A marvellous Madras

I feel as though I shouldn't really give away behind the scenes secrets and disasters, but it's only natural to experience a few little hiccups, and this one turned out to be a happy ending anyway!

This week we hosted our spice night supper club which from my perspective was definitely our best yet. We had a full house so there was a great buzz, the food (I think) was all received very well and life in the kitchen was all very smooth and enjoyable.

However, rewind 24 hours and all was not so rosy! I had carefully planned a menu that featured beautiful beef short ribs, designed to give that delicious comforting beefy curry flavour and texture but with the bonus of being able to present it nicely in one piece and make it look smart. Because we all know; as well as taste and flavour, how the food looks on the plate is hugely important. I ordered my meat from a local supplier but at the last minute, they couldn't get it for me so I had to source it from one of those online supermarket retailers who helpfully and efficiently bring to to your door! But by this stage I was a day behind getting my ribs in their all important marinade and was starting to feel a bit nervous about them. The curry was duly made the following day after they had soaked in their beautiful spicy winey marinade for 24 hours, but after the required 3 hours of cooking plus a few more, the meat was not looking, or feeling as it should and to cut a long story short, it was decided on the morning of our supper that it was not suitable to use.

So cue a very panicky last minute scrabble to find a suitable recipe to serve up to our wonderful paying guests in less than 10 hours! I wanted to find a beef madras recipe so that it would still give the same flavours as was promised, but this wasn't something that I had done before so had to find a recipe that I felt would give a knockout flavour and go well with my side dishes that were all ready and waiting in the wings. I get anxious about feeding people food that I have not planned with precision, practised, tested and perfected, so this was far from ideal.

Finally though, I found a recipe that I thought sounded perfect, and once I had sent my chief assistant (husband) and his own helpful assistant (Archie aged 6) to our local farm shop a mile away to source some of their beautiful home bred beef, we were away. (you may ask why I didn't get it from them in the first place - lesson learned!!)

It turned out that this recipe is really the easiest curry I have ever made and packs an absolute punch flavour wise. It is also actually quite healthy as curries go, not having the usual ghee, coconut, almonds that push the calorie content through the roof. I thought I would share my take on this recipe with you so you can all enjoy too, as it really is delicious. It is quite savoury as the spice paste is made with lemon juice, but I found it a nice change to the sweeter coconut based curries that we tend to lean towards. I served it with a simple red lentil dhal with sweet potato which balanced it out but you could always serve with rice if you prefer. Also I made a raita which is equally easy, flavoured with my secret ingredient - mint sauce from a jar! It is a perfect way to get that slightly sweet but fresh balance which works so well with a spicy curry.

Beef Madras

2 tbsp ground coriander

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tsp chilli powder

2 garlic cloves crushed

2 tsp grated ginger

2.5 tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp olive oil or cooking spray

1 large onion diced

1kg beef cubes - any cut of beef that needs slow cooking. Chuck, braising, stewing

2 tbsp tomato puree