A dark and deeply fragrant dish with a warm and spicy finish, Slow Cooker Beef Madras is a fantastic meal to cook if you are looking for something rich and satisfying for your fake-away night!
Origination of Madras curries
It’s fair to say that Madras isn’t a traditional Indian curry as the spice blend doesn’t actually originate from India and you won’t find it in traditional restaurants there.
Instead, the dish was reportedly first made in restaurants in the UK by combining ingredients widely used in the South East ‘Madras’ region of India (now called Chennai). So there isn’t one specific recipe that defines a Madras! Over time it has generally become known as a fragrant medium to hot curry with an sweet and sour undertone.
The great thing about this version of Crockpot Beef Madras is the balance of seasoning. Madras is supposed to be reasonably hot, but to make it really tasty too, it’s important that the heat doesn’t overpower the flavour. This ensures you can still taste all the elements in the sauce and the beef. After several iterations of this recipe, this is the one!
What are the ingredients in Beef Madras?
To create the intensely flavoured beef, and dark, hot and slightly sweet and sour Madras sauce, there are a number of key ingredients in the recipe:
- Tamarind – a dark and sticky paste derived from the fruit of the Tamarind tree. It adds the interesting sweet and sour note to the sauce. I used this Tamarind paste.
- Fenugreek powder – a highly fragrant ground spice derived from Fenugreek seeds. It is light in colour, has a soft and powdery texture and is a staple in Indian cooking. It really boosts the aroma of a curry. It’s now widely stocked in most supermarkets and specialist food retailers. I used this Fenugreek powder from Schwartz.
- Ginger – Fresh and zesty, ginger is a classic flavour in curries and goes particularly well in this recipe, adding to the hot and sour notes in the sauce. Try and use fresh if you can, but ground ginger will work too if that’s what you have.
Steps to make Slow Cooker Beef Madras
Making a Beef Madras curry in the slow cooker is simple! Start by preparing and marinading the beef, then searing it to release the flavours in the spices and kick-start the Maillard reaction.
Next, add the remaining ingredients to the slow cooker followed by chopped tomatoes, which form the base of that delicious curry gravy.
Add some curry leaves and red chilli pepper to suit your taste and that’s it – turn on the slow cooker and wait!
The end result is really intensely flavoured pieces of beef in a thick flavoursome sauce. Perfect for a fakeaway with very little effort.
Tips for an amazing Beef Madras
- Marinate. There are some dishes that really benefit from marinating the meat before putting it in the slow cooker and this is one of them. Beef is a strong textured and tasting meat and marinating it helps to achieve soft pieces of meat with heaps of flavour. The marinade in this recipe includes a blend of spices, tomato and a small amount of natural yoghurt. Whilst most madras recipes use a simple spice and tomato base and save the yoghurt for serving, I have added it to the marinade for two reasons; the lactic acid in the yoghurt helps to soften the meat, and it also adds a very slight sourness to the flavour profile.
- Sear. Once the beef has marinated, briefly searing it in the pan will release the flavours of the spices. This also helps retain the shape of the pieces of beef whilst slow cooking.
- Slow cooking. This is where the magic happens! The beef really tenderises and the spices and seasoning in the sauce fuse together. Over the cooking time you see the colour turn from a bright red to a deep reddish brown gravy covering the beef. The aroma that comes from the slow cooker is also pretty amazing!
How can I control the heat in my beef curry?
There are couple of options for dialling the heat up and down when making a beef madras curry. Here’s what you can do to tailor this recipe to exactly how you like it!
- If you prefer a milder curry, this recipe uses both chilli powder and a fresh red chilli pepper. Don’t add the fresh chilli.
- If you prefer a medium heat curry, slice the chilli lengthways, de-seed and add it to the curry before cooking.
- For a hot curry (as you would find in most restaurants), chop the chilli and add it to the slow cooker, complete with seeds.
When using fresh chilli it’s a good idea to taste a little of the chilli pepper before you start cooking, then you know how much heat you are adding. No two chillis are the same and can vary wildly in heat, even from the same packet!
To cool down a curry that is too spicy, stir in some natural yoghurt or coconut cream before serving. Citrus can also help, a squeeze of lime juice is a good way to curb the heat from a Madras without altering the flavour of the dish too drastically.
More Delicious Slow Cooker Curries
Crockpots are perfect for making curries. Why not try one of these alternatives?
Madras curries are known for being reasonably spicy, although this can often vary from medium to very hot depending on the chef! This variance in heat is another good reason for making a beef madras (or any curry) yourself at home in the slow cooker – you can control the heat.
Slow Cooker Beef Madras
- 750 g beef braising steak
- 1 tbsp oil – vegetable
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp cumin – ground
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tsp chilli powder – hot
- 1 tsp fenugreek
- ½ tsp cinnamon – ground
- 2 tsp coriander – dried or fresh
- 4 garlic cloves – minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 6 tbsp natural yoghurt
- 1 onion – large, white
- 1 ginger – 2cm square piece freshly grated
- 1 tsp tamarind paste – concentrated
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 beef stock cube
- 100 ml boiling water
- 400 g chopped tomatoes
- 1 red chilli pepper
- 1 small handful curry leaves
- 1 small handful of fresh coriander – optional, for serving
- In a bowl add the ingredients for the marinade (spices, dried coriander, garlic, salt, tomato puree and yoghurt) and stir well to form a paste.
- Remove any sinew from the beef then cut into large chunks (roughly 4 cm). Add the pieces of beef to the marinade and mix well to ensure all of the meat is fully coated. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes, ideally 1-2 hours. You can leave this over night if you are preparing the day before.
- Once the beef has marinated, heat a frying pan to a high heat, add 1 tbsp of oil, and sear the pieces of beef on all sides. You may need to do this in batches to ensure that the beef pieces don't simmer in the marinade. Remove the beef from the pan and transfer to the slow cooker.
- Next, add the remainder of the marinade paste from the bowl, the sliced onion, ginger, tamarind paste, sugar, and beef stock cube dissolved in boiling water. Next pour over the chopped tomatoes and add the fresh red chilli (see recipe notes). Sprinkle in a small handful of curry leaves and gently stir. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
- Once cooked, the curry will have turned a deep brown colour and have a thick fragrant sauce. Serve with chopped fresh coriander on top.
- If you don’t have beef braising steak, bavette, skirt or chuck steaks will work as alternatives.
- Don’t cut the beef chunks too small, around 4cm pieces are ideal so they retain their shape after cooking.
- If you like a spicy curry, chop the fresh red chilli and add it to the curry with the seeds. De-seed the chilli before chopping if you’d like a less intense heat.
- It’s best to always taste a small amount of your fresh chilli before you add it into your beef curry so you know how intense the heat will be.
- Serving a little natural yoghurt on the side will help to cool the heat in the sauce if required.
- Depending on the type of slow cooker you have, the cook times may need to be adjusted. I recommend you check the thickness of the sauce and texture of the meat after 5 hours.
- Leftover curry should be kept in an airtight container, and stored in the fridge for up to three days, or up to three months in the freezer.
- Ensure that the curry is piping hot all the way through before serving.