Watching Rick Stein on his Eastern Odyssey around Asia, I couldn’t help but be inspired to recreate this amazing Thai dish.
It’s aromatic, nutty, warm with chilli, but far from blowing your head off, and it fills your home with the beautiful spicy fragrances of cinnamon, cloves and cardamom.
I was intimidated by the ingredient list – but one stop to my local Indian grocer and I was set. The lady at the shop was amazing – she whizzed around the little store with me looking at my list and grabbing everything I needed, including blade mase – which I had NEVER seen before. I strongly suggest you do the same – hit your local Indian/Asian grocer and the shopping list will no longer be a hassle!
I have to admit, I was also stressing about the chilli content – I mean 12 dried chillies sounded way over the top for a curry considered to be very mild in terms of Thai food. But, as you will see, this recipe calls for Kashmiri chillies – which I have since found out are hardly spicy at all. I’m glad I didn’t chicken out and reduce the amount of chilli, because at the end, it was just perfect.
This dish is definitely a weekend project – when you have time on your hands and just feel like having some “me” time in the kitchen with your mortar and pestle. It took hours to create this – but when we sat down and took the first bite – it was instantly worth it! Better than any jarred massaman curry I have ever tasted.
I have taken most of this recipe straight from Rick – but have added a few changes which I found worked well along the way.
- 10 dried red kashmiri chillies, seeds removed, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp green cardamom seeds (from about 20 green cardamom pods)
- 16 cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 large pieces of blade mace
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 small onions, roughly chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled, roughly chopped
- 1 tsp shrimp paste
- 2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer leaves removed, soft inner core chopped
- 1/4 cup of coconut cream
- 1.5kg of chuck steak, cut into large chunks
- 600ml of coconut cream
- 6 black cardamom pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into large cubes
- 8 shallots, finely diced
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tsp of tamarind paste
- 1 tbsp palm sugar
- 1/2 a cup of peanuts, roasted and roughly chopped
For the curry, place the beef into a heavy-based pan with 350ml of the coconut milk and an equal amount of water. Add the black cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and salt, then bring to a simmer and partially cover the pan with a lid, leaving just a small gap for the steam to escape. Cook for two hours, stirring occasionally, until the beef is just tender. While that’s simmering, you can tackle the curry paste.
Heat a dry, heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat. Add the dried chillies and fry for 1-2 minutes, shaking the pan frequently to prevent the chillies from burning, until the chillies are lightly toasted. Transfer the chillies to a spice grinder or mortar.
Return the pan to the heat and add the coriander, cumin and cardamom seeds, cloves, cinnamon and blade mace and fry for a few seconds, shaking the pan frequently, until the spices darken slightly and release their aromatics. Add the toasted spices to the spice grinder or mortar and grind or pound to a fine powder.
Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the onion and garlic and fry slowly over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes or until caramelised. Add the shrimp paste and spice mixture and fry for a further 2-3 minutes.
Transfer the mixture into a food processor, add all of the remaining curry paste ingredients and blend to a smooth paste. Set aside until your beef has cooked for the two hours set out above.
Meanwhile, peel the potatoes and cut into large pieces.
Now that the curry has been simmering for two hours, remove the lid from the curry and discard the black cardamom pods and cinnamon stick. Stir in the rest of the coconut milk, the potatoes, shallots, the curry paste, fish sauce, tamarind and sugar and simmer gently, uncovered, for a further 25-30 minutes, or until the potatoes, shallots and beef are tender. Stir in the peanuts.
Serve with steamed rice and some fresh, chopped red chillies for those who like their curries a little hotter.
As for my music recommendation – due to the long process – I suggest your going to need an album … or three!
However, if you can get your hands on Adele’s new album called 21 – and if you appreciate a truly amazing voice and chilled melodies – you can simply play it over and over and … over again 🙂
In an act of support for how awesome this chick is, I’m linking to two of her songs – firstly Rolling Deep – which I admit is becoming a tad over-played.
But, here’s another awesome song from the album, Someone Like You. In this video, she also talks about her inspiration for writing this amazing song.
Happy cooking, eating and grooving!
Butter chicken is one of those curries that won’t scare those opposed to heat and is great for kids. Not a chilli in site!
While curries are a bit famous for taking a very long time to cook – this version is actually quite quick (on the table within 40 minutes, including preparation) and doesn’t require going to the supermarket to purchase 10 different kinds of spice.
It’s a bit of a cheats version – but don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for that! This uses a store-brought mild curry paste. Some brands of these are better than others. I find Sharwood to be superior and the flavour is really fantastic. It’s all fine to spend a bit of time on the weekend grinding up your own curry paste, but it’s not something for during week.
You’ll notice that the quantities are enough to feed a small army – and that’s because I was cooking it not only for our dinner, but also as additional meals for my dad to put in his freezer.
So, why not cook a large batch – serve it up for dinner, then pop the rest in an air-tight container for the freezer. It’ll give you a night off when you can’t face cooking.
- 3 heaped tbs of mild curry paste (Sharwood is my prefered supermarket variety – but there are fabulous ones at Indian supermarkets)
- 2 large red onions, finely diced
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 2cm nob of ginger, finely chopped
- 1 tbs of dried ground coriander
- 2 tbs of tomato paste (this is a key ingredient, not only for flavour, but colour as well)
- 2 kg of chicken thigh fillets, chopped into 2cm cubes
- 500ml of thickened cream
- 1/2 a cup of water
- 1 large handful of chopped, fresh coriander (optional)
In a large, heavy-based saucepan add the paste, onion, garlic, ginger, tomato paste and dried coriander and cook until the spices become fragrant, about five minutes. If they start to burn and catch on the bottom of the pan, add a little water.
Add the chicken and cook over a medium heat, stirring regularly, until the chicken’s juices start to loosen the mix. This will take 5-10 minutes. Add the water and the cream and stir well. Allow to simmer over a low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked and the curry is a lovely, rich orangey colour. Add the coriander, if using. and season to taste with salt and pepper.
My Groovy Kitchen Tunes track choice for the cooking of this recipe would have to be something warm and comforting, just like this dish. As soon as this song comes on, I can’t help but smile, which is how I feel when I put the first fork full of butter chicken in my mouth. The Temper Trap is my new absolute favourite band right now, in and out of the kitchen! Their album Conditions was a big feature of the playlist at our engagement party in May. Their incredible – as is this song – Fader. Have a listen!