I spent the last half of my teens and the first half of my twenties playing field hockey for the Vancouver Rowing Club, and every Victoria Day long weekend I would dig through the piles of laundry I always left unfolded to find my jersey, skirt, and Dutch-soccer orange knee socks and then head out to the pitch to play in the Vancouver Invitational Tournament. Except for one weekend when it was so hot I spent the afternoons in the beer garden in my sports bra, it rained. In nine of ten years I spent the weekend soaked, my toes wrinkling in my turf shoes, my skin slick with a layer of moisture that never seemed to dry.
I was awful at field hockey. I am too competitive and would get aggressive at all the wrong times, but I never had the skill to back it up. And I don’t run very fast. In the wild, I could be taken down by the oldest, most arthritic bear or mountain lion. Nevertheless, in all the years since I played, I miss it most in the weeks before the May long weekend. And then the weekend arrives, and it rains, and I remember peeling my polyester jersey off my damp, sticky body, and I still miss it. There were always cute Australians to look at, and the beer was cheap and plentiful.
For half the time I played, I was dating one of the goalies on the premier men’s team. When that ended badly (oh so badly!) I had already been subtly trying to trick Nick into spending time with me, and when he finally relented, I found other things to do on the long weekend. I couldn’t go back to hockey, but at that point, I didn’t want to. The possibility of an awkward run-in was enough to keep me from trying to dig up those socks again.
But, you know … Facebook. I am still friends on Facebook with a few of the women I played with, and I see that they’re playing this weekend and I miss it all. I liked playing field hockey, and the interesting characters that comprised the teams I liked to play on. I am starting to wonder if I can have all that, and still avoid the awkward run-ins, and somehow convince Nick to come watch and cheer me on. Maybe not on the May long weekend, of course. It’s always so rainy.
This May long weekend has been fairly quiet, and it has been raining steadily since yesterday. So today has been a day for laundry and long hours spent braising meat in fragrant coconut milk and warm spices, and for remembering fondly how it feels to be so damp from the vantage point of my warm apartment, in my pajama pants fresh out of the dryer.
Yellow curry braised beef
- 2 tbsp. coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
- 3 to 4 lbs. cubed beef brisket or boneless chuck (sometimes sold as stew meat) – short ribs would also work well here
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 tbsp. minced ginger
- 2 tbsp. minced fresh lemongrass
- 2 tbsp. minced fresh cilantro stems (leaves reserved)
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 jalapeño peppers, minced (to minimize the spice, you can remove the seeds and the membranes before chopping)
- 2 tsp. ground turmeric
- 2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom
- 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 3 tbsp. fish sauce
- 3 tbsp. brown sugar
- 2 14 oz./398 ml cans coconut milk
- Zest and juice of one lime
- 3 to 4 kaffir lime leaves (optional)*
- 2 red Thai bird chilies (optional)
- 1 lb. cubed sweet potato
- 1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
Preheat your oven to 325°F.
In a pot you can use on the stove and in the oven, melt coconut oil over medium-high heat. Add beef pieces, and season with salt. Brown beef deeply on all sides, about three minutes. You want to get good colour on the beef, but you don’t want to burn it. When beef is browned, remove it and set it aside.
To the same pot, add onion, ginger, lemongrass, cilantro stems, garlic, and jalapeño peppers. Sauté until fragrant, two to three minutes. Add turmeric, cumin, coriander, black pepper, cardamom, and cinnamon, and cook another two to three minutes, until the bottom of the pan looks dry.
Add sugar, fish sauce, coconut milk, and lime. If you have kaffir lime leaves and Thai chilies, add these to the pot as well – I leave my chilies whole. Add beef back to the pot, with any meat juices that have collected in the meantime – there’s good stuff in there. Cover, and put on the middle rack of your preheated oven. Braise for 3 to 3 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
In the last 45 minutes of cooking, add your sweet potatoes to the pot, and re-cover.
Remove the pot from the oven, uncover it, and return it to the stove over medium heat. Add bell peppers, cooking an additional 10 minutes until peppers are tender and the sauce has reduced slightly. Serve over rice, with a sprinkling of fresh cilantro.
*You can buy kaffir lime leaves at most Asian markets. They are very inexpensive, so if you end up with a lot of them, stick them in a baggie and store them in the freezer – they’ll keep a few months if well sealed, and you can use them to liven up curries of all kinds.