Bhuna is a perennial favourite in the British Indian Curry house and my beef bhuna works that typical thick clingy fragrant gravy heavy with fenugreek.
A Bhuna pronounced boona is probably one of the most common dishes on a British Indian Curry House menu.
My fakeaway beef bhuna plays with the same ideas of a really thick and unctuous tomato based sauce coating big chunks of beef.
For the beef, you want something robust enough to stand up to pretty long cooking. This allows the sauce to cook down so I go with some rump, or round as my American readers will know it.
Be sure to cut it into big chunks, you want something 3-4cm to prevent it from breaking down.
What Is A Bhuna Curry?
A Bhuna curry hails from Bangladesh or North East India.
This explains its popularity in the British Midlands much of the Indian migration to this area is from the Bengali region. As a result, many of the hundreds of Indian restaurants I grew up with feature Bengali food.
It is characterised by its lack of sauce, which is just the way I like my curries. You will note that many of my curry recipes do not have a moat of sauce or gravy around them.
As far as I am concerned the amount of gravy in a curry needs to be just right. Just enough to be mixed in with the rice and mopped up with a naan bread with none left over!
Typically a bhuna is only cooked in its own juices. My beef bhuna adds a little tomato into the mix, because beef and tomato in a curry just works.
I was looking through my fakeaway recipes a couple of days ago. I was amused to note that I have pretty much worked my way through a typical British Curry house menu in the last two and a half years here on Krumpli.
Although I do note a distinct lack of lentil dishes…
Don’t worry I have made a mental note.
I do find it amusing that I probably now eat Indian food more often than I did when I lived in the legendary ‘Balti Triangle’ in Birmingham.
Cooking Curry At Home.
Cooking a curry at home should not be intimidating. Usually, curry recipes like this beef bhuna contain many more ingredients than western recipes.
But this profusion of ingredients is what leads to the complex and wonderful flavour we love.
Here is my guide to my Indian store cupboard:
- Fenugreek (Seeds & Leaves): Essential, for me this is one of the defining flavours of the Indian food that I cook.
- Coriander Seeds: Essential, buy seeds and grind them as required to extend shelf life.
- Cumin Seeds: Essential, again buy whole seeds and treat like coriander seeds.
- Ground Turmeric: Essential, adds a mellow back note and wonderful colour.
- Kashmiri Chili Powder: Essential, relatively mild with a great flavour that allows lots to be used to give a great colour.
- Fennel Seeds: Important, these are rarely dominant flavour but offer a good anise background complexity.
- Cardamom Pods: Important, again one of the subtle background flavours that define Indian food.
- Tamarind Pulp: Nice to have, an ingredient with a long shelf life that adds a very distinctive sour edge to foods. I could not be without it but it is not essential!
- Onion Seeds: Nice to have, this is one of the ingredients I love, it is far from essential but adds a great flavour and texture.
- Asafoetida: Nice to have, again, one of the subtle flavours that is difficult to put your finger on. If you cook a lot of curries get some asafoetida.
- Cinnamon Sticks: Pretty important, but they should already form part of a well-stocked cupboard anyway.
- Cloves: Pretty Important, see cinnamon sticks.
There are of course lots of other spices you can add but this list should give you a good start.
- 2 Tbsp Cooking Oil Neutral
- 2 Cloves Garlic Diced
- 35 g Ginger Diced
- 2 Green Chili Finely sliced
- 250 g Onion Cut into half moons about 1cm thick
- 1 Tsp Turmeric
- 1 Tsp Garam Masala
- 1 Tsp Ground Coriander
- 1/2 Tsp Ground Cumin
- 1 Tsp Kashmiri Chili Powder
- 300 g Tomatoes Roughly Chopped
- 100 ml Water
- 1 Tbsp Tomato Puree
- 500 g Beef I use something like rump as it can handle the slow cooking, cut into 3-4cm chunks
- 1 Tbsp Dried Fenugreek Leaves
- 1/2 Tsp Salt
- 1 Handful Fresh Coriander Chopped
- Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat, making sure that the pan can be transferred to the oven and has a lid.
- Add the chili, ginger and garlic and fry gently for 2 minutes.
- Next add in the onions and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add in the cumin, ground coriander, chili powder, turmeric and garam masala and stir to toast for 60 seconds.
- Now throw in the tomatoes, tomato puree and water and cook down for 10 minutes.
- When thick and the tomatoes have begun to break down a little season your beef with salt and add to the pan with the fenugreek leaves.
- Place in the oven covered by a lid for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes remove the lid and cook for a further hour.
- This recipe loves fresh coriander, so throw as much of it as the dish as you dare!