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Beef Curry In A Hurry

Tuesday saw the the first, real rain, and by lunchtime I'd already received SMS's from two different shoe stores, offering a discount on winter boots. It never fails to amaze me how we live with courage in a political hot-spot, yet the entire country falls apart when the seasons change. In the spirit of 'battening down the hatches', I offer you the beef curry dish I make most often, as it's super speedy and ultra delicious. Because it's made with ground beef - which is conveniently on offer this week - it cooks way faster than beef cubes and is guaranteed to be tender. The addition of red lentil and spinach adds texture, and added protein, plus it stretches a single package of ground beef to feed 6 to 8. Let 'winter' do its worst...with new boots and warming curry we're prepared for anything.

3 tablespoons canola oil 2 onions, finely chopped 2 teaspoons crushed garlic 1 heaped tablespoon curry powder OR Ashoka paste* 2 teaspoons each cumin, ground coriander & turmeric 3 x star anise (from spice shops) 500 grams ground beef 800 gram can chopped tomatoes 1 cup red lentils, rinsed but not soaked 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed (optional) 3 cups beef or onion stock (Ina Paarman is great) 2 cinnamon sticks or 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 1 to 2 teaspoons salt (begin with one and taste before serving) 2 to 3 tablespoons tomato paste 4 large handfuls chopped baby spinach leaves (optional) 1: Using a large, wide based pot, heat the oil and fry the onions and garlic for a few minutes till softened. 2: Add the ground spices and allow to sizzle briefly then reduce heat, add the ground beef, and toss till lightly browned. 3: Add the remaining ingredients, bring to the boil, then turn heat to low and simmer covered, stirring occasionally, for 20-25 minutes till the mixture is thick but moist. 4: Remove cinnamon and star anise and serve over yellow Basmati rice. COOK'S NOTES: If using Ashoka curry paste - Curry Basic, Biryani, Tikka, Madras or Vindaloo - you'll enjoy even more flavor as these are amazing. Dish freezes well and serves 6 to 8.

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