Flavour packed, slow-cooked dishes are the simplest yet most satisfying and comforting meals. This rich Massaman curry can be made with meat, but I love using butternut squash instead. It takes on the spices really well and, with the extra veg, the dish has plenty of micronutrients. Greens, squash and other yellow / orange coloured vegetables are dense sources of pro-vitamin A and offer vital phytonutrients for immunity and eye health.
This recipe makes enough for lunch the next day (to make your co-workers envious).
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 tbsp Massaman paste (see recipe, or shop bought)
100g coconut cream
500g butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cut into 4cm cubes
300ml vegetable stock, or water
2 tsp fish sauce (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 tsp runny honey
50g sugar snap peas, roughly chopped
50g spinach, roughly chopped
25g coriander leaves, roughly chopped
20g dry roasted almonds, roughly crushed
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cooked brown rice, to serve (optional)
Melt the coconut oil in a pan over a medium heat, add the Massaman paste and fry for 1 minute, then stir in the coconut cream. Add the cubed butternut squash, season and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes, until lightly coloured.
Pour in the stock or water, add the fish sauce (if using), bay leaves and honey, cover and simmer for 25 minutes, until the vegetables are soft and the sauce has reduced.
Remove from the heat, fold in the sugar snap peas and spinach and cover for 2 minutes. The heat of the curry will lightly cook them.
Garnish the curry with the coriander and crushed almonds and serve it on it’s own or with a little brown rice on the side to soak up the creamy sauce.
Use soy sauce instead of fish sauce, if you wish
Add coconut milk with the stock to make the curry sauce extra creamy.
Set aside half an hour to make this paste – it’s really worth the effort. The explosion of freshness and flavour cannot be replicated by anything shop bought. It has a similar aromatic element to garam masala, but the addition of lemongrass and galangal makes it stand alone. Each ingredient offers a bundle of medicinal benefits supported by a growing body of research. Lemongrass fights cancer cells, garlic is what your gut bugs crave and cinnamon may reduce the release of chemicals related to ageing.
All in all, this is full of fragrant, punchy, health-promoting compounds. In Vietnam I saw the garlic and galangal charred over charcoal, which adds a delicious smoky aroma, but it’s perhaps not the best way to release the precious volatile chemicals! Instead I lightly toast them in a dry pan to release their oils.
Makes about 30g
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 star anise
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp seeds from green cardamom pods
1 tsp dried chili flakes
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon bark
4cm piece of lemongrass (tender base only) finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
10g piece of galangal or ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
Put the dry spices in a dry frying pan and toast lightly over a medium heat for 1-2 minutes, until they release their aromas.
Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool, then tip into a coffee-bean grinder or pestle and mortar and grind to a fine powder. Tip them back into the bowl.
Put the wet spices in a dry frying pan and toast for 2-3 minutes, until they release their aromas and are lightly coloured, then transfer them to the pestle and mortar and pound for 10-15 minutes to form a paste, gradually adding the dry spices as you go. Alternatively, blend the toasted wet spices with the dry spices in a blender or food processor for a couple of minutes.
Store the paste in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 weeks.
In my experience, using a pestle and mortar makes a much finer and more satisfying paste, but it requires a bit of elbow grease!
All Massaman pastes need coconut cream and a bit of sweetness added at the time of cooking.