Family food is a collection of recipes that are perpetually etched in my mind as treasured food memories. These recipes – collected from family members, neighbours, friends and even acquaintances – have improved my cooking skills, but more importantly taught me life lessons like generosity and the joys of sharing.
Is it just me or does certain food tend to leave a lasting impression? Whether it’s festive dinners cooked by mum or a family member or that “little something” that your neighbour shares oh-so-generously as she fixes a quick snack on a weekday but chooses not to eat it alone – food seems to rises above its utilitarian purposes in such instances. For me, it’s a window to a soul, an extension of love, an opportunity to gather (maybe even make amends?). Is it any surprise that a meal plays such a crucial role in most social, cultural and religious gatherings?
I want to provide a place for the meals/dishes that I have to come to enjoy over the years, where we can celebrate their makers and see how they shine through in those dishes. ‘Family Food’ is just that! It will be a series of recipes ranging from breakfasts, snacks, lunches, dinners or simply eat-whenever-you-feel-like-it meals. It feels as if I won’t be just documenting recipes here but recording someone’s legacy. And man, am I excited to take up that challenge! So here goes…
Now ideally I would have loved to start with one of mom’s recipes cause it is only fitting; I mean, come on – it’s mom. You get the sentiment. However, this recipe materialised sooner than expected and so I find myself beginning the series ‘Family Food’ with my brother-in-laws gorgeous Beef Bafat. Here’s something you should know, I am not much of a meat eater. Few bad experiences of eating overcooked meat as a kid has kind of scarred me. So when I consider this recipe perfect for my series, you should understand this is not a recipe to ignore.
I remember the first time I took a bite of this dish – sometime last year that is – I couldn’t believe the riot of flavours in my mouth. Fragrant, flavourful to the T and full of texture, this beef dish wasn’t anything I had had before. I was converted and every time we were invited over for dinner, I would secretly hope that I would get to gorge on this dish one more time. I can’t help but add that men either turn out to exceptional cooks or just flat blah – I don’t think there is an in between when it comes to their cooking prowess.
Discussing food clearly is not my weakness, I am going to hit the brakes here and let you dive in to the recipe. Just make sure you don’t miss the notes at the end of the recipe. Watching my brother-in-law cook the dish as I diligently wrote it, gave me many insights into the cooking method required to make this dish the flavour bomb that it is. Also don’t let the enormity of the recipe get to you, they seem like too may ingredients and too many steps, but you will see that they synchronise pretty well as you go about cooking it.
- 1kg lean boneless beef, cut into small pieces
- ½kg beef with bones, cut into small pieces
- ½tsp turmeric powder
- ½cup vegetable oil, (about 100ml)
- 2inch cinnamon bark
- 7 whole cloves
- 4 whole green cardamoms
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 heaped tsp ginger-garlic paste
- 2 onions, sliced 1
- ½ tsp turmeric powder
- 1 heaped tsp Bafat Masala 2
- 7 onions, roughly chopped into ¼inch chunks
- 5 green chillies, slit and cut into halves 3
- 3inch ginger, roughly chopped
- 1 whole garlic bulb, cleaned and roughly chopped
- 3 tomatoes
- 2 tsp ghee
- 2 cups freshly grated coconut
- 2 heaped tsp Bafat Masala
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- ½tsp chicken masala (optional)
- 2 cups chopped coriander leaves and tender stalks
- 1 whole stalk of curry leaves
- Place the beef pieces in a big dish; add water till it covers the beef. Mix in the ½tsp of turmeric powder. Keep aside for half an hour. Wash the beef in water twice and drain the excess liquid.
- Place a pressure cooker on medium-high to high flame 4, add vegetable oil and let it warm up. Add cinnamon, cloves, cardamoms, ginger garlic paste, bay leaves and sliced onions. Making sure the flame is high enough, cook the onions until the edges begin to brown. It takes about 7-8 minutes, till then keep stirring and if need be lower the flame in between for a short interval. Season with salt and add ½tsp turmeric powder. The onions will be ready when the edges brown while the rest of it is translucent.
- Add beef, 1 heaped tsp of Bafat masala and mix until the onion masala coats the beef. Reduce the flame to medium. Close the pressure cooker with the whistle secured firmly on top. Cook for four whistles.
- Put the flame off or lower it and gently release the pressure by partially lifting the whistle from the side using a knife 5. Once all the steam has escaped, you can open the lid without any resistance. Give the contents in the cooker a quick stir. Add the roughly chopped onions, garlic, ginger and tomatoes. Season with salt, if needed. Secure the lid once again and cook further on a medium flame for another two whistles.
- While the beef continues to cook, place a frying pan on medium-high flame. Add ghee, once it is warm add the grated coconut. Toast the coconut until golden. Add 2 heaped tsp of Bafat masala, coriander powder, chicken masala (optional). Mix until combined. Finally, mix in the chopped coriander and curry leaves. Set aside.
- Once the beef has cooked (after the second whistle), gently open the pressure cooker once all the steam has escaped. Mix in the toasted coconut mix to the cooked beef until well incorporated. Add salt if needed and let the beef simmer for few more minutes.
- Serve the delicious Indian-style beef stew with rice or rotis with an additional helping of some sliced cucumbers.
- How you chop the vegetables will affect the final flavour of the dish – something I have been taught by home cooks and learnt from professional chefs on TV. In this recipe, you will see two different sets of onions – one sliced lengthwise and another roughly chopped. The sliced onions will essentially disintegrate through the course of the cook and turn into a luscious sauce with the beef juices. The chunks of onions, on the other hand, will be the textural element of the dish.
- What’s bafat masala you ask? It’s a spice blend most Mangaloreans swear by! I have a friend obsessed with it (Hi there Reena! :P) You will find it easily in any Goan or Mangalorean store, which will be conveniently located near your local catholic church.
- Personally, I don’t think this dish is too spicy but my dad found it to be a tad bit spicy for his taste. If you are like him, I recommend removing the seeds and the vein (white pithy stuff) from the chillies. You could also switch from one “heaped” teaspoon to just one teaspoon of the bafat masala.
- Medium-high flame is crucial here. The heat releases the fragrant oils from the spices and the quick char it provides to the onion makes all the difference in the final dish. Keep a close watch though and you may reduce the flame in between to avoid burning but resume to medium-high flame soon after. You will know you are doing it right by the gorgeous aroma that will immediately fill your home.
- Since this recipe requires opening the pressure cooker in between the cook, please be careful. Lower the flame first or put it off completely and release the steam until there is no more ‘whoosh’ sound. You could also space the cooking method in case you are still getting the hang of an Indian pressure cooker.
Disclaimer: The sale and possession of beef is legally prohibited in some parts of India. One would use the substitute buffalo meat instead in those regions; even mutton would work just as great. Even though I belong to one such region, to maintain certain universality in my recipes, I have described the meat as beef. I do not endorse any ‘unlawful’ sale or purchase of beef in those regions. Hopefully, common sense will find its stronghold once again in the public sphere and this disclaimer will become obsolete in the near future. Peace.