My friends and I were dining out one evening.
"Try and catch one of the staff member's eye" we whispered to each other.
A staff member glided past us her eyes straight in front of her, not seeing our waves or cocked heads and smile.
"I spoke to the bartender. He was way too cool for school" said Joan Holloway. We surveyed the staff. All of them gave off that "whatever man" vibe.
"What do you think the hiring process is?" we wondered aloud. "If they show up late to the job interview acting vague and looking like they just rolled out of bed, and they buy their clothes from Vinnies, they're hired?" we mused.
"Do you think that when they get home they're just really dorky at heart and they snort when they laugh, watch tv shows additively and get really enthusiastic about little things?" I said. Then I realised that I had effectively described myself. As hard as I could try to have a whatever man vibe, I just couldn't do it. I get excited about little things. Like making my own curry paste.
There's nothing quite like a home made curry paste in terms. The flavour is divine and you can customise things to your own taste. And I promise you that it is easy too. It takes about 10 minutes in total using this season's plentiful green chillies. I used a combination of a mortar and pestle for the harder to crush items and a mini food processor for the other items. I've even given it as gifts in a jar for those friends that aren't sweet lovers.
So what does it involve? I know the ingredients list is long and there is a method to that madness. Each ingredient brings its own flavour to the paste and even though it looks inordinately long, they contribute greatly to the end result. Most of them are possibly things that you already have in your pantry if you cook a lot of Asian food. After that, you give it a pounding with the mortar and pestle and if you are like me and want to make really light work of it, you pop the rest in a food processor and your paste is done. Like most spiced pastes and curries, the flavour improves over time as the flavours develop but it's still delicious cooked straight away. And a bonus is that you could make the paste in about 15 minutes using the mini chopper and the curry takes about 15 minutes too.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you like curries and spicy food? What is your favourite type of curry? Thai, Indian or Malay curries?
Thai Green Curry Paste & Thai Green Chicken Curry
An Original Recipe by Not Quite Nigella
For the paste
1 tablespoon shrimp paste
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 long stalk of lemongrass, outer leaves removed and sliced into rings
1 inch piece of galangal, peeled (I've also used ginger in a pinch)
10 Thai basil leaves
2 x coriander roots*
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
zest and juice of 1 kaffir lime (I've also made this using regular lime in a pinch)
10 long green chillies
8 garlic cloves
3 shallots, peeled
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon salt
*Coriander roots: Take two root system of the coriander sprigs and chop off 2-3 inches from the bottom. Wash well (the roots can contain some dirt). You will also need a large mortar and pestle or mini food processor.
Step 1 - In a dry frypan on medium heat, toast the shrimp paste, coriander seeds and cumin seeds until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Step 2 - I find this easiest by using a combination of a mortar and pestle and a mini food processor, mainly because my mortar is quite small. If you have a large one, you could certainly do it all in the mortar. In the mortar using the pestle, pound the lemongrass, ginger, Thai basil leaves, coriander roots, lime and peppercorns. You can also add the rest of the items into the mortar but I prefer to use the slightly lazy route and put the rest of the ingredients in the mini food processor (I find that a mini food processor doesn't grind the peppercorns or coriander seeds finely enough though). Once the items in the mortar are finely ground, add these to the food processor and blend together to form a paste. Place in a sterilised jar.* It will taste very spicy if you eat it on its own but you'll only use one and a half tablespoons of the paste per curry.
Thai Green Chicken Curry
1 tablespoon oil
1.5 tablespoons of Thai green curry paste
400ml tin of coconut milk
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1.5 tablespoons palm or white sugar
500g chicken thighs, cut into small bite sized pieces
150g snow peas
1 bunch asparagus
1 large red chilli
Steamed jasmine rice to serve
Cook's tip: to ensure that the asparagus isn't woody, snap the ends off by hand. The asparagus will naturally snap at the correct place. Discard the woody ends (or you can use them for a vegetable stock).
Step 1 - Heat a wok or pan on medium heat. Add the curry paste and cook until fragrant. Add the the tin of coconut milk and stir and heat.
Step 2 - Season with fish sauce and sugar and then add the chicken and simmer for about five minutes. Add the snow peas and asparagus and simmer for another few minutes, until chicken is cooked through. Slice the chilli thinly and add to the curry and serve.
*to sterilise a jar, place the jar and the lid (as long as its ovenproof) into a 180C/350F oven and bake for 10 minutes. Be careful when removing from oven as it is very hot.