In the course of my research, I discovered that there are three styles of satay sauce and each style harks from a different part of the world. One is the thick style that you would dip marinated and grilled chicken or pork on a stick into, another is a thinner, less robust but fiercely hotter version. I went for the Thai version, which seemed to suit my plans for the pork, better than any of the others.
For varying reasons that I won't bore you by going into here, I needed to poach or otherwise cook in liquid, the pork steaks so as to render them tender and ensure they weren't in any way dry. Now it made sense - in my mind if nobody else's - to capitalise on the meaty flavours by cooking the pork in the satay sauce. However, I knew that once the peanut butter is included, you have a very short time before it starts to catch on the bottom of the pan - and nobody likes a burned satay sauce.
Would you believe it, it worked. The poaching liquor, of onion, red Thai curry paste, chicken stock and coconut milk tasted divine and the pork steaks simmered away very happily until they were cooked through, staying moist and tender. I realised that, even with the Thai curry paste, the chilli heat wasn't going to survive the not-very-tender mercies of being hammered by a great dollop of peanut butter, so quickly added a teaspoonful of dried red chilli flakes to bolster the chilli ratio. After that, it was a simple matter of adding the peanut butter and the all-important cider vinegar.
Now, if you make this recipe, don't ever be tempted to leave the cider vinegar out. It is essential and changes your sauce from being a chilli/peanut combo, into a Satay sauce. It provides that sweet/sour thing that so many oriental dishes have. The coriander is optional, in that if you don't like it, it won't hurt the dish to leave it out. I have heard that sweet Thai basil would be good instead, but never having tried it can't recommend it. However, it's worth a go if you really dislike coriander.
One more thing, from the cook's perspective, is to make sure that you don't continue cooking and trying to reduce the sauce, once you've put the peanut butter in. As I've said up there ^^^ somewhere, it will burn easily but not only that the peanut butter releases its oil and you'll wind up with a pan full of oil with the over reduced, thickened sauce hiding somewhere underneath. At that point, all you can do is retrieve the meat and throw the sauce away. So, be sure that your meat is ready, before you add the peanut butter.
All the family were very happy with this recipe. Son & heir declared it to be "meaty, very very meaty!" (which is always a good thing in his book, as he's a young caveman in training). Hubby wasn't too struck on the pork, but loved the sauce and ventured the opinion that it would be as good if not better, with chicken or large prawns. By jingo, I think he's right, too! I loved the pork (predictably) and really enjoyed the sauce's relationship with the meat. I felt the flavours complemented each other very well. The sauce was also really good with the rice and I had designs upon decanting the leftovers of both into a bowl for lunch today, right up until I discovered that the remains of the sauce had done the releasing its oil thing and was unusable. Hey ho. I'll have to remember to cool it quickly the next time.
I also enjoyed the sugar snap peas with the pork and sauce. The rice is there to bulk out the meal, but the peas just added that light and refreshing crunch with accompanying sweetness, making them a perfect palate cleanser between mouthfuls. Now, where sugar snap peas are concerned, can I make a plea? Can everyone - restaurants included - please make an effort to remove the strings from either side of the pea pod? Please? It really only takes a second to do - and makes such a difference to the eating experience. Thanks. Appreciated. *wink*
So anyway, all in all, I'll be doing this one again!
PORK STEAKS IN SATAY STYLE SAUCE (serves 3)
2 tbsp sunflower oil
6 pork steaks, trimmed of 95% of their fat (assuming 2 each)
1 onion, chopped finely
3 dessertspoonfuls of red Thai curry paste
400ml tin of coconut milk
200ml chicken stock
1 teaspoonful of dried red chilli flakes (to taste)
2 dessertspoonfuls of peanut butter
2 dessertspoonfuls of cider vinegar
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp chopped fresh coriander.
1. In a deep frying pan or wok, heat the oil until really quite hot, then sear the pork steaks on both sides. Once the steaks are golden brown, remove and reserve to keep warm.
2. Add the onion to the pan and cook on a moderate heat until softened and golden brown.
3. Add the Thai curry paste and stir to combine. Cook for some 3-4 minutes until the oil is separating from the paste.
4. Add the coconut milk and stir well to combine. Make sure you get all the bits from the bottom of the pan, as these are all flavour.
5. Add the chicken stock and stir to combine.
6. Once the sauce is bubbling, return the pork steaks to the pan and simmer - uncovered - for some 10-15 minutes, or until the pork is cooked through. It is at this stage that you can taste the sauce and decide whether or not to add the dried red chilli flakes, but just remember that the peanut butter will do its best to wipe out every other flavour, so be brave!
7. Add the peanut butter and stir gently to combine. The sauce will thicken at this stage, so take care to stir regularly to prevent it catching on the bottom of the pan.
8. Add the cider vinegar, stir to combine. Give the vinegar 5 minutes or so to simmer and amalgamate with the other flavours, then taste for seasoning and adjust. I found the dish required a fair amount of salt, to bring out the flavours of the peanuts.
9. Just before serving, add the chopped coriander, saving a little back to sprinkle over the plated up dish.
Serve with plain white rice (basmati is good) and a light, green vegetable such as sugar snap peas.