir until all the meat is well coated and you see the oil separate in the pot. Turn off the heat, cover with a lid and let the rendang sit for at least an hour before you serve. The meat will turn to dark brown. It is even better the next day when all the flavors have melded. Serve with rice.

Kofta Curry – Meatballs in a Spicy Coconut Gravy

Meat ball curry6

Spicy meatballs in a tantalizing gravy, is the best way I can describe this kofta curry. The koftas (meatballs) are full of flavor and the lightly spiced coconut curry takes it to a completely different level. The koftas can be made with minced beef, lamb or chicken.

You can make this dish well ahead of time as the koftas soak in the curry and just keep getting better. It is full of flavor and steals the show. So if you’re looking for a crowd-pleaser for your next party – this is it. Serve this kofta curry with rice, naan or puri.

Kofta Curry – Meatballs in a Spicy Coconut Gravy
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serves: 6-8

For the meatballs:
2 pounds ground beef
6 green spring onions, roughly chopped
4 green chillies, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro
5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon chilli flakes, (depending on heat and your preference)
Kosher salt

In a food processor finely chop green spring onion, chilli, cilantro, and garlic. In a large bowl add the ground beef, chilli flakes, and salt. Then add the finely chopped ingredients and mix until combined. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Makes 35 small balls, the size of lemons, and keep them on the tray. Refrigerate until ready to use in the curry.

For the ground spice mix:
3 tablespoons whole coriander seeds
3 dry red chillies
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1-inch piece of cinnamon
2 cloves
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 petals of star anise, (optional)
1 black cardamom

In a small pan, over low heat, roast the above ingredients until they smell fragrant. Cool completely. Remove the outer cover of the cardamom and use only the seeds. Put all the ingredients into a coffee grinder and powder.

For the curry:
3 tablespoons coconut/canola oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 cup roughly chopped onions
5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1-inch piece of ginger, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons Kashmiri chilli powder
1 cup finely diced tomatoes
2 cans coconut milk, (14 fl oz each)
Kosher salt
2 tablespoons finely minced cilantro
3 teaspoons lime juice

In a blender, grind onion, garlic, and ginger. Set aside

In a large saucepan over medium heat, add coconut oil. Add the mustard seeds and when they splutter add the ground onion, garlic, and ginger. Fry until it turns light brown. Add the ground spices, turmeric, and Kashmiri chilli powder. Fry for two minutes and then add the tomatoes. Cook until they turn soft. Shake the cans of coconut milk well before you open them. Add coconut milk and salt and bring the curry to a simmer. If the coconut milk is thick, add half a cup of water. Gently add the meatballs, one by one. Let them cook for ten minutes. Then stir and let the meatballs simmer for another 10 minutes so they can cook completely. Turn off the heat and add lime juice.

Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice, naan or puri.

Lomo Saltado

As a farewell gift to me, my colleagues at the World Bank compiled a cookbook of recipes from each of their home countries. This is my first blog post and to honor them I am featuring one of my favorite dishes from Peru, Lomo Saltado. Thank you, Ruth Delgado Flynn, for sharing your recipe with me. I have made some changes to the recipe because I could not find Aji Amarillo (Peruvian yellow hot pepper). So, I replaced it with Aji Amarillo paste and Panca Pepper paste.

The dish tasted authentic, with just the right amount of heat from the aji pepper paste and I was thrilled that I could make it at home! I made the French fries from scratch but you can use store bought frozen fries. If you like Lomo Saltado, give this recipe a try. You will not be disappointed.

Keep checking my blog because you never know when I will feature another recipe that you shared with me!

Lomo Saltado (adapted from Ruth Delgado’s recipe)
1 ½ lbs beef sirloin or tenderloin
1 tablespoon grated garlic cloves
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 tablespoons Aji amarillo paste
2 tablespoons Panca pepper paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon pepper powder
1 large red onion, cut into strips and separated
3 plum tomatoes, de-seeded and quartered
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
3 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
2 large Russet potatoes
Oil for deep frying
Salt to taste

For the French fries (adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook)

Peel potatoes and cut them lengthwise into ¼ inch thick fries (French fries). Rinse fries several times until the starchy water turns clear. Cover them with cold water and with three cups of ice cubes. Leave them in the water and ice for about 30 minutes.

Heat oil for deep frying in a large wok until the temperature reaches 325 degrees.

Pour ice and water off and wrap fries in a clean towel and pat completely dry. Add a handful of fries at a time to the hot oil and cook until the fries turn light golden in color. About 8 minutes. Remove fries with a slotted spoon and place on paper towels. Drain for ten minutes. Cook remaining fries.

When you are ready to serve the Lomo Saltado, reheat the oil to 350 degrees and fry the French fries again until light brown and crisp. Remove fries and drain on paper towels.  Sprinkle a teaspoon of salt over them. Gently add them to the prepared Lomo Saltado just before you serve.

For the Lomo Saltado

Cut beef into ½ inch thick strips. In a bowl add garlic, ginger, aji paste, panca paste, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, cumin powder, pepper powder and beef. Stir so beef is well coated and marinate for 20 minutes. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan until very hot. Place half the pieces of beef and let it get brown on one side before you turn it over (about three minutes). Do not add liquid from marinade. Stir fry until all the beef turns brown. Remove and add another tablespoon of oil and repeat the above process with the rest of the beef. Remove from the pan. Add the last tablespoon of oil and add red onions and stir fry for two minutes. Add tomatoes, a pinch of salt and the beef and stir fry for another two minutes. At this point if you want a little sauce sprinkle two tablespoons of water and stir fry for a minute. Add French fries and cilantro. Serve with white rice.