You could subtitle this post “Or, a recipe that uses all that fresh coconut meat you just produced, because you followed my previous post’s instructions like the awesome person that you are.” Yes, it’s a shrimp curry that features fresh coconut. This is loosely inspired by South Indian spices and ingredients, and requires a medium amount of work because, hell, I like doing work in my kitchen. Why do you have to have everything done so fast?
This recipe is going to get a bit ridiculous. Fair warning. I was heading out into the Ontario farmlands with my two friends, Jim and Andrew, to record a rock and roll album at Chalet Studio, and since we were staying overnight, we needed to bring food. One problem: Jim is a stubborn vegan, and Andrew leans vegetarian (or at least, he did) so I built a hybrid vegan biryani out of recipe ideas for 3 or 4 vegetable curry and rice dishes. The end result was pretty great: a spicy-hot tomato curry infused into richly flavoured baked rice, with large pieces of potato, cauliflower, and carrot mixed throughout. The whole thing was topped with fried cashews and raisins, and lidded with phyllo pastry (egg-free, naturally).
Cremini Mushroom and Eggplant Curry
This recipe is not really based on anything specifically traditional. Mushrooms are a fairly new addition to Indian cuisine, after all, so there’s not much history to speak of (and many restaurants don’t serve them). But, my girlfriend loves both mushrooms and eggplant, so there’s motivation to create right there. Plus, we’ve been looking for ways to eat a bit lighter (with more vegetables) lately, and this definitely fits the bill.
Now I know jarred red curry paste is sold just about everywhere, and I use it all the time, too; it’s simply easier, cheaper, and faster to keep a jar of it in your fridge. But sometimes, a person gets inspired. There’s a certain joy and sense of satisfaction in the manual labour of producing your own basics, like stock, mayonnaise, or cheese, that buying pre-made does not afford. Call me crazy, but spending an extra 30 minutes preparing this recipe is very enjoyable. Plus, there’s a few layers of flavour that the fresh ingredients provide that preserved pastes do not. Is it worth it? That’s up to you.
Some days – a few every month – I’m not really in the mood for doing a lot of work to put food on the table. I still want something good, but uncomplicated and containing only a few, simple ingredients. Some days, that means grilled cheese sandwiches, and other days this recipe for simple chicken curry. “Curry is simple and not a lot of work?”, I hear you ask, incredulous. Well, it’s true – or more true than false.
Once upon a time, I was vacationing in Thailand and, instead of staying in one spot, I took buses and trains all over the country. One of the places I stopped was Chiang Mai, the largest city in Northern Thailand. I had my trusty Lonely Planet guidebook to get around, and one of the restaurants recommended in the book served a dish described as a “Shan-Yunnanese concoction of chicken, spicy curried broth and flat, squiggly noodles”. I’d never heard of it, but it sounded interesting and seemed to be popular in the city.
As it turned out, khao soi is something of a regional specialty and has inspired a small cult following (including blogs like The Quest for Khao Soi) as the dish is rarely made outside of Northern Thailand. It’s a shame, really – outside of Chiang Mai, it is somewhat difficult to find this dish on a menu, despite it being very Western palate-friendly, visually appealing and relatively cheap and easy to make, not to mention addictive as hell. However, it may be obscure because its roots are as peculiar as its isolation – it was invented through the travels of Chinese Muslim spice traders through Northern Laos, Thailand and Burma. The curry’s spice is flavoured with imported Burmese and Indian spices such as cumin, coriander seed, turmeric, fenugreek and cinnamon. Then it’s grounded in more commonly Thai ingredients like cilantro, galangal, chilies, kaffir lime, coconut milk broth seasoned with fish sauce and perhaps a bit of palm sugar.
Cashew Chicken Curry
This is a good week-night curry. It’s very simple and takes only half an hour to prepare and cook from scratch. Baking a frozen lasagna takes twice as long. I won’t talk smack about lasagna (I’ll get in trouble with a lady) but I’d prefer this over it any day.
The sauce has the most basic foundation (onion) plus large flavouring ingredients (cashews and cilantro) and a small amount of spicing to provide nuance and warmth. Then we just simmer some chicken pieces in this sauce and we’re done. The smell is amazing (fried onion in butter, mixing with roasted nuts and spices, cooled off with fresh herbs – think about that for a few minutes) and the flavour is relatively complex for such a small list of ingredients.
It’s also a great way to get rid of cashews if you have a giant tin of them sitting in your cupboard like I do.