This beef Balti recipe creates one of my most favourite of Indian/Pakistani dishes. It reminds me so much of back home in the UK. No curry night out would be complete without a big serving of Balti. This type food originates in the northern parts of India and Pakistan - and made its way into the UK in the 70s. Many Balti houses popped up in Birmingham and Manchester, gradually making their way into every town and everyday life in the UK.
What is a Balti Curry?
Balti dishes are not strictly curries. I mean, they ARE, but if we're getting technical - the technique and specifically the Balti Pan is what makes it different. Balti translates as 'bucket', but unsurprisingly this name didn't take off as a name in English speaking countries. We kept the term Balti which sounds much more exotic, right!?
Balti ingredients are the same as that of regular curries, but the cooking technique differs. The pan, much like a two handled, flat bottomed wok is used over a high heat to cook the dishes. The meat is often marinated or pre-cooked so that the dish can be finished over a high temperature, a little like a Chinese stir fry.
The consistency of Balti dishes are typically thicker and drier than a regular curry. This fast method of cooking creates a wonderful glossy sauce that intensifies the more it's reduced. This is probably why I love them so much! The flavours are insanity!
My beef Balti is cooked in a traditional way, although I slowed down the final stages a little as it can get a little frenetic trying to ensure the dish doesn't burn. The final stages of my recipe allow for a bit more control to ensure the meat is cooked fully and the sauce is just right. Panic averted.
How do I serve Balti Beef?
Traditionally, balti cuisine is served in a 'Balti serving dish' - a smaller, two handled version of the Balti pan. You can of course serve it in whatever you like. I dropped my nice Balti serving dish recently and one handle fell off, so I used a nice copper frying pan for this photo!
As this dish hails from the North of India and Pakistan, traditionally it's served with breads. The rule of thumb is to remember about Indian cuisine is that Bread is king in the North, Rice is king in the South. The thick quality of this beef Balti means it's perfect for picking up with breads. I buy the frozen, ready to cook paratha breads. 30 seconds each side in a dry frying pan creates the most wonderful flaky bread that is the PERFECT partner! Any Indian bread will suffice and even rice, of course.
So, I absolutely urge you to create this one-of-a-kind authentic, restaurant style curry dish - it's truly one of the greatest Indian curries I cook at home.
Substitutes for beef?
Lamb or Mutton is the traditional meat for this recipe, but beef is cheaper and easier to find in the US, so that's my personal go-to. I sometimes use goat and have also made using chicken and even duck legs. The recipe is the same for all red meats, but for poultry, cook for 30 minutes in the water instead of 1 hour.
In a small pan over a moderate heat, add the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, cinnamon, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, cardamom pods, fenugreek seeds and cloves. Stir them gently for 30 seconds until the seeds start to pop and spit around the pan. Remove from the heat.
Add to a pestle & mortar or a spice grinder and drind into a fine powder.
Add the turmeric powder, chilli powder, curry leaves, garlic, ginger and finally the vinegar. Stir well to combine everything. Set aside.
Heat a non-stick wok or frying pan over a moderate heat with the 1/4 cup of oil until just hot. Add the curry paste and fry gently for 2-3 minutes, stirring regularly to avoid sticking. Remove from the heat and spoon the paste into a bowl and set aside.
Add the beef to a saucepan and add one heaped tablespoon of the curry paste. Cover with 4½ cups water. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low. Simmer gently for 1 hour.
Remove from the heat and using a slotted spoon, take out the beef and place in a separate bowl. Keep the cooking liquid.
In a non-stick wok, heat 2 tbsp oil over a medium heat until hot. Add the onion and bay leaf and fry for 4-5 minutes until browned and softened. Add the remaining curry paste and stir into the onion before adding the beef. Stir well for 1-2 minutes.
Add about 1 cup of the beef cooking liquid and the salt. Let it gently bubble for 5-10 minutes to reduce to a thick sludgy consistency. Repeat this process of adding liquid and reducing to a thick consistency for about 30 minutes, until all the cooking liquid has been used. You should end up with a thick sauce coating the beef and very soft onions. Some of the oil should also have separated, this is normal. See the pics and video in this recipe for a visual guide to how it should look.
You're done! Remove from the heat and serve your beef balti with Indian Breads, like flaky paratha, roti, chapatis or naan. You can also serve with basmati rice of course.
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