Comfort food for me will almost always come out tops. It is because comfort food is about more than just the food, it is about sensory memories, family, friends, the particular quality of light on an unforgettable day. Comfort food has the ability to transport you to a very happy and comforting place. We in SA today live with the remnants of a diaspora. I have friends and family scattered all over the globe. I love dreaming of times that I will get to visit them and see new and beautiful places, but mostly, I miss my special people. Sharing a meal with someone you love cannot be replaced by technology. There is something particularly rewarding and sensorily rich about sharing a meal with people, especially those we love. Memories become bound together into bundles of nostalgia – powerful and evocative. This meal transports me to nights of hilarity of laughing so hard tears streamed down our faces – tears of laughter and of pain at overdoing the chilli! If you are caught in a bit of a sentimental mood, the added bonus here is that the chilli and spices release endorphins and lift your mood! This is just a Thai Green Curry paste. Use it as the base for delicious veggie curries or with seafood, chicken or whatever else you fancy. I love using Mae Ploy as a convenient standby, but we have such wonderful fresh produce around at the moment, it really makes sense to use it all and make this wonderful paste. There are many recipes with slight variations, this one from BBC Food is simple and clean and you can tinker with it. I like to add some shrimp paste and also a bit of fresh basil – as always, feel free to play around with the flavours.
4-6 medium green chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped (use an onion as a replacement)
5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
small bunch fresh coriander, stalks attached (and roots if possible)
2 lemongrass stalks, chopped
1 lime, grated zest and juice
8 kaffir / Thai lime leaves, torn into pieces (if unavailable use zest of extra lime)
If you can get your hands on galangal 2.5cm piece chopped – or extra ginger
1Tbsp coriander seeds, crushed
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp black peppercorns, crushed
2tsp Thai fish sauce (block your nose) or use light soy as alternative
3Tbsp olive oil
Put all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz to a smooth paste. That’s it! These quantities will make a curry for 8 people and will keep in the fridge for 3weeks. I make double and freeze what I won’t use soon enough.
Now put some oil in a pan – I like a bit of organic coconut – and stir-fry the paste until all the aromas are beautifully set loose in your kitchen. Add a cup of coconut milk and mix until fully incorporated. Sometimes I want a little extra punch, depending on the flavour of the paste, then I add a whole lemon grass stalk, which I crush, and an extra kaffir lime leaf and a small handful of basil leaves. If using meat I like to have it in smallish slices, no bigger than a prawn. I just sear it, sealing it in the same pot on a high heat before starting with the sauce. After the coconut cream or milk is mixed in, add the meat and let it gently begin to bubble. I like to use a whole lot of vegetables, whatever I have around actually! I love zucchini sliced lengthways into fat matches, mange tout or any other peas, cauliflower florets, sprouting broccoli, and maybe some baby corn. You can add whatever you like! I cook them just long enough to turn tender – I like them with a bit of crunch and texture. Now add a glug of that potently smelly fish sauce. I get mine from China Town, as authentic as I can find – no Thai curry is the same without it! If you need more liquid, either add more coconut milk/cream or just some water, depending on the richness and what you are after.
Serve this with some perfumed basmati rice or some Shirataki noodles it you don’t want carbs. It is delightful with a beer or a cold glass of off-dry spicy white wine and while it delivers beautifully as a mid-week meal for one because of its holy trinity of convenience, nutrition and flavour, it is highly rewarding when served to friends with lots of laughter. Enjoy!