I am trying to embrace a slower pace of life. I put it down to my German upbringing that I am always set to ‘high efficiency’ mode. Even when I am having a Thai massage, I find myself going through a mental checklist of all the things I’ll do when I’m done. When I cook, I am simmering, chopping, searing, seasoning several different dishes or components at once. But I know that life as a high-speed muliti-tasker will eventually take its toll on my body and soul. So I am trying to learn from the saffron-robed monks that I often see near my office, serenely going about their day with a gentle pace and smile.
I still have a way to go before I find myself spending hours in the lotus position, or address my unhealthy relationship with my outlook calendar. But I’m making small changes, including experimenting with slow cooking. Slow cooking is a great metaphor and advert for the slower life. The depth of flavour and the gentleness of texture that you get from cooking something over a low heat for a long time cannot be achieved through a fiery flash in the pan. And Massaman (an under-celebrated hero of Thai cuisine in my opinion), with its unusual combination of herbs and spices, lends itself to the method perfectly. I don’t own a slow cooker because I like to keep my kitchen appliances to a bare minimum. Instead I use a good heavy casserole dish and a conventional oven on a low heat.
I served this at my last supper club and ever scrap was eaten. It’s a great dinner party dish. All the work is done hours before your guests arrive, leaving you to enjoy the company and relax.
4 chicken legs and 4 thighs
3 tbsp massaman curry paste (you can buy this from good supermarkets, or make your own using the recipe here)
2 large cinnamon sticks
6 cardamom pods
400ml coconut milk
200ml good quality chicken stock
4 small potatoes
2 inch knob ginger
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar (or palm sugar if you have it)
2 tbsp tamarind paste (if you can’t find this, mix together lime juice and a little tomato ketchup)
1 tsp salt
100g salted peanuts
- Preheat your oven to 120°C.
- Finely shred the ginger. Chop the onion into small chunks. Set both aside.
- In a pan, dry roast the cinnamon and cardamom a until you can start to smell them toasting. Remove from the heat and set aside.
- In the same pan dry roast the peanuts also for about 2 minutes until they are slightly browned and smell roasted. Remove from the heat, allow to cool and then coarsely chop or grind.
- In a casserole dish, heat a little vegetable oil and add the chicken. Gently brown for about 2-3 minutes on each side and then remove from the heat. In the same pan, add the curry paste and fry for about 2 mins in the oil left in the pan, stirring constantly.
- Add the stock, coconut milk, dry spices, tamarind, fish sauce, salt, sugar, onion and ¾ of the peanuts. Stir well and continue cooking over a medium heat for about 3-4 mins, stirring often.
- Remove from the heat, and return the chicken to the pot. Add the potatoes and make sure everything is submerged in the sauce. Put the lid on and put in the oven.
- Cook for about 4-5 hours, or until the potatoes are soft and the chicken is cooked all the way through.
- Serve with cardamom rice and garnish with the remaining peanuts.