Wednesday 26 October 2011

A hint of Halloween

Please, don't anybody else mention Halloween.  My kids have not shut-up about it since we got back from holiday - in July.  As the next major event on their social diary's and being one that offers all pluses and no minus's, Halloween scores highly.  The combination of dressing up, staying up late and eating vast amounts of sweets is pretty much even more exciting than Christmas.  And the shops this year seem to be even more heaving with Halloween tat and gore than ever.

My son Daniel's birthday is on 28th October, so it is only natural I suppose that he should choose a Halloween themed party.  He has also demanded not one but six carved pumpkins.  Obviously, Pumpkins and Squashes are at their best right now, having spent the whole summer soaking up as much sunshine as they possibly can, now they seem to reflect the sun with their deep orange hue. Their flavour is quite bland so they lend themselves beautifully to aromatic Thai flavours.  

My recipe for Thai green curry with Butternut Squash is the perfect dish to serve up for the adults after a hard evening "trick or treating."  The kids usually feel too sick to eat anything, having stuffed themselves on sweets!  Butternut Squash works best in this recipe as it has a firmer texture than pumpkin.  Home-made green curry paste is really easy to make and so much better that anything you will ever buy ready-made in the shops. It is well worth the effort.

There are some great Thai shops in London.  I often pop in to stock up on coconut milk, Tamarind, thick wide Thai rice noodles, Nam Pla (fish sauce), palm sugar, dried shitake mushrooms, sweet chilli sauce and shrimp paste. All of these ingredients keep really well so it is well worth the trip. Even the lime leaves and Galangal freeze well.  I love to loose myself in these shops.  They usually have a lovely array of fresh produce - baskets of limes, bunches of coriander, lemon grass, shallots, ginger, Pak Choi, Bok Choi and beautiful pea aubergines. Also look out for sweet, Thai or Holy basil which tastes really fresh, like a cross between normal basil and mint. It really gives an authentic Thai taste to your food especially in a green curry.  It is like a short holiday to Thailand.  Anything to get away from Halloween.

Thai green curry with Butternut Squash
You can add all sorts of vegetables to this curry such as bean sprouts, sugar snap peas, broccoli, mange tout and mushrooms.
Serves 4
1 large butternut squash
2 shallots (pealed)
3 cloves garlic (pealed)
1 large piece of fresh ginger (pealed)                                                                    
2 sticks lemon grass sliced thinly
5 lime leaves
2 fresh green chillis (seeds removed)
1 large bunch coarsely chopped coriander leaves and stems
1 small bunch of Thai Basil
Vegetable oil
1/2 pint vegetable or chicken stock
1 can (14 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
Nam Pla (fish sauce)

Trim off the stem and blossom end of the squash.   Halve lengthwise and scoop out and discard the seeds and fibres. Remove the peel and cut into large chunks about 1 inch pieces.  Toss lightly in vegetable oil, salt and pepper. Roast in a medium oven until golden brown and soft, about half an hour.  Do not over-cook.  You want the chunks to retain their shape.
Now make the green curry paste. In a liquidiser or with a hand blender, puree the shallots, garlic, ginger, chillis, lemon grass the lime leaves and most of the coriander.  Whiz until really smooth.  Add a little water if necessary.  You should have a bright green paste.
Lightly fry the paste in a wok or large pan for a minute or two in a little oil to release flavours.  Add the stock and bring to a gentle boil.  Add the chunks of cooked squash and any other lightly cooked vegetables and then coconut milk.  At this stage try not to boil again as this will kill the flavour of the coconut.  Remove from heat and season with first Nam Pla (which is very salty), further salt if necessary, freshly squeezed lime juice and the remaining coriander.  Adjust seasoning.  It should be a fragrant combination of sweet, sour and spicy.  Serve with Thai rice or noodles.

1 comment:

  1. I love the sound and look of your Pumpkin Green Thai curry, the green next to the orange is very appealing. Have a good weekend. I hope your kid enjoys his party.


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