We’re on count down now until we’re off on a family holiday to Phuket, Thailand for a week. On an excitement scale of 0 – 10, I’m about a 15 and as it gets closer, there’s only one direction it can go … up, up, up.
It isn’t our first trip to this beautiful island – we’ve been twice before – but we all loved it so much that returning again is definitely a pleasure. Previously we have stayed at The Indigo Pearl – an independant hotel which was badly damaged by the 2004 tsunami and then lovingly rebuilt under the watchful eye of a talented Australian architect. It was built on the site of an old tin mine and uses this theme as the inspiration for the design and decor. A themed hotel could be naff, but it works – even down to the cutlery.
When day to day home life is too frantic, too stressful, too annoying … when we’re feeling hacked off and a bit grumpy, Indigo Pearl is where we all wish we could escape to. We all have our favourite bits … I love their iced coffee – tall glass, decaf, ice cubes (NOT crushed), a dash of milk, sugar syrup on the side. I’ll admit that I’m high maintenance about my coffee – my lovely husband says it’s not just on coffee! Joe and Finn like the buffet breakfasts where there is a large lady who makes small omelettes, and a small lady who makes large ones … cute. Hella likes the blue ice cream – that has to be Smurf flavoured doesn’t it? My lovely husband likes lazing by the pool with a good book – oh, and also riding on an elephant.
We all like the rain storms as long as they are shortish and warmish and of course we love the beautiful, gentle Thai people.
We’re trying a different hotel this time – controversial – but I feel sure that it will be just as lovely. And in preparation for the onslaught of the fresh, zingy, buzzing flavours that make up Thai cooking, I have made one of my favourite dishes this week – Thai Green Chicken Curry.
There was a time not so very long ago when every menu, everywhere featured this dish. It became as ubiquitous as spag bol and fish & chips, and yet how often was it any good? Rarely. And how often was it gorgeous? Virtually never.
For me the problem lies in the fact that a jar of ready made curry paste is SO easy to get hold of and the thought of making your own paste feels as far from ‘gorgeous food – no fuss’ as it’s possible to be.
But here’s the thing … it definitely is a lot easier to swing by the supermarket for a jar of Thai Green Curry Paste, but you need to trust me on this one – it will be less fuss, but it will also NOT be gorgeous. Nice, maybe – gorgeous … no.
So here’s what I do … Make the paste on one day (20 minutes tops) and then pop it in the fridge to use the next day – or even the next week. That way I can feel like I’m not spending ages slaving over the dish and you end up with the pleasure but without the resentment.
There’s no denying it – you will need a food processor to make the paste. Nothing fancy, but without it you will need to be as patient and as dextrous with a knife as … well, a very patient and dextrous thing. There’s nothing tricky about the method – just wack it all in and press go. And just wait for the smell – oh, the smell – the effort is worth it for the fragrance alone.
When you have your paste, spoon it into a jar; screw on the lid to trap the magical aroma and pop it in the fridge until you are ready to create.
The recipe I use is based on a Nigel Slater dish (I seem to be on a roll with his creations just now) and it has a fresh fragrance and a depth of flavour that is unbeatable.
This is a dish that I always double up as it freezes like a dream and is perfect to have stashed away as a takeaway alternative. It’s also a popular family favourite and seems to be the only dish, the promise of which, will sometimes get Finn to rush a tiny bit to get changed after swim training. Oh the power of a tasty meal …
Try not to overcook the chicken or it will go dry and rubbery (always want to say ‘wubbery’ there) and don’t be tempted to miss out the green peppercorns, even if you are unfamiliar with them – they do add a certain something. Apart from that just do it. Sizzle it, stir it, smell it and love it.
And now I really ought to start thinking about packing for our trip. Only 2 more sleeps to go …
- For the curry paste -
- 4 lemongrass stalks, outer layers and ends removed
- 6 medium-hot green chillies, de-seeded - the medium sized ones work for me
- 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 5cm piece of ginger, peeled
- 2 shallots, peeled
- 4 tablespoons chopped coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- the zest of 1 lime
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1 tablespoon nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
- a good grinding of black pepper
- For the curry -
- 1kg chicken boned breasts
- 2 tablespoons oil for frying
- 250g mushrooms, quartered
- 400ml tin of coconut milk
- 400ml tin of chicken stock
- 8 kaffir lime leaves
- 125g sugar snap peas
- 1 tablespoon nam pla (Thai fish sauce)
- 1 tablespoon bottled green peppercorns, drained
- the leaves from a large bunch of basil (about 20g), shredded
- 15g coriander, roughly chopped
- For the curry paste, put all the ingredients into a food processor and whizz to a thick paste. Transfer to a glass jar with a lid and refrigerate.
- For the curry, bring a large pan of water to the boil and poach the chicken breasts in it for 15 minutes or until they are no longer pink. Remove from the water and allow to cool. Now using your fingers, shred the chicken into bite sized shreds and put aside until later.
- Warm the oil in a casserole and lightly brown the mushrooms.
- Now pour in the coconut milk, stock, kaffir lime leaves, sugar snap peas, 4 tablespoons of the curry paste, the fish sauce, the peppercorns and half of the chopped herbs. You will need to be flexible on the amount of paste that you need depending on the heat of the chillis and also your heat preference. Often I need all the paste, but not always.
- Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes. At this stage taste to check the seasoning and whether you want to add more curry paste. Adjust accordingly and then add the cooked chicken.
- Simmer for 5 minutes, before stirring in the last of the chopped herbs.