Completely unrelated to what this post is about but I just have to ask: have you guys heard of aquafaba? It’s the water that beans and legumes like chickpeas have been soaked and/or cooked in (what we end up throwing out), that, did you know, has the miraculous ability to whip up into frothy peaks just like egg whites?! Vegan wonderland, right? I have seen recipes where it’s replaced eggs in meringues, macarons, mayo and even a very aerated chocolate mousse! Wild. I’m a skeptic though. This new discovery throws up a lot of questions in my head about its nutrient content—what about the phytates? I’ll however save this for another time when I’ve actually researched it a bit more (and when it’s pertinent to the post!) I’ve digressed enough. Now, onto the beef!
Erachi ularthiyathu is what this ‘dry fry’ is called in Malayalam and is a very popular dish in Keralan cuisine. Cubes of beef are cooked until tender with ground spices and tossed with coconut slivers (not grated like you’d find in other recipes that call for coconut; these are scooped out of its shell and sliced into thin pieces). But really where the magic lies is in the final step where lots of shallots, curry leaves, garlic and shards of ginger are tempered in aromatic coconut oil before being stirred into the beef. Writing this just made my mouth water!
For my birthday last year, a friend sent me a cookbook with some really great Syrian Christian recipes in it along with her family’s recipe for this dish. So it comes as an uncanny coincidence that after procrastinating on this post for so long, I’ve finally managed to have it up today—on her birthday!
Her beef fry called for a ‘meat masala’—a blend of certain distinct spices that’s made and stored specifically for certain dishes (not unlike the garam masala) but since I don’t have my own version of it, I tweaked and added/changed quantities of the other ingredients accordingly. After a little bit of trial and error, this version is the one that I’ve steadied myself on now.
- 500 grams beef, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 1 cup shallots, finely chopped
- 5 cloves of garlic, cut into thin rounds
- 2 inch piece of ginger, julienned
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 3 1/2 tbsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 3 green chillies, slit lengthwise
- 1/4 cup coconut, cut into long, thin pieces
- 2 tsp vinegar
- 4 sprigs of curry leaves
- 3 tbsp coconut oil
- Salt, to taste
- Add chilli powder, coriander powder and garam masala to a small dry pan under low heat and move it around with a spatula until aromatic, about 1 minute. Make sure to turn off the heat as soon as you start to smell the spices, not any longer, as they will burn very quickly. Retain the pan.
- Tip the spices into a pressure cooker along with the beef, vinegar, salt, turmeric powder and 1 ½ cups of water. Cook on a medium flame until tender (the amount of time will depend on the size and type of pressure cooker you use. Mine is a medium-sized one, and it took about 20 minutes). Alternatively you can cook it in a heavy-bottomed, covered pot. Just make sure to add enough water and check often so the spices don’t catch and burn at the bottom.
- Once the beef is completely tender, place it back on the hob, turn the heat up to high and let most of the water evaporate. You want the pieces to be dry with just the spices clinging to them. Set aside.
- Heat coconut oil in a pan (use the same one you toasted the spices in) and add the shallots. Sauté until well browned, about 2-4 minutes. Add the green chillies, curry leaves, ginger and garlic and toss for another minute. Take it off the heat and add to the beef along with the coconut pieces. Stir well to combine. Serve immediately with rice or Indian breads. Can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for up to a month.
* Any cut of beef that works for slow-cooking (stewing beef) would be suitable to use here.
* Can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen for up to a month.
* Adapted from Naomi Varghese and Lathika George.
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