Kappa/Cassava/Tapioca is a staple of our region so is Beef. Beef is a secular dish in Kerala. Much of Kerala’s population, cutting across class, caste and religion, consumes it. Kerala’s love affair with beef, especially its secularization, is a relatively recent phenomenon, and reflects the dramatic social changes that the state has seen over the past few decades.
The Gulf migration that started in the 1960s transformed Kerala’s economy and triggered a new shift in the food story as well. With the emergence of the remittance economy, incomes started rising and consumption picked up. As people traveled, they were forced to accommodate food differences. The emigrating Malayali discovered Arab cuisines while working in West Asia. Back in Kerala, vegetarian hotels were forced to yield space to non-vegetarian fast food outlets. The new cuisine economy was secular in taste and welcomed dishes, especially made of meat.
The popularization of beef had, in fact, started even earlier — with the Christian families that migrated from central Kerala to the Malabar region. Food traditions of Malabar were more accommodating of meat dishes. However, the standard Kerala cuisine was considered to be the vegetarian sadya (feast) of upper caste Hindus. Beef — and porotta — has changed the narrative. Call it the DE-Hinduisation of Kerala cuisine, but the Malayali menu has became richer for it.
As Beef started making its journey into the inner roads of Kerala cuisine, different forms started taking shape. One such dish is Kappa Biriyani or Ellum Kappayum or Erachi Kappa. South-Western part and Central part of Kerala are the areas where this dish is concentrated though now its prepared all over the Kerala. Off late this has become a street food which can be found in Thattukada.
Buying a good quality beef is the main factor to be considered when making this dish. How do you purchase a good quality beef? This will depend solely on the dish you are going to make. Somewhere between vegetarians and meat-eaters, a third category is emerging represented by those who choose to eat meat in smaller quantities but in a more responsible manner, by selecting farmers who respect their animals and safeguard the environment, to the consequent advantage of public health. So, how should we approach the question of buying meat?
First, we must decide whether to go to butchers shop or a supermarket counter for our purchases, but in either case we must be certain that the quality of the animal feed is certified and that the meat contains no additives, hormones, toxic residues or medicament. At least in theory, the ideal meat would exist if we were able to know what the animal has eaten for the past two generations. Nonetheless, we are fully entitled to demand transparency from our butcher, a right that has been legally sanctioned in many countries in the world.
What to buy depends on the dish we intend to prepare: since the names applied to various meat cuts not only depend on the language of the country but may even undergo the influence of local dialects, so the simplest way to deal with this is to say: “ I want to do a roast“ or “I would like some meat for the barbecue.
For a truly well-informed choice, it is useful to revise the three basic cuts of beef: without forgetting that the more knowing you appear to be, the more you will earn the storekeeper’s respect. So, let’s start from the most expensive cuts: “prime” cuts all come from the hindquarter of the animal and require rapid cooking (sirloin, fillet, rump etcetera). The “secondary” cuts come from the forequarter, whilst the “third” best cuts are taken from the neck, belly and shoulders. Finally, there are offal and the other less expensive parts such as head, feet, liver and stomach.
Another important element to bear in mind is the amount of time the meat has hung to mature. In large-scale retail distribution no more than one week goes by between butchering and over the counter sale, but quality butchers will extend this to 20 to 40 days. The longer the meat is hung, the more tender and tasty it will be. Another visual indication is marbling, the name given to the veins of fat running through the meat: white streaks within the piece of meat will guarantee tenderness once cooked but if the fat is only on the outside, it can be removed without impacting the flavor. Marbling is most evident in the Japanese meat farmed in the Kobe province.
And furthermore, here are some useful tips to bear in mind when choosing meat.
– Choose organically farmed meat, from animals bred in the open air.
– Prefer meat from non-intensive farms that are as close as possible to where you live.
– Choose beef rather than veal since it contains more protein.
– Choose a butcher’s shop with its own slaughter house: this ensures a shorter supply chain and greater quality control.
– Look out for very dark bits on the edges of the meat which indicate poor storage and refrigeration. The dark red color of a cut, however, is not a bad sign since it indicates the presence of myoglobin, a substance that abounds in the more active muscles.
– Beware of the presence of pink-colored water in the bottom of refrigerated trays used for storing meat: this means that the meat has been pumped with water.
Hence when choosing this recipe choose best quality prime cuts or shoulder cuts with fat and bone. This fat and bone is the star which gives that dashing flavor to this dish. Marination and pressure cooking helps in getting a soft, melt in the mouth protein.
As any recipe, this dish has also got many different versions. I have added roasted and fried coconut. Grind ed raw coconut is also added in another version. Tempering is an highlight of this dish which I haven’t done as frying the shallots does the same. Be careful not to over flavor with chilli and coriander as we are adding while cooking and with coconut too. All the flavors should be well balanced and should hit the right note. I have seen that whole spices and garam masala peaking in many recipes.
Curry leaves with its health properties adds taste too, I have used in plenty this green leaf to squeeze out the health benefits. A traditional dish which can be served for a Xmas meal, I would like you all to try this out and get back to me with all the news and updates.
De-skin, clean, cut and wash Cassava. Coarsely crush the ginger garlic.
Add cassava in a pan and add all the ingredients given under cassava. Cook till done and drain water. Set aside after roughly mashing it up.
Marinate the beef with the ingredients given under the marinade and rest for an hour.
Add a tablespoon of coconut oil and roast and fry the coconut along with the items given under it. Cool and grind to a fine paste adding water and keep ready.
Heat a pressure cooker. Add 3-4 tablespoon of coconut oil. Add the shallots and fry till golden in color.
Add the green chilies slit and garlic cloves sliced along with curry leaves and saute till fragrant.
Add the marinated beef on high flame and saute till browned and fragrant.
Add water and pressure cook for 5 whistles or 20 minutes. After the first 2 whistles reduce the flame and cook.
Transfer the cooked beef to a pan and simmer down for 3-4 minutes.
Add the casava and combine. Simmer down till the broth is absorbed by the tapioca.
Add 1 teaspoon pepper powder, 3/4 th teaspoon cinnamon powder and 1/2 teaspoon clove powder. Integrate and cook for 3 minutes.
Add the ground coconut paste and simmer further for 5-7 minutes till you get a cooked aroma.
Pop in some curry leaves and a splash of coconut oil and serve hot.