Beef the Slow Cooker!

>> Thursday, September 29, 2011

Even with the ease of the Internet, I still love good old cookbooks! I was at my mother-in-law's condo last weekend and spotted a cookbook with the title The Gourmet Slow Cooker: Simple and Sophisticated Meals from Around the World. You had me at Gourmet...and then you had me again at Slow Cooker!

While I love my slow cooker, I have a beef with the recipes for it. So many of the popular crockpot recipes call for cream of something soup or prepackaged spice packets. While I love the convenience of the crockpot, I don't want to sacrifice health (especially sodium content) just to use the crockpot. This cookbook is awesome because it uses all fresh ingredients and spices.

Okay, I'll step off my soap box now. This recipe caught my eye because I love Indian food and the picture corresponding to the recipe looks fabulous. An added plus is that Finley loves meat, rice and peas, so I thought this recipe would be right up her alley.

The Beef Biryani was great! It was flavorful, delicious and the meat was wonderfully tender. The spice mixture used was different than the traditional curry and since it didn't have a cream-based sauce, I felt good about eating it. If you haven't ever tried biryani before, Andrew called it the Indian equivalent to paella, and he's not far off. It's a dish made of seasoned meat and broth with rice and peas added towards the end. I served it with a simple cucumber raita and the creaminess of the salad complimented the biryani perfectly. (I'll post that recipe tomorrow.) We had my parents over for dinner and the recipe served the four adults, one child and we have enough left-overs for another two to three people. So it feeds a crowd!

FYI - This recipe calls for several spices that I didn't already have in my spice cabinet. I checked out the prices for bottles of the spices at my local grocery store but they were all pretty pricy. I made an extra trip to Central Market and bought the spices out of the bulk bins, buying only what I needed, and spent less than $1.50 for all of them!

Beef Biryani
recipe adapted from The Gourmet Slow Cooker by Lynn Alley

1 tablespoon cumin seeds
seeds from 3 cardamom pods (smack the cardamom pods with the back of a spoon a time or two to get the seeds out)
6 whole cloves
6 to 8 peppercorns
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 pounds lean beef stew meat
1 red or yellow onion, finely chopped
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
3 to 4 cups cooked Basmati rice
1 1/2 cups frozen peas
1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, soaked in 1/4 cup water for 20 minutes (reserve soaking liquid)
1 teaspoon salt
Chopped cilantro, for garnish

Combine cumin seeds, cardamom, cloves and peppercorn in a spice grinder or mortar and grind to a fine powder. Set aside.

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add oil. Add beef and cook, turning occasionally, for 10 minutes or until browned on all sides. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate.

Add the onion to the pan and saute, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, or until the onion is softened and starting to brown. Add garlic and ginger and stir for 3 minutes. Add the spice mixture and stir well. Add meat and yogurt and mix well.

Transfer meat mixture to slow cooker and stir in orange juice and water. Place cinnamon stick in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low heat for 6 to 8 hours, until meat is very tender. About 30 minutes before serving, stir in rice, peas, salt, saffron threads and their soaking liquid.

To serve, remove cinnamon stick and garnish with cilantro.


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