Thai coconut curry with spring vegetables
Summer is slow to come here in Kelowna this season. Rain and cloudy skies greet us most mornings. I happen to love rain, the way the air feels, the sound of the raindrops falling and how green and bright everything looks against the grey backdrop of rain clouds. Something romantic, nostalgic, exciting and calming all at once. Leave it to nature to create the perfect harmony. If it’s windy my husband goes to “the other woman”, his beloved Isa Lei, hoists up the three sails to catch the wind and sails down the Okanagan lake. Sometimes I can see him from our rooftop patio. Sometimes I go with him.
I love spending a rainy day in the kitchen. The aromas permeate the air and make staying in so enticing. Today I thought I would let the gentle aromatic fragrances of Thai cuisine take the stage. Thai cuisine has layers of intricate flavours and aromas. Chili, basil, lemongrass, lime leaves, coconut, curry, ginger, turmeric coriander, mint. Like an aromatic “colour palette” you can “paint” each dish with these intoxicating flavours.
I do not claim any particular expertise in cooking Thai and most of the time eating Thai means going out to a good Thai restaurant. One of my favourite is The King and I in Calgary, where the kitchen is staffed with great cooks who produce fresh flavours in beautifully presented dishes. I am especially addicted to their Thai iced tea and have not yet been able to persuade them to give me the recipe. I do however have a couple of dishes that I make occasionally. One of them is this coconut curry in which I use vegetables that happen to inspire me or I have on hand. If you like tofu you can add it as well. I serve this curry on top of steamed plain or coconut rice and make a Thai cucumber salad on the side for a fresh, crisp flavour variation. I’ll post the recipe for this next.
This time I had new potatoes, baby carrots, cauliflower and freshly shelled peas from the market. I would have added sugar or snap peas or some other greens if I had them on hand. I picked up a large handful of cilantro from the growing cilantro plant on the patio and already had ginger, coconut milk, Thai curry, cumin and lime leaves in my fridge and pantry. I steamed long grain rice to go with it and prepared the cucumber salad to serve alongside. The way I prepare the curry is by cooking each vegetable separately to al dente and then adding them to the coconut curry sauce to finish cooking and blend the flavours. It was a simple, fragrant and lovely dinner that we enjoyed at the table as the rain kept falling and watering the anticipating flowers outside. A glass of Gewurztraminer was a nice pairing with this dish.
For the rice:
1 cup basmati or another long grain rice, white or brown
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Coconut curry sauce:
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 can coconut milk
2 tablespoon Thai red curry paste (usually comes in a jar
2 lime leaves (fresh or dried)
Optional: 1/2 teaspoon sambal oelek (adds spice) or a small red Thai chili, seeded and minced.
8 small new potatoes, steamed
A small bunch baby carrots, washed and scrubbed
1 small head cauliflower (or less)
A handful of sugar or snap peas
2 cups shelled fresh peas
A large handful of cilantro, roughly chopped or leaves torn
Rinse the rice under cold running eater until the water run clear. You can soak the rice for 15 minutes if you’d like.
Combine rice with 2 cups water in a 2 quarts pot, add salt and bring to a boil.
Lower heat, cover and cook until the water is absorbed and the rice id=s cooked through.
Remove from heat and leave covered until ready to use.
Coconut curry sauce:
Heat the oil in a straight sided large skillet.
Add the curry powder, cumin, ginger and turmeric and cook on medium heat until combined.
If you want spice add a small minced Thai chili.
Add sugar and coconut milk and bring to a simmer.
Add the Thai curry paste and lime leaves if you have them.
If you want it spicy add a half teaspoon or more of Sambal Oelek (hot red chili paste)
Reduce to a slow simmer and let cook as you prepare and add the vegetables.
Steam the new potatoes, then cut in half. You can peel or leave the delicate skin on.
Cut the carrots in half lengthwise (if they are really small you can leave them whole), toss with a little oil and roast in the oven at 400℉ until just tender but not too soft, 10 min or so.
Break the cauliflower into florets and steam them briefly over boiling water. Don’t let them overcook.
Shell the peas but son’t cook them. They will cook int he curry.
As you cook the vegetables add them to the simmering coconut curry in the pan, adding the peas last.
Add half the cilantro, reserving the rest to sprinkle on top.
Cook everything together for just a few minutes to combine the flavours.
Serve the curry spooned over the steamed rice in bowls, sprinkle remaining cilantro on top and serve the Thai cucumber salad on the side (recipe in next post).