Friday, 20 March 2015

Thai-Style Coconut Curry

I'd planned to post here a lot more frequently than I have been so far. Other projects, and a nasty case of illustrator's-block, have been getting the better of me. In the run-up to, and just after, Christmas, I was preparing new work for a joint-show with my brother at Dean Heritage Centre in the Forest of Dean. That work is now on sale at DUKKI in the Broadmarsh Centre here in Nottingham, along with my handprinted cotton totes and lots of mounted original prints. It's up there for one more week, so if you're in the area please do go and check it out. They also sell the work of local artist Ian Jones, and the shop is a treasure trove of Nottingham-themed fun. I've been trying to devote the rest of my time to getting my children's book going, but my brain seems to be shutting down on that right now, so I thought it might be time to do something a little different to get the old creative juices flowing. And that, of course, means food.

This Thai style curry is incredibly simple and very quick to make and can be quite convenient too, if you keep the staple ingredients on-hand. Ginger and chillies, for example, can be bought in bulk from the market (you can often find bowlsful for £1 each) and then frozen. Ginger should be broken or cut into thumb-size pieces before freezing, so you don't need to defrost it before use; the skin slices off easily and much more thinly than from fresh, and the naked root can then be grated finely. Chilli juice gets onto your fingers far less when the fruit is cut frozen, so there's much less risk of rubbing it into your eyes, and the seeds are easier to remove that way too, if that's your bag. Lemongrass is quite easy to come by these days, but for convenience you can buy it as a puree in jars, which can then be kept in the fridge. My top-tip for coconut milk? Buy it from the 'world foods' section of the supermarket (or from a specialist Asian-food shop), where you'll often see it far cheaper than on the 'standard' aisles. The same goes for spices, rice, lentils, tinned pulses, noodles and non-wheat flours like gram and rice.

                                                                                                                                                                   (c) Becca Thorne 2015

The veg I've used here are just what I had on hand the other night, but you can use pretty much anything depending on what's available or what you want to use up. Other veg that work: Celeriac, finely sliced; frozen peas (add these with the coconut milk towards the end); sugar snap or mange touts; french beans; carrots, julienned; courgette; pretty much any brassica..... I wouldn't recommend tomatoes or parsnips, but if you can stir-fry it you can chuck it in here. If you're not using a 'harder' veg, like sprouts/cauli/broccoli that might require a bit of extra cooking, you can skip the water.

Thai-Style Coconut Curry

Serves 2-3

For the puree
2 stalks lemongrass, outer leaves discarded, stalks roughly chopped (or 2 heaped teaspoons lemongrass puree)
1 red chilli, roughly chopped (pick the right spice level for you. I use medium hot and leave the seeds in)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
Stalks and half the leaves of 1 bunch coriander (standard supermarket pack)
Juice and zest of 1 lime
Tablespoon light soy sauce

For the curry
1 aubergine, cubed
approx 1/2 pack chestnut mushrooms, halved
8-10 sprouts, halved
Half a cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 red pepper, cored, quartered and finely sliced
4 spring onions, white and green parts, finely chopped
1 tin coconut milk

Place all puree ingredients in a bowl, along with a little of the coconut milk (liquid only, but reserve the cream) and blitz to a smooth paste. Set aside.

In a good-sized wok, heat approx 1 tablespoon oil (I used olive, you could use any other oil of not-too strong a flavour - groundnut, rapeseed, coconut) and add the cauliflower and sprouts. Fry on a high heat, tossing frequently, for a couple of minutes until they start to brown a little, then add water to about 1cm deep. Keep over a high heat and allow the water to vigorously boil off until the veg is almost soft. Pour off any left-over water, add a little extra oil if needed and throw in all the rest of the veg except the spring onions. Toss or stir frequently until everything is just cooked and then turn down the heat to med-low and stir in the puree. Allow to cook briefly, stirring frequently to prevent burning, and then pour in the remaining coconut milk, including any solid cream, and the spring onions. Allow to bubble gently for a few minutes while you finely chop the remaining coriander leaves, then stir that in too. Remove from the heat. It should still be quite wet and very fragrant. Taste the sauce and add a touch more soy sauce if you feel it's necessary, but maintain the freshness of the puree flavours.

Serve immediately over noodles.