Curry! Wonderful stuff. Thai curries feel easier to make than the Indian ones, and they seem to be fresh rather than rich, which makes a lovely change. They also gravitate towards using coconut milk and oil rather than cream and butter, so making them dairy free is less of a stretch.
Traditional Red Thai Curry is made with dried red chilies, and Green Thai Curry is made with fresh green chilis. However, the amount of chili required to give a red color to the sauce would be way too spicy for my family, so I substitute the chilies with the appropriately colored fresh (non-spicy) peppers. The 1/2 tsp dried red chilies that I use here gives a heat that we can enjoy, though if I’m making it for daughter #2’s school lunch, I rely only on the ginger to give the required heat; adjust to your taste. Increase the red chili:bell pepper ratio, if you like yours hotter.
The non-sauce vegetables can be varied depending on what you have available. For the most part, I select white/yellow/orange/red colored vegetables or tofu, as I think it looks more harmonious. Substitute similar volumes, and have the veggies cooked (and preferably hot) by the time they are introduced to the sauce. I think this sauce tastes best if not simmered for long periods of time.
For the sauce:
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 large onion, roughly chopped
~5 oz (1 large) fresh red pepper, de-seeded and roughly chopped
2 lemongrass (~16″ total), chopped
1/4 – 1/2 tsp crushed, dried, red chili
1″ cube (err on the generous side) fresh ginger, skinned and finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, skinned
1 lime (zest of whole lime + 1/2 tbsp juice) OR 1/2 tsp tamarind paste
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 cup smooth peanut butter (optional)
1 can (~14 fl oz) coconut milk, divided (or 7-8 fl oz coconut cream + ~8 fl oz water)
star anise pieces to make up 2 whole seed pods
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
For the veggies:
8 oz (1 large) potato, 3/4″ dice
1/2 small head (8-10 oz) of cauliflower, cut into florets
coconut oil, as needed for frying (~2 tsps)
2 large carrots, sliced thinly on the diagonal
1/4 large onion, chopped into large dice
1 large red/yellow/orange pepper, de-seeded and cut into medium sized dice
8 oz mushrooms, cubed
cooked jasmine rice, to serve
Warm the coconut oil in a saucepan over a medium heat, and gently fry the onion, peppers, and lemongrass until soft (~10 minute).
Add the chili, ginger and minced garlic.
Use a microplane to add the lime zest to the mixture.
Stir in the ground coriander, cumin, salt, lime juice, brown sugar, and peanut butter (if using), and warm the lot for a minute.
Scrape this mixture into a blender; use 1/2 of the coconut milk to rinse the saucepan out into the blender, and blend until smooth. If the sauce still has small strings in it, pass it though a sieve or chinois, and return to the pan to warm. Rinse the blender out into the saucepan with the remainder of the coconut milk (through the sieve, if necessary).
Add the star anise, basil, coriander, and bayleaf to the smooth sauce, and put to one side.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, and use it to cook the potato and cauliflower until they are just soft. Drain and add to the sauce.
While the potatoes are cooking, heat the coconut oil in a large frying pan, and cook the carrot, onion, peppers, and mushrooms until softened. Add these to the sauce, too.
When you’re ready to eat, quickly heat through until hot, stirring gently. Serve with freshly cooked rice.