Monday 5 May 2014

Low-Carb Tomato & Onion Beef Curry with Herby Cauliflower 'Couscous'

An aromatic slow-cooked curry in a tomato and onion gravy, served with low-carb cauliflower & turmeric 'couscous' and a refreshing cucumber, mint and coriander raita.  This curry takes some time to put together, but once you've assembled it, you can boot it into the oven and leave it to burble for several hours, during which time you can drift into the kitchen to make the raita and cauliflower couscous.

Low-Carb Tomato & Onion Beef Curry with a fresh yoghurt/cucumber raita.

This is a delicately spiced curry, just the way I like them.  Although I'm smitten by the warming spices of Indian cuisine, I don't like aggressive curries with bitter or overly pungent spices. Last year, watching one of the interminable series of MasterChef Australia, I wanted to tweak the nose of one of the judges, who added fistfuls of every spice known to mankind to his curry. No need for that, boet!

Some spices are so powerfully perfumed that they can easily ruin the taste of a curry - cumin, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves are good examples.  I like a curry with many subtle layers of flavour, with no one spice stomping bossily over all the others. A subtle hand with spicing is the secret to creating complex and intriguing curries.

Having said that, I think you might quail when you read the long list of ingredients in my recipe, and I don't blame you. Because of my love of curry, I have tightly sealed jars of all these whole spices in my cupboard, and I restock them by visiting my favourite specialist spice shops every three months. I also buy packets of spanking-fresh pre-ground spices such as cumin and coriander every fortnight or so. (By the way, it's not true that you'll get better flavour from your spices by roasting and grinding them yourself. This is a foodie affectation, in my view. Roasting and blending spices should be left to the professionals; buy fresh powdered spices from a reputable merchant and you cannot go wrong.)

If you don't have a similar array of spices in your cupboard, you can make this curry using whatever you have available or - at a push - a few tablespoons of a good fresh generic curry powder, such as Rajah Medium Strength.

What sort of beef to use in this recipe?  I always use shin in stews because in my opinion it's the best cut for this purpose - not too fatty, and soft, flavoursome and fork-tender after a few hours of cooking. Be sure to cut away the membrane that encircles the slices of shin and, if you'd like your curry to have wonderful depth of flavour, toss in the bones so their marrow melts into the stew. You can also make this with bog-standard 'goulash' cubes, or topside, but the meat will be somewhat dry.

This recipe contains a large quantity of fresh ripe tomatoes, which I always add to stews because they have a delectable umami-ness that somehow is lacking in tinned tomatoes. I throw in a tin of chopped Italian tomatoes and a few tablespoons of tomato paste anyhow, to help create deep colour.  It's time-consuming to peel fresh tomatoes - and I have no objections to tomato peel - so now I chuck them whole into my blender to create a thin tomato purée that cooks down over 15-20 minutes to a beautiful thick brick-red.

The 'couscous' that accompanies this curry is made from the new darling of low-carb and diabetic cooking: cauliflower.  I've become a big fan of cauliflower since I switched to a very low-carb regime, and this is one of my favourite ways to eat it.  Most people steam or boil cauliflower 'couscous' and what's known as 'cauli-rice', but I've found that the best way to cook it is to zap it quickly in the microwave, which retains its flavour and gentle bite.

The low-carb 'couscous' in this picture is made of blitzed cauliflower yellowed
with healthy turmeric and flavoured with butter, toasted almonds and fresh herbs.
There is no need to brown the beef cubes before you add them to the tomato base, but be sure to take time over cooking the onions to a rich golden tangle.

Low-Carb Tomato & Onion Beef Curry with Turmeric & Almond Cauliflower 'Couscous'

For the curry: 
2.3 kg stewing beef, such as boneless shin
4 Tbsp (60 ml) sunflower oil, or a similar vegetable oil
1 stick cinnamon, or a thumb-sized piece of cassia bark
1 whole star anise
16 dried curry leaves
1 Tbsp (15 ml) black mustard seeds
2 fresh bay leaves, or 3 dried ones
4 whole cloves
4 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
5 medium onions, peeled and finely sliced
900 g very ripe fresh tomatoes
1 x 410 g tin low-fat coconut milk
6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely grated
1 thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, grated
3 Tbsp (45 ml) tomato paste
1 x 410 g tin chopped Italian tomatoes
1 tsp (5 ml) chilli powder (or more, to taste)
1 tsp (5 ml) coriander powder
2 tsp (5 ml) tumeric
2½ tsp (7.5 ml) cumin
salt and milled black pepper
a squeeze of lemon juice
fresh chopped coriander, to serve

For the cucumber raita: 
1 large English cucumber
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
1 cup (250 ml) thick Greek yoghurt
the juice of a small lemon
4 Tbsp (60 ml) finely chopped fresh coriander [dhania; cilantro]
2 Tbsp (30 ml) finely chopped fresh mint
milled black pepper

For the cauliflower 'couscous'
2 heads of fresh crisp cauliflower
2 Tbsp (30 ml) warm water
1 tsp (5 ml) turmeric
3 Tbsp (45 ml) butter, or olive oil if you like
½ cup (125 ml) toasted whole almonds or almond flakes
½ cup (125 ml) finely chopped fresh parsley, mint or coriander - or all three
salt and milled black pepper

Heat the oven to 160 ºC. Trim any fat or sinew off the beef, cut it into large cubes and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large ovenproof pot, wait until it is very hot (but not yet shimmering or smoking) and add the cinnamon stick, star anise, curry leaves, mustard seeds, bay leaves, cloves and cardamom pods. Fry the whole spices for a minute or so, or until the mustard seeds begin to crackle and pop.

Tip in all the sliced onions and fry them over a medium heat, stirring frequently, for 10 to 15 minutes, or until they have reduced by about half and are golden. Don't let them to catch or burn!

In the meantime, prepare the fresh tomatoes. Roughly chop them and put them in the goblet of a liquidizer or a food processor, along with a third of the contents of the tin of coconut milk.  Whizz them to a fairly fine, pale-pink purée and set aside. If you don't have a liquidizer, you will need to grate the tomatoes, or chop them very finely.

When the onions are ready, stir in the garlic, ginger and tomato paste and fry gently for a further minute. Don't allow the garlic to brown, or it will add a bitter taste to the curry

Tip in the puréed tomatoes, the remaining coconut milk, and the tin of chopped tomatoes.  Now stir in the chilli powder, coriander, turmeric and cumin.  Season the mixture with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Let the sauce bubble briskly for 10-15 minutes, lid off, or until it has thickened and reduced by about one third.  Stir now and then, and skim off any foam that rises to the top.

Now add all the beef cubes and stir well. Bring back up to the boil, and then put the pot into the oven, with its lid on.  Cook your stew at 160 ºC for two to two-and-a-half hours, or until the meat is fork-tender and falling apart. If the sauce seems a little thin, place the pot back on your hob and simmer it briskly so the sauce can reduce.

In the meantime, make the cauliflower 'couscous'. Break off the florets and discard the stalks.  Place the florets - several batches at a time -  in a food processor fitted with a metal blade, or in the jug attachment of a stick blender. Whizz to fine crumbs. Place 2 tablespoons of warm water in the bottom of a microwave-safe bowl and stir in the turmeric.  Now add the cauliflower crumbs, stirring well to distribute the colour.  Cover with clingfilm and microwave on high for 6-8 minutes, or until the crumbs are just tender, but retain a slight bite.  Drain well in a sieve, tip back into the bowl, and stir in the butter. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then mix in the toasted almonds and chopped herbs.

Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to the curry and serve it with the turmeric couscous, a dollop of raita and a shower of fresh coriander.

Serves 8. 

Print Friendly and PDFPrint Friendly


Emma said...

This sounds absolutely amazing! Will definitely add it to my list of must-cook Winter food. (And thank you for sharing a low-carb recipe)

Unknown said...

Oh yum, setting this aside as a must try.

Mel's Corner

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much Emma and Melanie! Let me know how it turns out. Kind regards, Jane-Anne

Zirkie said...