jeudi 2 juillet 2009

ground beef curry, for a poor college student's budget

abstract: I merged two online recipes for this one, and tossed in a little of my own innovation. Good for 8-10 prata or about 3-4 bowls of rice -- which is for me a waking day's meal. At minimal expense and effort, depending on how fast you chop, this meal should be ready in about 30-40 minutes after including preparation time.


  • 2 onions, chopped coarsely (into sixteenths)
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped into bite-sized chunks -- keep the juice
  • red and green chilesa
  • 2/3 cup ground beef
  • generous amounts of ginger (I used about 4 tbsp or 1/4 cup)
  • garlic, coarsely chopped (or smashed to bits with a jam bottle), 4-6 cloves
  • curry masala powder or any mix with tumeric, but mixes including coriander, cardamom, etc. preferred
  • spice mix: nutmeg, cinnamon, poultry seasoning -- thyme, rosemary, sage, etc. [not essential]b
  • a drop of pandan extract (or a better yet, a pandan leaf, if you have one!) [non-essential]
  • cooking oil (solvent)
  • water
  • milk [can be skipped]
  • stir fry vegetables [can be skipped]
  • wine vinegar or regular vinegar (if you like it slightly sour -- most of it evaporates)
  • salt, sugar

1. Put the chopped onions, chiles, ginger and garlic into a blender, along with some salt and a little bit of oil (1-2 tbsp). Blend them until you get a slightly coarse but mostly-smooth paste. I used the icebreaker function for this -- fresh onions are turgid and full of water so they resist for a minute or so before suddenly going smooth.

2. Pour out the paste into a large pan that has been pre-heated to high. Wait for the first bubbles to start forming (because of the water in the paste boiling), then turn heat down to low. Stir the paste about every minute for 15 minutes. Add 1-2 tbsp vinegar at about 12 minutes through.

3. Coat the beef generously with the tumeric/curry powder and the spice mix. If you are feeling especially garlic-y, add in about 1-3 more cloves of minced garlic here. One option is to blend the beef, but I didn't do this. Add the beef to the paste, and cover the beef with the paste. If the beef is still frozen, turn the heat up to medium for about 1 minute until the ice melts or till mild bubbling starts again. After that, return to low for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.

4. Most of the aqueous content will have evaporated by now, allowing the temperature to skyrocket. You can tell because the oil starts to gurgle vigourously even on low. Add the tomatoes and any stir-fry vegetables desired, along with any tomato juice saved from the chopping stage. If mild bubbling stops, turn the heat up to medium until mild bubbling starts again, then turn back down to low. Toast for about 1-2 minutes.

5. Add 1 cup mix of water and milk (I used a ratio of 2:1), turn up to medium until mild bubbling starts again, then simmer on low. Add pandan extract and 1 tsp sugar. I used brown sugar, but white sugar will probably work. I simmered here for about 1-2 minutes.


delicious. a sweet and savoury curry with a creamy but coarse texture, a light brown colour with tomatoes softened. Cilantro can be added to garnish. Nose-mouth-reasoning (NMR) spectroscopy confirms presence of an array of various aromatic and arguably pharmacologically-active (high-inducing) organic compounds. Photo of pan after a run with just tomatoes, half-eaten:


From my very informal knowledge of curry theory, there's basically 3 stages of curry cooking. First there's the sauteeing / frying, where onions, cumin, garlic, ginger, etc. are toasted at high temperature (125-185 degrees C). I didn't use fresh (non-mix) cumin in this recipe, but it could be included. The aqueous stage (starting with the onset of vinegar, then water) immediately reduces the temperature to around the boiling point of water (or slightly higher, as acetic acid forms a negative azeotrope with water), and then simmering (at about 85-95 deg C), generally the last stage, is used for heat-sensitive ingredients like milk.

This recipe modifies this a little in a way I find interesting. Firstly partially because I was lazy and didn't want to toast the onions first before grinding them into a paste (a hassle -- you risk overcooking and you have to fry them in batches), and because someone appears to have done it successfully with fresh onions (see references), I didn't have a very prominent high-temperature stage. The paste that's used is a mix of some oils and mostly water, and sauteed on low, the water takes 15-20 minutes to evaporate fully though where oil is present the onions probably cook at a higher temperature -- hence the need to stir constantly as to cycle the oil.

Frying fresh onion paste on low makes the paste cook very evenly, and it comes out beautifully with no sign of burning or overcooking, and the paste was still mostly white around 10 minutes and browned only slightly at 15, but with the obvious smell of the significant onset of caramelisation. I think using fried onions to make a paste is the standard procedure, to avoid having so much water at the beginning, but a beginner or careless cook risks overcooking especially since some recipes call for very browned onions. Vinegar is also usually added at the high-temperature stage, way before water, where evaporation occurs very quickly, but the effect of adding it on low near the aqueous stage is something to be explored. In effect the high-temperature stage was shifted into the middle, and then only for a very short time. There was also no real separation of the water and milk stages in this recipe.


a. I used 1 habanero and 1 serrano, but I suspect red works better instead of habanero for more flavor and less heat! Man, 1 habanero can still inflame an entire pan of curry...

b. Use whatever curry-friendly spices you have on hand, feel free to substitute. Use cheap spices -- I got cinnamon, nutmeg and poultry seasoning for pretty a buck each per bottle at the supermarket

references (inspirations):


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