2 lemon-grass stalks (around 25cm long)
3 red medium onions, peeled and quartered
6 garlic cloves, peeled
25g fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
75g chunk galangal, peeled and roughly chopped
3 plump red chillies, roughly chopped without deseeding
3 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
1.5kg beef chuck steak (or any good braising beef), trimmed and cut into roughly 3cm cubes
400ml cans coconut milk
400ml cold water
4 fresh kaffir lime leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp soft light brown sugar or palm sugar
2 tsp tamarind paste or freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp flaked sea salt, plus extra to season
Ground black pepper
Toasted coconut flakes, to serve (optional)
Peel off the dry outer layers of each lemongrass stalk and slice the inner whiter part into 1cm pieces. Put in a food processor and add the onions, garlic, ginger, galangal and chillies. Blend to a paste as fine as you can make it. You may need to remove the lid and push the mixture down a couple of times with a rubber spatula until the right consistency is reached.
Heat the sunflower oil in a large flame-proof casserole and fry the onion paste gently for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the cumin, coriander and turmeric and cook for 2 minutes more.
Add the beef to the pan and toss with the onion paste and spices. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly until the meat is very lightly coloured all over. Pour the coconut milk into the casserole, add the water, lime leaves, cinnamon sticks, sugar, tamarind paste or lime juice, soy sauce and salt.
Bring to a simmer then reduce the heat and leave to simmer uncovered gently for about 2 ½ - 3 hours or until the meat is meltingly tender and the coconut milk has reduced to a very thick, glossy, rich sauce. Stir the beef occasionally towards the beginning of the cooking time then more often as the coconut milk reduces. You don’t want the sauce to stick. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.
This curry is even better made the day before, so cook for 15 minutes less and cool quickly in a large, shallow dish. Cover and keep in the fridge. Reheat slowly in a large casserole until piping hot, stirring just enough to distribute the heat but not so much that the meat breaks up.
Spoon the curry into a couple of warm serving dishes and sprinkle with the toasted coconut, if using. Serve with jasmine rice and steamed green. (Don’t eat the kaffir lime leaves or cinnamon stick.)