12/04/2012

Lamb Massaman

Thai. Muslim in origin, this is dish usually of beef, often prawn, could be duck, chicken, tofu ... even pork, which is haraam in Islam.

From Wiki, Massaman is a dish of "coconut milk, roasted peanuts or cashews, potatoes, bay leaves, cardamom pods, cinnamon, star anise, palm sugar, fish sauce, chili and tamarind sauce. Traders brought spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, star anise, cumin, cloves and nutmeg from Indonesia to the south coast of Thailand. The dish is served with rice and sometimes with pickled ginger or achat, an accompaniment made with cucumber and chili peppers macerated in vinegar".

Keeping this dish paleo and in principle with its origins, I made it with lamb - neck fillets. There are a few things to leave out there, like the sugar, perhaps replace the potato with sweet potato, or squash as I did, but really, this dish is pretty damn paleo as it goes.

Lamb neck fillet is a deep, buttery meat, somewhere between soft and tough. It is best slow-cooked or marinated, which is how we're going to do it for this dish.

To the kitchen ...


The day before (yes, this takes some preparation, but it is well worth it ... and not actually a lot of fuss), slice the neck fillets into half inch thick slices on the slant across the fat.

Place the meat into a dish and add a couple of star anise, bay, some ground coriander, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, turmeric, some garlic, chillies, ginger, a good squeeze of lemon juice, fish sauce and some tamarind in water. Cover and leave to marinate overnight. In the fridge is fine, on the kitchen top overnight and transferred to the fridge the following day, fine, too.

That's the marinade.

Oh, tamarind? Is that even paleo?

Well, I don't quite know - it is a member of the Fabaceae family, and so technically a legume, although we're just using the seed from inside. Seed? Yes, the seed. So, um ... paleo?

Well, I just don't know. Either way, tamarind has a unique sour flavour which is the absolute key to this dish. In the spirit of paleo, I did my hunger gatherer thing and collected a tub of pure tamarind extract from the local supermarket and tasted it. It didn't kill me and had a curious flavour. Being the largest and strongest in my tribe, I took the challenge! I'll eat some and see if it's okay. It was!

Is tamarind paleo-friendly? I'd love to know.

Back to the main feature ...


The next day, come dinner time, get it cooked up. The lamb will not need much cooking now since it has tenderised in the marinade.

Shred a couple of shallots and get them softening in some coconut oil in a lidded sauté pan.

Add the meat pieces to brown off a little.

Pour in one can of coconut milk - as pure as you can get it.

Pour in the remainder of the marinade along with a couple of kaffir leaves for a fresh zing and more garlic.


Cook on the hob for an hour on low/medium. If the liquid drops too much, just add in a little water - we want to do the reduction in the second hour.

Add in some more chillies, chopped sweet potato, squash or even small waxy potatoes and cook on for another hour by which point, the curry should be reducing and thickening.

Just prior to serving, retrieve the aromatics - the star anise, bay and kaffir leaves. Liven everything up with some chopped coriander leaves and some wild garlic.

Serve out into a bowl, accompanied by some achat, which is just cucumber macerated in vinegar - I used cider vinegar, and had some rice alongside. Garnish with fresh coriander and some almond slivers.

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