Beef Massaman Curry in a Slow Cooker

Of all the posts on Café Cat, the most popular to date is the Beef Korma cooked in a Slow Cooker. When people search on Google for a beef curry cooked this way, my recipe comes up first.

A slow cooker is the perfect way to cook a curry or a stew. As the meat cooks slowly the liquid doesn’t evaporate the way it does in the oven, so it’s best to add about a quarter or half the amount you would normally use. You can always add more later if necessary.

I’ve adapted this Thai Massaman Beef Curry by Bill Granger for the Slow Cooker. It’s nice and spicy, without being overly hot. If you’re going to serve it with rice, we didn’t think the potatoes were really necessary, so leave them out if you prefer.

Beef Massaman Curry in a Slow Cooker1 tsp crushed dried chilli
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh ginger
2 tsp cumin seeds
Seeds removed from 5 cardamom pods
1 red onion, cut in half
6 cloves garlic
1 stalk lemongrass (white part only)
2 Tbs coriander roots
1 Tbs Tamarind paste
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1.2kg stewing beef (blade, shin, chuck) cut into 3-4cm pieces
400ml can coconut milk
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs fish sauce
¼ cup water
400g small potatoes, scrubbed and halved (optional)
To serve:
1 Tbs lime or lemon juice
Fresh coriander sprigs
2 Tbs roasted peanuts, chopped
Steamed rice

In a mortar and pestle pound the chilli, ginger, cumin, cardamom and 1 tsp salt until finely ground. In a food processor whiz the red onion, garlic, lemongrass, coriander root, tamarind paste and 1 Tbs of the oil, until finely chopped, then mix in the chilli-spice mix.

Heat remaining 1 Tbs oil in a large frying pan and brown the meat in 2 or 3 batches, for about 2 minutes each side, then place in slow cooker. Add the curry paste to the frying pan and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add to slow cooker with the coconut milk, sugar, fish sauce, potatoes (if using) and water. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or until beef is tender. Stir every couple of hours, adding a little more water if necessary.

To serve: Add lime or lemon juice, check seasoning and serve garnished with the coriander and peanuts, with steamed rice on the side.

Note: If preferred curry can be cooked in a heavy casserole with a lid in the oven where it will take about 3 hours at 160°C. In this case increase the water to ¾ cup and add the potatoes, uncooked, about halfway through cooking time. For low-carb version omit the potatoes.

Serves 4-6

Curry in a Slow Cooker

When it comes to cooking I’m always looking for short cuts.  Not because I don’t like it – quite the opposite – but I just don’t seem to have as much time to devote to the kitchen as my paternal grandmother Jessie did.  I know she managed without a washing machine or a dishwasher and kept her own chickens.  But most of her supplies were delivered to the door (actually I don’t think she could drive) and she didn’t do emails, Facebook or a blog.

I’ve always been a great fan of slow cookers.  Perfect for days when you want to come home and find something ready for dinner which has been looking after itself for hours.  You hardly even have to stir the food – just once in a while to see how it’s going.

I’ve had my slow cooker – which is called a Crock Pot – for over 30 years and wouldn’t part with it for quids. If you keep your eyes open you can sometimes pick one up for a song in a secondhand shop. I often convert recipes intended for conventional cooking and make them in the slow cooker.  The main rule is to cut down drastically on the amount of liquid – start with very little – you can always add more.

This beef korma is adapted from a recipe by Michael Pandya in his Complete Indian Cookbook first published in 1980.  My grandmother Jessie, who gave me my first cooking lessons when I was eleven, always put a teaspoon of salt into anything sweet and a teaspoon of sugar into anything savoury, to bring out the flavour, so I always do the same.

Beef Korma

2 large onions
4 Tbs ghee or vegetable oil
50g blanched almonds
50g fresh ginger, peeled
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs coriander seeds, ground in a mortar and pestle, or use ready-ground
1 Tbs cumin seeds, ground in a mortar and pestle, or use ready-ground
8 whole cloves, ground in a mortar and pestle, or use 1/2 tsp ground
8 black peppercorns, ground in a mortar and pestle, or use 1/2 tsp ground
1-2 tsp chilli powder, to taste
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp garam masala
1 kg stewing beef, such as chuck steak, trimmed and cut into 2-3cm cubes
1 cup thick plain yoghurt
1 cup water
Fresh coriander, chopped and 2 Tbs extra plain yoghurt, to garnish

Peel onions, halve then slice.  Fry gently in a large frying pan in half the oil.  When soft place in the slow cooker.  In a food processor, process remaining ingredients except meat, yoghurt, water and coriander.  Add remaining oil to frying pan and when hot fry the meat, stirring constantly, until browned.  If your pan is not sufficiently hot it’s better to brown the meat in two batches.  Add the spice mixture and stir to coat thoroughly.  Keep cooking and stirring until the spices smell fragrant.  Place meat in slow cooker with yoghurt and half the water.  Turn the slow cooker on high, cover and cook for 4 hours or until meat is tender, adding the remaining water if necessary and stirring from time to time.  If preferred you can cook for about 7 hours on low.  If you have to go out it’s a good idea to turn it to low as it can look after itself for hours at that temperature.  Before serving, taste to see if it needs more salt.

Garnish with a swirl of yoghurt and the coriander and serve with steamed rice, Indian bread and maybe an Indian chutney or pickle.  A side dish of Cucumber Raita (cucumber and plain yoghurt) goes well.  There are plenty of recipes online.

Serves 8-10