Monday, 8 October 2012

baba's dry beef with chillies; a dinner ritual

ginger, chilli and garlic paste
the ritual of dry beef with chillies as the concluding dinner of my trips to pakistan began when i left to attend university in twenty o one in the united kingdom. the ritual established itself without baba or i making a conscious decision. it is still very much alive a decade later, the only break in the pattern being the year i got married. that was the first time i had left pakistan without a last dinner of dry beef with chillies cooked by baba. 

baba’s dry beef with chillies is on the cusp of pakistani and chinese flavours. the ingredient list is sparse precisely because the meat is the star. the paste of chilli, garlic and ginger is meant to emphasise the meatiness as well as provide a counterpoint to it by adding a clean heat. baba uses fillet sliced so thin that it curls when cooked. in london i had to adapt by using rump as fillet is very costly. you can ask your butcher to carve the meat for you but make sure you ask for it to be carved as thinly as possible. if carving yourself baba suggests putting the meat in the freezer for half an hour as it allows greater control. the benefit of using fillet is that it is a clean and tender cut of meat although its leanness demands a generous hand with the oil. baba’s generosity would see you use around half a cup of oil to two pounds of meat. rump amps the flavour of the dish but neither o nor i are fans of the rim of fat that runs along the back of the steak. i suspect that one could always ask the butcher to remove the edge of fat. interestingly, the famous london based butcher ginger pig classifies fillet as a lady’s steak and rump as the stake-eater’s steak which may explain why i found the rump to have so much more flavour. 

baba's dry beef with chillies and rice with toasted sesame seeds
as is the case with steak keep frying to a minimum. too much heat and over cooking will toughen the meat. rump is more forgiving about being cooked for longer if only because as a tougher cut it is hard to eat it rare. it is perhaps for this reason that it took so well to this recipe. i would recommend adding something green, perhaps a swiftly stir fried bok choi with some finely chopped garlic or some green beans to balance as well as complete this dinner. i did not manage to make it as this was an impromptu supper, one about satisfying my cravings for baba’s cooking. 

{baba’s dry beef with chillies}

four fat or eight medium cloves of garlic
two inch piece of ginger
one tablespoon chilli flakes
two tablespoons sunflower oil
five hundred grams rump or fillet carved really thin
a generous pinch of salt 
quarter cup soy sauce 
steamed rice and toasted sesame seeds to serve 

start by making the chilli, garlic and ginger paste. you will need a mortar and pestle for this. pound together the ginger, garlic and chillies until they become a paste. 

heat the oil in a wok until it shimmers and is smoky. toss the rump with a generous pinch of salt and introduce it to the hot oil. stir fry it for four minutes or until the beef turns light brown. 

at this point add the chilli, ginger and garlic paste and fry for five minutes. the paste will begin to smell aromatic and the beef will catch in places and turn dark brown. 

now add the soy sauce and continue to stir fry until the soy sauce evaporates and the oil separates from the meat. there should be no moisture in the pan, just the sheen of the oil that was used to fry the beef in. 

shape the steamed rice using a small bowl and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. place the dry beef with chillies on the side and tuck in.

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