Last summer (yes, it’s been that long), CB and I spent a couple of weeks in Koh Samui in Thailand where, aside from being feasted on by mosquitos, we spent a lot of time thinking about, making and eating Thai food.
Determined to learn more about authentic Thai food we took the plunge and signed up to a local cookery class. CB had put in some serious time at the gym beforehand to ensure that her forearm fitness was primed for a bit of curry paste grinding, and we’d been running our flashcards on the plane – we could recognise galangal from 100 paces. Only when we got to the cookery school, we were told that there wasn’t time to make curry paste: “if you want to make it yourself, check out our website when you get home” they said. Needless to say we thought this was some sweet B.S.
But hey, they were right. The internet is a great resource for Thai recipes, and provided you have access to a decent Asian supermarket (or even Amazon prime in a pinch), you’ll get great results. We’ve tried a number of massaman recipes over the years, but for us this is the winner.
Beef Massaman Curry
Red onion (roughly diced)
2-3 mild red chillies (roughly chopped, seeds in)
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp white pepper
3 cloves garlic (peeled)
2 sticks lemongrass (chopped, bottom 2 thirds of each stick)
7cm ginger (peeled, roughly chopped)
3 tsp fish/squid sauce
1 tsp brown sugar (palm or caster sugar would be fine too)
coriander stalks from 30-35g bunch (roughly chopped, retain leaves)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1kg diced beef
1.5 tbsp cornflour (don’t sweat it if you don’t have it to hand)
400ml beef stock (1 cube)
400ml coconut milk (see note)
1 star anise (optional)
2 large potatoes (2 big maris pipers did the trick, but whatever you have is fine. Chop into small chunks)
Juice of half a lime (perhaps a little more if you’re not using a lime squeezer)
60g basmati rice per person
Kaffir lime leaves (chiffonade)
Coriander leaves (finely chopped)
Note: you’ll find a percentage on the back of tins of coconut milk which advises of the level of coconut extract. Coconut milk from Indian or Caribbean brands tends to have a percentage around 50%, which is is fine in most circumstances, but we find that our Thai dishes improve tenfold when we use coconut milk that has a much higher amount of coconut extract – 75-80% – as this gives the dishes a much richer, and creamier taste. If you have a decent Asian supermarket nearby go and give their coconut milk shelf a raid as they usually have a good range of options. If you can’t get it, no worries, just avoid using lite coconut milk.
- Make the curry paste by blending all the ingredients. Pestle-and-mortar-related RSI is a thing of the past if you have a decent blender.
- Get a deep pan with lid and heat up, on a high heat, 1 tbsp of the oil. Rub the cornflour over the beef, lightly season, and brown the meat for about 5 mins per batch. Unless your pan is huge you’ll have to brown the meat in two batches.
- Add all the beef back into the pan and add all of the curry paste. Cook for a few minutes, then add the coconut milk, stock and star anise. Bring to a simmer and then turn down to a low heat for 1h 45 minutes – lid on. Check on it every now and then to check it isn’t drying out or catching.
- If the amount of oil sitting on the top of the dish scares you, as it does us, grab a spoon and carefully skim most of it away into a separate disposal container. Add the potatoes and bring to the boil. Lower the temperature and cook for 30-35 mins.
- Once the potatoes are cooked, add the lime juice. Serve with rice, and top with kaffir lime, and coriander leaves.