Massaman Thai Curry and…Boarding School Beginnings

A few posts ago I was telling you how Archie wasn’t accepted into the school we had chosen for him because they said he had severe learning difficulties and so we found another school for that would take him, but only as a boarder.

Archie was quite keen to board and we thought it would really suit him.  His first day was a Sunday and he had to be there at 3pm.  We drove him out to the school that was about an hour away from our home and it was a very hot day and I was heavily pregnant with Alfie.  We stood around the outside of the boarding house that was nicknamed ‘Hogwarts’ and the staff allowed all the new boarders to choose a can of soft drink (Archie went for a coke of course).  There were also ice blocks for the boys and while they enthusiastically downed their treats, I don’t think they realised this sort of an afternoon wasn’t typical and that they would experience this only on the very rarest of occasions.  Still, it was a happy start for the boys while the teary parents were offered beer, wine and pretty cakes.

Massamum Thai Curry

Massamam Thai Curry

Some older boys who were monitors in the boarding house showed Archie to his dorm which had beds in it for about 20 boys and Archie had to put the sheets on and make up his bed.  Well somehow he didn’t know how to do this and so I had to do it for him while trying to teach him at the same time.  It was as hot as Hades in that dorm and we noticed other boys unpacking fans and wondered how they knew to bring one.  We unpacked all his new things that my mother had labelled with her Bernina sewing machine, into a locker and more things into his little bedside table.  I hoped he’d know how to find his things, and look after them, and not lose them.  Then it was time for the boys to put on their PE uniforms and head to the dining hall for dinner.  That was the signal it was time for us to say goodbye.

Archie had just celebrated his 12th birthday.  Well, we tried to look brave as we hugged him goodbye and Archie was full of optimism and excited to be off on a new adventure.  I watched him walk off with all the other boys who were strangers to him and hoped he would quickly make friends, settle in and really enjoy the boarding experience.

Massamum Thai Curry

A very mild Thai Curry

We wouldn’t see Archie for another three weeks; the idea being that it’s best for the boys not to come home for the first few weekends so they can more easily settle in and make friends and become used to boarding school life.  The new boarders weren’t allowed to have mobile phones either (but Archie would ask older boys if he could borrow their phones so he could ring me.  I loved it when he phoned me.)  No, the boys had to write letters.  Time was assigned in the evenings for them to write to their parents and let them know what was happening.  Somehow, in that three week period, I received just one letter.  One!  I’m glad I kept it; I didn’t know it would be part of a very rare collection.

Here’s what Archie wrote in his one letter…

‘Hi mum and dad, Arabella, Ruby and Rosie,

How are you all?  I got a fax from one of the aunties.  It was the first one (sigh).  She’s so caring, so caring (sigh).

I’m gonna tell you what the principal doesn’t want us to do when we get older (he said this in assembly).  ‘Now when you get older I don’t want you to be driven mindlessly by the winds of fate.’  LOL (sigh).  This place is really cool.  I’ve finished all my prep and am doing this in my spare time (which we have so LITTLE of).  So I hope you appreciate what I’m doing.  In prep time if you say one word, just one word you get yelled at by this guy with a London accent, ‘Oi, Guys, quiet NOW!’ and ‘Guys, make sure all those scraps get picked up, yeah?’  I’ve made a lot of friends and am pretty organised for now.  Arabella, let me know if your teacher is more respectful of us kids.  Has she given out any detentions yet?  Tell me all.  Well, prep time is over so I gotta pack up.

Lots of love, Archie.

PS:  Assemblies go on for an hour and they have an ORGAN!’

I feared the letter would form part of a very limited collection and so that’s why I kept it.

Archie seemed fine and very upbeat but these were very early days and things quickly unraveled.  By Term II we were brought in for an emergency meeting and I’ll share all that developed in my next post.

In the meantime, here’s a curry Archie would often request when he was allowed to come home on the weekends.  The reason he wanted it is because boarding school food is quite bland and Archie was used to food that packed a bit more punch.

Massamum Thai Curry

A curry suitable for the whole family

Massaman Thai Curry

Serves:  8

Degree of Difficulty:  2/5

Cost:  Medium range.  The beef you use is a cheap cut with a slow cooking time but chicken could be substituted and this could also be a vegetarian meal.

  • 4 tbspns vegetable oil
  • 4 tbspns chopped onion (about 3 brown onions)
  • 1 tspn shrimp paste
  • 2 dessertspoons crushed garlic
  • 1 dessertspoon grated ginger
  • 3 cups coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tspns sea salt
  • 2 bruised stalks of lemongrass (white part only)
  • Contents of the No Worries Curries spice pack
  • 1.5kg cubed blade or chuck steak
  • 6 peeled and quartered potatoes (I used sweet potato) 
  • 2 dessertspoons fish sauce
  • 2 dessertspoons tamarind puree
  • 1 dessertspoon grated palm sugar
  • 1/2 cup roasted peanuts
  • Thai basil leaves

Heat oil in a large saucepan.  Add onions and cook for a few minutes until softened but not browned.  Add shrimp paste, garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant (about a minute).  Add coconut milk, water, sea salt, lemongrass, spices and beef and simmer for 60 minutes with the lid on.

Add potatoes, fish sauce, tamarind puree and palm sugar and cook for a further 20 minutes.

Remove from heat and add peanuts.  Garnish with fresh basil and serve with steamed rice.

A very mild Thai curry

I used sweet potato instead of potato to give the curry extra colour

This recipe has been adapted from No Worries Curries.  This spice pack was sent to me by Agenda Selects.   If you are unable to source No Worries Curries, a massaman curry spice could be a substitute.




  1. Going from your lovely food to boarding school food must have been tough. What an interesting story and I can’t wait to hear more.

    The bit about watching him walk off brought a tear to my eye. Not sure I could be so strong.
    PS the curry looks lovely. I’m very respectful of the great photography too. I am trying to rock my camera and have made some chocolate ice cream to shoot tomorrow. Hope it doesn’t all melt whilst I am trying to get it together. Yikes!!!!

    • Thanks Caro. I’m sure you’ll do really well with your photo shoot. Looking forward to reading all about the chocolate ice cream but yes, melting desserts is a problem for photographers at this time of year.

  2. After meeting Archie recently, I’m not one bit surprised he fit in so well at school. I’d come to your house for the weekend if you fed me this curry!

  3. Bam's Kitchen says:

    Is this the same little Archie the musician. I’m so glad you kept that letter. College is rough but boarding school maybe even a little more. I am sure he counted the days until his next home cooked meal. Love mussaman curry lots of favors . You made even brown food look delicious great photos take care, BAM

  4. Lovely story and very tasty curry. I’ll have to give it a try one day.

  5. Boarding school sounds like it can be quite traumatic for some young people. I’m pretty sure I would not have fared well, I was pretty close and dependent on my parents. Plus I’m pretty certain they wouldn’t have been able to afford it, it’s ridiculously expensive in Ontario (Québec is supposedly much cheaper).
    That curry looks quite flavourful indeed Charlie, I adore a Thai curry for its complex flavours. The sweet potato also is lower in carbs so it’s not only prettier, it’s healthier too!

  6. I always wanted to be a boarder but like Archie, I am sure the novelty would wear off soon! It’s a good thing you kept the letter, so cute. I keep all mine too, they have fun reading them as they get older.
    I’ve been meaning to make this Mussaman curry, I’ll have to try and find the spice mix or make one.
    Yours is really colorful with the sweet potatoes. Looks great on the blue plate.

    Nazneen xx

  7. Wow, these pictures are gorgeous!!! And what is it that you’re taking a pic on? Whatever it is, it’s such a beautiful piece of wood. Love hearing you tell the stories of your fam…always makes me laugh. And this curry looks delicious!

    • Hi Amy, it’s a table my husband’s grandmother made. She carved it herself. We’re in the middle of moving house so most of my things are in boxes so I’m struggling to find ANYTHING to photograph my food on so thanks for noticing!

  8. Except for the meals, when kids leave home they seem to adjust better that the parents. Archie surely adjusted very well and quickly even at such a tender age. Did you remind him of the letter? What was his reaction? Looking forward to future posts.
    A very inviting plate of curry.

  9. It’s a good thing you kept that letter! YOu should probably frame it. It is quite amusing the things that 12 year olds are concerned about (like detention!). I would totally request this curry also – so tasty!

  10. Oh, my, I doubt I would have the courage to leave a 12-year-old at boarding school. Sending my 19-year-old 300 miles away to college this past fall was difficult enough. As I write, he is upstairs sleeping, home on spring break, having arrived here between 1 – 3 a.m. today. I know that only because I see his dirty clothes in the laundry basket and his winter coat on the hook. Can’t wait to hug him when he awakens.

    So wonderful that you saved that letter from Archie. What a treasure.

  11. I remember sitting down for letter writing. It was compulsory to write home once a week, but we had to keep the envelope unsealed. Great looking curry GG xx

  12. What a great curry, but the story is even better. It’s so hard to let go of your kid, you are a brave one. But I guess we all manage to do it once we come to the bridge. I can’t wait for your next post.

  13. cecilia g says:

    a cliffhanger! CRUEL! c

  14. I didn’t experience any kind of boarding school till college, and then I never wrote home. I felt calling was good enough!

  15. Leaving my son at college was horrific, especially for him and his dad. We were all in tears. It’s hard even at that age. But how difficult it must have been for you! What a nice story to accompany this delicious looking recipe.

  16. Oh, it’s so touching to read about that separation. 12 is still pretty young. I can imagine exactly why curry was a favourite food after b. school blandness.

  17. Oh poor boy!! I went to boarding school when I was 16 and that was fantastic – my way of running away from home, so sensible. But there were many girls there who had left for school at 8 or 9 and they all said they’d been far too young.

    This curry looks marvellous, and I could try a veggie version. Where does one purchase tamarind paste?? Indian grocery??

    • Hi Seana, you can buy tamarind paste from the supermarket! It comes in little jars usually in the Asian food aisle. If you can’t find it, you can always substitute some lime juice. It’s really there just to add that sour element.

  18. Oh dear, I can’t imagine how difficult it should be to have your 12 year old go off to boarding school, I’m looking forward to read how the story unfolds…
    p.s. that’s a curry, I’m sure, anyone would love to come home to!

  19. What a poor boy (sigh), if only you were more caring, more caring (sigh)! No wonder he’s doing so well at drama school 🙂 I bet he craved your tasty home cooked meals, and a curry is always a winner indeed Charlie. Xox

  20. Aw, my dad used to order Mussaman curries sometimes when we went out. Somehow you always make me think of (and miss) my family, Charlie!

  21. Archie was lovable even as a child. Endearing. I don’t blame you for keeping the letter–I have done almost the same. I can also imagine that coming home to a lovely curry like this one was a treat for him. I remember the first time I tried this curry in Thailand, so many years ago. I liked it then; I like it now. Thanks for reminding me!

  22. How tough for you leaving Archie there that first day. I think sometimes things like that are harder for parents than children, although obviously we know now it all worked out in the end and Archie has come out the other end very well indeed! I bet he loved those weekends home with meals like these.

  23. Hmm, that ending doesn’t bode well for Part 2 of your story. Archie’s letter seems pretty switched on to me for a 12 year old boy…I hope he wrote you many more.

  24. I can just imagine how he fell upon this curry with all of that lovely flavour! I’ve never been to boarding school but the food doesn’t sound all that great from what friends have said 🙂

  25. I love the use of sweet potato in that sort of dish. I must try that. You are very lucky to have access to the fresh lemongrass…. we only see it very occasionally here 🙁

  26. Dont worry Archie will adapt and he will live having 19 mates around him. It will take a term or two!!. Keep us informed.

    Send food parcels, the boarding food is shocking, regardless of what they say

  27. Oh I love Massamam Curry!!!
    I can understand why Archie would want it when he came home!
    I was often threatened with the convent boarding school but I managed to dodge it :p

  28. From what you’ve shared about Archie, if ever there was a boy who’d adapt and do well in a new environment — just about any new environment — Archie would be the one. Your curry sounds delicious, Charlie, and the sweet potato really does brighten up the dish. I need to put away the pasta machine and gry making a few of these curries that you and others have posted. Today’s massaman sounds like a great start.

  29. Good luck with Archie and his school. I can imagine it is not easy not to have your son around you, especially when they are this young. The curry looks delicious.

  30. Archie sounds quite grown up for a 12 year old, at least he wrote you one letter, look forward to hearing the rest of the story. The curry looks really good to.

  31. I bet boarding school was quite a change from your wonderful food Charlie! That’s really lovely that they were meant to write letters home. My mum went off to boarding school when she was 8!
    Shall look forward to the next instalment.

  32. Hi Charlie! Love the curry, it looks delicious 🙂 As for Archie, I’m intrigued… 😉
    Have a lovely Sunday!

  33. I can’t imagine how quiet your home must have grown for a time upon Archie going away to school, Charlie. Especially with you so pregnant, you were in that nesting phase and it must have been difficult to leave him. But he seems to have done very well. The curry sounds delightful. I don’t know how he did with eating school food…he left a lot of comforts at home! 🙂

  34. That’s so sweet for Archie to write a letter to the whole family and even addressing the dogs 🙂 A shame that he really liked the school to start off with and everything was so supportive but then the other kids there wasn’t as kind or nice 🙁

  35. I have to give it to your son for handling boarding school so well at first, my parents wanted to send me to China when I was younger so I could become fluent in Mandarin. I bawled my eyes out so bad I don’t remember feeling so distraught! I also didn’t have your Massaman curry to come home to which is probably one of the reasons why I didn’t take it so well.

  36. That would be hard for me Charlie but Archie sounds like he adjusted so easily! I haven’t heard of Mussaman but I love a good curry.

  37. I can’t wait to hear what Archie thought of the food there!

  38. This soup has TONS for flavor and I bet a lot of depth. It sounds SO good and the pictures showed just how good it is!

  39. Massaman curry is my favorite of all! YUM! I don’t have a recipe for it (as I always eat out), but I’d love to try making it at home. I’m not sure if I’ll be ever ready to send kids to boarding school. Archie must be very matured at his age that time!

  40. Curries are always welcome in the glutton household. And No Worries Curries is too funny.

    So Archie can only send letters? Are emails verboten? 🙂

  41. oh hun – I cannot even begin to imagine how hard it would have been to walk away from the school that day. Love Archies letter – he has so much character that guy! xx

  42. This massaman curry looks yummy! I never make curry from scratch and I salute you for that. Beautiful pictures!!

  43. Aww that letter from Archie is soo adorable. Hopefully you’ll have a collection you can show him again when he’s older hehe 🙂

    This curry looks beautiful and I love the pop of orange from the sweet potato 😀

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