Beef Bhuna

I think that smell has more power than any other of the senses to bring back memories.  The spicy sweet smells of this bhuna are my own personal time capsule back to a time when I was at college and living in a London bedsit.   Lilly, who lived in one of the bedsits below me, used to make bhuna weekly.  I’d not smelt anything at all like it.  I think it is the fenugreek seeds in the bhuna that gives it that beguiling maple syrup curried smell.  Give  this curry a go and let me know what you think it smells of and to create memories of your own.  I think that it’s a special dish.

To start this curry off you toast the spices and then grind them to a coarse powder in either a pestle and mortar or a grinder (in my case a repurposed coffee grinder that I keep especially for this – unless you like curry spiced coffee!)

You don’t have to make this curry with beef.  Chicken, lamb, butternut squash (or any robust vegetable) all work instead   Traditionally it’s quite a dry curry that majors on tomatoes, ginger and garlic but I like to add extra tomatoes so it’s slightly more liquid as that way you don’t have to watch it so much in the final cooking   It’s in that last cooking that the flavour develops so leave the final seasoning right to the end.  I add some yoghurt or Creme fraiche at this stage too which is totally my own take – I find it balances the flavours out to my personal taste but please add or not depending on your taste.

Ingredients (serves 8)

  • 1tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1tsp fennel seeds
  • 1tsp fenugreek
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2tbsp vegetable oil of ghee
  • 6 cloves garlic, grated
  • 4cm fresh root ginger, grated
  • 2 x 400g chopped tinned tomatoes
  • 1tbsp turmeric
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 6-7 dried curry leaves, crushed
  • salt
  • 1kg diced stewing beef
  • bunch fresh coriander
  • 1heaped tbsp Greek yoghurt or Creme fraiche


  1. Place cumin seeds, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds and dried red chillies into a heated, dry pan
  2. When the seeds have coloured a little and smell fragrant tip into a pestle and mortar or a spice grinder and pound/process into a powder.
  3. Put oil into a large pan and add chopped onions.  Cook for 10-15 mins over a medium heat until soft and lightly browned.
  4. Add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon and dried curry leaves to the pan. Stir and sauté for another 2 mins before adding the tomatoes and reserved spice mix you ground earlier.
  5. Stir well before adding the meat and a half teaspoon of salt.  Make sure everything is coated and then put on the ladder and simmer gently for an hour or so until meat is tender.  Remember to stir occasionally so curry doesn’t stick.
  6. When ready, adjust seasoning, add yoghurt/Creme fraiche if required.   Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve with rice and maybe some steamed green beans or other green vegetable.



  1. I can smell the curry all the way across the Atlantic! It is so important to the success of the dish to bloom the spices as you have. A great tip to use creme fraiche to balance the dish. I’ve used yoghurt in the past, but I’ll definitely give this a try!

    • Lickthespoon says:

      Like so many things necessity is the mother of invention. I only discovered Creme fraiche worked because I didn’t have any yoghurt!!! Loving your blog by the way

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