Madras short ribs with sweet potato dhal

Using the immortal lines from that classic by The Specials, this place is coming like a ghost town. But with my usual line of bonhomie and excuses, I am pleased to announce that I am still very much around. I am just also very busy writing about meat, crisps and the Essex food scene. And many other things.

Many, many...many other things. Which is good.

So, here is a quick fire recipe post that has already been featured on Great British Chefs, in collaboration with Pataks. And it is a humdinger, even if I do say so myself. A glorious treatment of an underused cut of beef - the short rib. A piece of meat that in all honesty, has only really fallen into my radar over the last couple of years. But now I have found it, I can't stop eating it. Rich and devilishly fatty, short rib marries up very well with hot fiery flavours and I would even go as to say that it tempers and calms chilli notes. To a certain degree.

That said, I don't think I would ever take this dish beyond the level of madras. I still have very bad memories of a phal. My gawd, I will never forget the dawn...the horror.

Stick to what you know you can handle, kids.

The wonder of this particular recipe is that very the first time I made this, we were over at our friend's house for a Sunday ruckus. Walks, beer, wine, cheer, oh dear it's 10 o'clock and we've got to get the kids to school tomorrow. That sort of thing. Anyway 'Blimey, Dan! This is gorgeous!' was the resounding and pleasant response I got from my guinea pigs, so I know it works.

But the really, really great thing, was being able to shoot in someone else's kitchen and not having to use the same old props, plates and chopping boards that I return to, time and time again. 'It has really delivered a fresh vibe,' I said to my mate, after dishing up. 'I mean those tiles, they are beautiful, man.'

Which possibly shows you how tipsy I was at the time (or how much of food w*nker I am turning into). Perhaps I should cook and shoot in other people's kitchen's more often though. For that fresh lease of life for the blog.

I am not coming to yours though. I am far too busy.

Madras short ribs with sweet potato dhal and cucumber raita


Short ribs
4 beef short ribs, approx. 300g each
1 bottle of red wine, shiraz is a good option
1 onion, quartered
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 celery stick, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
plain flour, for dusting
oil, for frying
1 Patak’s madras spice pot
500ml of beef stock
1/2 bunch of coriander, for garnish

Sweet potato dhal
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
oil, for frying
1 bay leaf
1 tsp ground cumin
250g of red lentils
750ml of chicken stock
1 lemon, juiced

Cucumber raita
1/2 cucumber, peeled, deseeded and finely chopped
1/2 bunch of mint, leaves picked and chopped
200ml of natural yoghurt
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds


Before you start cooking, the short ribs need to marinated overnight. Begin by placing them in a bowl or pot and cover with the red wine, vegetables and spices. A good trick is to make a little spice sack, using a small square of muslin cloth and cotton to tie up, to contain the seeds. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave in the fridge to infuse overnight.

The next day, take the short ribs out of the marinade, leaving them in a sieve or colander over a bowl to drain and come to room temperature.

Preheat your oven to 140°C/gas mark 1.

Pour the marinade into a casserole dish, along with the vegetables and spices. Place on the hob, bring to the boil then add the beef stock and stir in the spice pot paste. Reduce to a simmer.

Lightly dust the ribs in flour. Heat some oil in a frying pan over a medium to high heat, place the ribs in the pan and turn until nicely browned all over.

Transfer the ribs to the simmering liquid, cover with a lid and place into the oven. Leave them to gently cook for 2 to 2.5 hours, until they are really tender.

While the ribs are cooking, you can prepare the sweet potato dhal. Take a large saucepan and place it over a medium heat, add a splash of oil then add the chopped onion. Stir until the onion is soft and has sweetened, then add the garlic, stir-frying for another minute or so.

Add the ground cumin, again stirring through for a minute, then add the red lentils and bay leaf and mix everything together.

Finally add the chicken stock and bring everything to the boil before reducing to a simmer. Cook the lentils for about 20 to 25 minutes, until they begin to soften and collapse.

As the lentils are cooking, bring another saucepan of water to the boil and add the diced sweet potato, cooking for 10 minutes or so, until they also begin to soften and collapse. Drain and leave to steam.

When the lentils are ready, add the sweet potato and gently mix in. The key here is mash the sweet potato in just a touch but not so much that it disappears completely. Finish by stirring though the lemon juice and taste for seasoning. Set aside, to be warmed up later.

To make the raita, first toast the cumin and mustard seeds in a dry frying pan for a minute or so, until they become fragrant and start to pop. Leave to cool and then roughly grind in a pestle and mortar. Pour the powder into a small bowl.

Add the cucumber, half the mint leaves and the yoghurt and mix to combine. Taste for seasoning, then leave to chill in the fridge.

When the ribs are ready, take them out of the stock and keep warm, (it is good to keep the ribs in a little bit of the stock here, so that they don’t dry out.) Pour the remaining stock through a sieve and pour into a fresh saucepan. Place back on the hob to reduce the sauce by two thirds.

To serve, warm the lentil dhal through and then spoon into the centre of a bowl. Top with a portion of short rib and then drizzle the reduced spicy sauce all over the meat.

Add some coriander for garnish and serve with the cooling raita to the side, using the other half of chopped mint on top for presentation.


Jeanne said…
Anyone that quotes The Specials in their opening paragraph is my hero for life :) Ribs don't look bad either ;)

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