31 March 2015

British Rose Veal & Cauliflower Dhansak

This curry was really never meant to happen.  You see, we were doing a freezer audit yesterday when out came a plastic bag with what appeared to be meat in it.  The appearance looked for all the world like as though it was the other half of a roasted joint of meat, that we'd forgotten about and had been pushed to the back of the freezer.  I decided to defrost it and use it up over successive lunches, whatever it was.

Well, it turned out to be two lovely but raw British rose veal steaks.  Oops!

I was planning a lamb & cauliflower curry this week, so it occurred to me that to make it veal instead of lamb was no bad thing.  I'd never had a veal curry before and the thought appealed to me.

It had been ages since I made a home-spiced curry - that is, one where I choose the type and amounts of spices used, instead of one where we just use a Sharwood's curry paste for speed - and for all that the results can be a bit hit and miss, I thought I'd give it a go.

I had been intending to make the lamb curry one that was finished in the oven, rather than the speedier "on the hob" type of curries that we so often make and continued with that for the veal.  British rose veal is naturally very tender and as such not really suited to the more hurried "on the hob" type of cooking, which can either dry it out or toughen it.  You really need one of two ways with it - either quick cooking in a frying pan which doesn't allow it to toughen or longer, slower cooking that softens the fibres and gently encourages them to become tender, whilst retaining all the natural moisture in the meat.  So the long, slow, oven based cook was perfect.

One aspect of currying British rose veal did concern me, which was that I didn't want to lose the delicate flavour of the meat by bashing it over the head with curry spices.  However, for all that the sauce is right up there in the flavour department, the meat withstands it exceptionally well and if anything the flavour was enhanced rather than overpowered.  To make sure that your veal doesn't become swamped, make sure to cut your pieces into a decent size.  Ours were a decent forkful sort of sized and I'm quite sure that smaller pieces would easily have succumbed to the powerful flavours going on in the sauce.

I know that the spice list seems a bit daunting and over-long, but bear with it.  The riot of all those different flavours - coupled with the onion, garlic, veal and cauliflower - is really lovely and well worth the effort of digging them out of your spice rack and working your way through them.

The other thing that is very well worth doing, is toasting the three types of seed.  I know this seems like a faff and you find yourself thinking "well it can't affect the flavour THAT much, surely!", but it does.  It really does!  As such, you would be well advised to make the curry earlier on in the day, when you have more time to spare and aren't watching the clock so badly as at dinner time.  That way, you can take your time and carry each process out with care and a little bit of extra love, which will all tell when it comes to the eating.  At dinner time, just switch the oven back on, pop the casserole dish back in and give it a half hour to heat up.  In the meantime you can be cooking the rice and everything will happen in a relaxed and easy manner.  Perfect.

The end result is not a saucy, wet curry - but a hearty, filling curry that is best eaten with rice and maybe some poppadoms with chutney.  Definitely not a naan bread, dipping style kind of curry.  It is also quite light on the tummy from a fat point of view, as British rose veal is naturally very lean and no extra yoghurt or cream goes in.  However, it definitely isn't light on the tummy from a spices point of view!  So many of the spices used here are good for you in various ways, however, that instead of leaving you feeling heavy and sluggish, this curry can leave you feeling rather energised and you can almost feel it doing you good.

As the recipe stands, the curry is not a spicy hot one.  There is very little actual chilli goes into it - just a pinch of red chilli flakes and however much there is in the curry powder and Garam Masala.  So, if you like your curries rather more in the nose-meltingly spicy range, you might need to up the quantities of chilli flakes you add.

Also, please don't be tempted to drop the jaggery goor or brown sugar at the end of the curry.  The sugar is quite fundamental to the sweet/bitter flavour balance of the spices and without the added sugar, the curry might taste too bitter to your palate.  You can always add the sugar to taste and if you like it with less, or want to add more, then go ahead!  Everyone's taste buds differ.

I thoroughly enjoyed creating this curry - and I hope you enjoy it too.

I'm really quite proud to announce that this recipe has been awarded eRecipe.com's "Recipe of the Day"!



Ingredients :

1.5 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
0.5 tsp fennel seeds
1.5 tsp ground coriander
0.5 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground fenugreek
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground ginger
3 tsp mild curry powder
a pinch of red chilli flakes
2 tbsp groundnut oil
500g British rose veal, trimmed and cut into cubes
2 cloves garlic, chopped
5 baby onions, peeled & halved
1 large onion, chopped finely
1 tomato, chopped
1 potato, peeled and cut into cubes (a waxy potato such as Jelly is best)
1 baby cauliflower, divided into eight pieces
500ml veal stock
3 tbsp red lentils
1 heaped tsp Garam Masala
1 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves
1 tsp jaggery goor, or light brown sugar.

Method :

1.  To begin with, make the spice mix by taking a small frying pan and adding the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and fennel seeds.  Dry fry the seeds until they are toasty, slightly coloured and fragrant.  Decant them into a pestle & mortar and grind them into powder.  Add the ground coriander, ground cinnamon, ground fenugreek, ground turmeric, ground ginger, curry powder and chilli flakes and mix to combine.  Set this mixture aside.

2.  Take a large high sided frying pan and add the oil over a high heat.  Once the oil is smoking hot, gently add the veal pieces and fry until caramelised on at least two sides.  Decant, using a slotted spoon, into a casserole dish (with a lid) and add the potato and cauliflower to the dish.

3.  Add the onion, baby onions and garlic to the pan and season with a pinch of sea salt and a good quantity of freshly ground black pepper.  Cook slowly over a moderate heat until the chopped onion is transparent but a light golden colour and just beginning to caramelise on the edges.  Beware of burning the garlic, so don't try to hurry this process by increasing the heat.

4.  Add the tomato and cook for a few moments to soften.

5.  Add the spice mix and stir to combine.  Cook, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes until the raw edge has gone and the spices are smelling fragrant.

6.  Add the veal stock and stir to combine.

7.  Add the lentils, fenugreek leaves, Garam Masala and jaggery (or sugar).  Stir to combine, then once the sauce begins to thicken, taste for seasoning and add more if necessary.

8.  Decant the sauce into the casserole dish and stir gently to make sure everything is coated.

9.  Add the lid and place into a pre-heated oven at 160degC/325degF/Gas 3 for 2 hours.

10.  Once the two hours are up, remove the lid and very gently stir the contents.  If necessary, add a little more boiling water to loosen the sauce - and serve with steamed basmati rice.

Printable version


  1. oooh fancy!...I do love a freezer find and veal of all things!... such a nice curry, yes please!

    1. I was as surprised as you, to find the veal Dom! The embarrassing thing is, I can't remember (and nothing was written on the bag) as to who sent it to me. It was obviously the other half of a pack, but I have no clue as to who. *blush*


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