The other day was one of those where the fridge had amassed far too many odds and ends of vegetables. I love those days, but sometimes i long for simplicity. I question whether my cooking would benefit from a pinch of minimalism. I wonder wether you lovely folk would prefer if things were more paired down, cleaner.
I’m sure i could walk that line. I could attempt a sleeker recipe. I could settle on even one flavour and go from there. But even writing this makes me uneasy. I can feel the epic tin of spices shaking its head from the kitchen. See for me, cooking is like painting, is like witchcraft, is like dancing. Its pure intuition, gut feeling and relentless curiosity.
I don’t think i would be staying very true to my nature if i actively changed the way i create food. But then, experimentation and challenge are the greatest steps forward a person can take. So maybe i will one day dip my toes into those new waters, but for now i think i’ll hang out in my usual spot- under a tree, in the forest.
With all this rambling in mind i will say two things that largely underpin my philosophy in life. 1: the world is lacking in magic, i want/ encourage/ actively seek the energy of anything bubbling with magic. 2: my favourite colour is all the colours, you know, like rainbow glitter. These two thoughts guide me in few placer stronger than my cuisine. I love the continual journey of taste- learning and following flavours to where ever they lead me. Understanding the properties of each flavours profile, getting to know what aspects work with others, what can be paired and what needs to be used with caution.
Cultural cuisine is therefore perfect in this respect. I spend a lot of time (probably more than i’d care to detail) learning about the dishes and flavours of other cultures. Finding out what plants, spices, herbs are fundamental and using this knowledge to inform my practice/ experiments in my own kitchen.
Although i know i will probably never come close to authentic in terms of overall preparation/ taste, i feel my confidence continually growing and my knowledge increasing with every step. And from this knowledge, a whole world of fun arises- fun that usually involves throwing this and that into the cauldron that is my cooking pot. The results are part of the journey, sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, but the learning part just makes it all the more worth it.
And so we come to the curry and in fact, full circle in this diatribe. Curry/ stew/ soup- they’re all groovy for using up the waifs and strays that linger about in the back of our fridges. And Red Curry- Kaeng Phet, well thats just a swell hot, sour and creamy feast of flavours right there. Big pan, a couple o’ cabbage leaves, two forks and some pretty impressive appetites. Good night ladies, ladies goodnight.
But really, i can’t stop there can i? What with all this blank white inter- space and all those awesome flavours, nah… The secret (if its even a secret at all) is balance. Yes each ingredient boasts a robust flavour, but when carefully proportioned they all work so well together. Each working as a cog for a particularly beautiful grandfather clock (if you will). The main differences lying in the use of red chilli and paprika. Lots of both, if thats how you roll- but pleasantly tempered with fresh notes from the ginger and lemongrass. The garlic and coconut mellow things out into a dreamy, heady pungency. And yes, go to town with the old veg you’ve got kicking around, just remember to throw them into the pot accordingly (i.e. get the thicker/ longer to cook veggies in at the start and work from there, green, leafy folk and the delicates in towards the end).
(Serves 4, Vegan, Gluten free)
For the paste:
- 2-4 Red Chilli
- 1 stalk Lemongrass
- 4 cloves Garlic, grated/ minced
- handful fresh Coriander
- 1 1/2 tbsp Paprika
- 1/2 tbsp Cumin Seeds
- 1/2 tbsp Coriander Seeds
- 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
- 1 tbsp Tamari
- 1 generous thumb fresh Ginger, grated/ minced
- 1 tbsp dried Seaweed
- Toast the seeds until fragrant, then pop into a pestle with the paprika and salt, bash until fine
- Chop the lemongrass in half, keep the top half whole but bruise slightly, chop up the root end
- Add all ingredients to a blender/ pestle, except the bruised lemongrass and blitz/ bash until smooth
For the curry:
- 1 1/2 tbsp Coconut Oil
- 2 Red Onions
- 1 stalk Celery
- 1 Carrot
- 1/2 Aubergine
- 1/2 large Courgette
- 1/4 head Cauliflower
- 1/4 head Broccoli
- 1/2 cup Peas
- 2 handfuls Spinach/ leafy greens
- 1 can Coconut Milk
- In a large pan heat the oil
- Add the onions and celery and cook on a medium heat for 5 minutes or until soft
- Add the paste and cook for a further 5 minutes, making sure the paste doesn’t burn- if its starting to go that way, add a small amount of coconut milk and reduce the heat slightly
- Add the carrots, courgette and aubergine and cook for a few minutes, stirring to coat the veg in the paste
- Next, add the coconut milk, bruised lemongrass, broccoli and cauliflower, bring the pot to a low simmer and cook 15- 25 minutes (you want the veg cooked but not at all mushy)
- When 5 minutes is left, stir in the peas and spinach.