Day 3 – Red Chicken Curry
There’s no reason not to make your own curry paste, but too often we tell ourselves it’s all too hard. Of course, it’s not hard at all, but it does help to have access to a range of ingredients that you don’t always find in your local supermarket. Luckily, at this time of year, you may well find galangal in your fruit and vegie market – it looks a little like ginger (it’s closely related) but with a darker skin and flesh.
Likewise, keep an eye out for kaffir lime leaves and when you find them (often in small punnets), pop them into a ziplock bag and put them in the freezer for use throughout the cooler months. Frozen lime leaves will lose a little of their colour but their flavour will last beautifully and you can throw them into your curry while they are still frozen. Dried chillies are always available in supermarkets and surprisingly cheap. Look for them in the asian food aisle, nestled amongst dried mushrooms and rice sticks. Store them in an airtight container in your pantry and they will keep for ages.
Once you have made the curry paste, you can store it in the fridge for up to two weeks, or you can freeze it. I suggest that you freeze the paste in an ice cube tray and decant the frozen blocks (each about one tablespoon) into a ziplock bag for ease of measurement when you make your next curry. Too easy.
Serves 4 to 6 people
Makes ¾ cup curry paste (enough for 2 -3 curries)
2 tbsp vegetable oil or rice bran oil; 3 eschalots OR 1 very small white onion, finely sliced; 1 red capsicum, de-seeded and cut into thin strips; 600g chicken breast, sliced into thin strips OR 600g thigh fillets, chopped into 3cm chunks; 1 x 400ml tin coconut cream; 2 kaffir lime leaves; about 1 cup green beans or snake beans, cut into 5cm lengths; ½ cup loosely packed coriander leaves (about ½ bunch); 1 tsp palm sugar OR soft brown sugar; 2 tbsp fish sauce; steamed jasmine or basmati rice, to serve; 2 limes, to serve
Red Curry Paste: 10 large dried chillies; 1 tsp cumin seeds; 2 tsp coriander seeds; ½ tsp black peppercorns; ½ sea salt; 1 tsp grated galangal OR 1 tsp grated fresh ginger; 1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, very finely chopped; 4 kaffir lime leaves, very finely sliced; 2 eschalots, finely sliced; 4 coriander roots, washed and finely chopped; 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped; 2 tsp shrimp paste; 8 fresh bird’s-eye chillies, de-seeded and finely sliced; 4 tbsp vegetable oil (not olive oil)
Red Curry Paste: Place the dried chillies in a bowl and pour enough boiling water over them to cover completely. Soak for 20 minutes until the chillies expand in size, then drain and slice roughly. Set aside.
Place cumin, coriander and peppercorns in a frypan and dry-roast them over low to medium heat, stirring well, for two minutes until the spices become fragrant. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
Place all the ingredients except the vegetable oil in the bowl of a blender and add ¼ cup water. Blend until the paste is very smooth.
Heat oil in a fry pan and add the paste straight out of the blender. Fry over a low to medium heat for five minutes to gently cook all the raw ingredients and add a smokiness to the flavour of the paste, but don’t let it burn. Remove from heat and allow to cool, then place in a clean screw-top jar (cover with a spoonful of vegetable oil to stop oxidisation) and store in the fridge for up to two weeks. Alternatively, you can freeze the paste for use later on.
Curry: Heat oil in a wok over medium to high heat and add eschalots and capsicum. Stir fry for one minute, then add 3 tablespoons of curry paste. Fry off the paste and vegetables and stir for one minute until the paste is fragrant.
Add coconut cream, chicken, lime leaves, beans, half the coriander leaves (reserve the rest for later), sugar and fish sauce. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Check for seasoning, adjusting for salt or sweetness or even adding a little lime juice.
Serve with steamed rice with some coriander leaves scattered over the top and a wedge of lime on the side.
$15.50 for four people, with enough curry paste leftover for two further meals