Slow-Cooked Curried Beef, Chickpea, and Spinach

(2-3 hours, serves 8)

I’ve been reading a lot about Mediterranean cooking recently, and wondering if I could adapt some of our Sri Lankan flavors to that style of cooking.  This dish started with Beef Smoore,  a dish of Dutch / Sri Lankan origin, one of those recipes where you just dump everything in a pot and simmer it for hours. It’s heavily spiced, because if you use a more typical amount of spicing, the flavors tend to get quite mild after hours of cooking, and you end up with a result closer to beef stew than curry. The classic Smoore recipe is rich and delectable; great party food for a holiday or special occasion.
But tonight I revisited the recipe, aiming for something my family might eat more often.  I reduced the amount of beef — instead of 3 lbs. of beef roast, I used just one pound of beef chuck and one piece of beef shank. I added chickpeas and spinach, bringing fiber and more nutrients to the dish, and skipped the coconut milk altogether.  This version is both more heart-healthy and budget-friendly, but without compromising flavor at all — the meatiness of the shank and its marrow pairs richly with the vinegar and tamarind.

The end result is a tangy stew (or soup, if you prefer), delicious with a little rice or bread.  I’m continuing my efforts to accommodate my daughter to Sri Lankan flavors, so this uses half the chili powder I would normally put in for myself.  She loved it, and I like it just fine like this, but for a more Sri Lankan version, do double the chili powder!

1 T ghee or oil
1 lb. beef chuck, cubed
1 beef shank
1 c. canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 c. chopped frozen spinach
1/2 cup vinegar
1 T tamarind paste, dissolved in 3 c. water
1/4 c. ketchup
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 medium onions, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 T finely chopped fresh ginger
1 stick cinnamon
2 stalks curry leaves
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
3 T Sri Lankan curry powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
2 tsp salt

1.  Heat the oil or ghee on high in a large, heavy pot, and sear the beef, stirring, until browned on all sides, which adds great depth of flavor to the sauce.

2.  Keeping heat on high, add remaining ingredients to the pan and stir to combine, scraping up any browned meat on the bottom of the pan.  Bring to a boil, cover the pot, and simmer gently until meat is tender, approximately 2-3 hours.

3.  Remove lid and stir; if the gravy is too thin for your desire, reduce it by boiling rapidly uncovered.  Serve hot, with rice or bread.

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