Saturday, 29 August 2015

Thai Red Curry Paste...and the time I admitted to being a meddler.

Ladies and gentlemen I am a meddler. curry.......

I am that person who sticks their nose into things they really don't need to be sticking their noses into.
In my defence I don't do it to complete strangers. If some people are having a fight, I'm not going to get in there and put in my two cents. 
I'll simply eavesdrop and judge from afar. 

But say I know the people involved
Say a friend of mine has a girl he fancies 
...well that's an entirely different story. 
I'll fan the flames of that budding romance till I can't feel my arms anymore. 

It's terrible. It's awful. I now have a reputation. Nobody tells me anything anymore, for fear that I'll swoop in and attempt to play wingman when really... I end up making a fool of us both.

It's not just relationships I meddle in though. I mix shampoos to make 'super shampoos'. I've rearranged books on library shelves because I felt they needed to be organised according to colour rather than the overly practical Dewey decimal system. This meddlesome habit of mine is a big part of the reason I find it so hard to follow recipes. 

"Vanilla? Nah man, this would taste much better with lemon juice. Oh!! And cardamom."
"One clove of garlic?? Nonono... I think you mean five" 
 Look, I'm aware this is a terrible habit and I am working on kicking it, but there is one thing I'll always allow myself to meddle with. 

Supermarket spice pastes. 

Oh come on, we've already established I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to stuff like this so you can keep your abuse. But guys... you have to admit, supermarket pastes taste a little...'blah'. They're NEVER spicy or fragrant enough. I always find I need to doctor a supermarket paste with some garlic or a couple of chillies to get the result I'm looking for. 

It got to the point that I meddled so much with the spice pastes from Tesco that...well...they weren't so much Tesco pastes as they were my own. And that's when I decided it was maybe time to start making them myself from scratch. I got a beautiful multipurpose grinder for my birthday from Cate, it was time to put it to work.

Ok, yes. A small side note. 
This is a snobby post.
When you're on the go everyday and you barely have time to throw together a sandwich, how can I expect you to make a spice paste from scratch? I hear you ask.
And in truth, I can't expect that. Hell, the only reason I had the time is because it's the summer and I don't have to worry about working 9-5 or feeding a family.
So look, if there's a brand of paste you LOVE and you are happy with, you use that paste and hold your head up high. Who the hell am I to tell you what to do?
But... I do ask that you try at least once. Just once. That's all.
The ingredients aren't too hard to get a hold of and you can accumulate them over the course of a week. Making the paste takes just half an hour. I promise! And then you can freeze it for a later date.
But please, just try this once ok? Try this curry you made from start to finish completely from scratch. Even if you don't taste a difference, at the very least you will see how quick it all comes together.

This recipe will yield a fairly spicy yellow curry to feed 4-5 people. I like my curries quite thick and strong, so I used the whole lot, but if you like something lighter this quantity of paste would probably be enough for two separate curries. Just freeze half to use at a later date.

I've prepared it with salmon and green beans here, but that's merely a suggestion.

Go ahead. Get meddling. 

1 1/2 tsp whole coriander seeds
1 tsp whole cumin
1 tsp whole black pepper
1/2 red onion
4 fresh red chilli
6 cloves garlic
1 thumb ginger
1/2 thumb galangal
2 tsp shrimp paste
8 kafir lime leaves
2 stalks lemon grass
1/2 tsp salt

~ Curry
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp turmeric
400ml coconut milk, that's 1 can I think.
1 tbsp fish sauce
6 salmon fillets (just a little note here, no shame in using frozen. You don't even need to defrost them, just cook the fish a little longer in the curry)
A handful of green beans, ends removed and cut in half.
Juice of half a lime.
A handful fresh coriander, finely chopped stalks and all.

Toast the whole spices on a low heat in a dry pan until you can start to smell them. Be careful of the cumin, it'll go very quickly and if it burns you'll have to start over again. Grind the toasted spices as finely as you can and set aside.
 Blend the rest of the paste ingredients. You may have to do this in stages to get a nice fine paste. Go slowly, one or two ingredients at a time. Once you've got a paste add the ground spices and the salt then blend to combine. Your paste is ready. 

When you're ready to make the curry, heat up the oil in a medium sized pot/wok and add the paste. Fry it till you can see the oil separating (in Malay, we call that 'minyak pecah' which translates into 'oil breaking'). Sprinkle in the turmeric and fry for a few seconds, then pour in the coconut milk and season with the fish sauce. Let that simmer for 2 minutes.

Finally add the salmon fillets and green beans, covering to cook till the fish is flaky but not dried out. Finish with the lime juice and chopped coriander. Serve hot on a bed of rice.

If you have any leftovers, lucky lucky you!! As my dad taught me, fish curry is always better the next day.


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