|Pickled Chillies. Some like it VERY hot.|
Sometimes, I get it wrong. This is not an untypical conversation:
Him: "Please don't use the shallots like you normally do."
Him: "Well, just like another oniony thing. Can you use them like shallots?"
Him: "So, don't just slice them up because you haven't got any onions. Use them in recipes that use SHALLOTS".
You see, I am sure I do appreciate a good shallot when it's needed - whole in a casserole, or in a pot roasted chicken dish that I do sometimes, but I am guilty as charged: I'll be scouring the kitchen to pull together whatever it is I need, and if the recipe calls for onions, but there are only shallots, well, shallots will have to do.
And then, to add insult to injury, when he actually wants shallots for something, there are none left.
I am a bad person.
However, after the shallot conversation, I have been slightly more wary of how I utilise the produce from the allotment and the garden.
Beetroot, for example, has been something that doesn't get much beyond being boiled or roasted and then eaten as part of a "pull it all out of the fridge on to the table and pick out the best bits" weekend lunch. Occasionally, it gets grated raw, or turned into a hummus type thang, but not much more than that. This is how we eat beetroot.
We have decided to give back the allotment and create more growing room in the garden, and so we're currently making sure we get the last bits of this year's veg before handing it over. This has included some extra beetroot that we weren't counting on.
With some trepidation, I suggested a curry - I had some braising steak, and I knew that I'd seen a recipe for Beef & Beetroot Curry somewhere before, which has been playing on my mind. I don't normally consult the Husband about the menu, but given the reaction to the shallot (mis)usage, I felt it was only right and proper. After all, I haven't been aware of any beetroot in Rick Stein's recent (fabulous) series on Indian cooking, and a quick persual of the indexes to my Madhur Jaffrey books reveals only a beetroot chutney.
As it turns out, beetroot works quite well in a curry, adding an earthy depth. Unfortunately, it doesn't give you a vivid pink or deep purple plateful (disappointing when you see the curry paste that you make with it), but, if you live with a beetroot hater, you don't really know it's there. I can attest to this, because Pink, who is an avowed hater of beetroot (what was I saying about not having fussy children...) ate this - AND it had a green chilli in - one that escaped the pickling pot...
Beef & Beetroot Curry
200g cooked beetroot (if you buy it, don't get the stuff in vinegar)
'top thumb joint' piece ginger, chopped
1 large garlic clove
1 whole green chilli, seeds and all
small bunch flat leaf parsley
3 cardamom pods
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tbsp treacle
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp fennel seeds
pinch ground cloves
fresh ground black pepper
1 tbsp sunflower oil
500g braising steak cut into big chunks
1 onion (not shallots), chopped
1 beef stock cube made up to 250ml stock with boiling water
flaked almonds to sprinkle (toast them if you have time - I forgot)
If like me, you're making this in a slow cooker (and why wouldn't you, marvellous thing that it is), turn the cooker on to low to pre-heat.
Make a paste by blitzing the beetroot, ginger, garlic, chilli, parsley, cardamom, ketchup, treacle cumin, coriander, fennel seeds, cloves and a good grind of black pepper in a food processor.
Heat the oil in a frying pan and brown the beef in batches, returning them to the slow cooker crock pot once browned.
Once all the beef is in the slow cooker, add the chopped ONION to the pan and fry for a few minutes, then add the paste to the pan and fry for about 5 minutes more, till you've got all the beefy bits scraped up from the pan and it all smells fragrant. Tip in the stock and bring to the boil then tip over the beef, put the lid on the slow cooker and leave for 8 hours or
Serve with rice and poppadums (and, in our case, cauliflower and broad bean curry) with the flaked almonds sprinkled over the top. You could add in some chunks of cooked beetroot at the end as suggested in the original recipe, but we'd eaten all that we left for lunch...