Jo’s Vietnamese-style beef curry

Vietnamese-style beef curry

In the office where I work, about 95% of our conversation revolves around food. Appreciative mumbling through mouthfuls of cake that someone’s baked and brought in, dissecting last night’s episode of Masterchef or Bake Off, or reminiscing about such childhood delights as corned beef. (Remember corned beef?)

In the year (almost to the day) since I’ve worked there, I’ve picked up loads of new recipes from my team following mundane conversations about what we’ve all been doing with our Christmas leftovers or from snooping over someone’s lunch, going: “Ooh, that smells amazing!”

This recipe came from one such occasion, when my colleague Jo was enjoying what looked and smelled like a delicious bowl of leftover curry at her desk next to me. It was a recipe from an old slow cooker book, which ended up being shared with the whole team. I think pretty much all of us have cooked it at least once since, so I guess it’s our official team dish (if that’s a thing – if not, it should be).

This is my own version of the curry, but I’ve included Jo’s original, slightly ‘rustic’ iPhone picture of the recipe at the bottom.

Ingredients

  • The seeds from 5 cardamom pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick, cracked open
  • 2 star anise
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 2 average sized red onions
  • 500g beef casserole steak, cut into chunks
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, topped and tailed and tough outer leaves removed
  • Green chillies – I usually use three or four, with a couple of them deseeded. Adjust to your own preference though.
  • A thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into pieces
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Half a beef stock cube
  • 200ml coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • A large carrot, scrubbed or peeled and diced into roughly 1cm pieces
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 a teaspoon ground cinnamon

Add the cardamom seeds, cinnamon stick, star anise, cumin seeds and coriander seeds to a dry pan and toast until fragrant. Remove the star anise and cinnamon stick and set aside. Put the rest of the spices into a pestle and mortar with a pinch of sea salt and grind to a powder. Set aside.

Slice one and a half of the red onions into half moons, add to the pan with a dash of oil and a pinch of salt and and fry until nicely softened. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Brown the meat in batches in the pan and set aside, covering with foil.

Whizz the lemongrass, chillies, ginger, garlic and the remaining half a red onion with a blender wand until they form a smooth, fine paste. Add the paste to the pan with a drizzle of oil and a small pinch of salt and fry off until nicely coloured.

Add the other fried onions back to the pan, along with the toasted and ground spices, coconut milk, half stock cube, soy sauce, carrot, turmeric and ground cinnamon. Stir everything together and simmer for a moment until you have a nice curry sauce consistency.

Add the contents of the pan to a slow cooker along with the beef (including any meat juices) and stir together.

Cook in the slow cooker on low for as long as possible – ideally at least 6 hours. You could also cook this long and low in an oven.

Before serving, fish out as much of the cinnamon stick and star anise-y bits as you can, and maybe warn any fellow diners that there might still be some surprise bits lurking…

Serves 2 hungry people or 3 normal people.

Vietnamese beef curry original recipe

Beef Tagine

I’m not going to advertise this as any kind of ‘authentic’ tagine recipe (although I’m not sure what that might even be), nor is it cooked in a proper tagine pot (although it could be for anyone who has one). I’ve never even been to North Africa. It’s just my interpretation of a beef tagine that I cook fairly regularly in the slow cooker and it tastes good, which is what’s important. The slow cooker has the same effect as a tagine pot, cooking the meat slowly so that it’s nice and tender.

I don’t tend to add dried fruit to tagines because Owen has a weird thing about dried fruit in savoury food, but you could easily chuck some in to this recipe. Perhaps some dried apricots or figs or whatever you fancy.

Ingredients

  • 60g dried chickpeas
  • A level tablespoonful of caraway seeds
  • A level tablespoonful of cumin seeds
  • A level tablespoonful of coriander seeds
  • A teaspoon of ground coriander
  • A teaspoon of ground cumin
  • A teaspoon of ground ginger
  • A teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • A teaspoon of paprika (not smoked)
  • 500g beef stewing steak, cut into chunks
  • A handful of flaked almonds
  • An onion, sliced into half moons
  • 1 or 2 red peppers, chopped into small chunks or strips
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • Half a teaspoon of chilli flakes or a red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • A tablespoon of cornflour
  • A tin of chopped tomatoes
  • Half a large preserved lemon
  • A tablespoon of honey
  • A beef stock cube

Soak the chickpeas overnight or for at least 8 hours in plenty of water with a bit of bicarbonate of soda added to it.

Into a large, deep, dry frying pan, add the caraway, cumin and coriander seeds and toast on a medium heat until they start to become aromatic but without burning them. Add the seeds from the pan into a pestle and mortar and bash until they’re powdery and fragrant. Add the bashed seeds along with the ground coriander, cumin, ginger, cinnamon and paprika to a bowl with the beef chunks and rub with clean hands to coat the meat. Set this aside for a moment.

Add the flaked almonds to the dry pan and toast them on a medium heat until they start to colour, but again, don’t let them burn. When they’re nicely toasted, add them to the pestle and mortar and bash them gently to break them up a bit. Set aside.

Brown the spice rub-covered meat in batches in the dry pan and remove with a slotted spoon into a bowl.

Add a small glug of oil to the pan and fry the onion and peppers on a medium heat until the onion turns translucent. Add the garlic and chilli and fry for a couple of minutes more.

Add the cornflour and stir in until it’s coated in oil.

Add the tinned tomatoes (whizzing them first in a food processor if you like), then refill the tin a third full with water and swill around to get the remainder of the tomato-y goodness. Add this water to the pan as well.

Remove the flesh from the preserved lemon with a spoon and discard. Finely chop the remaining lemon peel and add to the pan.

Add the honey and crumble in the beef stock cube, and drain and add the chickpeas. Add the browned meat along with any juices.

Stir everything together before putting into the slow cooker and cooking on low for 6-8 hours. Serve with cous cous, and maybe sprinkle some more toasted almonds on top to finish.