I recently watched Food Inc and The Future of Food, and I’ve been reading the companion book to Food Inc as well as Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. And since then, I’ve been making a conscious effort to wean myself off of “foods” manufactured by the industrial food complex. Though it’s been a bit of a challenge, especially since I don’t live in California anymore, where all varieties of produce is grown in abundance, I’ve been trying my best to eat mostly local produce and meats from animals that have been treated humanely and fed a diet that nature intended for them. After watching and reading about the horrific ways animals bred for food are treated and raised and how companies manufacture “food” found in our grocery stores, I find it difficult to consume anything produced for mass consumption.
So, in my effort to eat more wholesome foods, I braised some beef with tomato and cumin the same evening I made the spinach and lentil soup from Ms. Lakshmi’s Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet. The recipe called for either beef stew meat or boneless lamb. I opted to make the dish with beef, since I don’t really like the gamey taste of lamb. Since watching the films, I’ve been getting my meat and eggs exclusively from local farmers markets around town, but I didn’t have a chance to go this week, because I had to drop off my foster dog, Homer, for his new owners. I had to settle for beef from Whole Foods and to my surprise, they actually carried some grass-fed beef from a local farm in Austin, TX! In the past, I noticed that when they started to carry grass-fed beef, they only had either ground beef or hamburger patties. So, it was nice to see that they are carrying additional cuts of meat now.
My dish didn’t look quite as pretty as the one in Padma’s book, but it tasted delicious nonetheless. As much as I enjoyed this dish, there are a few things I would do differently to make it better next time, though. Because the garam masala, cardamom pods, and cloves impart very strong flavors, this dish may actually be better paired with lamb. I also made the mistake of buying tomatoes from the grocery store (I know I just went on and on about steering clear of industrial food complex products!)-they weren’t ripe yet and they didn’t add much flavor to the dish. Adding a little bit of tomato paste to the mixture may have helped to add some more tomato flavor to the dish.
Click here to read about my second concoction of the evening.
Braised Beef with Tomato and Cumin
[adapted from Tangy Tart Hot & Sweet]
2 tablespoons oil
2 cups yellow onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
3-4 large dried red chilies
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 bay leaves
2 black cardamom pods
4 whole cloves
1.5 pounds beef stew meat (or boneless lamb shoulder)
2.5 pounds plum tomatoes, quartered
1.5 teaspoons garam masala
a few cups of boiling water
1-2 tablespoons sugar
salt to taste
1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds. After the a couple of minutes, add the onions, chilies, garlic and ginger. Saute for a few minutes.
2. Add the bay leaves, cardamom pods, and cloves. Then add the meat and salt and stir-fry until the meat is seared on all sides.
3. Add the tomatoes and garam masala and cook until the tomato skins start to loosen. Turn the heat down and add boiling water to cover and reduce heat to low once it comes to a gentle boil. Cover and simmer for about 1.5 hours, stirring every 10 minutes to ensure the mixture does not stick to the bottom. Cook until the mixture becomes a thick stew gravy and the meat is tender. Add sugar if the sauce is too sour. Serve over basmati rice or with naan.