Need a winter warmer? Spice up your life

PUBLISHED: 17:50 15 February 2016 | UPDATED: 17:50 15 February 2016




Far Eastern food is more about deep rich warmth and fresh flavours than burning chilli heat, says Stephen David, chef-director of Bespoke Events


We’re still in the brown season of native British fare so I’m definitely tipping my chef’s hat to the Far East for its tropical vibrance and colour.

Despite being a chef who loves travelling the world in the culinary quest for new experiences in ingredients, dishes and flavours, I have to admit to not being the bravest when it comes to capsaicin, the fiery chemical that gives chillies their burn. So when I’m considering an Asian banquet I look for flexible recipes that suit not just my sensitive palate, but are also child-friendly.

South-East Asian cuisines particularly are focussed on balance, each dish and the whole feast combining the freshest tastiest ingredients to give harmony of spice, salt, sweet and sour, complemented with a variety of textures and temperatures.

A cook’s tip – water and alcohol will provide little relief on hot chillies. Something dairy like chilled milk or authentic yoghurt lassi is the quickest way to alleviate the burn. Others swear by a wedge of lemon or lime, something starchy like rice, or even a spoonful of sugar.


Indonesia-style Suffolk Red Poll beef rendang

(serves 4 generously)

This dish from far south-east Asia combines the freshness of Thai cooking with the spiced depths and richness of Indian Keralan cuisine. Adapt how many dried chillies you add to your recipe, read the label and look at the size. Serve with simple boiled or coconut jasmine rice and perhaps an Asian ‘slaw for contrast.


Local rapeseed oil, 800g approx trimmed boneless Suffolk Red Poll beef eg chuck, shin or short rib, cut into large cubes, 1 cinnamon stick, 3 cloves, 3 star anise, 3 cardamom pods, 2 lemongrass, cut into inch lengths and flattened, I inch piece of galangal, in thin rounds, 6 kaffir lime leaves, 1 can coconut milk, 400ml boiling water, 2 tsp tamarind pulp, 1 tbsp palm sugar (or light brown sugar), 6 tbsp desiccated coconut, toasted in a dry pan, black peppermill and sea salt

Garnishes: Red chillies, deseeded and very finely sliced, shallots, peeled, shredded and slowly deep fried to golden


Heat up a thin layer of oil in a wide heavy sauté pan until very hot. Brown the meat in batches and transfer to a deep lidded hobproof casserole dish. Add the seven spice ingredients to the oiled pan and fry until fragrant and tinging. Add to the casserole. Turn the heat to low-medium and fry the spice paste slowly for about 10 – 15 minutes whilst stirring regularly, until almost dry. Add a splash of extra water if sticking. After it has thickened and darkened, add the coconut milk, boiling water, tamarind, sugar and toasted coconut, plus seasoning to taste. Stir and heat until bubbling and transfer to the casserole. Cover and bring to a boil, leave the lid ajar and keep at a consistent low simmer, stirring and checking regularly. Cook for two hours or more until the meat is very tender and the sauce reduced. You may need to add a splash more water occasionally. Remove the obvious spices before serving with the garnishes scattered over.

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