Depth of flavour with little effort: Aromatic beef and coconut braise

Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Photo by Gregor Richardson.

This is low-effort, high-reward cooking.

It does not involve any fiddly preparation and what little work there is can be done well in advance.

Once the meat is diced it is combined with the remaining ingredients in a casserole dish and left to cook gently for a few hours.

This of course may be eaten straight from the oven, but left to steep for a day or so it develops a wonderful depth of flavour, infusing the braise with a rich and creamy spiciness.

Ground almonds are added 10 minutes or so before serving and thicken the sauce.

The cashew and chilli sprinkle adds a deliciously spicy crunch.


Aromatic beef and coconut braise
Serves 6-7


1.6kg chuck or blade steak
2 tsp each of turmeric, paprika, ground coriander
2 Tbsp grated or crushed root ginger
1 Tbsp crushed garlic
¾ tsp prepared chilli from a jar
1 Tbsp brown sugar
¼ cup tomato paste
400g can tomatoes in juice
270ml can coconut milk (I use light)
2 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup ground almonds, to thicken
chopped fresh mint or parsley to garnish

Cashew and chilli sprinkle
Serves 5-6

2 tsp neutral oil, such as rice bran
1 cup raw cashew nuts or raw skinned peanuts
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
¼ tsp each ground cumin, salt, mild chilli powder
3 Tbsp chopped fresh mint



Preheat the oven to 150degC.

Trim the meat of any excess fat and cut into 4cm pieces. Set aside.

In a large casserole dish (approximately 12-cup capacity) place the turmeric, paprika, coriander, ginger, garlic, chilli, brown sugar and tomato paste. Stir together until smooth. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, star anise and cinnamon stick and mix well. Then add the beef, stirring to coat.

Cover with lid and cook for three to three and a-half hours until the meat is tender and pulls apart easily with a fork.

If planning to serve immediately, remove the lid and using paper towels, blot the surface to absorb any fat.

Taste and add the salt and pepper if needed. Remove the star anise and cinnamon stick.

Stir in the ground almonds and return to the oven for 10 minutes to heat through.

Otherwise, remove the casserole from the oven, remove spices, allow to cool and refrigerate for a day or two.

Skim any fat from the surface, allow the casserole to come to room temperature, stir in the ground almonds and place the casserole dish, uncovered, in an oven preheated to 180degC for about 50 minutes or until heated through.

Garnish with mint or parsley. Serve the braise with rice or warmed naan bread and a scattering of cashew and chilli sprinkle.

Cashew and chilli sprinkle Heat the oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the cashew nuts or peanuts and stir frequently for five or six minutes until the nuts are lightly golden. Add the onion and stir-fry briefly for a couple of minutes. Stir in the cumin, salt, chilli and the mint and saute for a minute more.

Cool and spoon into a serving bowl. Pass separately at the table, each diner sprinkling the nutty mixture over the braise.

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