Are you supersticious? The higher part of me would like to say that I am not, but when I noticed that I would have 13 posts for May if I stopped now, I knew that something had to be done about it, as if 13 posts for a month was akin to walking under a ladder or crossing paths with a black cat. (That said, a friend of mine, Stevie, has the loveliest, enormous, fluffy black cat called Russell, whom I have had the pleasure of cat-sitting on one occasion, and who loves nothing better than a brush. Hmmm, maybe I am not supersticious after all.)
To avoid the 13-post curse, for post number 14, I am going to regale you with some of my savoury ventures. I know, I know, these are not as aesthetically appealing or half as much fun as the cakes, but on the bright side, they will help you to get you "5 a day" and grow up to be big and strong like me (ignore my twig arms, OK?).
The picture at the top of this post is of Bill Granger's Beef Massaman Curry from his latest book, Feed Me Now! There is no picture of it in the book, so now you know what the dish would look like, sans food styling. It is from the chapter called "Freeze Me", so the curry is appropriately photographed in the Tupperware dish in which I intended to freeze it.
Coming from a book with a title like "Feed Me Now!", I assumed that this curry would be quick and easy to make, and left it until 6.30pm to commence. Wrong!!!! It takes the best part of two hours cooking time, leaving aside the preparation matters, so needless to say, I ate baked beans on toast the night that I made this and froze the lot for another night.
Whinging about the time involved aside, this curry is delicious. It is not particularly spicy and it is certainly not "hot", so if these descriptions of a curry float your boat, then this is not the curry for you. Presumably Bill has made it mild because his books are family orientated, and he is trying to share family recipes. This suits me - I don't particularly like things being so hot that my nose and eyes run relentlessly. You could of course spice it up to your liking.
To make Bill's beef massaman curry, you will need:
1.2kg trimmed blade steak, diced
2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
60ml oil (I always just spray the pan with oil, so depends on what you like)
2 diced onions
2 tablespoons massaman curry paste (I used curry powder - perhaps this is why mine wasn't too spicy??)
400ml coconut milk (I used light without incident)
300ml beef stock
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
400g potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large carrot, sliced
2 tablespoons chopped roasted peanuts (I left these out)
Toss the beef in the five spice powder to coat, then brown in batches in a wok in which 2/3 of the oil has been heated. Remove the meat from the wok and set aside.
Add the rest of the oil to the wok and turn down the heat to medium. Cook the onions until soft, then stir in the curry paste until the mixture is fragrant. Add the coconut milk, stock, lime juice, fish sauce and brown sugar to the wok, and bring the mixture to the boil. Add the browned beef to the pan, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the potatoes, carrots and peanuts (if using), and simmer the curry for another 30-40 minutes until the vegetables and meat are tender.
You can now either cool and freeze the curry, or serve immediately with rice, Thai basil and more peanuts.
My second savoury creation for your delectation is a good old fashioned shepherds pie. Shepherds pie was a staple at home when I was growing up, and there are endless variations of the recipe, but the crucial element is that the pie must be topped with mashed potato (or other root vegetable).
My shepherds pie recipe this time came from here, which proclaims shepherds pie to have originated somewhere in the British Isles.
I made the pie in a dish that was a teensy bit small to take it all, so you can see that it overflowed somewhat:
Doesn't all that tomato sauce look good??
If I made this again, I would add some spice to the potato toppping, which was a tad bland for my liking, and perhaps spiced up the meat with some chilli as well to make the dish a winter zinger. However, once again, if you are feeding the family, the kids are most likely going to eat this if you make it as the recipe states - my memories of being a child tell me that kids do not appreciate "zing".
Many of you are heading into summer (I am "Down Under" so it is the first of winter tomorrow), and these dishes are not very summery, but when the weather gets cooler, I can recommend them as enjoyable and filling meals that can easily be modified to suit your family's (or individual) tastes. For singletons like me, they can also be frozen and reheated as required.