As seasoned (we shall keep whoever hasn’t still died of his/her own cooking as a competent) cooks, you should have realized by this time that Chicken is equivalent to something that we once used to chew off the backs of our pencils and Turkey is MOIST and TENDER and edible in USA. For those who have realized that BEEF is CHEAP and LAMB IS NOT, those should rejoice, for today I will talk of cheap cuts and portions of meat, what to get from the market and how to cook them.

1. Skirt Steak – Beef has something called UNDERBELLY which is known as Skirt Steak. Try to get stuff from the inner steak and not the outer skirt. ASK your butcher to give you the inner parts. And ask him NOT TO CUT IT UP (since skirt steak is pretty much long strip of meat without bone, this is easy).

2. Unless there’s somewhere the word TOP involved, DO NOT BUY ANY STEAK WHICH HAS THE WORD BUTT IN IT. Butt essentially means upper side, but generally is obtained from the shoulder (mane ki bolbo this is ridiculous but still…). Look at the fat for a good bit of marbling (or pardah of fat that is visible) and remember, lean meat is essentially bad for you because it will turn up tough and difficult to cook.

3. NEVER EVER EVER BUY SHANK meat. Gorur thyang khawa = grisly meat with tough fibers take HOURS to cook properly and is damned difficult to tenderize, and without doubt this kind of meat is only good for making beef stock. So is OXTAIL.

4. When it comes to lamb, try to buy US grown lamb rather than New Zealand lamb. Khete motamuti ek and US lamb is cheaper and fresher.

5. DON’T for pity’s sake buy ground beef/pork/lamb. Boss, the way I see it, ground meat = jekhanshekhan theke mangsho kete ground kore dey, and therefore the different meat cook at different temperatures = shokto mangsho. Rather buy a cheap cut of meat (like the aforementioned inner skirt steak) and get it ground by the butcher. You can ASK your butcher to fine, medium or coarse ground, which can be done to any cut of meat. This way you can also control the amount of fat going into the meat (btw, LEAN GROUND MEAT in general contains around 20% fat while normal ground meat contains around 30% in USA. Ki Kando!!)

6. In case of chicken or turkey you can go for ground meat, but try not to buy lean ground. Emnitei oder fat content kom, tar upor lean = rubber/khoborer kagoj khawa.

7. When it comes to stuff like HAM, try NOT BUYING stuff which resembles a loaf rather than a portion of porcine anatomy. Ham with added water/ham with liquids are not good stuff in general. Try buying whole humungous pieces of ham (preferably the shank end) and you can portion them and keep them for ages. It works brilliantly.

Ah, enough lecturing about the cuts. Recipes follow which are simple yet incredibly tasty. One of my favorites of all time is the following: takes a bit of time to cook, but a pressure cooker works wonders. SLOW COOKING HOWEVER GIVES THIS DISH Chaar Chaand!!

Keema Rajma (in Southern Louisiana a version of this is called red beans and rice. Me, I like it with rooti ar bhaat ar pNauruti)

Soak about ½ pound Rajma (red kidney beans) overnight. Or 2 hours shall do if there’s warm water. Take your pressure cooker and put it on high heat. Lube up with about 2 tablespoons of oil, add a piece of cinnamon, 3 elach and 5 cloves(i.e. standard garam mashla) and fry up about 1 cup of onions and about 7-9 cloves of garlic, crushed slightly with the back of your knife or a cup. Swish it around the pot and introduce about 1/2 pound of coursely ground mincemeat (beef. lamb. pork. turkey. Who cares??) and fry on high heat till you see the meat lose its pinkness and turns a shade different and is not clumped up together. KEEP stirring and breaking them into bits so that it gains more surface to mass ratio. Add a teaspoon of salt and mix it in the meat, so that more water gets out from the meat through osmosis. Once your meat is quite changed in colour, add 1 teaspoon (or more according to taste) red chili powder (or cayenne pepper), 1 tsp of cumin powder (jeera), 1/2 tsp nutmeg (jaifal) and 1 tsp coriander (dhaniya) powder. You can, for a completely different taste add 2 tsps of pumpkin pie spice powder (its damned tasty too!!) and 3-4 tomatoes, chopped, or a small can of tomatoes crushed and chopped tomatoes in their juice. Stir to combine. Mix and fry for about 5-6 minutes, or till tomatoes are soft to touch.

Now add the soaked beans, about 2 cups of water (500 ml), and let the mixture come to a boil. Clamp on the lid and let the cooker come to full pressure. When the pressure cooker is about to hiss, then drop temperature and cook for 40 minutes. NO LESS.

Remove the pressure cooker from the heat. Let the pressure cooker cool down to its own volition. By this time, your beans should be quite easy to pulp, and I like a slightly mashed version so I generally use the back of a spoon to mash up about 1/4 of the mixture and then add it back to the beans. If you like the pristine purity of the beans… hey its your party. Season now, add salt, pepper, sugar… whatever comes to your fancy. After all you are the cook.

Now comes the addition of herbage, if you like it. I like cilantro (dhonepata)/parsley, but feel free to add other herbs (I KNOW Basil adds a sweetness which is very Thai in flavour, and mint makes this very interesting too). I roughly chop the herb and add to the cooked rajma and stir about in the pot for about a couple of minutes over heat.

Serving is simple. However, I serving this with thinly sliced bacon, fried to crispy golden perfection in its own fat (YES, BACON SHOULD BE WITH AT LEAST A BIT OF FAT) and served on top of the warm rajma, with the sizzling bacon fat poured on top. For a healthier choice, serve it with some fresh green scallions, lemon wedges, or some leafy green. I personally break out the bread or serve this over cooked fluffy rice and say WooHoo with gusto.
This stuff is eminently freezable. Keeps for up to 2 weeks in the refridgerator and 2 months in the freezer. And yes, this gets better with age. In case you feel more adventurous, you can add about 4 tbsp of smoky barbecue sauce, a tsp of sugar and 1tsp of instant coffee before putting the lid on the pressure cooker, use 1/2 cup of yoghurt instead of the tomatoes, and add 1/2 a cup of milk after the rajma is fully cooked and you’ve removed the lid. Keep the heat to a low after adding the milk. Goes really well with rice, this one. And unforgettable smell of warm smoke and creamy sourness.

Love and respekt,

Written by Poorna Banerjee

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