Chef's Recipes

O Tama Carey's black braised brisket

Rich with sweet spices and soured with tamarind, this black braised brisket dish is robust and hot. Serve it with O Tama Carey’s cabbage mallung and rhubarb achcharu.

By O Tama Carey
  • Serves 6
  • 20 mins preparation
  • 3 hrs 30 mins cooking

"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.


  • 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 fresh curry leaves (loosely packed)
  • 2 long red chillies, thinly sliced
  • 1 large lemongrass stalk (white part only), coarsely chopped
  • 120 gm tamarind concentrate (⅓ cup)
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 cinnamon quills, coarsely broken (5cm each)
  • 2½ tbsp hot chilli powder
  • 1 nutmeg, finely grated
  • 2 pinches of saffron threads


  • 1
    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).
  • 2
    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.
  • 3
    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.
  • 4
    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.)


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 Drink suggestion by Max Allen

  • Author: O Tama Carey