I overheard a conversation recently which had a profound effect on me. A middle aged woman who had obviously undergone chemotherapy recently was explaining to someone what stage her cancer was at. It wasn’t good. It had spread to multiple organs and she was always in pain, just varying degrees of it. She said she had good days and bad. That day was obviously a good one as she was out and about and sharing her experiences with others. She spoke positively, but what really struck me was when she said ‘I just have to focus on enjoying whatever I have left, however long that might be’. I’ve never heard anyone speak like that before. It was so real. So confronting.
It forced me to reflect on how easy it is to take our health and quality of life for granted. I thought about the things that I seem to put on hold for various reasons. I have the capacity, I have the health and I live in a first world country. I should be seizing more opportunities and doing what my heart desires. A lot of people can’t. I know it’s nothing that we haven’t heard before. Live for today, you might not be here tomorrow. Such catch phrases may seem cliche until you hear someone saying that about themselves. Genuinely.
Not that I’m going to quit my job and become a street busker travelling the world relying on the kindness of strangers (mainly because I don’t have the talent). As always it’s about striving towards a healthy balance of achieving goals, living for now whilst also keeping the future in mind. Easy right?.. Regardless, some of my greatest pleasures come through cooking, eating and sharing good food. Curries would certainly be up there amongst my favourite foods, and the massaman cannot be neglected in this sensational world of flavour.
Massaman is a complex curry that has spice, tang, fragrance and nuttiness. I prefer to use beef although there’s no rules. Chicken, vegetables or seafood would also work. Potato is essential. You can just use the curry paste and core ingredients, but adding some aromatics such as chilli, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves really kick it up another level. My preferred method for curries these days is the humble slow cooker. The meat absorbs the flavours and comes out so tender it literally falls apart. Brown your beef briefly in the curry paste, whack it all in the slow cooker and then just fugeddaboutit… Open the lid 7-8 hours and the scent of the stew bubbling away will hit you in the face resulting in instant salivation. Add a handful of peanuts for some crunch then serve with steamed rice, a scattering of coriander leaves and squeeze of fresh lime. It doesn’t get much better. Except perhaps with a cool glass of beer.
Beef Massaman Curry
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
4 tablespoons of massaman curry paste
800 grams of stewing beef, cubed
1 brown onion, halved and sliced
5 small waxy potatoes, quartered
1 medium red chilli, halved
2 kaffir lime leaves
1 stalk of lemongrass (white part only)
1 x 400 ml can of coconut cream
1 teaspoon of sugar
1/4 cup of roasted, unsalted peanuts
Handful of coriander leaves
Heat the oil in a large frypan over medium heat.
Add the massaman paste and stir for one minute.
Add the beef and sear until each piece has been browned all over (about 2-3 minutes).
Put the beef and curry paste in a slow cooker on low.
Smash the lemongrass with the flat blade of a large knife.
Add the onion, potato, chilli, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, coconut cream and sugar to the slow cooker and stir the mixture well.
Cook on low for 7-8 hours until the meat is tender, stirring every couple of hours.
Add the peanuts and stir. Remove the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves.
Serve with steamed rice. Garnish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and coriander leaves.