It was time for beef. It took me awhile to like beef. As a child, i never did -- then i was 12 or 13 and i could not get enough. Puberty, I guess. Of course eating beef is tough (ha ha) in Sri Lanka. Its a taboo for many Buddhists and Hindus. But my mother at the time was in the grip of home science, (she has stopped eating beef now) and my father the physician had no option but to agree. We children were told to never revel the sacrilege to my paternal grandmother, and were then given it for one meal a day. In those days in the seventies, chicken was a luxury, only to be had once a week, if, and that always an if, a 'broiler' could be got. Beef was cheap, but hard to cook. Most often we had it as a curry, but at night, minced beef made up the fillings of rolls, cutlets, and even homemade hamburgers. Then there was Irish stew. That was really good, with bread and butter.
Beef is still hard to cook in Sri Lanka; there a no Sri Lankan steaks to be had of any cut that i know, what ever steaks available are imported. It is still not a preferred meat for many, but one of my close friends, the warm hearted Geetha, shares an interest in Beef. Its more of obsession with him -- I think he'd have beef for every meal if the lovely doctor allowed him to. Ha! He too remembers the meaty days at home, he says his mother had a beef roast for him, nearly every day. Wow. So it was with him in mind that i made this dish, with nearly a kilo of beef, just an ordinary cut is fine, for example 'boneless' from FC or Keels -- but of course, if you have a personal relationship with a butcher, then you are ahead of me. I simmer the beef in a pre-prepared beef stock, made of soup bones, for 2 hours. That's the deal, it comes out really succulent. No, i do not buy ready made cubes. To make Beef stock the easy way, pressure cook a kilo of soup bones in a .75l of water for at least an hour, by lowering the heat so just the steam doesn't escape. The meat that comes off the bones is very eatable, and can be re added to the strained stock, if you clean off the skin and cartilage that hasn't yet dissolved in the stock. And so, simmer the beef in beef stock. You can add red wine to this, it will be even richer. I usually do, this time i didn't. once its simmered, you can boil it down a little, so that any remaining stock is thickened.
You can save this in your fridge for several days. When its time to eat, i saute a potion in a tiny bit of sesame oil, add a capful of kithul treacle (not too much), and, say, two heavy pinches of chopped fresh rosemary (available at Colpetty market, and Keels@LibertyPlaza), and of course salt to taste. Once this is plated, i deglaze the pan real quick, with water or red wine, and toss in some cut, cleaned pokchoy, which will cook in the hot pan, in less that 2 mins. Yes, its that fast, try it, it will be super crunchy, a lovely compliment to the soft, yet still chewy texture of the beef. Kithul Rosemary, in my opinion, is one of the great fusion combination that I've ever tried -- the fragrance and flavor of the mix has real synergy.
The lovely, lovely Geethaka doesn't really cook, and doesn't get into recipes much, i do not think. (Oh but he might now).
But he liked his beef bite.
It was made with much love.
Geethaka Goonawardene contemplates the simple life:
Ruwani, Good Friends, a River Bath and Beef. He didn't mention beer. Strange.
( kumbukan oya, Sri Lanka.)