food to glow

feel good food that's good for you

All of a sudden everything in the garden – mine and others – seems to be growing at an exponential rate, at least to my mind. Rhododendrons are spoiling us with their showy pink faces, apple blossoms are carpeting my rather hen-pecked lawn -replaced on the tree by pea-sized apples, and all of my aquilegias are soldier-straight with their formal spiked hats on. All  is quite literally rosy in the garden. But not very veggie. Because of the hens our hit rate for veg and herbs won’t be that high but, as they give us eggs, it seems like a fair enough deal. And I have a wonderful neighbour who shares his allotment pickings with us, including the hens. Warwick’s nippy-sour sorrel has been gilding salads, omelets and filled rolls for at least a week now, but with no leftovers for ‘the girls’. Love his chard, too.

Mr A has been able to get some stuff going however, all cosseted in the conservatory. I looked at the salad leaf seedlings yesterday morning, and I swear by the end of the day they had grown half a centimetre. It is quite possibly down to the rain and garage roof water we have been liberally sprinkling from our newly installed ‘garden feature’. Other people have  softly murmuring  fountains, or those sneaky garden elongating mirrors but no, we have a gigantic water butt. Mr A has for ages been threatening to get a water butt to capture the copious Scottish rainwater with which we are blessed (I can say that at this time of year when it isn’t in the form of plan-wrecking snow). So this weekend, while Miss R was slogging through driving wind and rain to achieve her Duke Of Edinburgh Bronze award (five amazingly large blisters were her other prize), Mr A and I were in Lidl’s rival for cheapness and utility, Aldi, when he saw such a receptacle. As it is the size of a small car I am glad we hadn’t arrived on the bus, or in our teeny weeny Figaro. Once home Mr A set about assembling it throughout the afternoon, making an excellent job of it, despite not knowing much German. It is masterfully attached to the down pipe running off the garage roof and was a quarter filled with rainwater by the end of the rather soggy weekend. My only contribution was to occasionally shout, in a loud voice, ‘How are you getting on with your butt?’ ‘Is your butt okay?” Maybe you had to be there.

Today’s recipe doesn’t have much to do with the above musings except in a tangential way: the tiny little apples in my garden remind me of equally tiny pea aubergines, which feature in this glorious – if I say so myself – curry.

Like a lot of British people, and people who live in Britain (latter category), I have a fondness for curries. When someone says ‘let’s get a curry’ they usually mean, ‘let’s get some anglicised-Pakistani food’. And that’s fine. Delicious even. But this doesn’t even begin to cover it. Instead of being one type of dish, curry is  really a generic term much like stew or soup, and covers quite a lot of countries, ingredients and interpretations. For most of us curries are synonymous with India and Pakistan, but almost all countries in the Indian sub-continent and in southeast Asia and even in China and Japan, have there own versions  – which they don’t call curries. It is thought that the word curry derives from the Tamil word, kari, meaning ‘sauce’ and applies to meat and or vegetables cooked with spices. Or possibly the Hindi karai, meaning wok-shaped cooking dish.  In a foodie UN-type fantasy I would like to think that it’s actually a bit of both. Whatever the origin, millions of people in Britain and around the world love curry, wherever it comes from.

Today’s recipe is a southeastern Asian take on this most generic of culinary terms. Although it doesn’t have some of the traditional hallmarks of a curry – lacking cumin and seed coriander – you couldn’t really say it is anything but a curry. It is aromatic rather than spicy, and although saucy with coconut milk it contains very little of the additional fat that you tend to get in typical British-made curries. And you won’t miss the fat. Promise.

Like last week’s recipe, there are too many nutritional standouts to even begin to write about them all. Well, I could, but you’d drift away and then miss out on this rather wonderful Rick Stein-esque recipe. But indulge me a little. Or skip on down if you like. I’m not watching.

Nutrition Notes: Chillies deserve their status as a top spice. Even small amounts are hugely useful in a varied diet. Red or green, chillies have high levels of antioxidants Vitamin C and Beta-carotene as well as quite a lot of fibre, potassium and iron for their small size. Regularly including chili peppers in the diet may help to reduce the likelihood of prostate cancer (both hormone dependent and non-dependent) as well as Type 2 diabetes, stomach ulcers (strange but true), and reduce blood cholesterol, triglyceride levels and prevent blood clot formation (by reducing platelet aggregation). There are numerous chemo-preventive attributes in chillies.

Chillies, especially the hotter ones, are also known to help with weight loss by affecting thermogenesis; that is, the body’s ability to raise its temperature or energy output: increased thermogenesis = higher metabolism = more weight loss. The potential health benefits from consuming chillies comes mainly from capsaicin (from the capsaicinoid family), the chemical responsible for chillies’ heat. Capsaicin is increasingly used as a pain reliever, although it has long been used this way in the folk medicine of countries such as Mexico. Capsaicin patches are now routinely used to help relieve the often excruciating pain of diabetic neuropathy experienced by some diabetic patients, and patches and capsules are used to treat pain from herpes zoster neuropathy, migraines, osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as those with circulatory problems. Although you can get capsaicin-containing products over-the-counter, for chronic conditions it is best to get a prescription from your doctor, especially if you are on other medications.

Fragrant Tofu Green Curry

The curry sauce bit of this recipe is a fairly faithful rendition of the one in Rick Stein’s drool-inducing – at least for me – cookbook, ‘Far Eastern Odyssey’. The recipe, and others in his book, accompanied Chef Stein’s off-the-beaten-track tour of Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Bali. I know I may never get to any of these places, but the smell of the curry bubbling slowly and fragrantly on the hob will do – for now. Must start saving my pennies…

I have ramped up the vegetables and am using cholesterol-free, and fat-free, tofu but if you want to use chicken (about 200g, if you are using all the vegetables I call for), do as Stein does and stir fry it after you’ve added the curry paste and 3 tablespoons of coconut milk. Then add the rest as described. The pea aubergines are of course optional but can often be found in Asian shops that sell fresh vegetables. If you have a Thai supermarket or two, as we do in Edinburgh, get thee to it and buy fresh lemongrass, palm sugar (it usually comes solid and in a pot), pea aubergines and small round green Thai aubergines, galangal and fresh kaffir lime leaves (leftovers will freeze) too. Stein calls for holy basil – and by all means use it – but I can’t abide the stuff and use the aniseedy sweet Thai basil instead. I have made it with and without authentically Thai ingredients, and although the real deal is preferable, frozen leaves, muscovado sugar and ‘normal’ aubergines are fine too. No excuses. 

200g small round green Thai aubergines OR purple aubergine, cut into slightly larger than bite-sized wedges or pieces
table salt
½  tbsp rapeseed oil
1 quantity Thai green curry paste (see below)
300 ml coconut milk (lower fat is fine)
2 tbsp fish sauce OR 1 tbsp light soy sauce
3 tsp palm sugar OR muscovado/dark brown sugar
5 kaffir lime leaves (fresh or frozen)
1 medium-hot red chilli, deseeded and sliced
½ sweet red pepper/bell pepper, deseeded and sliced
100g broccoli florets and stems
75g pea aubergines (optional)
100g morning glory/water spinach, sliced (optional) OR green beans, sliced
200g tofu, pressed between paper towels to remove water, and sliced into bite-sized cubes 
Juice 1 lime
Large handful of Thai sweet basil, torn, and smaller leaves whole for garnish

Curry Paste

3-4 lemongrass stalks, most leaves removed and soft inner leaves and core chopped
20g peeled galangal OR ginger, chopped
2 medium-hot green chillies, chopped (keep the seeds in if you can) – use a couple of blistering hot birds eye chillies if you like heat but Thai curries are usually milder 
4 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
10 black peppercorns, crushed 
50g garlic, roughly chopped
100g shallots OR small onions, chopped
1 tsp shrimp paste (optional)
1/2 tsp ground turmeric OR 5g peeled, grated fresh turmeric root (my add-in for phytochemical boost)

Put the paste ingredients into a mini blender/chopper and process into a smooth paste with 4 tbsp of water and ½ tsp salt. Put to one side. You can do this a day or two ahead or even make double and freeze half for another time.

lime leaves, galangal and lemon grass

Putting together the curry is a cinch. The only thing that takes any time is ‘degorging’ the aubergines. I explained this in the last post (no aubergines next week, I promise) but it’s basically salting the aubergines and allowing the water drain away; this makes for more tender and less absorbant aubergines. To do, layer the aubergine pieces in a large colander and salt well with each addition. Let the water drain off for between half and one hour. Rinse well, and dry on a tea towel. Now, the rest really is quick!

pea aubergines - aren't they cute?

Heat the oil in a large wok or sauté pan. Add the curry paste and stir fry gently for a couple of minutes before adding all but the last three ingredients. Simmer gently for 15 minutes before adding in the tofu, lime juice and torn basil leaves. Heat through and serve with baked basmati rice or steamed Jasmine rice.      Serves 4 generously

morning glory

3 thoughts on “Fragrant Tofu Thai Green Curry

  1. Pam Richardson says:

    Kellie, love love love your writing and of course the recipes….also always good to see Mr A being the ‘butt’ of your jokes 🙂

    1. Thanks Pam. It’s good to know someone appreciates my sense of humour. MrA is not too chuffed! Let me know how you get on with any recipes. This one is easy peasy- just chopping really.

  2. lemoncake says:

    This looks so colourful. I bet it tasted amazing 🙂

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