I will admit to being an achaar addict. Even if my food is spicy and flavorful enough, I always feel that some achaar will make it even better. I love it — spicy, sour, hot, what’s not to love? If it tastes good with my food, then why not go one step further and cook it with my food? Well, I guess I wasn’t the only one with this idea, because I’ve seen this dish in cookbooks and in the prepackaged spice mixes at the Indian stores.
This is a recipe I’ve actually made a few times before, all to rave reviews. Unfortunately I can’t take credit for the recipe. I discovered this gem in Anjum Anand’s book “Indian Every Day,” and I’m so glad I gave it a try. It earned me brownie points with the in-laws AND my parents!
I tweaked the recipe a bit for my tastes — Anand’s original recipe calls for lamb, which I’m not so fond of, so I used beef. But if you like lamb or goat, then go for it. She also calls for cumin seeds, brown mustard seeds, fennel seed, nigella seeds, and fenugreek seeds individually. Since panchforan mix contains all these ingredients and I’m lazy, I just used that instead. One thing I didn’t tweak was the mustard oil. I think that and the unique spice mixture are the key to the dish.
2 tbs. mustard oil
5 tsp. panchforan mix (or 1 tsp each of the spices listed above)
2 small onions, thinly sliced
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 tsp ginger paste
2 serrano chilis
2 tsp. coriander powder
1 lb. beef — I use stew meat from Publix
3 cups hot water
1/4 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 tsp crushed black pepper
1 tsp garam masala
salt to taste
2 tbsp lemon juice
Heat the oil in a large pan on high heat and then reduce to medium. Add the panchforan and fry until the seeds start sputtering. Add the onions, garlic, and ginger and cook for a few minutes, until the onions begin to brown. Now add the chilis, coriander powder, and meat, bringing the heat back up to high so that the meat browns after a few minutes. Lower the heat again to medium and keep stirring for about 10 minutes.
Add salt, stir, and then cover and lower heat to medium-low. After about 10 minutes, add half the water and stir again. Cook beef for an hour and a half or until tender, adding small amounts of water and stirring periodically. You don’t want the mixture to burn and start sticking to the bottom of the pan.
When the beef is done, add the yogurt and rest of the water, combining thoroughly. Increase the heat and stir the beef in the gravy for about 10 minutes or until the gravy begins to reduce and thicken around the beef. Add the lemon juice, crushed black pepper, and garam masala. Add more salt if needed.
This makes about 4 servings and goes great with basmati rice, pita bread, or parathas.