One can buy very good bought curry pastes nowadays, but there is just something extra-bright and fresh about a homemade paste. And it isn’t hard to make: I just pop everything into the bowl of my little mini chop thingy* and press ‘on.’ It is that easy.The beauty of this paste is that it can turn nearly anything into a heady, flavoursome Thai-style curry. Pretty much anything veg-wise or protein-wise is fair game. You can even use a pack of frozen vegetables if that’s all you have. I’ve gratefully resorted to that option after returning from holiday to a vegetable bin of sprouted green potatoes and carrots bendy enough to make a gymnastics squad. I might be in that same situation in a few days actually. I am writing this from my Dad’s sun-warmed screened-in porch overlooking his inviting, but chilly, swimming pool. A far cry from my usual indoor perch, scarf around my neck, cat on my lap. I do however want to make this on my return. I sense a frozen veg to the rescue moment approaching.
Here I have used cooked lentils – I try and always have some in the freezer, a Coquina butternut squash, a pepper that I just happened to have, and some baby spinach. On another occasion it might be something else entirely. I usually have some kind of summer or winter squash and something green in it though. The sweet-minerally duet is fabulous here.
Some of you may be daunted at the prospect of making your own curry paste but I hope that you will trust my daughter Rachel’s judgment on this: this dish is one of her favourite things to eat. When I made it for these photos she took a bite (after much faffing around with my camera – she’s used to eating cooled food, bless her) and exclaimed “what?!” which is code around here for ‘OMG/amazeballs/hot damn that’s good’.
On reflection perhaps it was the cumin chapatis that I had rewarmed for us in – news flash – butter. ‘What?!’ indeed.
*the little processor bowl that often comes with hand blenders/immersion blenders.
Oh, before you read on to the recipe, I’ve been nominated for a Best Healthy And Diet Blog “Homie Award” over on one of my favourite websites, The Kitchn/Apartment Therapy. If you have the time or inclination I would be most grateful/honoured/overjoyed(!) if you went over and clicked the “+1” adjacent to Food To Glow. I have not a hope of winning (you will see why) but there may be some recognition for a few of the also-rans. Loads of great blogs on the list to click and explore too. The nominations close on Saturday, 22 February at 5 am, EST (US time on the east coast/10 am GMT) Thanks so much. x
Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/1bUJogZ
Last year: ‘Creamy’ Broccoli-Basil Soup
Two years ago: Pomegranate, Pistachio and Sour Cherry Bulgur Wheat Salad
Three years ago: Tofu and Aubergine Lime-Basil Stir Fry
The key here – I think – is the bright, light layers of freshness in the spice paste. You can use it with most anything in your vegetable tray and it will give you a deep, delicious Thai-style curry in under forty-five minutes – including all the prep time.
I make this super-easy on myself by keeping a corralled together stash of frozen whizzed up lime leaves (I keep them in a little glass jar), whole lemongrass and galangal in my freezer. I find that my Thai supermarket is the cheapest place to get such things – and the best quality too – but as it is kind of far away it is fortuitous that these delectable items keep so well in the freezer. I also keep shrimp paste with this stash, but many of you will opt to skip this little salty, fishy step. Just use some soy sauce or coconut aminos instead.
Serves 4 generously – good as leftovers and freezes reasonably well (the veg will be quite soft). You can easily double the spice paste and freeze the extra portion for another time.
1 fat thumb ginger or galangal – peeled and roughly chopped
2 Thai chilies or any chili you have, deseeded if you like (I don’t) and chopped
3-4 fat cloves of garlic
1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
1 heaped tsp turmeric – dried, or a 1 cm thick ‘coin’ of peeled fresh turmeric root
½ red onion or handful of Thai shallots – skinned and roughly chopped
¼ of large bunch coriander/cilantro – use the stems and root if they are attached
Rest of Curry
2 tbsp coconut oil or quality rapeseed oil
3 fat lemongrass stalks or 4 smaller ‘supermarket’ ones, bashed until it flattens a bit and cracks open
½ tsp whizzed up lime leaves OR 2 whole lime leaves, bruised
700-750g (4 ½ cups) butternut squash or similar, peeled and diced into bite-sized pieces
1 litre vegetable or chicken stock (4 and 1/4 cups)
5-6 tbsp coconut powder OR 1 x 400 ml (14 oz) tin of coconut milk and 800 ml stock (3 & 1/3 cups)
¼ tsp shrimp paste or ½ tsp fish sauce OR 1 tsp soy sauce or coconut aminos
300g protein of choice –cooked green lentils, diced chicken (see note in recipe), shrimp/prawns, tofu
4 handsful baby spinach, washed OR other greens or thinly sliced broccoli
Juice of ½ lime (more to taste)
2. Heat the oil in a wok or large sauté pan over a medium heat and add the spice paste. Stir it around frequently so that it sautés but doesn’t burn – about three minutes. Add in the bashed lemongrass and the squash. Mix well.
3. Pour in the stock, coconut powder/milk and add the lime leaves. Bring almost to the boil then down to simmer. Let simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the squash is soft but not at all mushy – the time will depend on the type and age of squash you use.
4. Now add in the spinach, lentils or other protein – if using raw chicken (you could use cooked chicken) put this in with the squash to allow for thorough cooking. I like to use already cooked proteins. Heat all the way through then stir in the torn coriander and a little lime juice. Allow to cool just a bit, if you can bear the wait, and taste for seasoning.
5. This curry tastes great just cooked but the flavour will deepen over 24 hours. If you think you might not eat it until the next day, shave off a little time to keep the squash from getting mushy with a reheat.
Serve with chapati (see below), naan bread, rice, over cauliflower ‘rice’, quinoa or just as it is.
300g (2 cups) fine wholemeal flour/chapati flour
175ml (3/4 cup) warm water
2 heaped tbsp yogurt or milk
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp oil (optional but gives a silkier dough)
I cheat and mix my dough in my Kitchen-Aid, but if doing it by hand mix with one hand – the other hand firmly gripping the bowl – until it forms a soft dough. Knead in the bowl until elastic and very smooth. Cover and leave for 15 minutes.
Pinch off evenly sized balls (about 40 grams – golf ball-size) and flatten with your hand until you have about a 4-5 inch circle. I hold it in one hand and turn it on my flattened palm, pulling the edges slightly while rotating it. It is easier than it sounds! Now roll with a rolling pin on a floured surface until the chapati is about 6-7 inches, or 1/6 of an inch. Flick off the excess flour and slap individually onto a medium-high heated dry skillet. You will know when it is ready to flip when you peek under and see raised and browned bumps. Flip with a heat-proof spatula or use tongs. The first one might be a bit rubbish but you quickly get the hang of it. Proceed with the remaining doughy disks. Most of the chapati will billow up after the second flip – this is the sign of a good, light chapati!
Makes about 12 chapatis.