Let’s face it – we all need more time. I wish I could add more hours to the clock just so I could get everything I need to, done. I don’t really understand why I am always so busy – I don’t have children and technically I finish work at 3pm…and get awesome holidays. So why the hell am I spending my Sunday playing dodgems with my trolley in the supermarket, trying to find the right size pot for a stubborn cactus at the garden centre and guiltily double parking at the ATM to get cash out for the week?
During the week I need to be in work at 7am and teach till 3pm. Afterwards I spend hours at my computer thinking of ways to make topics like ‘Movement of water through plants’ exciting whilst simultaneously trying to persuade Microsoft Word that it is okay to have numbers down the side of a page without automatically creating a list. I usually get home about half five – 6pm and have time to change into my comfies (admit it – we all have a pair of clothes that are old, stretched and should have been thrown out years ago) and start preparing YM’s dinner. (Don’t worry – I ‘m not living with a chauvinist with 1950s ideas of a perfect housewife – it’s just that I’m usually in the door first!). By the time we have eaten, washed up and I’ve indulged in some truly awful telly it’s time for bed.
Occasionally we make half-hearted noises about attempting to have some semblance of a social life during the week. This never gets further than walking to a friend’s flat who happens to live down the road. We then sit around and moan about how crap our lives during the week are. If we are feeling really devilish we might even have a beer or two. At about 10pm muttering noises about leaving begin to surface with the old adage ‘we all have to work the next day’. It’s a lame attempt to hide the fact that we just aren’t able to kick it like we used to in the good old days anymore. Let’s be honest – it’s hardly 24 hour party people. More like 12 hours in front of a PC people which doesn’t really have the same ring to it.
Anyway, I’m typing this at half past nine at night waiting for my newest experiment to finish cooking. As a result of running about all day dinner was started later than usual. On any other Sunday night we would have just called a pizza but unfortunately, tonight was the night I designated to trying out my new beef curry recipe. The reason being is that I have to prepare a curry for 20 people for this Friday. My boss has an annual curry fiesta and this year I have been roped into making a curry. (This is probably because I am the only one in the school that actually knows how to make a proper curry).
Due to my work commitments (read – worksheet making and mindless photocopying) during the week I needed to practice tonight. I needed to figure out how on earth I was going to make a curry big enough to feed 20 people in my limited kitchen AND convince the wonderful Mexican teachers I work with that curry is more than just an oddly coloured yellow powder found languishing on the back of the supermarket shelf. So I decided to go with a good beef curry that could be quickly prepared and didn’t use too many fancy ingredients. I present to you my Lazy Beef Curry (for the time-starved hoi-polloi).
You will need:
- beef stock (I cheat and use ready made from a packet)
- white vinegar (I had to use apple as I used my last batch of white making volcanoes with my first years!)
- a medium onion
- tomato puree
- curry leaves (not available as far as I know in Mexico so I made do with bay leaves)
- cumin powder
- coriander seed powder
- chilli powder
- mustard seeds
- stewing/braising beef (I used rib-eye because I am posh and good beef is really cheap here!)
First thing you do is cut up your beef into chunks. I am over trying to hack through meat with blunt kitchen knives so I bought a pair of scissors that have had their scissorly life dedicated to chopping up meat and chicken into chunks. I really recommend it – it makes life a lot easier! Also, pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees C.
I’ve kept a lot of the fat on because fat is what makes this dish taste really special. Throw in 2 teaspoons of cumin.
Follow with 2 teaspoons of coriander powder. I don’t have coriander seed powder – I only have whole. I also don’t have anything as fancy as a spice grinder or a pestle and mortar. So let me show you how to blend spices MacGyver style.
Put your coriander seeds into a Ziploc bag and bash them really hard. Ideally with a hammer but since I have misplaced mine, I made do with a bottle of balsamic vinegar. You reckon I could market this as an alternative to Jamie Oliver’s Flavour Shaker? I know for a fact that mine is a hell of a lot more effective (it actually works for a start!).
Anyway, add your crushed/powdered coriander seeds to the bowl.
Follow with a teaspoon of chilli powder. Or if you are like YM and your tastebuds are only activated by exposing them to a minimum of 50,000 on the Scoville scale then add some more, or be a creative like me and add some crushed chilli flakes.
Finish off with 3-4 tablespoons of vinegar.
Now give everything a good stir and leave it to marinade (e.g. in the fridge during the day while you are at work. The longer you can give it the better).
When you get home from work heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil in a pan. While you are waiting for the oil to get really hot, finely chop your ginger, garlic and onion. I actually have a garlic press which means I don’t have to fiddle around trying to chop bits of garlic smaller than my fingers. I also keep my ginger in the freezer. This might sound odd but whole ginger actually freezes really well. When you need some, just pull it out, grate as much as required and then put it back in. Means you never have random bits of ginger going mouldy in the egg tray again.
When you oil is really hot add a teaspoon of mustard seeds and fry them off until they start to spit and jump out of the pan.
Once the mustard seeds start attacking you – add your curry leaves. I used three.
Stir them around for about 30 seconds, then add your onion, ginger and garlic.
Finally add a teaspoon of salt. Now fry everything until your onions turn golden.
Once your onions turn golden, add your nicely marinated meat to the pan and start stirring it around. All you want to do is brown the meat – don’t cook it all the way through. You will notice that my onions are more on the whiter shade of golden. That’s because the flame on my stove kept blowing out. Obviously having both the stove top and the oven on at the same time is too much multi-taking for the poor thing.
Once the meat has browned, add about 5 tablespoons of tomato puree and stir in.
Now transfer everything to a casserole. All of these steps should not have taken more than 15-20 min. Unless your oven has a multi-tasking disorder too.
Finish off by adding half a cup of beef stock and enough water to almost cover the meat. It all really depends on how thick/thin you like your curry to be.
Give everything a really good stir.
Chuck it in the oven and forget about it for at least an hour. Use this to change into your comfies and either watch trash TV (hurrah – new series of Project Runway!) or something useful (new series of Project Runway whilst repotting stubborn cactus – take notes oven!).
At this point YM wandered up and asked for some garlic naans to accompany the curry. I confirmed that this was indeed a splendid idea but unfortunately I had to do the laundry and therefore it would be a naan-free curry. Luckily I have a very modern, noughties-type YM so he agreed to do laundry if I rustled up some naan. So I did. And some pulao rice too.
So at 10 pm on a Sunday night when most folk are in their beds because ‘they have to work tomorrow’, we sat down to beef curry, pulao rice and homemade garlic naans. The curry was delicious. The meat was meltingly tender and the long, slow cooking meant the flavours had the effect of gently warming your tastebuds to the subtlety of the spices instead of slamming into them head on. So this recipe will definitely be on the menu at Curry Fiesta 2011 this Friday and hopefully will be a great introduction to the joys of eating spicy, rich meat stews (for what else is a curry?) for my Mexican colleagues! Now it is almost midnight and I have to work tomorrow so I better go to bed. I guess, we might not kick it old school anymore but if it means I can have a massive curry meal at 10pm at night without getting indigestion, getting older has it perks too!