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GOOD COOKING

Beef Curry, Quite Rare

May 14, 1997|ABBY MANDEL | Mandel's latest book is "Celebrating the Midwestern Table" (Doubleday & Co., 1996)

Beef curry is the main dish in this dinner for six. Lamb, chicken, turkey or shrimp (even leftovers) can be substituted for the beef with excellent results.

Hot, fragrant basmati rice is a perfect backdrop for the spicy curry. Have cucumber raita on the side, along with a selection of chutneys, which are easy to find on supermarket shelves.

I also like to serve pappadam, a wafer-thin East Indian bread made with lentil flour, which is available at Indian markets and in the ethnic sections of specialty stores. Deep-fried in hot vegetable oil, they puff up like small pillows without absorbing much fat.

Although caramel custard is not an Indian dish, it ends the meal on a sweet, soothing note. Pair it with butter cookies and, if you wish, sliced sugared strawberries or raspberries.

BEEF CURRY

The quick cooking method leaves the beef rare; it also works for lamb and shrimp. If you substitute chicken or turkey, though, cook until juices run clear when meat is pricked with a sharp knife. Serve the curry over hot basmati rice.

1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 pounds beef filet, cut into 1-inch cubes, blotted dry

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 large shallots, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)

2 teaspoons minced garlic

2 teaspoons minced ginger root

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 large Golden Delicious apple (or other sweet apple), cored and shredded (about 2 cups)

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

3 cups beef broth

1/4 cup currants

1/4 cup tomato paste

Water

1/4 cup torn cilantro leaves

Put 1/4 cup flour, salt, pepper to taste and beef in plastic food bag. Seal bag and shake to coat beef.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, sear beef on all sides, about 2 minutes. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in skillet and add shallots, garlic, ginger, curry powder and apple. Cook, stirring often, until shallots are softened, about 4 minutes. Stir in 2 teaspoons flour, sugar, cumin and turmeric and cook 1 minute.

Stir in broth, currants and tomato paste. Simmer, uncovered, until the consistency of sour cream, about 10 minutes. Add water as needed if sauce is too thick.

Add beef and accumulated juices to sauce. (Note: Curry can be prepared to this point and refrigerated up to 2 days or frozen as long as 1 month. Bring to room temperature before reheating.) Gently reheat until just heated through, but not long enough to cook beef further if rare is preferred. Add water as needed. Taste and adjust seasoning. Garnish with cilantro.

6 servings. Each serving:

326 calories; 742 mg sodium; 58 mg cholesterol; 22 grams fat; 13 grams carbohydrates; 18 grams protein; 0.51 gram fiber.

CUCUMBER RAITA WITH MINT AND DILL (IT'S A SNAP; LOW-FAT COOKING)

Raitas are yogurt-based side dishes that are often served as a cooling counterpoint to spicy main dishes.

1/3 cup mint leaves

1/3 cup dill weed

2 large green onions

1 1/2 cups plain low-fat yogurt

1/2 cup light sour cream

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

2 seedless cucumbers

Mince mint, dill weed and green onions in food processor using metal blade. Mix in yogurt, sour cream, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Remove metal blade, insert shredding disk and shred cucumbers.

Transfer to 1 1/2-quart bowl. Stir well, cover and chill. Stir and drain off excess liquid before serving. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste if needed. Serve chilled.

6 servings. Each serving:

62 calories; 454 mg sodium; 1 mg cholesterol; 0 fat; 11 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 0.94 gram fiber.

LEMON BUTTERMILK CARAMEL CUSTARD

CARAMEL

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons light corn syrup

CUSTARD

1/2 cup sugar

5 (1/3-inch-wide) strips lemon peel

3 eggs

1 cup whipping cream

1 cup buttermilk

Pinch salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

CARAMEL

Simmer sugar, water and corn syrup in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, until syrup is rich caramel color, about 10 minutes.

Quickly pour syrup into 6 (1/2-cup) ramekins, dividing as evenly as possible. Swirl syrup to cover bottoms and set aside to cool.

CUSTARD

Process sugar and lemon peel in food processor fitted with metal blade until peel is finely minced and mixture is aromatic.

Beat half sugar mixture with eggs in bowl.

Heat remaining sugar, cream and buttermilk in small saucepan, stirring often, until hot but not boiling. Slowly and gently, whisk hot liquid into eggs. Add salt and vanilla. Mix well but not vigorously enough to create foam. Pour mixture through fine strainer.

Divide custard among caramel-coated ramekins. Place ramekins in shallow baking pan and pour boiling water into pan until it reaches halfway up sides of ramekins.

Set baking pan in oven. Bake at 325 degrees until custard no longer shakes and knife inserted in center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Remove from water bath and cool on wire rack. (Note: Custard can be refrigerated overnight. Let come to room temperature before serving.) Use sharp paring knife to release sides of custard from ramekin. Invert on dessert plates and serve.

6 servings. Each serving:

340 calories; 129 mg sodium; 163 mg cholesterol; 18 grams fat; 42 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0 fiber.

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