When I grew up home cooked food could be pretty much divided up into four categories. There was the standard British fare, the Mediterranean which was basically Italian with a bit of French mixed in, Chinese and Indian. All delicious but (even back then) not considered exotic. But that all changed about twenty years ago when Thai food hit the mass market in the UK big time. I remember the first time I tried a green curry well; it was so totally different from anything I’d had before. Obviously everyone else felt the same because it didn’t take long for green and red curries to make it onto everybody’s monthly meal rotation and for curry pastes of varying quality to hit the supermarket shelves. I admit it; it was enough for me. I kind of fell out of love with them. That is until last week.
With a bag of super healthy green chillies Thai green curry was an obvious contender for last week’s meal plan. Or should have been. But up until last week I’d never made my own Thai green curry paste before. Unusual for me, I know. Full of flavour along side all those anti-oxidants including vitamin C, E and iron as far as I’m concerned everybody should be using a lot more chillies in their food and a homemade curry paste is a great place to start. But don’t panic, you don’t need to scorch your mouth to access all those great health benefits or to enjoy their flavour. Most authentic Thai recipes call for a lot more chillies in their paste than I used. But I had four in the fridge so four it was. That was just right for us; the warm kick was there but not to the point that my youngest had to reach for the water. Or at least, not too often. Feel free to add more if you have them; it really is a question of personal taste. However many you add I can guarantee that you’ll really taste the difference between this and a shop brought paste. It is so fresh tasting and zingy; I’m a complete convert now and meat free mid weeks will never be the same again. I can’t think of a better way to showcase fresh spring veggies with minimal (well once you’ve done the elbow work with the mortar and pestle) stress on your side. Talking of that, there are two schools of thought as to whether this is a job for the food processor or not. I’m firmly in the no camp. You tend to end up with some very finely cut up spices and not really the amalgam that you are aiming for with a paste but I do think it acceptable to start the process in your processor and then switch to the pestle and mortar to get the desired result. That is, of course if you’re not as lazy as me and can’t stand the extra washing up.
Broad Bean and Asparagus Green Curry
For the paste: (adapted from here)
4 green chillies, diced
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 shallot, diced
5 cloves garlic
4 cms piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 lemon grass stalk
bunch of fresh coriander, leaves reserved for the curry, stalks chopped for the paste
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 tbsp fish sauce
pinch of salt and pepper
Start by toasting the coriander and cumin seeds lightly in a frying pan.
Then, starting at the top of the list, grind each ingredient in your pestle and mortar, only adding the next when the one before is completely ground in.
If you don’t want to use it immediately you don’t have to. Simply put it in a jar and cover it with a little oil. Keep in the fridge for a week or so.
For the curry:
Your choice of veg or (which I used):
300g podded broad/ fava beans (simmered for 3 minutes and refreshed and the tough outer skins slipped off)
300g asparagus, woody ends removed and cut into three pieces
300g petit pois
one quantity of curry paste made from above recipe
1 tbsp palm sugar (or if you can’t get it dark brown sugar)
2 lemon grass stalks, bash the thick ends with a rolling pin
8 kaffir lime leaves, scrunched up with your hands till they break up
2 x 400g tins coconut milk
1 tbsp fish sauce
juice of one lime
reserved coriander leaves, chopped
Heat a splash of oil in a large pan then fry the curry paste for a minute or so.
Add the lemon grass, kaffir lime leaves and sugar, then pour in the coconut milk with the fish sauce and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for around 15 minutes, or until it thickens up slightly.
Stir in the asparagus and the petit pois and let cook for 3 minutes more, then add the broad beans and let simmer for another minute or so until the veg is cooked to your liking. Remember, less is more. Stir through the fresh lime juice and you’re away.
Serve with a side of jasmine rice (or if you haven’t got it, basmati will do) and sprinkled with plenty of fresh coriander. Delicious.