Sunday, December 16, 2007

Beef Varattiyathu - Kuttanadan Beef Roast

Those days when I showed no interest in cooking, my mother and aunts used to impart the words of wisdom through the ever popular saying that “The way to a man's heart is through his stomach” and that it would be very difficult for me when it comes to cooking, after marriage; and I grew up seeing some of my elder cousins and college seniors complaining about their husbands who gave them a hard time saying , “ …this is not how my mom cooks…..” or “….or my mom’s version is better …” !!! Am sure some of you out there are able to associate yourself with this situation and I would say, you guys are lucky as you are at an advantage that you know the ‘chef’ here in person and you can very well get recipes from your MIL and learn her secrets, unless she is someone like our dear friend Marie from Everybody Loves Raymond, who shares her precious meatball recipe with her daughter-in-law Debra, by sabotaging the cooking lesson, by gluing a fake label of basil on a jar of tarragon!.

Though I have no idea how I entered into my man’s heart, I had to face a different standard of comparison. In my case, I never had to compete with my MIL’s cooking skills; rather I had to compete with some local Pachakakkaran/Chef from a small restaurant or a Thattukada (road-side eatery) at Kesavadasapuram, Trivandrum, who used to prepare the best beef curry or chicken fry, my husband has ever eaten!!!!! It’s not that simple a situation for me to learn recipes from some unknown guy, earning his livelihood, in a small town in Trivandrum, whipping up these delicacies, my husbands has a craving for. There were times I used to get irritated when CJJ used to rave about the Porotta ( Flat bread) and chicken fry he used to have from Chinnu’s Restaurant, Kesavadasapuram or seeing him getting excited at the mere mention of beef curry and porotta from Ambalappatu restaurant while I cook and serve one of these; but slowly I realized that it is the trademark of guys hailing from this capital city of Kerala. If two guys from this small city meet in some other corners of the world, you will see them cherishing their bachelor days with a reference to those “thattu” specials from Kesavadasapuram quite nostalgically. If you think I am exaggerating, see what a true-blue Trivandrum-ite blogger friend of mine from here , says: “I can go to the best hotel in town and eat till I can’t take in anymore. But they don’t taste as good as the parotta bought using hard saved money from Ambalapattu…” !!!!! Yes, these small restaurants seem to have cast a spell on these guys, raising the standards and giving trouble to poor spouses like me!

Anyway, I have stopped competing with those local chefs realizing that I will never be able to reproduce the same taste but that does not stop me from learning one of the best methods of cooking up these dishes and one such style is his grandma’s Kuttanadan preparation. I have already blogged some of her precious recipes and many of you have tried them out successfully. Here’s one more to your collection. Beef Varattiyathu aka Beef Roast is a red- meat preparation where the meat is cooked with pungent flavour of the spices and fresh herbs and roasted enough to make it stay good for several days when refrigerators were a luxury of the day.

  • ¾ kg (approx. 1.60 lb) fresh beef cubed and washed
  • 1 cup red small onions thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp garlic minced
  • 2 tbsp ginger minced
  • 6 green chillies split lengthwise
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh curry leaves
  • ½ - ¾ cup small coconut slices/'Thengakothu’
  • Masala powder (Recipe follows)
  • 2 tbsp coriander powder
  • 1 ½ tsp red chilly powder
  • ¼ tsp + ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
To make the Masala Powder: (For ¾ kg beef)
  • 2 tbsp fennel seeds/'Perinjeerakam
  • ¾ tbsp black peppercorns
  • 6-8 small ½ inch cinnamon sticks
  • 2 cloves
  • 2 cardamoms
  • Grind and powder the spices, mentioned to make the masala powder. Keep ½ teaspoon masala powder aside; make a marinade with the rest of the masala powder, turmeric, salt, minced garlic and ginger, adding few drops of water; apply it thoroughly on the meat, using your hands and leave it in room temperature for around 20 -30 minutes.
  • Pressure cook the marinated meat, without adding water, until it gets cooked well. (Note: My pressure cooker takes about 4 whistles to do the cooking but it varies depending on the meat, and the wear and tear of the cooker. If it is not a tender meat, add a teaspoon of vinegar to speed up the cooking.)
  • Once the pressure cooking is done, heat oil in a big shallow pan, sauté the small onions and green chillies until they turn pale in low flame, At this stage, add turmeric powder, red chilly powder and coriander powder and stir continuously until the raw smell goes, making sure that you don’t burn your onions or spice powders. Now add the coconut slices and 2 sprigs of curry leaves and combine well with the base mixture and then add the cooked beef to this and cook covered, in medium heat, for around 4 minutes, until it starts boiling. (Do not add water at this stage as pressure cooking must have already produced some water from the meat). Now remove the lid and add the ½ tsp masala powder, kept aside earlier, and roast the meat, in low flame for 10-15 minutes, until it reaches a brown colour, as in the picture. Do a taste –test in between and adjust the salt, if needed. Just two minutes before turning off the heat, add a sprig of curry leaves; do not omit this stage of cooking as it really helps the dish to attain a wonderful aroma and fresh fragrance of the curry leaves.
  • Serve warm with rice or Palappam (Laced pancakes), chappathi or porotta (Indian flat breads). This dish attains its real flavour after a couple of hours from cooking and tastes the best, after a day or two!!
Note: The taste is largely dependent on the quality of the meat and also the fat content. If you thoroughly remove all that fat from the meat, it reduces the taste. The black peppercorns I have used are those I got from CJJ’s place and it’s quite strong; so if you re using the store-bought ones, make adjustments according to the spice level. Substituting small pearl onions with big onions is not a good idea if you are looking for the authentic "Naadan" taste. If you plan to include this in your x’mas menu you may think of cooking this one or two days in advance as it will only enhance the taste.

Other Kuttanadan Recipes from this blog:

No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.


  1. hahaha [:D].... you are so right abt the comparison thing! I guess all of us have had to face this atleast once.. Lovely pics!!!

  2. Hi shn...kothippikkuvanallooo..looks yummy yummy...again i wanted to say abt ur presentation shn...its is fabulous!!! btw did u ever try strawbery cake..if u have can u plz fwd to me?

  3. :) LOL, You know, I am sure they are cherishing that golden era of their carefree youth more than the taste of the dish itself... We had a restaurant next to our college where the porotta and chicken masala and beef fry were to die for, or at least that is what I thought. I had my dad drive me there a few years after I left college, and the food really sucked :) I should've just left the memories alone...

    About the beef fry... DROOL....

  4. New layout looks nice. And beef fry looks really yummy.

    Wish you a merry Xmas and happy & prosperous 2008 with lot more recipes.

  5. wow..there it is one of my all time favourite dish..:-)
    and yeah..thanks for the mention..

    i must say you have accurately analysed the trivandrumite fascination for thattu...I dont miss visiting one everytime I go home..

    But i must say from the snaps they look as delicious but probably it would take sometime for a diehard fan like CJJ to admit it !! :-P

    am really really hungry this time..does DHL do express delivery..;-P

  6. lol at your words...although, Dinesh hardly does the comparison thing sometimes I wish my mil was alive, though...could have learnt so much from her...your roast looks great.

  7. Yeah i agree with sog they cherish more the carfree era than the cooking :-)
    I love the beef fry. Looks delicious.

  8. I remember learning some dishes from my MIL only to be told they won't taste like the restaurant ones!! :)

  9. Mishmash, Rocky always asks my keralite friends to make this whenever we go to their place for dinners. I tried the same recipe couple of times dear at home but the taste always differs yaar.
    Your pictures, the recipe is absolutely incredible!!Yummy!!

  10. Looks yum Mish, Love the twists I can include fro my regular version. Bookmarked for the holiday season.

  11. when i got married i had to compete with nikhunjam chillie chicken, and the chicken fry from the killipaalam thattu kada. tho i became a fan of both places too, i still hear paens abt the places. :))i am going to make xmas cake with ur recipe. i have been soaking dry fruits in rum for almost a month now.thnx.

  12. Pass me that dish...I will show you how to empty that within 2 minutes ;)
    Was wondering how come you dint post this one so far!..

    Reg the cookies...what actually is confectioner's sugar?Can powdered sugar be substituted?
    otherwise all the materials are available here..and would like to give a try..:)

  13. Having not had much of thattukada food..i can't compare nor R can. This looks really delicious. After trying other kuttanadan recipes.. i will def try this too.

  14. enjoyed the usual intro to the post ! though the beef roast is not for me!
    hey ! i tried out your cookies and they are just fabulous! thankx

  15. Delicious as always! I love beef stew like this a lot!

  16. NOw all I need is a virtual plate of porottas to lap it all up!!1

    Lovely beef there

  17. S, no wonder yours continues to be my most favourite foodie blog.
    P.S. Merry Christmas!

  18. Mu MIL doesn't cook at all, her excuse is Asthma!! But she never had the opportunity to criticize me bcos we RAN from India before she did!:P
    Beef roast looks yum. Love the color. I see your butter cookies too!! We think alike!:))

  19. I want to have some of this but I don't want to make it myself, I want you to make it for me :)

  20. i dont eat beef but that curry looks soooo deleciousssss lovely pics mishmash

  21. not really a beef eater....but this post had me salivating!!!...i must confess that i read ur posts while eating another one of my 'burnt or boring' dinner..and it makes the dinner so delicious!!!

    Merry Xmas and Happy New Year!!!

  22. Ramya, :) Thank you and Happy Holidays :)

    Chithra, ohh ..i havent tried any strawberry cakes yet...but if I try something and it comes out well , i will surely post the recipe..sorry i could not be of much help to you here:(

    Sig,I guess sometimes, the people around you and the environment you re in also makes the food more tasty....and as u said, its that happy youth that makes all the difference to the tastebuds :)

    Alexis, thank you so much and wish you all the best 2008 can offer someone :)

    Mathew, even if DHL does express service, I dont dare to offer this to a kottayamkaaran achayan whose blood is also stained with beef ularthiyathu :D Anyway, i have decided to include these two restuarants on my next vacation and really see what this obsession is all about :P

    Sunita,oh sorry about that !Merry X'mas dear...have a fun time with kiddos :)

    Happy Cook, thank still enjoying the cakes , huh ?:) Happy Holidays :)

    Jyothsna, aww...thats so bad...but thats ok, you got to learn all her golden tricks right :)

    Padmaja, Yeah..kerala beef fry is quite famous for its taste....I dont know from where you tasted it...I have noticed here that the meat is not as tasty as the one we get back home in that makes a huge difference...even if I follow our family recipes, taste doesnt come anywhere near blame it on meat :) give this recipe a try...and see if u get a closer taste :)

    Rina, let me know if you were happy with the twists :) Merry X'mas :)

    Alakananda, looks like all of us have some story or other to talk about :) let me know your cake story...hope you enjoy the taste :)

    Bharathy,so i got a bit late, huh? :) yes, both are the same..use powdered sugar....make it very smooth and powdery and then you re all set...cant go wrong at all :) Enjoy and Happy Holidays :)

    Pravs, yes...pls do and let me know :)

    Nanditha, hey...thats so nice to hear :) Hope kids liked it too :)

    Anh, hmm...this is not a stew kind....this is a dry preparation....roasted enough to make it dry :)

    Rachel, I will give you virtual porottoas will be featured in this blog next year :)

    Macadamia the nut, really ? :) Happy Holidays :) Btw, how come your food blog is private now ?

    Asha, hahahha...i know that story :P those cookies are my favourite too.....yum right :)

    Cynthia, sure dear...i would love to :) and after tasting, dont forget to say that thats the best roast u ve ever tasted :P just kidding :)

    Sagari, if you eat mutton, you can try the same with that....or else I have a chicken roast recipe which is again a Kuttanadan one...u can try that :)

    Ann, I wish you were my neighbour , so I could call you home for dinner or lunch!!! Have a fin filled X'mas...I know you re away from home, but thats ok, have fun with ur friends...:)


  23. honey there are some dishes that you just cant make like your mother in law , no matter what !!! even if yours tastes better its still not the same as hers. Simply as your hubby has grown up to the taste , and nothing can substitute that. So if ever you have to hear that, simply say , maybe we'll let mum make it when she's over the next time :P hahaha

  24. i stopped eating beef around 4 years back. but my sis wud love that!!! :D
    i make the same preparation with chicken, and it tastes yummy too! :)

  25. I had prepared this dish last weekend. My husband did not say anything. I thought he did not like it and decided that I would not try anything more that had fennel seeds in it (he doesn't like fennel seeds much) and took the printed recipe and tore it into bits and threw it in the bin totally disheartened. I thought the dish was great. I love the taste of fennel seeds in food, esp in meat and biryani and I'm crazy about curry leaves!

    Last night I had prepared some oven baked fish which he enjoyed very much, but his suggestion was to make the fish together with "that tasty beef dish you had made last weekend" with lots of vegetables.

    All in all, I am glad I can take a print out of the recipe from the net and most probably I will prepare it again this weekend with the extras. The only difference between your recipe and how I made it was I used grated coconut. The children carefully leave the bits of coconut at the side of their plates. Shredded coconut tastes good too once it has absorbed the flavours from the masala.

  26. Kajal,yeah..thats a good one...but I 'm thinking how to get in touch with these small restaurant chefs :)))) I really wish I could learn their techniques :)

    Nags,if you like mutton, you can prepare the same like this .

    ANonymous, :))))I can imagine your earlier frustration and the surprise and smile after that :) Thanks a lot for this long personal note.....and I am quite glad that ur hubby did mention "tasty beef"...I have a couple of friends who always complain that their hubby wont make any comments unless they re asked to. So here onwards, I guess its better to ask him straight rather than going through all that irritation :) Thanks a lot for this such comments :)


  27. Hi Mishmash , Have always visited your blog , drooled over the ethnicity of the recipes reminscing our good Kerala ...Tried beef varattiyathu with Mutton. 3 cheers, it was fabulous. Me & my husband loved it. Told my mom too who is also a blogger ( The photography of most of the recipes are perfect. Do u use an SLR Nikon?
    Have a great year ahead..


  28. Bethfairy, Thank you for such a lovely comment and appreciation. Means a lot :) Yes, mutton fry with the same recipe is also very good, happy that your family enjoyed and really appreciate such a feedback after trying one of my recipes. Your mom's blog is really good, she has got quite a collection over there...i loved her bead works too. Well,I use a very tiny digi cam, not any SLR :) mine is canon A 85 :)


  29. I tried it today and it came out very well just like my mom's curry.My mom makes all types of veg and non veg dishes with coconut slices in it and it tasted very good. I love any food with coconut slices in it. A big thank you for posting these recipes.

  30. hey Shn

    I tried this out other day & it came out really well. i usually make it with big onions and tried this one for a change. I think the small onions add a typical kerala flavor to this & we just loved it :)

  31. haha...i am also from kseavadasapuram and second your husband's opinion on Chinnu's and Ambalapattu! my sis was cooking with your recipe when she told me to come over and read what you have written about tvm guys.

  32. I tried this recipe 2 weeks back and it come out perfectly ... Thanks for the recipe ...

  33. Hi Shn,

    May this year be filled with all the bright and beautiful things in life!
    Wish you a happy and prosperous NEW YEAR!

  34. Hi Shn,

    Thanks to you I finally started having beef.This dish turned out perfect. I have posted the story in my blog :)

  35. Hai my name is tom am living in Australia,am really impressed with your website,but i have small request can you able to add more recipes of about the beef preparation,i really love to eat beef,but i kw one you have given in this i would like to prepare in a different style.
    Thanking you,tom

  36. hello mishmash....
    thanx for such a nice recepe....i tried dis last sunday n i felt very happy to see ma hubby looking me n smiling when he had the first piece....thank u so much...n am gonna be a regular visitor to ur blog.....c u again

  37. hey auntie, its me seby here....thanks for the coment that you left me on and also i had a question for you. do you know how to make a really good kerala chicken curry....i mean i make it at home ....its just sautaing onions with chilies , ginger and garlic and once brown adding spices and after that tomatoes and then cooking chicken with that mixture and at the end adding coconut milk. and that comes out good but i once ate a really good chicken curry in kerala in a wedding but i dont know how to make it....just wondering if you or your extremly culinary minded mom :) know how to make it? ...thanks 4 all...-


  38. I love to cook an bake of my passions…I tried the recipe…turned out wonderful….i kind of made the gravy semi gravy……this was my first kerala inspired beef dish….will soon be trying some more from your blog…


  39. u are wonderful....cant stay without saying not a beef eater..and haven'tever in my life prepared it,until last friday being inspired by ur post..wah came out very well

  40. thanks mishmash....i became great fan of urs now after preparing this dish

  41. Thanks for these wonderful recipes. I have only discovered your site today but am sure will now be a regular!
    Quick question. Lots of your recipes ask for coconut slices. I am not sure how big or small these should be. Do you have a picture to post? Can it be substituted with grated coconut which seems to be the easiest to get at the Indian stores? Any suggestions?

  42. u can see the coconut bits in my dish itself...the one in cream colour,,,,if u re not used to it, u might as well skip it.....grated coconut is not a substitute for this.

  43. For a non-malayalee, this site is a treasure trove as I love malayalee cuisine (I'm a manglorean - coastal sister, after all!). I tried this recipe recently and it came out really well... Thanks, Shn... your posts rock.

  44. This blog is my HG. I love your recipes. I love appam so much and I was never able to make it using other recipes. But I am enjoying appam now thanks to ur recipe.

    I also love ur beef fry, beef stew,pepper fish fry...etc..

  45. Thank you! Thank you!
    Thank you soooooo MUCH!

  46. I know you posted this recipe quite a while back but I only found your blog last year as I was searching for a recipe for the delicious Beef fry and Kappa I had in Kerala two years back. Your recipe is delicious and is a favorite of my family. I make it every time I crave some beef! Thank you so much. Your food blog is awesome!

  47. Hi

    Your blog is really helpful

    I was not that good in cooking but now after using your recipe my hus and friends love my cooking.

    Even my hubby is a great fan of chinnus. We are in uk and my hubby miss chinnus beef fry and porotta than his family.

    Thanks for your blog

  48. Just tried this beef roast, Mishmash! It turned out great! I missed the green chillies and coconut (ran out of these) and forgot the coriander powder, still turned out great! This recipe is a keeper!

    Thank you! :)

  49. At last, I got to perfect this dish! I think I really hit it! Thanks a lot.

  50. The thattu kada at kdpm, tvm was a treat. Chinnus I never had the pleasure. Ambalapattu was around during my school days, they might have sold out- last time I was thru there they were putting up a hi rise. Tvm back in the day was so much nicer.

    CJJ is a man of discerning tastes.
    Thanks for an entertaining post.

    A once upon a time kdpm boy


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.