Sunday, 22 May 2016

Recipe - Bengali Beef Curry

A niche and specific food story about how weirdly pervasive family ties are, even to ultra-rational (in thought, anyway) people like me who have nothing to do with non-direct family and, for that matter, not all that much to do with direct family

Back in Bangladesh, my dad's side of the family have a festival every year in August where, without dwelling too much on what the festival is signifying, they make vats and vats of food of khichuri (yellow lentil rice) with lamb in it and feed whoever comes to be fed - the easiest way to describe who those people are is to say that in a UK news article they would probably be referred to as the 'extreme poor', even though in Bangladesh they're the regular poor. Anyway, it's all financed and project managed by my family, which I now find more impressive now that I'm not a sullen teenager obsessing on the fact that I am trapped indoors because I can appreciate that feeding hundreds of people in a day is neither cheap nor easy. My grandfather has become de facto in charge of making sure it all happens - now because he's the only one of his ten siblings remaining, but previously because he stayed back in the village when everyone else was getting all diasporic. Now that all the diaspora have a second generation of further removed and further away children, I occasionally think about who will take the helm. It is very self centred of me to think that because it's my grandparents that the expectation is that it would be my father rather than someone who is closer, both geographically and domestically. But then for me the point becomes more that if it's not my father (and, whatever he says, I struggle to imagine him un-emigrating aged 67) then effectively the tradition becomes dead for me. If I'm too selfish to see my grandparents, it seems very unrealistic that I will return for a nostalgic sense of tradition. But, it's still something I think about. At the very least, I must get the recipe, because while my own take is pretty good, it's just not the same. 
Khichuri (rice with lentils) and beef curry
Two onions, finely sliced
2 green chillies, slit down the middle but kept whole
2 cups of rice
Three quarters cup of red split lentils
Three quarters cup of chana dahl
Half tablespoon of turmeric
Enough water to cover the lentils and rice completely, and then about 6cm on top of that

Fry the onions over a medium heat in veg oil in a sauce pan until translucent. Add the chillies.
Wash the rice. Add the rice, lentils, turmeric and water. Cover, bring to a simmer and cook for around 25 minutes, until the lentils and rice are all cooked.

400 - 600g stewing beef
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp chilli powder

Marinade the beef in the spices for around 2 hours (not a necessary step, but helps)

Three onions, finely sliced
4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
A thumb sized piece of ginger
2 cloves
2 bay leaves

Fry the onions, garlic and ginger in vegetable oil until the onions are very translucent. Add the beef and stir well, colouring on all sides. Add the cloves and bay and enough water to cover the meat. Cover and simmer for 2 - 3 hours, occasionally topping up the water if it's getting dry, until the meat is soft.

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