How to make Mallika Basu's mustard, chilli and cumin beef stew

Mallika Basu
Mallika Basu

In the Standard's Simply Spiced series, each fortnight food writer Mallika Basu will create a recipe around a specific spice. In this instalment, Mallika couples chilli and cumin to add a spicy twist on beef stew.

Spicy and sour, this beef stew or Bafat is an explosion of robust flavours served with a generous helping of winter vegetables.

Inspired by Portuguese colonists, it made its way into Anglo-Indian cooking with a distinct mix of spices and vinegar that gives it a unique pungency, although it’s best known as part of the cuisine of Goa and Mangalore on the South West Coast of India.

My recipe is adapted from The Calcutta Cookbook by Minakshie Das Gupta, who confirms this dish can also be made with roast meat leftovers – perfect for the canny, food waste conscious home cook!

I have used stewing steak in my version to give the meat a chance to soak up all the flavours and added a good measure of winter vegetables. As you would expect, the stew tastes even better the next day!

Mustard, chilli and cumin beef stew

Serves 3 to 4


  • 2-4 dry whole red chillies
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled and grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
  • 400gm stewing steak, cubed
  • Half tsp turmeric
  • Hot water
  • 6 chantenay carrots
  • 1 medium turnip, peeled and sliced
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 baby leeks, cubed


Dry roast the chillies, mustard seeds, cumin and coriander seeds in a small pan on medium heat for a minute then powder in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder.

Bring the oil to heat in a shallow casserole pan on a medium high heat. When it’s hot, sauté the onion for 10 minutes until golden, then add the ginger and garlic, the steak, spice mix, turmeric and seal for five minutes.

Add two cups of water, cover and cook for 45 minutes stirring from time to time. If the liquid dries up, add another cup of hot water.

Take the lid off, arrange the carrots, turnip and potatoes in the pan, add the vinegar, another half a cup of water if you need to and cook covered for 20-30 minutes until the beef is tender and the vegetables are cooked but not mushy. Drop the leeks in for the last five minutes.

Serve with brown rice or crusty bread to mop up the juices from the stew.

You can find more of Mallika Basu's 'Simply Spiced' recipes here and follow her on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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