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Beef Madras Curry from Scratch

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Make British Indian restaurant (BIR) style beef madras curry in no time!

Many people want to make British Indian restaurant (BIR) style curries but can’t be bothered with preparing the ‘essential’ base sauce. That smooth onion based sauce is used at UK curry houses to prepare everything from the mildest chicken tikka masala to the spiciest phaal. This Madras curry is one of those on the spicy side and you can make it in one pan and it will be better than you find at the best Indian restauarants!

Beef Madras from scratch

This beef Madras tastes just as good if not better than what you get at the best curry houses. And no base sauce required!

What is a Madras curry?

If you live outside the UK, you may not be familiar with this curry house favourite. Madras curries are spicy. They’re about one spice level below a British vindaloo.

In the 60s, 70s and 80s a Madras would be made with two tablespoons of chili powder and a vindaloo with three. That is no longer the only difference. Each British curry house curry has its own flavour. A vindaloo, for example is not only spicy but has a sour flavour from vinegar and/or tamarind.

A Madras curry is milder and as you will see from the following recipe, there is a lot more going on than simply adding chili powder.

How does this Madras differ to curry house style cooking?

Since writing my first two books of Indian curry house recipe, I have been asked many times whether restaurant curries can be cooked without the essential base curry sauce.

I used to say no but I have since changed my mind. It is possible and I have all the one pan recipes you need to prove it. Try some of these too!

Having experimented quite a lot, I finally came up with a method that gets delicious results without the need to first prepare a base curry sauce. The secret is in blending the sauce.

Blending the Madras curry sauce?

You don’t have to blend the sauce but if you want restaurant quality results, you should. There are far too many Madras curry recipes out there that are prepared in a more authentic Indian way. Though they are often good, they don’t come close to what is served at curry houses. 

Blending the sauce gives the curry that smooth texture that you expect when you order a Madras curry at an Indian restaurant. Madras curries were first developed in the UK so they really should be prepared in a British way rather than an Indian style for perfection.

I’m not saying traditional Indian style cooking is wrong! I love it and cook authentic Indian curries often. But the cooking methods are different and I’m sure this Madras curry recipe will get you the results you’re looking for. 

Which cut of meat?

This is a beef Madras curry recipe but it’s really all about the sauce! You can use whatever protein you like, from chicken, to lamb to paneer. All is explained below. For the Madras curry,  I used beef rump which becomes tender much faster than stewing meat.

That said, stewing meat does have its benefits. The longer cooking time of less expensive cuts will produce a much richer stock which you can use when preparing the sauce for this Madras curry.

How do I substitute other proteins in this recipe?

Just as the beef for this Madras curry is stewed until tender, you can do the same thing with chicken, lamb or any game meat. In fact, you could also simply add the meat to the sauce as it cooks though you might need to add a little more water or stock to assist cooking.

You might also like to add your meat of choice pre-cooked. Using tandoori chicken tikka or tandoori lamb will add another layer of flavour that’s absolutely amazing. 

Paneer is another popular choice. 

How to substitute paneer for the beef in this Madras curry recipe…

Paneer can be added in three ways: grilled paneer, fried or raw. The grilled paneer is my personal favourite but the others are delicious too.

To fry the paneer, you could marinate it in the same marinade as the grilled recipe. Link above. Then just fry it in a little oil on all sides until crispy.

For raw paneer, you should add the cubed paneer at the end of cooking as it tends to fall apart quicker than fried or grilled.

Can beef Madras curry be frozen?

Yes! This Madras curry freezes really well. The only curries that don’t freeze well are those that have dairy products in them such as cream or yoghurt.

Working ahead…

There are quite a few ingredients in this and other curry recipes. Don’t let that stop you from giving this Madras curry a try!

You can prepare everything a few days ahead of cooking. Then all you need to do is take it all out and cook.

Useful Kitchen Equipment…

You probably already have everything you need to make an amazing Madras curry. Here are some of the tools I use which I can recommend.

  • A good chef’s knife: I always recommend getting a good quality chefs knife. Having one sharp knife on hand that you like using is far better than purchasing a set of knives for about the same price. One good knife is all you need.
  • A stainless steel of aluminium pan: At curry houses, the pans of choice are aluminium. These are cheap pans that get fantastic results when cooking curry house style curries. Stainless steel pans are also great which is what I used in this recipe. I have both and like them because they come up to heat fast. Try to avoid non stick pans. Although they are excellent for many things, curry house style curries are different. The idea is to caramelise the sauce over the heat to the side of the pan. As it sizzles and sticks to the pan, you scrape that caramelised sauce back into the pan. This adds an amazing flavour that you just don’t get from a non stick pan.
  • A good blender: One of the things that makes British curries what they are is that smooth sauce. So you will want a good blender for best results. That or just blend the sauce a little longer until perfect.

Step by step photographs of how to make beef madras from scratch…

Ingredients for beef Madras from scratch

Gather all your ingredients together before starting cooking. It’s much easier that way.

Cooking the beef for the Madras curry

Sear the meat in a little oil and then add the spices, onion and cover with water. Simmer until tender.

Simmering beef

It will take longer with stewing steak but you’ll get a much richer stock. When tender, strain the stock into a bowl and retain the cooked beef. Discard the onion.

This beef stock is really good!

If following this Madras recipe for beef, you will get a fantastic stock by cooking the beef in the spices.

This can be added to the blender instead of water. If you have any leftover, you can place it in the fridge for up to three days. It also freezes well for up to three months.

Adding ground spices to the pan

Fry the onions in a little oil until golden brown. Then add the garlic and ginger paste and stir it in.

Simmering sauce in the pan

Add the chopped tomatoes and about 125ml (1/2 cup) water. Bring to a simmer.

Simmering the sauce before blending

The simmering sauce will look like this.

Adding mango chutney to the sauce

Stir in the mango chutney and allow to cool some.

Do you like your Madras curry sweet or sour?

Many restaurants add a little mango chutney for a sweeter flavour. The curry is by no means sweet but it does give it a nice, light sweetness.

Another trick you might like is to add lime pickle. This is also very good!

Blending the sauce

Blend the cooled sauce until smooth.

Infusing spices and chillies into oil in the pan

Now add the whole spices to some oil to infuse over medium high heat for 30 seconds. Then stir in the chopped chillies.

Simmering the blended sauce in the pan

Pour in the blended sauce. It will be too thick so add about 250ml (1 cup) of the beef stock or water.

 

Simmering the Madras curry sauce

If the sauce is too thick, add more stock or water. If too thin, cook it down.

Beef simmering in the sauce

Add the meat and simmer. Only stir if the sauce is sticking to the pan. Scrape any caramelised sauce on the edges of the pan back into the sauce.

Finished beef Madras from scratch

Season with salt to taste, and garnish with coriander (cilantro) and a squeeze of lime juice.

If you like this beef Madras curry recipe, you might like to try some of these classics too…

 

Chicken vindaloo from scratch
Rogan josh from scratch
Chicken chasni from scratch
Chicken chilli garlic curry from scratch

Yield: 4

Beef Madras from Scratch

Beef Madras from Scratch
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • FOR THE MEAT (optional)
  • 700g (1 ½ lbs) rump steak or stewing steak, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed (canola) oil
  • 1 x 2.5cm (1 inch) cinnamon stick
  • 3 green cardamom pods, bruised
  • 2 cloves
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 750ml (3 cups) water
  • FOR THE CURRY
  • 4 tbsp rapeseed (canola) oil
  • 2 medium onions - finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp garlic and ginger paste
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp garam masala (optional)
  • 1 tbsp Madras curry powder
  • 1 - 2 tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1 tsp picante paprika
  • 200g (7 1/2 oz) tinned (canned) chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp smooth mango chutney, or to taste
  • 2 dry Kashmiri chillies (optional)
  • Seeds from two green cardamom pods
  • 2 - 4 green bird's eye chillies - finely chopped
  • ½ tsp kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 3 tbsp fresh coriander - finely chopped
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

  1. To cook the meat, brown it in a large frying pan or karahi in the oil over medium high heat. This should only take a couple of minutes. Stir in the spices and quartered onion and then cover with 750ml (3 cups water).
  2. Allow to simmer until the meat is good and tender. This should take about 20 minutes but don’t rush this. The meat is ready when it’s tender.
  3. When cooked to your liking, pour this through a sieve into a bowl, retaining the meat and stock but discarding the onion pieces. Keep warm.
  4. To make the curry, heat the same pan back up over medium high heat and add 2 tbsp oil. Stir in the chopped onions and fry for about 8 minutes or until soft and translucent and just beginning to turn a light golden brown.
  5. Stir in the garlic and ginger paste and fry for a further 30 seconds. Then add the ground spiced and stir them into the onion mixture. Add the chopped tomatoes and 125ml (1/2 cup) of the beef stock from the pre-cooked meat or water and bring to a simmer.
  6. Take off the heat and stir in the mango chutney. Allow to cool some.
  7. Blend the cooled sauce until smooth. Wipe your pan clean with a paper towel. It doesn’t need to be spotless!
  8. Add two tablespoons oil over medium high heat. When visibly hot, stir in the dried Kashmiri chillies and cardamom and let these flavours infuse into the oil for about 30 seconds.
  9. Stir in the chopped chillies and fry for a further 30 seconds, then pour the blended sauce into the pan. At this stage, the sauce will be too thick. Add about 250ml (1 cup) more stock or water to thin it some and add the cooked beef.
  10. Bring to a rolling simmer only stirring if the sauce is obviously sticking to the pan. It will caramelise around the edges. Scrape this back into the sauce for more flavour.
  11. Once your pre-cooked meat is heated through, it’s time to finish this off. If your curry is too dry, add more water or stock. If it is too saucy, cook it down until you are happy with the consistency.
  12. Sprinkle the kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) into the sauce by rubbing it between your fingers. Then season with salt to taste, squeeze in the lime juice and garnish with coriander to serve.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 597Total Fat: 32gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 17gCholesterol: 152mgSodium: 550mgCarbohydrates: 33gFiber: 7gSugar: 16gProtein: 48g

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I hope you enjoy this beef Madras from scratch recipe. If you do try it, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Tony Cleaton

Monday 14th of November 2022

Is it true that coconut features in some Madras recipes? - I only ask as I think I've always added coconut to my Madras, which; for me; completes it.

Dan Toombs

Tuesday 22nd of November 2022

I don't add coconut to mine but if you like it go for it! Thanks Dan

Roger Golding

Wednesday 3rd of August 2022

I used Chicken for this and a small amount of 1 cal oil as I've been told to cut down, this came out beautifully the sauce was rich and thick I thought it wouldn't be as good as a base gravy curry but it really was, in a way it seemed easier than the timing of pre making base, I really enjoyed the flow of making a curry this way, I will never worry about running out of base again.

Dan Toombs

Thursday 4th of August 2022

Great to hear and I am glad the chicken worked well too. Thanks Dan

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