Kerala is a tiny state on the South Western end of India but when it comes to food it packs a big punch. It’s been on the Spice Map since about 3000 BC and is primarily known for growing top quality Peppercorns, Cloves, Cinnamon, Cardamoms among others. The spice trade bought in the traders from all over the world from the Greeks, Romans, Arabs (including the Syrians who were the first Christians in India), Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch to the British. (Vasco Da Gama landed here in 1498 which opened the door for the rest of the Europeans into India) and they all left some mark in some form or the other in the local architecture, cuisine, and culture.
With the coastline and the freshwater lakes , Kerala is also a big producer of Fish and Shellfish. There is a abundance of Coconut trees too. No wonder that most of these lovely produce make it to their local cuisine. The state also has a sizeable Muslim and Christian population and their influence on the local food cannot be ignored. One dish that we will be taking about today is the Kerala Style Beef Fry. I first had this dish in a small Restaurant in the Keralan Hill Station of Munnar in 2004 when we stopped there for two nights on our honeymoon tour around Kerala. I was taken back by the simplicity but a lasting taste of this dish. Sneha, A Mumbai based restaurant last week won an Chowzster Asia award for this Beef Dish (but you will not be able to eat it there as the sale and supply of Beef is since been banned in the whole state of Maharastra of which Mumbai is the Capital).
There are many variations of this dish and its mostly served as a snack accompanied by some flaky Malabar Parathas but can be served as a main course with Rice or Dosa or Appams. I have tried to simplify the dish as much as possible using ingredients available in the UK. The Cinnamon, Cloves and Cardamom can be substituted with 2tsp of Garam Masala but the taste will vary considerably. I also use Star Anise sometimes. If you have any in your kitchen Use one or two but reduce the Cinnamon, Clove and Cardamom. The following should provide 3 medium portions or 2 large portions. I have also used sliced fresh fennel. If you do that then use half a bulb of fennel and reduce the onion by half and do not use the fennel seeds.
Rump Steak – 500 gms (ask Butcher to tenderise the meat ie beat it thin with a meat hammer or do it yourself at home). Cut it into medium thin strips.
Shallots – 5 nos or one large white onion finely sliced
Ginger and Garlic Paste – 1 tbsp
Fennel Seeds – 1 tsp
Red Chilli – 1 medium (de seeded and halve if you prefer less heat)
C0rriander Seeds – 1 tsp
Cinnamon – half inch stick
Cloves – 3 pieces
Cardamom – 4 (peel the skin and use the seeds only)
Peppercorn – 2 tsp
Tomato Purée – 2 tbsp
Green Chilli – 4 de-seeded and slit lengthways (Keep the seeds in or add more if you like more heat)
Curry Leaves – about 10
Mustard Seeds – 1 tsp
Oil – about 4 table spoons
Dessicated Coconut – 1 tbsp (soak in 2 tbsp water for about 5 mins before using)
Salt to taste
Dry Roast the Fennel, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Cloves, Peppercorn, Red Chilli, Star Anise (if using). Cool and Powder using a spice or coffee grinder or in a pestle and mortar. Marinate the meat with Salt, The spice mixture, ginger and Garlic paste and the tomato purée. Rub well and set aside for about 2 to 3 hours.
Heat Oil in a wok. Add the Mustard seeds and as soon as it stars to pop, add the sliced shallots or onions, fry for about 5 minutes on a medium high flame and add the curry leaves and green chillies. Fry for another 5 minutes. Now tip the marinated meat mixture and stir on a flame for about 10 minutes. Add a drop of water if necessary and cover and cook till done. Uncover and stir. Check seasoning and serve garnished with dessicated coconut. This dish is best served straight away with Paratha Breads or Rice. In the following picture I served it with Lemon Rice and Cabbage Thoran (recipes to follow).