O Tama Carey's black braised brisket

"The flavours of this dish are based on a dry black curry traditionally made with wild boar," says O Tama Carey. "The secret is in toasting the spices until they're almost but not quite burnt. Rich with sweet spices and soured with tamarind, this is a robust, spicy and hot dish." Serve this with cabbage mallung and rhubarb achcharu.

You'll need

1.8 kg piece of brisket, removed from the fridge at least 20 minutes before cooking 50 ml grapeseed or vegetable oil 4 golden shallots, thinly sliced 3 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped 10 gm ginger, finely chopped 1 cup (loosely packed) fresh curry leaves 2 long red chillies, thinly sliced 1 large lemongrass stalk (white part only), coarsely chopped 120 gm (⅓ cup) tamarind concentrate   Black curry spice blend 2 tbsp coriander seeds 1½ tbsp nigella seeds 1 tbsp black peppercorns 1 tbsp brown mustard seeds 2 tsp fennel seeds 2 tsp cardamom seeds ½ tsp cloves 2 (5cm each) cinnamon quills, coarsely broken 2½ tbsp hot chilli powder 1 nutmeg, finely grated 2 pinches of saffron threads


  • 01
  • For black curry spice blend, dry-roast whole spices over medium heat until mustard seeds start to pop and spices darken and become fragrant (4-5 minutes). Remove from pan, add chilli powder to pan and toast, stirring continuously, over low heat until quite dark (2-3 minutes; this can cause coughing and watering eyes). Add chilli powder to other dry-roasted spices along with nutmeg and saffron, then finely grind in a blender or with a mortar and pestle (see note).
  • 02
  • Preheat oven to 150C. Season brisket with salt, then rub with half the black curry spice blend. Heat a frying pan large enough to hold meat over high heat, add oil, give it a moment to heat up, then slip in the brisket. Give it a few minutes before turning and searing the other side until browned (2-3 minutes each side). Transfer to a deep baking dish that holds brisket snugly.
  • 03
  • Add shallot, garlic, ginger, curry leaves, chilli and lemongrass to the same pan used to sear the brisket, and stir over high heat for a few minutes, then add remaining black curry spice blend; it looks like a lot, but it’s necessary. Stir until spices begin to stick to the pan (6-8 minutes), then add tamarind and 500ml water. Stir and bring to the boil, then pour mixture over brisket. Cover brisket with a sheet of baking paper then foil, and braise in oven until gelatinous (3-3½ hours). Rest in pan for 20-30 minutes.
  • 04
  • Thickly slice brisket and serve with cooking juices poured over. (You may want to skim some of the fat off the top first, but I like to keep it.)

At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people
  • 210-240 cooking
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At A Glance

  • Serves 6 people
  • 210-240 cooking

Additional Notes

If all that spice sourcing and roasting seems daunting, buy a black curry powder from a Sri Lankan grocer instead. You’ll need 70gm for this recipe.

Drink Suggestion

Super-fragrant IPA

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