A Nice Beef Curry

As opposed to a naughty beef curry, I suppose….(I now feel the need to make a curry called Naughty Beef Curry, of course–just you wait and see.)

No, I am just paraphrasing the words of my friend Heather used to describe the curry I made for her birthday supper. She had a second helping of it and said, “This is a really nice curry.”

Meaning, it wasn’t too hot, nor too bland, nor too spiced, nor too creamy, nor too tomatoey.

It was just right.

I have to admit that I got the inspiration for it (but not the recipe–the recipe is my own) from an out of print (it is out of print in the US, but in print in India) Indian cookbook called Niru Gupta’s Everyday Indian. I like the book a great deal, in large part, because Niru Gupta, a lovely woman who looks just like someone’s auntie or amma, whom you would trust to give out good recipes, teaches simple recipes for delicious curries do not have huge lists of ingredients. She also organizes her book around menus for everyday suppers–not big feasts–that you might find on the family table in her home in Delhi. She, as an experienced cooking teacher, gives very good step-by-step instructions to help the beginning cook along, which is something that is quite necessary when you are learning a cuisine as complicated as the ones in India.

This appeals to me, because one criticism that many Westerns sometimes rightly make about Indian food is that it is too complicated to even attempt, that there are way too many ingredients and unfamiliar techniques to deal with when you are just trying to get dinner on the table quickly, and it is just hopeless to try.

Well, now, some dishes, like Shahjahani Biryani are indeed complex. But then, Indian home cooks only make that for festivals, feasts, weddings and holidays. The problem is that in the US, we go to Indian restaurants and eat the complex dishes which are easily made by professional chefs in restaurant kitchens and expect that all Indian food is made that way. So, we get books that contain recipes for our favorite restaurant meals, we read the instructions and nearly pass out from the overwhelming amount of work that is proposed by the author.

But Niru Gupta is an author who is not trying to get us to cook those dishes. She is just sharing her recipes for simple, every day foods that she and her family members cook in their homes for family meals.

Her recipes are for simple, homestyle meals that are filled with flavor and fragrance enough for any spice-lover, while providing relatively quick, delicious sustenance for a busy family on the go.

So, I was reading her book, and found ideas for all of the dishes I cooked for Heather, and everything turned out so well, I decided that I must peruse her book more often in the future.

Which is exactly what I will do, the next time I want a nice curry.

I guess that I am on my own when it comes to making up a naughty curry.

A Nice Beef Curry


4 tablespoons canola oil
1 1/2 pounds onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh peeled and minced ginger
4 cloves peeled and minced garlic
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
2 tablespoons ground turmeric
1 tablespoon ground paprika
pinch cinnamon
pinch cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 whole dried chili pepper–I prefer Sanaam
3 pounds beef chuck, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1″ cubes
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups whole milk yogurt, stirred
salt and garam masala to taste
1 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves


In in a heavy bottomed pot or pressure cooker, heat oil over high heat. Add onions, and sprinkle with salt. Cook, stirring, until the onions are medium brown. While the onions are cooking, grind the next ingredients up to and including the cayenne pepper, into a damp paste, and add them to the onions after they are medium brown. Keep cooking until the onions are a deep reddish brown.

Remove the onion and spice mixture from the pot and puree it to a smooth paste. (This is optional–if you want a smooth curry sauce, with a great deal of brown color, you must do this–if you don’t care about it–then don’t bother. I like it better smooth.) Set paste aside.

Add whole cumin and mustard seeds to the oil in the pot. Add beef on top, and cook, stirring, until the beef browns and the seeds are toasted and fragrant. Add whole chili pepper, and the onion-spice paste, and cook, stirring, for one minute or so more.

Add to the pot the tomatoes and yogurt, and stir to combine. If mixture is too thick to boil without sticking to the pot, add a bit of water to thin it slightly.

Bring to a boil, and if you have a pressure cooker, put lid on, bring to high pressure and cook for about 45 minutes. Bring pressure down naturally–do not quick release the pressure–it will toughen the meat back up. After pressure is released, open the lid and boil the curry until the sauce thickens slightly–about five minutes. Stir as needed.

If you do not have a pressure cooker, go out and get one. No, really, it will make your life easier. But, until then, cook this in a big, heavy bottomed Dutch oven or soup pot, and after you add the tomatoes and yogurt, bring to a boil, then turn down heat so that the curry simmers. Close lid and cook, stirring as needed until beef is tender–about two hours or so. Make sure it doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom, adding watter or yogurt as needed to keep this from happening.

Just before serving season to taste with salt and garam masala, and stir in the cilantro leaves.

You could add potatoes to this curry, or turnips. I’d have added turnips if I had them around the house. Mushrooms would be tasty also.


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  1. That looks so delicious. Could it be cut in half easily? Three pounds of beef is a lot for my household of three people, although I do have a rabbit who would be happy to eat any extra cilantro.

    Comment by Becca — December 19, 2007 #

  2. I don’t see why not–this recipe fed five hungry adults, and we had some leftovers which fed two hungry teens the next day.

    Oh, and a hungry baby.

    Comment by Barbara — December 19, 2007 #

  3. Do you buy your garam masala or make it–and if you make it, do you have the mix in whole spices and just grind what you need or do you mix it already ground? In either case, how long does it last and what do you put in it? Thanks. Oh, and I made your “hillbilly bolognese” the other day for my family–it was terrific! thanks for the tip.

    Comment by guest — December 19, 2007 #

  4. Looks like a nice curry indeed – if I could get my head wrapped around the cognitive dissonance of an Indian beef dish.

    Comment by Harry — December 19, 2007 #

  5. I make my own garam masala: cinnamon, cloves, mace, cardamom, coriander, a bit of chili, black pepper and fennel. The amounts of each vary, and I make about a tablespoon of it at a time, toasting the whole spices, then grinding them together after they cool.

    Harry–not everyone in India is a Hindu.

    And even for some less than devout Hindus, there are rules about getting around the eating of beef–an animal that is accidentally killed, for example, may be eaten.

    The most devout, of course, not only do not eat beef, but do not eat meat, and many of the even more devout than that do not eat onions or garlic, either.

    But the Muslims do eat beef.

    And the Jains barely eat anything other than fruits and grains.

    India is a fascinating place, filled with such an enormous variety of cultures, all together. I’d love to visit there.

    Comment by Barbara — December 19, 2007 #

  6. I love curry, and I know it probably would defeat the purpose of making a reasonably authentic dish, but is there a way to cut the ingredient count down by using a pre-made curry powder? I have a bottle of this stuff in my pantry, but perhaps you have a recipe (I should search the site before asking, but since I’m already here, responding ;)?

    Comment by Hal — December 19, 2007 #

  7. Love the curry!!! Recipe noted.

    Comment by Rina — December 19, 2007 #

  8. Thank you for the pressure cooker instructions. As I started reading the recipe I was thinking how I could adapt it for my pressure cooker (which I use a lot for putting together a quick curry). You’d already done the work for me.

    Comment by Ann Harste — December 19, 2007 #

  9. Hal–it won’t taste the same, but you could replace the ground spices with curry powder. However, I insist you keep the whole mustard and cumin seeds. They add a great deal of flavor, and make this recipe more unique.

    Ann, I use a pressure cooker for almost all curries–it is not only faster, but results in a more tender, flavorful dish in the end. I think that most of my long-simmered curries have pressure cooker instructions.

    Comment by Barbara — December 20, 2007 #

  10. I made this tonight with chicken and my 7yo heartily approved (he had been begging for a curry for over a week). I did grind the onions on my food processor, but don’t think I got as smooth a paste as you do in your sumeet. I also found it slightly lacking in something, so added another tsp of ground cumin and 2tsp of ground cardamom (probably could have used less if it was fresh – it wasn’t).
    I served the chicken with Pacha patani shundal (Spicy Green Peas) from Smita Chandra’s book “From Bengal to Punjab.”

    Comment by De in D.C. — December 30, 2007 #

  11. De, I have that book!

    I always grind my cardamom fresh–I have found that it is one of those spices that when you get it pre-ground, it just goes stale very fast. Cumin will retain flavor very well, as will ground chilies of various sorts, and cinnamon, but cardamom–and coriander seeds–they lose their scent very fast.

    I have that book–I will have to try that recipe from it. I am always trying to come up with ways to make peas different since they are a favorite of both Kat and Zak, and not so much of me. But, I like them every way I have had them made Indian or Chinese style….

    Comment by Barbara — December 30, 2007 #

  12. Smita has several interesting pea recipes in that book. I’d definitely check it out if you’re looking for pea alternatives. I’m not such a pea fan, so prefer to eat them smothered in curry!

    I know what you mean about cardamom going south fairly quickly once it’s ground. I had purchased a small package of pre-ground powder to use in a dry chai mix thinking it would be a better texture than what I could get out of my spice coffee grinder. So, I’m stuck with the remainder of the package, and it has definitely lost a lot of it’s zing. I only use it for stuff where the quality/taste doesn’t matter quite as much, and then double or triple the amounts. I should toss it, but it seems like a huge waste of money just to throw it out, even though it was only $2 or so, lol. Call me Ms. PackRat.

    Comment by De in D.C. — January 5, 2008 #

  13. Just browsing through the net I came across this page. It sure was nice to read a review of my book. Thanks.

    Comment by Niru Gupta — October 5, 2008 #

  14. I have no idea if you ever see comments on old posts, but I wanted to say that I *love* this recipe. Thanks for posting it. I’ve made it two or three times now, both for myself and friends, and everyone always loves it. Pretty much every recipe I’ve ever tried on your site has been fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing!

    Comment by Susan — January 25, 2009 #

  15. Why, thank you, Susan. I do appreciate knowing that my recipes always work for you–I have had similar comments from quite a few folks in the past, so it makes me feel pretty good about my ability to accurately write down a recipe.

    Comment by Barbara — January 26, 2009 #

  16. Don’t know why anyone chef would ever use canola oil (or any vegetable oil for that matter – even GMO free organic canola oil) but the rest of the recipe is delicious! Rather than explain all the reasons why canola is bad, just google it and you will find out why.

    Comment by Neil — June 28, 2009 #

  17. Don’t know why any chef would ever use canola oil (or any vegetable oil for that matter – even GMO free organic canola oil) but the rest of the recipe is delicious! Rather than explain all the reasons why canola is bad, just google it and you will find out why.

    Comment by Neil — June 28, 2009 #

  18. Neil–I bet you believe the urban legends about canola oil that have circulated the Internet and which include such baseless attacks as it has something to do with the spread of BSE (Mad Cow Disease) and was used to produce mustard gas–which has nothing to do with mustard or rapeseed, which is what canola oil comes from, but instead, was called mustard gas because it smelled like mustard.

    Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.




    As to why this chef uses it–it is because it has a high smoking point, so it is useful for stir-frying and making curries without adding any flavor of its own to the dishes cooked with it. And it is a polyunsaturated fat rich in Omega 3 fatty acids.

    BTW–it has been used traditionally in India and China for hundreds of years with no ill effects.

    Comment by Barbara — June 28, 2009 #

  19. I am looking forward to trying this Nice Curry, but I do hope you will consider a recipe for a very naughty curry as well.

    Comment by Jenny — March 8, 2011 #

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