Braised Beef Clay Pot Curry
For best results, lightly smoke the beef cheeks over wood.
Clay pots are perfect for cooking over a high heat. The food loses little to no moisture because it is surrounded by steam, creating a tender, flavourful dish. If you don’t have a clay pot, you can use a roasting tray as below.
400g beef cheeks, excess fat removed, chopped into 3cm chunks
2 lemongrass stalks, bruised using a pestle and mortar
4 kaffir lime leaves, torn to release flavour
600ml-700ml coconut cream
1 heaped tbsp light soft
20g Thai basil leaves
- Coat the beef in 50ml of vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon of coarse sea salt, mixing well with your hands and ensuring that all the meat gets a good coating of oil and salt.
- Light up a kettle barbecue (ie, one with a domed lid). For best results, lightly smoke the beef cheeks over wood. To do this, ignite some wood and allow it to burn until it begins to combust and turn black. Place the beef cheeks on the hot grill, above the wood, and flick a little water on to the wood to create smoke. Close the barbecue lid and smoke for 10 minutes. Open the barbecue lid, turn the cheeks over and then close again for a further 10 minutes. At this point, the beef should be a little charred on either side, smoky and ready to be slow-cooked, so remove it from the barbecue and set aside. If you don’t have a barbecue, this can be replicated in a large pan on the hob.
- Preheat the oven to 140C/ 120C fan/gas 1.
- Add the smoked beef cheeks, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, 2 long red chillies (bruised using a pestle and mortar), 1 head of garlic (sliced in half through the middle), the coconut cream, 4-5 teaspoons of fish sauce and the sugar to a large roasting tray, then tightly wrap the tray in foil. Place on the middle shelf in the oven and cook for 4-5 hours.
- Remove the beef from the oven and check that it is really tender; you should be able to break up a piece of meat with a spoon.
- Once the beef is ready, taste the broth. It should be delicately sweet from the coconut cream with a moreish saltiness from the fish sauce, so add a little more of either if you think it necessary, then stir in all the Thai basil. Serve in bowls topped with Thai basil flowers, if you have some to hand, accompanied by steamed jasmine rice.