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Masala Gosht (Beef in Spicy Tomato Gravy)

I love the complex flavors of this Indian beef dish.  It manages to be sweet, spicy, and savory all at once; so rich and satisfying.  It's exotic without being esoteric, and I think it could trick a strictly meat-and-potatoes-no-surprises palate into enjoying a taste of the East. It cooks on low heat in the oven until the meat is tender and the spices have mixed and mingled.  This dish tastes best when allowed to rest for a couple hours at room temperature or refrigerated for a day or two before serving, making it an exceptional make-ahead meal for entertaining, or for a work day.  I even think you could put it in the slow cooker for a few hours instead of the oven step.  This dish also freezes well; just defrost thoroughly before reheating.  To reheat, gently simmer over low heat until warmed through.  

I always go with the lesser amount of red pepper for a subtle heat my kids won't balk at, but feel free to kick it up a notch or two if you want to feel the burn in your toes. :)

Masala Gosht
(Beef in Spicy Tomato Gravy from Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni)

1 c. canned tomatoes (or fresh, chopped)
4 large cloves garlic
1 1/2 T. fresh ginger root
1/3 c. plain yogurt
6 T. vegetable oil
2 lbs. lean beef round, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes  (I always use the pre-cut "stew beef" cubes from Sam's Club)
2 c. finely chopped onions
4 black (or 8 green) cardamom pods
8 whole cloves
2 tsp. turmeric
1/4-1/2 tsp. red pepper, or to taste
2 tsp. Kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. roasted cumin seeds
2 T. fresh chopped coriander leaves (or 1 T. dried)

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Put tomatoes, garlic, chopped ginger, and yogurt in a food processor or blender and puree. Set aside.
  3. Heat 2 T. oil in a large frying pan over high heat until very hot. Pat dry meat pieces on paper towels, and then add to the pan.  Brown them, tossing and turning for 3-5 minutes.  If your pan isn't big enough to accommodate the pieces all in one layer, fry them in batches.  Transfer the meat to a heavy-bottomed casserole. 
  4. Add the remaining 4 T. of oil to the frying pan, along with the onions.  Reduce heat to medium-high, and fry until the onions turn caramel brown (about 20 minutes), stirring frequently.  Add cardamom, cloves, turmeric, red pepper, and salt, and fry for an additional minute. Add the tomato and yogurt puree, and continue frying the mixture until it reduces to a thick paste and the oil begins to separate.  Turn off the heat.
  5. Add the paste to the meat in the casserole.  Add 3 cups of hot water to the frying pan.  Scrape the sides of the pan to release any meat pieces clinging to it, and pour into the casserole. Stir to distribute the spices and liquid evenly.  Place the casserole over medium-high heat and bring the contents to a boil.  Place a sheet of foil over the top of the casserole and cover tightly with the lid.*
  6. Bake the casserole in the center of an oven for 2 hours.  Check and stir meat every 30 minutes to ensure it won't burn.  Turn off the oven but leave the casserole in for 15 minutes longer.
  7. Take the casserole out of the oven, uncover, and check for salt.
  8. Sprinkle with roasted cumin seeds and chopped coriander leaves. Serve over basmati rice. 

*If you don't have a dutch oven or oven/stove-top safe casserole w/ lid, a Pyrex dish covered with foil works just fine for the baking step, just bring all the ingredients to a boil together in a pot first and then transfer them to the dish.


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