Friday, August 20, 2010

A little bit of spice... or a lot.

Note: this is a post from when I was still living back in Australia, copied across from an old blog. I just thought it was such a quick and easy thing to make, and a good way to utilise whatever veg is in your fridge, that it could be posted again. I don't like my chances of making it here, but when I get home I'll have ready access to Asian ingredients again (and could make my own curry paste!) so it's definitely something I'll keep in the back of my mind. Sorry if you've already read it!

From Feb 2, 2010:

A few days ago, I made the most amazing Thai curry. Not that I'm rating my own cooking, or anything... ahem. Aside from being insanely easy to make (if you're one of those people who frequently cheat by using a curry paste, such as myself) they're delicious and they keep really well in the fridge. Because hey, let's face it, there's nothing that I love more for lunch than delicious leftovers. Microwave and eat, now there's a quick lunch.

Oh, deliciousness!

I'll readily admit to being completely biased about the curry pastes I do use. Sure, I love making them, adding gnarled chunks of ginger or tumeric to the food processor. Or that handful of chillies that smell so amazing that I go in for a closer sniff, only to cough and sneeze with the intensity of it. And this curry was certainly one that provided a challenge for my lungs while I was frying the paste. I'm glad that I thought to go outside with the wok for this one, thanks to the gorgeous weather, or else I'd probably still be smelling that chilli. Because, quite honestly, this was the hottest thing I've ever eaten.

Not to say that I'm scared of chilli - I love a bit of chilli, especially the whole dried ones that you get in sweet Mongolian tofu, or when they're fried with garlic and strewn across some kind of deep-fried offering. I like a slow burn, so that you don't tend to notice it on the first mouthful, but you're sweating by the second or third. That's usually how I make my curries, anyway. But I decided, for the sake of adventure, to use a different curry paste. Maesri Massaman Curry is usually my favourite, and for some reason, I grabbed a few different ones the last time I was at my local Asian Grocery. Now, I've since recycled the can and can't for the life of me remember the name of this one, except to say that it's red chillies. Sorry about that. If the other "lucky dip" can that I bought is anything to go by, it's probably about 30% chilli. Which might not seem like too much with a small can, but I promise you, these were mean chillies.

I love snow peas. I mean, really, really love them.

So I made this curry much in the same style as I make Massaman (by pointedly ignoring the directions on this new can, which called for water). I added Coconut cream for richness, and because I adore that coconut flavour in saucy dishes like this. Ayam brand is the one I usually reach for, just for reliability. Coconut milk is fine, and makes a thinner and more traditional curry, but I love the texture of the cream. Sweet potatoes simmered to meltingly soft, purple cabbage for contrast in colour and texture, and snow peas... because really, who doesn't love snow peas? Sugar snap peas would have been amazing also, or failing that, beans. Finished with a generous handful of Thai basil and coriander, it was a curry fit for a King (or Queen, or other royalty).

Very Basic Thai Curry:

1 x 114g tin of Maesri Curry Paste
1/8 cup vegetable oil
2 x Tbs palm sugar, coarsely chopped.
1 x Tbs salty sauce - fish sauce is the standard, but soy will suffice.
2 x 270ml cans Coconut Cream (I used the 'light' option and it was fine)
1 x large sweet potato (or equivalent root vegetable - pumpkin is good too!)
250g snow peas
1/4 of a purple cabbage (feel free to substitute whatever
1 x very generous handful of coriander and thai basil, torn into pieces. (Laksa leaf, also called Vietnamese Coriander, works well if you like extra pungency.)

1. Cut your veg into bite sized pieces. If you're in a hurry, you can cut them smaller so that they cooks faster, but a long slow simmer is the go if you're adding meat to this.
2. Using the oil, fry the curry paste until it's highly fragrant; 2-3 minutes. Stir continually so that it doesn't burn, and so that it can mix with the oil and cook through evenly. If you were adding meat, you'd want to do that here, so that it could fully incorporate the flavour of the paste.
3. Add a tin of coconut cream to the curry paste, and incorporate to make a thick sauce. The palm sugar and sauce should be added here, and adjusted to taste, because both vary greatly according to the brand used. Add slow-cooking veg here - I like to let mine simmer gently for half an hour, so I'll add potatoes or pumpkin first and add snow peas last, to allow them to retain colour and crunch. The cabbage was somewhere in the middle.
4. You have two options with the second can of coconut cream. If you like a thinner sauce, add it at the end, or mix in a little water to thin. If you're in the mood for a thicker sauce, as I was, add them both at the same time and let it thicken slowly, before eventually using a spoon to drain off the coconut oil that forms. I tend to re-use this in fried dishes, or with plain dishes for a little extra chilli kick. You don't need to remove it at all, I just enjoy being a little thrifty with my flavourings. ;)
5. When the sweet potato is meltingly tender, but well before it falls apart, take the curry from the heat. Stir through your herbs and serve immediately with steamed rice.


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