Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A little Asian Inspiration

It’s funny, but despite the hot weather I have been craving a Thai curry for a while now. It’s not the comfort that you get from a hot, steaming bowl of Thai curry that I want, but instead the vibrant, cleansing appeal of the aromatic ginger, lemongrass and fragrant lime leaves, mixed with the spiky heat of a hot red chilli that I am craving. For me there is something so wonderful about the combination of lime and chilli and when you add to that some fresh ginger and lemongrass it is bliss. As Sophie Dahl put it, they are a “life affirming collection of flavours” and how very true that is!

Whether your summer is filled with long, summer days and balmy evenings or feels more like a cold, rainy October, this curry is guaranteed to please and will rejuvenate your soul, whatever the weather. I like my curry to be quite runny so that I can literally ladle the deliciously fragrant coconut sauce over my rice, therefore drenching it and letting it absorb all of that soothing Thai goodness. This is without doubt mood enhancing food at its finest!

Thai Red Curry with Chicken & Bamboo Shoots

A few things to note with my curry recipe…..The first is, as mentioned above I like my sauce to be runny and verging on soup-like. If you prefer a thicker curry, just reduce it for a little longer before adding your chicken. Which brings me to my next point - I always tend to use chicken breasts as normally that is what I have in the freezer. When using chicken breasts you just want to add them at the end so that they don’t overcook and dry out. If you don’t like that idea and would rather just add the chicken and let the sauce simmer away without much attention, opt for boneless and skinless chicken thighs, which will remain moist. Finally, a word of warning about Thai curry pastes. They can vary enormously in heat so until you are familiar with your curry paste of choice, go easy. It’s easy to add, but not so easy to take away! Although my recipe says 2 tablespoons, the paste I use is fairly mild. I would recommend starting with 2 teaspoons and take it from there. A lot of my ingredients are also found in the curry paste, but I just find the addition of them as well as they paste makes for a really aromatic and full flavoured curry.

Serves 4

1 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 fresh red chilli, finely sliced
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
2 tbsp red Thai curry paste (depending on how hot it is)
2 x 400ml Coconut Milk
1-2 tsp sugar (use Palm sugar if you can)
2 tbsp fish sauce
4 lime leaves, torn
2 sticks of lemongrass, each cut into 4 large pieces
1 lime, plus extra lime wedges to serve
4 chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 tin of bamboo shoots
3 tbsp coriander (including stalks), chopped, plus extra for garnish
2 fresh chillies, finely sliced, to garnish

In a large frying pan or wok, heat the oil then add the onion and gently sauté for a few minutes. Add the garlic, 1 chilli and the ginger and continue to cook for a couple of minutes then add the paste and cook for a minute to release all the fragrances. Add the coconut milk, sugar, fish sauce, lime leaves, lemon grass and the juice of half the lime and leave to simmer gently for about 20-30 minutes, until it has thickened slightly. Taste the sauce at this point to check for seasoning and heat. If you find it is too spicy add a touch more sugar as this will neutralize the heat, if it needs more salt add more fish sauce. Add the chicken and cook for a few minutes before adding the bamboo shoots, half of the coriander and a final spritz of lime, then cook for a further 4-5 minutes or until the chicken is properly cooked through.

When the curry is ready to serve ladle into bowls then scatter over the remaining coriander and fresh chilli. Serve with Jasmine rice and lime wedges.

*If you prefer, remove the lemon grass pieces and lime leaves before you serve.

* For a vegetarian option, omit the chicken and add your favourite vegetables instead! Red peppers, mushrooms, green beans, sugar snap peas and butternut squash are all delicious with this curry.

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