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Beef Masaman Curry – rich and delicious


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.

Curry paste

  • 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

The curry

  • 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

Method

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!

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Butter Chicken – the weeknight version


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.

Butter Chicken

  • 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)

Method


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.

Serve with basmati rice and pappadums or naan bread, if you have it handy!

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!

The Weekly Cook Up: Curry with ginger and coriander


The Weekly Cook Up is a new column I plan to bring you every Friday right around 3pm when you are seriously having a think about your weekend menu.

The aim of the Weekly Cook Up is to inspire busy people like yourselves to set some time aside in the kitchen on the weekend to prepare at least one meal ahead for the week. If you’re really keen, you could cook up a few dishes, it’s totally up to you!

The thing is, we are all flat out busy – it’s just the way life is. It doesn’t matter if you have a husband or wife and kids, a hungry boyfriend or girlfriend at home or your extended family living with you. Even if it’s only yourself you have to feed – whether cooking is your thing or not, it can be a real drag to get motivated during the week.

That’s nothing to feel bad about – we all get like that. But the bad thing is it drives us to constantly eat out – not for a nice occasion, but because we all need to eat. Or lots of people find themselves buying expensive take-away or pre-made crap at the supermarket.

We live in a world where we are surrounded by cooking shows where the contestants stress out to create this (mostly) amazing food. I don’t know about you, but while these shows do inspire people to cook, I think they also make some of us feel a bit guilty for not putting a meal like that on the table after a busy day at work or with the kids, or however you spend your time.

That expectation is ridiculous and if you feel that way – then stop! If you are a regular reader of Uforic Food, you’ll know that my friend Ruza and I have our applications in to represent Victoria in season 3 of My Kitchen Rules. But I am more than happy to admit that I don’t cook like they do everyday. What they do is what I call “special occasion cooking”. Life’s just too busy to do that sort of stuff all the time and as much as I love to cook – I don’t even want to.

The weekly Cook Up will bring you recipes that may require a little more preparation or cooking time – but will be the sorts of things you can cook and freeze in batches like curries, soups, casseroles and other yummy, comforting, delicious food. I know you and your family are going to enjoy eating these dishes a whole lot more than going out for dinner just for a feed or eating expensive and unhealthy take-away more often than you should.

There is a place in all our lives for eating out and take-aways – but I think it’s important to eat home-made, healthy food. I think with a bit of planning and a hint of inspiration – you’ll be cooking up a storm and everyone will be happier, healthier, less stressed and best of all – you’ll save some money too!

That’s why I have chosen Fridays to post the Weekly Cook Up – most of us get a few days off each week, hopefully your partner is home too and can look after the kids – while you get into the kitchen and prepare one or a few meals for the week ahead. Turn the music up – pour yourself a glass of wine or crack open and beer and enjoy yourself!

Sound good? I hope you are all nodding in agreement 🙂

The biggest pleasure for me comes in the form of comfort food – and so I am going to kick of Uforic Food’s Weekly Cook Up with a fabulous curry, which I made last night. I made it up from ingredients that inspired me at the supermarket and in the pantry and it turned out great. I used chicken thigh fillets for this, but you could also use some chuck steak and simmer slowly for 1.5 – 2 hours. If you feel like it, mess around with the spices and make it your own.

CURRY WITH GINGER AND CORIANDER

 

  • 1 tbs of butter
  • 2 tbs of olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely diced (you can do this is a food processor, if you like, just make sure you don’t turn it to mush)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced (or pop in the processor, if using)
  • 3cm knob of ginger, finely diced (or in processor, but remove skin and chop into chucks first)
  • 1/4 of a cup of fresh curry leaves (I found them in the fruit and veg section at the supermarket)
  • 1 tbs of finely chopped coriander root
  • 1 tsp or ground coriander
  • 2 tsp of ground cummin
  • 1 tsp of ground turmeric
  • 1/2 a tsp of ground cardamom
  • 1 tsp of ground paprika
  • 2 tsp of garam masala
  • 1/2 a tsp of chilli flakes (remove if cooking if kids, or ramp up if you like it hot – you could add fresh chilli too, if you have it)
  • 700gm of chicken thigh fillets, cut into large chunks (or chuck steak)
  • 1 400gm can of diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 a tsp of sugar
  • 3/4 of a cup of chicken stock (or beef stock, if using steak)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 of a cup of fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Method:

Heat the oil and butter in a large, heavy-based pan and cook the onion, ginger, garlic and coriander root with a few good pinches of salt, until they begin to soften. Make sure they don’t take on any colour. You want them to sweat and the salt with help with this.

Add all the spices and cook for a further three minutes, stirring to ensure they don’t burn. This releases their flavours and they will become lovely and fragrant.

Add the chicken/beef and turn it up to a medium heat. Toss it through the spices and cook for about 5 minutes until the outside changes colour. This means the meat is nicely sealed.

Add the chopped tomatoes, sugar and chicken/beef stock and bring it up to a boil. Taste the sauce at this point and see if it needs some salt and pepper. I’m sure it will.

Turn the temperature right down and simmer, uncovered, for about 45 minutes if using chicken, or simmer covered for 1.5 hours (checking regularly) if you are using beef. Taste the beef at the end of that cooking time to see if it’s tender. If not, cooking for another 15 minutes and test again. It’s very important if cooking this with beef that you make sure it’s cooking nice and slowly, otherwise the meat will go tough.

Stir through the fresh coriander and serve with some basmati rice and natural yogurt.

This really did turn out beautiful and fragrant and would be fine young children – just don’t add the chilli flakes. If it’s adults only and you’d like a bit of a chilli hit – I reckon a whole red chilli would do the trick nicely.

This makes enough to serve 4 quite generously. Feel free to double the recipe and then freeze it in air-tight containers for up to three months. If you’re on your own, you can buy containers large enough to fit one meal in. I do this for my dad. I always cook the rice for him, put it in the bottom of the container and then put the curry on top. This is a great option if you work nights and need to take your dinner to work.

If you’ve done it in a batch for four – I’d recommend that you freeze the curry only – and then make your rice fresh.

To make great rice, do 1 part rice to 1 1/2 parts water. If you are serving four, you’ll need a mug-sized cup of uncooked rice to 1 1/2 mug-sized cups of water. Cook it in the microwave on high for 12 minutes. I promise you won’t go wrong!

To make my rice a little more interesting, I added a teaspoon of chicken stock powder, a knob of butter and a teaspoon of turmeric – to make it yellow. It was yum!

To re-heat – it’s ideal if you can put the frozen food in the fridge the night before you plan to eat it. Once thawed, if you have made a family-sized batch, you can pop it into a saucepan and slowly reheat. If you can’t be bothered with that – the microwave is fine. Heat on high for 2 minutes. Check and stir, and continue until it’s hot enough.

Meals for one, which include the rice as part of the frozen meal, will need to be heated in the microwave, as stated above.

So this week I challenge you to get into your kitchen and do a bit of a cook up. You might like to use this recipe, or another one that you know freezes well. It will be the start of fabulous weekday meals – minus the stress!

Be Inspired~

Lisa

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