Preparation / Directions:
It's interesting, as I go through this humungous pile of newspapers, to see how my tastes have changed over the past three years. Some of the things I marked then, I find myself discarding now. Some of the stuff that didn't interest me at the time, I'm scanning to save. This one was on the list then and is still on the list.
Trim the meat and cut into 3/4-inch pieces.
Place the tamarind in a nonmetallic bowl; pour in 1 1/2 cups hot water and let soak at least 1 hour. Work the tamarind with fingers to squeeze out as much pulp and juice as possible. Strain into a bowl and set aside. Discard the residue.
Heat a dry skillet over medium heat. Add the chile peppers, cinnamon sticks, cloves, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and black peppercorns; roast the spices, stirring and shaking the skillet constantly, until the coriander, cumin and chile peppers turn several shades darker, and all the spices release their fragrance. This will take 3 to 4 minutes, Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Grind the spices in a spice grinder and set aside.
Put the ginger and garlic in a medium-sized non metallic bowl with the vinegar. Blend in the ground, roasted spices. Add the meat and mix thoroughly to coat with the spice mixture. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight or up to 48 hours.
Heat the oil in a heavy pan, add onions and cook until they turn reddish brown, 12 to 20 minutes. Add the meat (with its marinade) in two batches, stirring and searing the pieces over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until almost all the liquid evaporates and fat separates from the mixture. You will see small pools of fat on the surface.
Stir in the tamarind and some salt; cover and simmer until the meat is very tender, about 1 hour. Check the water content from time to time, and add 1/4 cup hot water once or twice. Serve hot with steamed rice.
NOTE: Tamarind is found in cake form at Indian markets.
San Francisco Chronicle, 12/7/