Super versatile Thai red curry

Super versatile Thai red curry

After some exotic holiday travels in South East Asia, we’re serving up a new favourite recipe this month: the most delicious Thai red curry paste, versatile enough to suit even the most fussy of eaters. Let us know what ingredient combinations you try in the comments below or Tweet us @seasonedstudent.

Time: 30-40 minutes from making the paste from scratch to munching through your curry. If your paste is made ahead and frozen, this will take just 10 minutes!

Price: Based on mySupermarket.com, the paste should cost £10-£11 (these ingredients will last you for many, many uses!), but the curry itself is so versatile that costs can vary hugely depending on your choice of ingredients.

Serves: 2

Ingredients:

For the curry paste

  • 2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp ground coriander (as a side note, I would recommend buying the ground herbs and spices from Morrisons, they’re ground very finely and most are only 67p for a jar of just over 40g)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepperIngredients
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp star anise powder (if you can’t get powder, use 1 whole dried flower but add in at the end frying stage instead of in the beginning)
  • 2cm chunk fresh ginger, finely chopped (if you can get galangal that’s better, but ginger works fine!)
  • 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped (I took the seeds out for mine but leave them if you’re a big fan of spicy food)
  • 1 stem fresh lemongrass, finely chopped
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp shrimp paste (don’t make the mistake of sniffing it before using – I promise it tastes better than it smells once it’s in the paste…)
  • 3 tbsp vegetable/rapeseed/sunflower oil for frying

For this recipe you’ll also need a pestle & mortar, hand blender or coffee grinder. A coffee grinder works best, but anything that can blend everything together to form a paste should be fine.

For the curry

  • 1 tin coconut milk
  • Meat/vegetables of choice – see below for a few ideas of combinations!
  • Palm or coconut sugar – normal granulated sugar works fine too but go easy when adding it as the sweetness can over-power very easily
  • Fish sauce – if you can’t get hold of it or are vegetarian, use a little salt
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 fresh red chilli
  • Big bunch of Thai basil, leaves stripped from the stem and chopped up roughly (this is the one ingredient I’d say you can’t replace or switch, as Italian basil just doesn’t give the same flavour!)

Method:

For the curry paste

  1. Heat a frying pan on a low-medium heat and pour the dried chilli flakes (without oil) to toast, making sure to keep the flakes moving so they don’t burn. Toasting chilli flakes helps to bring out a rich, deep flavour.
  2. Stir the dry ingredients together and mix well, then add the rest of the ingredients (leaving out the star anise if you’re using the whole dried flower version).
  3. Pulse in your blending tool of choice until the consistency is smooth – if you’re struggling to get things moving with such a small amount of ingredients add a few tablespoons of water, as we’ll be frying the mixture next to concentrate the flavour anyway.
    Paste
  4. Add your oil to a frying pan over a medium heat and stir in the paste (if you’ve used the star anise whole dried flower add this in now, but remember to remove at the end of the frying process!) Stir continually over a low-medium heat until the paste has thickened significantly and darkened in colour. This allows the flavours to be concentrated, meaning your curry will pack more of a punch later.

Uncooked paste Cooked paste

Paste at the beginning compared to after frying.

If you want to make this in batches ahead of time, your curry paste can be frozen. I’ve found that freezing in ice cubes trays makes it really easy to use later (2 cubes should be enough for 1 portion).

To make the curry

  • The main curry sauce is super easy – simply add your paste to a saucepan along with a tin of coconut milk. Coconut milks vary a lot in terms of ‘full fat’, ‘light’ and ‘super light’ versions – this reflects the ratio of cream to milk in the tin. All will work fine but the full fat versions will give a richer flavour.
  • Once you have the paste and milk mixed together, leave to simmer for a few minutes before adding in your meat/vegetables of choice. This is a really versatile paste which will work with lots of different vegetable/meat/fish/tofu combinations so it’s really up to you, try:
    • Scallops or prawns with bamboo shoots and baby aubergine . These veggies can be bought in most Asian supermarkets and online. If using bamboo shoots, use tinned halved shoots, as they are much softer than the rectangular ones you may know from chow mein-style dishes. Baby aubergines are super yummy and not at all what you expect, but more difficult to get hold of in this country. Try using thaifooddirect.co.uk for fresh Thai veggies.
    • Chicken with baby corn and red pepper. Much more accessible ingredients in the UK! Thinly slice your pepper and chop the baby corn into 2cm slices. Chicken should also be fried by itself before adding to the curry, as this seals the meat and ensures the curry is able to hold its own.
    • Beef with green pepper and broccoli. Lightly blanch the broccoli before adding to the curry to ensure it’s not too crunchy, and as with the chicken make sure you seal the beef first.
  • Leave to simmer for 5/10 minutes until the meat is cooked through and the vegetable are a little less crunchy.
  • Now time to taste! Fine tune your curry until you get the taste right for you – usually I end up tasting between 5 to 10 times until I’m totally happy with it. Thai food is based on 4 flavours and the balance between them is key, so add more of these ingredients to fine tune the flavours until you’re happy.
    • Sweet – palm sugar
    • Salty – fish sauce
    • Sour – lemon juice
    • Spicy – chilli
  • Once you’re happy with the flavour, add in your Thai basil, stir through and serve.

This was my finished curry – I went for just vegetables and used aubergine, kudu (an Asian vegetable from the aubergine family) and bamboo shoots.

Curry

Double/triple the paste ingredients to make your paste in larger batches, freeze in ice cube trays ready for when you’ve had a tough day of lectures and can’t be bothered to make anything from scratch. Then all you need is a tin of coconut milk and whatever meat/fish or vegetables you fancy and you have a fresh, quick and delicious dinner.

Heidi is studying for a PhD in Applied Health Sciences at the University of Aberdeen. Most people don’t believe her when she says she has a pet hedgehog named Roy.

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