Deliciously mild and fragrant, this Thai Massaman Beef Curry is incredibly easy to make, but full of flavour and makes a lovely change from the usual green and red Thai curries.
I love Thai food, but I must admit I am not usually very adventurous when it comes to Thai cuisine – whether at home or in a restaurant, I am most likely to have a green or, just occasionally, a red Thai curry! But last time I went to a Thai restaurant (the lovely Lemongrass in Horsham, West Sussex – I would highly recommend it, if you happen to find yourself in Sussex!), I decided to have something a little bit different…I spent a looong time reading the menu and eventually picked out the Massaman Beef Curry – and I was not disappointed. It was fantastic!
A massaman curry is actually quite different from the usual food you might find in a Thai restaurant, it is thought to be influenced by Persian cuisine and so contains some quite un-Thai sounding ingredients such as cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cardamoms and bay leaves, alongside ingredients much more normally found in Thai cuisine such as chillies, lemongrass, galangal, shallots and garlic. These ingredients are typically blended to make the massaman curry paste and then cooked together with coconut milk, meat (usually beef, chicken or lamb), potatoes, onions, and peanuts to make the curry, and served with jasmine rice.
The version I had in the restaurant was made with beef and it was so lovely I knew I wanted to recreate an easy peasy version at home – but I also knew I had my work cut out…all the recipes I looked at had a long list of ingredients, several processes and often used a whole array of pots and pans too…not the kind of thing that would normally find its way onto Easy Peasy Foodie! So I set to work, cutting down the ingredients and processes to the bare minimum and ensuring that only a limited number of pots and pans were needed.
One of the key changes I made was, rather than make a separate curry paste in a blender and then add it to the pot, I just added the herbs and spices commonly found in the curry paste directly to the pot, making life quicker, simpler and less full of washing up!
And I am super pleased with the result. It tastes very similar to the curry I had at the restaurant and only involves around 15 minutes of hands on time, then the curry can be left to do its thing in the oven for a couple of hours, allowing the flavours to develop and the meat to get wonderfully tender, and leaving you free to get on with whatever you want to!
I served this curry with jasmine rice, which is the traditional accompaniment, but feel free to serve this with normal white or brown rice, if you prefer. The curry contains new potatoes (using up the last of my British Gems!), so you might not feel the need for rice at all. I also served this with a very quick vegetable stir fry of red pepper, tenderstem broccoli and pak choi. Again there’s no need to do this if you don’t want to, but I felt this rather meat heavy curry needed a bit of a vegetable lift!
To go with the curry, I would naturally choose a Cotes du Rhone or a Grenache-based blend from the South of France. My husband was so excited by the idea of a this curry that he zoomed out to the shops while I was cooking it, to get himself a Thai Singha beer to go with it…which was rather handy when I it came to taking the photos! Although interestingly enough he said that, although the Thai beer was OK, he reckons an English pale ale, such as Hepworth Prospect (also from Horsham), would have gone better.
Even more interestingly, we had the curry again a few weeks later (I take recipe testing very seriously, you understand) with my brother and sister-in-law and we had an English Sparkling Rose with it – Greyfriars Rose Reserve 2013 to be precise (long story – my brother had just won it in a raffle at Horsham Food and Drink Festival, we wanted to try it…) – it was bursting with delicious summer berry flavours, with just a touch of sweetness and we all agreed that it actually went brilliantly…so there you go, if you need an excuse to open a bottle of pink fizz, make this curry!
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Thai Massaman Beef Curry
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 red onion diced
- 1 stick of lemongrass very finely chopped
- 1 cinnamon stick broken in two
- 6 cardamom pods bashed
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 4 cloves
- 1 star anise
- 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
- 800 g beef (stewing steak / chuck steak) diced
- 4 garlic cloves crushed or grated
- 1 tablespoon ginger grated
- 2 tablespoons turmeric ground
- 200 g new potatoes halved or quartered depending on size
- 400 ml tin coconut milk plus half a tin or water
- Salt and black pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh coriander chopped plus extra for garnish
- Jasmine rice to serve optional
- Vegetables to serve such as red pepper, tenderstem broccoli and pak choi to serve (optional)
- 1 lime quartered (optional)
- 25 g peanuts to serve (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 180C / 160C fan/ gas mark 4 / 350F.
- Place the onions, lemongrass and olive oil in a large flameproof and ovenproof saucepan/casserole and fry on a gentle heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile add the cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, bay leaves, cloves, star anise and chilli flakes to the same pot.
- When the onions are softened but not browned, add the beef to the pot and turn the heat up to medium/high to brown the beef for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly.
- Turn the heat back down and add the garlic, ginger, turmeric, salt, pepper and potatoes and stir everything together. Fry for another minute and then add the coconut milk. Half fill the tin with water and add this to the pot too, along with some salt and pepper to taste.
- Bring everything to the boil and then pop the lid on and put the casserole dish in the oven for 2 hours, checking occasionally and topping up with more water if it gets too dry.
- Approximately 15 minutes before the beef curry is ready, cook the jasmine rice according to the packet instructions, then quickly stir fry your vegetables in wok oil or coconut oil over a high heat – you may find adding a splash of boiling water (1-2 tablespoons only) will help the broccoli cook better.
- When the curry is done, add 2 tablespoons of coriander and stir, then serve everything at the table for people to help themselves to the curry, vegetables and rice.
- If you don’t have a pan that can go on the hob and in the oven, cook up to stage 5 in a saucepan and then transfer to a casserole dish before it goes in the oven.
- Suitable for freezing.
- Nutrition information is approximate and meant as a guideline only.
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