Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Beef Ularthiyathu: Kerala Style Beef Roast

We don't buy beef that frequently here. But when we do buy it, I almost always make this Kerala Style Roast or Cutlets. After all, beef roast with red boiled rice is comfort food for us.

My sister and I used to tinker with whatever recipes available to us that promised to replicate my Mom's cooking back when we were both going to college from home. Once in a while, we would more or less nail it. This beef roast (which can also be made into a curry - you just have to stop cooking earlier instead of slow roasting the meat.), was incidentally, one of the first recipes that passed my sister and mine's rather exacting scrutiny (of our own cooking).
This recipe uses the Homemade Meat Masala Powder that I had posted a few days ago. The original recipe is my Aunt GA's and although there was no real reason to alter her recipe, I did play around with the ingredients a bit over the years and this here is the final version.


The Meat:
  1. Beef, cubed - 1/2 kg 
The Marinade:
  1. Shallots, sliced - 3/4 cup
  2. Garlic, crushed - 2 tbsp.
  3. Ginger, grated - 2 tbsp.
  4. Tomato, diced - A generous 1/4 cup (Optional. Not in my Aunt's original recipe. But I like to add it.)
  5. Coriander Powder - 1 and a 1/2 tbsp.
  6. Home Made Masala Powder - 1 generous tbsp. (You can see the recipe here. With the ingredients specified there, you will get a good quantity of the masala powder. If you cut the quantities by fourth or even fifth, you will get enough to make this recipe plus a little left over.)
  7. Kashmiri Red Chilli Powder - 3/4 tbsp.
  8. Turmeric Powder - 1/4 tsp.
  9. Vinegar - A scant 1/2 tbsp. (Reduce/omit if the tomatoes are sour.)
  10. Curry Leaves - 1 stalk
  11. Water - About 1/4 cup or just enough to pressure cook. 
  12. Salt
The Rest: (Before proceeding to add the spices in this set, do taste the pressure cooked beef. If you find that it is spicy enough already, reduce/omit either the chilli powder alone or all of the powdered spices below.)
  1. Onions, thinly sliced - 1 cup
  2. Coriander Powder - 1/2 tbsp.
  3. Kashmiri Red Chilli Powder - 1/4 tbsp.
  4. Meat Masala Powder - 1/2 tbsp.
  5. Mustard Seeds - 1/2 tsp. (Optional)
  6. Curry Leaf - 1 stalk
  7. Coconut Slices - 1/3 to 1/2 cup. (Optional)
  8. Coconut Oil (Use a neutral tasting oil if you do not have coconut oil.)

Marinate the beef with all the ingredients mentioned under 'The Marinade' except water. Keep for half to one hour at room temperature.

Add water to the mix and pressure cook the marinated beef till done. (You can cook in a tightly covered pot too. But it will take longer to cook the meat.)

Heat some oil in a wok and splutter mustard seeds. Sauté onions till they get browned and then add the powdered spices (if you are adding them). Stir around for a few seconds.

Add the curry leaves and then tumble the cooked beef into the pan.
Simmer the gravy without lid till it coats the beef pieces well. Check for seasonings in between.

The gravy gets more and more dried up as you reheat the beef. You can of course, do it in one go - just that it will take a touch more effort.

Make sure that you don't make the roast too dry or else the meat will become too tough and chewy.
Serve with rice and vegetables.

  1. As was mentioned in the introduction, you can make a curry with the same set of ingredients and procedure. Proceed till you add the cooked beef to the sauteed ingredients and then bring the whole mix to a boil. Simmer for about ten minutes, adding more water if required.
  2. You can dispense with the sliced coconut if you are making a curry.
  3. You can use normal, spicier red chilli powder instead of Kashmiri red chilli powder. (In a much lesser quantity.). The former version would be a more traditional ingredient - however, we are a bit intolerant to it and so never stock it. Alternately, you can use a mix of the two. (Adjust to suit your spice tolerance level.)
  4. You might find it helpful to go through the comment section on getting the meat browned.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Door to The Granary

A few years ago, when I was considering a fitting label for the rice based dishes on my first blog, I wanted it to be something that brings forth the innate grandeur of a sight left behind. I will concede that the tag ‘From the Granary’ (which will be retained here too) is not particularly illuminating; however, this is the picture I had in my mind.

This image shows, literally, the door to a Granary at our home back in Kerala. The proper term in Malayalam would be ‘Ara’ or rather ‘Nellara’ (Translates as ‘an enclosed area/in-house granary’ and ‘an enclosed area/in-house granary for storing rice’ respectively.) 
This is one of a couple of granaries – the second one too has a similar, but less ornate lock. Both granaries are situated on one of the sides of a corridor like space, the other side being lined with an array of shutter less, but grilled wooden windows and doors. A few steps lead up to a second door on the backside of each granary from an auxiliary room which facilitates an easier entry than the one at the front.

As with all traditional granaries, these, along with the entire block in which they are placed are made of wood. I don’t know how evident it is from this photo, but the granaries are constructed about three feet above the floor.  Most other walls of the house are put together from laterite blocks and lime mortar. Moisture seepage is a common issue with these types of walls and the higher placement as well as the wood helps in keeping the grains safe for a long time.
The heart of the house is this wooden block containing the granaries, with other rooms placed on either side of this central portion. The construction might have had something to do with the fact that the portion faces the 'kadavu' (landing place for row boats that were used to carry people as well as produce in olden days). Travelling by boats was favoured more in those days as the terrain was and is still pretty well draped with rivers and channels.  So if you arrive at the house the way you were supposed to in the olden days, the granary block peeping through the grills and woodwork of the corridor would be your fist view of the house, rather than the 'Poomukham' (Portico) which is placed to a side.

Under the granary block, the walls extend further down the ground level and forms a vast storage space called 'Nilavara' (Roughly translates as 'a storage space in the ground'). The steps that go up to the back door of one of the granaries extend further down to the Nilavara, which is permeated by a damp and earthy scent. The space has always been used to store all the 'Urulis' (traditional cookware made of bell metal and sometimes aluminum), 'Bharanis' (pickling pots), wine jars and sometimes coconuts.
Of course, the house was constructed long ago when the family owned paddy fields. These days the granaries remain locked year round, except when the house gets repainted, and all they host are a few old knick knacks and a small clan of winged black bats.

  1. The painted door is a bit unusual. The normal practice is to either apply either wood varnish or polish. My Dad decided to change it more than 7 years ago. The gold paint on the metal lock work however is decidedly traditional.
  2. I haven't elaborated much on the interior of the granaries as I have not seen them opened in years. If memory serves me right, there is a huge wooden chest which runs from end to end inside each of the granaries.
  3. I had planned this just as a photo story and it has somehow gotten evolved into this. This is part of the reason why I don't have photos to illustrate all that I talk about here. A few pictures that I do have will be posted later for the sake of brevity.
  4. The first black and white photo goes to the 159th Edition of 'Black and White Wednesday', a bi weekly Culinary Photography Event created by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook, now organized by Cinzia of CindyStar and hosted this time by Lynne of Cafe Lynnylu.
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