Parsi Inspired Braised Beef with Dried Cherries, Greens and Mango is a healthy and delicious way to get some comforting Indian food in your belly without having to leave your house and brave the weather! The dried cherries that make this dish so alluring were provided by Stoneridge Orchards, who also sponsored this post.
Guys I am head over heels for this Braised Beef with Dried Cherries. When Stoneridge Orchards contacted me about creating a recipe hi-lighting their delicious dried Montmorency (tart) cherries in a healthy slow cooker dish, I immediately started thinking north Indian (and got super excited because I genuinely love dried cherries). Dried tart cherries add such a delicious sweet and sour flavor to any dish (similar to cranberries, but I like the cherries better, they are somehow richer), and the spices used in Parsi (north Indian cooking influenced by the Persians who settled in India) cooking would balance that sweet tart flavor beautifully.
Now healthy can be a little bit in the eye of the beholder, with so much conflicting information being flung at us these days, but for me healthy means whole foods with less empty carbs, which this dish definitely qualifies as with beef, kale, cilantro, onions, mango and Greek yogurt. To boost the protein and help less of the dish go further in filling you up, I added some red lentils–which also have the benefit of thickening the sauce. Remember as well that this dish makes 8-10 servings, so it is actually not that much beef per serving. But if the fatty (and delicious!) beef chuck bothers you in this recipe, you can try chicken thighs mixed with chicken breasts (cooked for less time). The flavor will not be quite as rich or savory, but it will still be delicious. I do serve the dish with Basmati rice, but you can use brown Basmati rice, a whole grain flatbread, or skin-on potatoes in the dish for your carb (or skip the carb completely).
This Braised Beef with Dried Cherries is built in layers: The first layer is the whole spices roasted in oil, to perfume the entire dish. Then you brown the meat, which adds a rich, umami base to the dish. The next layer is what would be the masala in India, the chopped onions, garlic, ginger and some ground spices. Then the dish is slowly braised with half of the cherries. This first addition of cherries will fall apart and incorporate the entire dish with their sweet and sour essence. Then, about an hour or less from serving, we add the next layer of ingredients, the ingredients we do not want to fall apart or become mushy (the greens of course will a bit no matter what). This includes the rest of the dried cherries (you can reserve a few to garnish the dish), sliced onions, kale and cilantro. When mango is not in season, this would be a great time to add butternut squash or sweet potato. OK so far we have 5 layers–but we are not done! And guys this is so simple, it is not long or overwhelming, it is just steps, but each layer adds so much flavor. At the very end, we mix in the yogurt, mangoes and lime juice–along with some more spices. And try not to swoon at the smells in your kitchen!
The entire family adored this dish. It is spicy, but gently so, not at all hot (unless you are John and add chile pepper flakes), just complex from the melding of the spices. You might be surprised to see the bulk of the cilantro added early, but in Indian saag dishes, cilantro is often added with the other greens. I loved the way the colors in this dish play off of one another too–which is why I got kind of crazy taking pictures with two different table backdrops and three different colors of napkins!
I originally pitched this dish as a stew. We decided we liked it better as a braise, i.e., kind of like a pot roast, saucy but not brothy. But if you prefer the idea of it as a stew, just double the beef stock.
Note that onions are called for twice in the recipe, for a total of 4 medium-large onions.
- 1-2 T vegetable oil
- 4 black (smoky) cardamom pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 t dark mustard seeds
- 2 lbs beef chuck, cut into biggish cubes, with salt and black pepper rubbed into them
- 2 t cumin seeds
- 1 medium-large onion, chopped
- 8 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-3 T ginger paste
- 1/2 t turmeric
- 1 t cayenne or paprika, depending on heat tolerance
- 2 T double strength tomato paste
- 2 t garam masala, divided, plus more to taste
- 3 cups beef stock, low sodium if commercial
- 2 cups dried cherries, divided
- 1/2 cup red lentils
- 3 medium-large onions, sliced
- 1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves coarsely chopped
- 1 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped, some reserved for garnish
- the flesh of 2 mangoes cut into chunks
- Juice of 1 lime, plus have a 2nd on hand for more if desired
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
Heat a cooktop-safe slow cooker insert (or large, heavy pan) on medium high heat with the oil, black cardamom pods and cinnamon stick. When they become fragrant, move them around to roast on different sides and add the mustard seeds. Place a lid over the pan.
When the mustard seeds slow their popping, brown the beef cubes, in stages if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan. When they are a rich brown on 2 sides, remove them to a bowl and set aside.
Add the cumin seeds--wait until now for the cumin seeds because they burn more easily. Let them roast until darkened and fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the chopped onion with a pinch of salt. Cook the onion, using the juices that are released to deglaze the pan. If the yummy stuck bits from the beef start to scorch before the onion releases water, add a splash or two of water.
Cook the onions until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the turmeric, paprika (or cayenne), tomato paste and 1 teaspoon of garam masala. Stir to evenly roast the spices, but do not let them burn. After 30-60 seconds add the beef stock, and scrape the bottom of the pan. If you are using homemade beef stock, add a teaspoon or so of salt to the dish. If using storebought low sodium stock, add just a pinch of salt. And please don't use commercial stock that is not low sodium!
At this point, either return your cooktop safe slow cooker insert to the slow cooker, or pour the contents of the pan into your slow cooker. Add the beef, along with any accumulated juices, into the slow cooker. Stir in 1 cup of the dried cherries and the red lentils.
Cover and cook either 3 hours on high or 6 hours on low.
When the time is up, add the sliced onions, kale and cilantro (reserve a few sprigs for garnishing). Stir into the dish and put the lid back on. Cook on high for 45 more minutes.
While the dish is finishing cooking, prep the mango and toss it in a bowl with the juice of 1 lime. When the 45 minutes is over, add spoonfuls of the dish to the yogurt (use a medium sized bowl) and whisk it together until you have added enough cooking liquid to make the bottom of the bowl warm. You do this to temper the yogurt, so it is not shocked when it is added to the hot dish (and therefore curdles).
Add the warm yogurt mixture into the dish and stir it in. Add the mangoes with the lime juice and stir it in. Stir in 1 more teaspoon of garam masala.
Now taste it. If desired, add more lime juice, salt or more garam masala.
Serve with rice, potatoes or flatbread, garnished with fresh cilantro sprigs and a few dried cherries.
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