Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Hot diggety!

Curries are quite possibly my favourite food: Indian, Thai, Malaysian, Nepalese – you name it, I love it!  I’m told that if you eat curry morning noon and night eventually you get bored... somehow I just can’t imagine it.  I’m hooked on everything about them, if they’re spicy, mild, nutty, creamy, sour, fruity... whichever persuasion, I literally salivate at the thought.  In fact I should probably stop typing now while I go and fetch a bib...

Last weekend I was off on another surf trip and decided to make a dinner which could be arranged ahead of time for minimum fuss when we got back (worn out!) from the beach.  Curry was obviously my first port of call... so I decided to try an old favourite which I haven’t made for a few years - Massaman Beef Curry.  Massaman curries are rooted in Southern Thailand’s Muslim community, and this particular recipe was from “New Curries” by The Australian Women’s Weekly.

I decided to cook this at my parent’s house despite the fact that they’re away on holiday.  Firstly I wanted to pick up the car before the journey west, and secondly (after last week’s fruit gum debacle) I wanted to take advantage of their fully functioning oven.  Unfortunately I hadn’t factored in sourcing the ingredients from their local Morrison’s – cultural diversity is a concept which obviously doesn’t appear on this particular supermarket’s radar.

The recipe took on a life of its own and became a masterpiece of substitution.  After a panicked phone call to my brother (my personal IT helpdesk/curry guru) followed by a Challenge Anneka style race around the closing store, I figured out how to proceed... 

No Tamarind – Used Lime Juice
No Shrimp Paste – Used Extra Fish Sauce
No Palm Sugar – Used Brown Sugar
No Kaffir Lime Leaves – Used Lime Zest  (I have since read that adding bay leaves as well as the zest will make a better substitute)
No Kumara – Used Sweet Potato
No Peanut Oil – Used Groundnut Oil
No Unsalted Peanuts (come on Morrisons!!  This isn’t exactly an exotic request... work with me!) – Used washed Salted Peanuts

Make the curry paste: preheat the oven to 180˚C.  Soak the dried chillies in boiling water for 15 minutes and then drain.  20 chilli peppers!  WOW, although this sounds a little nerve racking, you only use ½ tbsp per serving so it’s diluted quite a lot.  Saying that I didn’t let on how many had gone into dinner until my friend had already tried it - a store of natural yogurt was kept on standby and although it was used generously the heat wasn’t overpowering by any means.

Next dry fry all of the spices until they become really fragrant. 

I couldn’t find any ground coriander or cardamom (of course not!) so I ended up grinding whole spices (time consuming and a far from an interesting pastime) with a pestle and mortar. 
Mum I promise I didn’t break it, the handle has been coming loose for years!

Place the chillies, spices, onion, garlic, lemongrass, Kaffir lime leaves, ginger, shrimp paste, and peanut oil in an ovenproof dish and roast uncovered for 15 minutes. 

Once this has cooled sufficiently, blend it until it becomes the texture of a paste.

This paste can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the fridge for quite a reasonable amount of time.

Once the curry paste has been prepared, make the curry: Place the beef, ¾ of the stock, the cardamom, cloves, star anise, sugar, fish sauce, 1tbsp tamarind and half of the coconut milk in a casserole dish and simmer uncovered for 1½  hours until the beef is almost tender.  You can either do this on the stove or as I did in the oven (still at 180˚C – who knew ovens were capable of such feats?).

Remove the beef and keep warm to one side.  Strain the liquid and reserve 1 cup (discarding the cardamom pods and star anise). 

Then cook the curry paste in the same casserole dish until fragrant.  Add the remaining coconut milk, tamarind and stock.  Bring to the boil, and cook stirring until smooth (about one minute).  Return the beef to the pan with the onion, kumara and the 1 cup of reserved braising liquid. 

Simmer uncovered at least 30 minutes until the beef and vegetables are tender.  As with all curries, they are best if then left overnight for the flavours to fully develop.

Once cooked, the curry was unceremoniously dumped in the passenger foot well for the whole of the four hour car journey to Devon.  For some reason – maybe because we’re completely mind-numbed after a boring week at work – we always end up going around every single roundabout between London and Barnstaple at least twice.  This isn’t a great idea at the best of times, but it’s an especially flawed plan when you’re trying to keep a particularly fishy-smelling, over-full curry receptacle from sloshing over a borrowed car. 
Dad I promise I didn’t spill any... seriously it smelt like that when I got it! 

After a generous lie-in (very out of character), and a mammoth surf session, we arrived back exhausted, with the predicted appetites to match.  While the curry was reheating, the gnawing hunger was temporarily sated with popadoms (ok, I admit - 6 each probably was a slight overkill), served with yogurt, Anila’s sweet mango chutney (delicious – I highly recommend it!) and a relish of onion, cucumber, deseeded tomato  and mint.

Once the curry has been reheated (45 minutes at 180˚C should get it up to temperature), remove from the oven and stir through peanuts and spring onions.

We served this particular offering with copious amounts of yogurt, naan breads, Singha beer and sticky rice.  After dinner we were literally floored.  When the Australian Women’s Weekly team say a recipe feeds four; it feeds four!  We attempted to tackle all of it between the two of us and had to admit a crushing defeat.

Without the ability to make any sudden movements, we then succumbed to the call of the sofa.  Watching a whole series on DVD we attempted to digest through the uncomfortable stage as quickly as possible. 

Once again we have returned with ridiculous wet-suit tan lines - It appears that although I love the heat of spicy food, my body does not enjoy the heat of the sun.  No amount of high-factor, extra water resistant cream can withstand my ungainly thrashing through the waves.   I have returned with brown hands, feet, face, neck, (I look as though I’m still wearing the ghost of a wetsuit) and burnt eyeballs.  YIKES!  

Curry Paste (makes approx 1 cup of paste):
20 red chillies, dried
1tsp ground coriander
2tsp ground cumin
2tsp ground cinnamon
½tsp ground cardamom
½tsp ground clove
5 cloves garlic, quartered
1 large brown onion, coarsely chopped
2 sticks of lemongrass, finely chopped
3 fresh kaffir lime leaves, thinly sliced
4cm fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
2tsp shrimp paste
1tbsp peanut oil

Curry (serves 4):
1kg stewing beef, diced to 3cm pieces
500ml beef stock
5 cardamom pods, bruised
¼tsp ground clove
2 star anise
1tbsp palm sugar, grated
2tbsp fish sauce
2tbsp tamarind
800ml coconut milk
2tbsp curry paste
8 shallots, halved
1 medium kumara, coarsely chopped
35g roasted, unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped
2 spring onions, finely sliced

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