Sundays are always comfort food nights at Bistro Gerard, especially now that we’re trying to make the most of the last few weeks of winter. As you can imagine, the entire Bistro team was extremely happy to come across Deb from Kahakai Kitchen, and her wonderful idea of hosting a Souper Sundays event, where various chefs from around the world get to share their creative takes on this (often underrated) dish.
As Chef Gerald’s debut contribution to the Souper Sundays collection, he would like to share with you a Thai-style red fish curry recipe. Fish curry is one of Daddy’s favourite dishes, and this recipe was rated highly by him, much to Mummy and Chef Gerald’s satisfaction. This is a mild, soupy curry, where the spices add different layers of flavour, beautifully accentuated by the lime juice. There’s just a mild hint of chilli here, but you could increase the quantity according to your own preference. We used reduced fat coconut milk and fish stock for thinner broth, however if you prefer a creamier consistency, you could use full fat coconut milk and no stock instead.
The reason why we love curries so much is mainly because we absolutely adore spices and the delightful things you can make with them when combined in the right proportion. Mummy is fascinated by the myriad ways spices are used in different cultures, and she is the proud owner of an ever growing collection of information material on this matter. It will probably take a lifetime to become truly knowledgeable on this topic, however below you will find some of the most useful tidbits we have learned so far:
1) Apart from the yummy factor, spices are really good for you, which is why they have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. When it comes to cooking with spices, the keyword is to use them in moderation, otherwise you will end up with something that tastes rather horrible. This is exactly the lesson that Chef Gerald learned in the early days of his cooking career, more precisely the day he snatched a whole vanilla bean from Mummy’s hand and took a huge beakful of it, no doubt thinking it must have been just a shrivelled, odd-looking green bean…. He soon found out that was not the case, and promptly dropped the whole thing in the bin, after giving Mummy a most disgusted look….
2) To maximise flavour, it’s best to use fresh spices, so unless you’re catering for vast numbers of people on a regular basis, it’s best to buy only very small quantities and use them up as quickly as you can. It’s also advisable to buy whole spices and then only grind (either in a grinder/food processor, or in a mortar and pestle) only the exact quantity you are going to use on the day.
3) Buy organic spices whenever you can – they’re better for the environment and for you. Science hasn’t quite come up with the definitive answer on this yet, but there’s growing research out there suggesting that plants develop high levels of antioxidants as a result of fighting off all the baddies in their immediate environment, and that those grown as part of a healthy and balanced ecosystem (without the use of artificial pesticides and fertilizers), have got a better chance of developing such high levels of antioxidants. Science aside, we have truly found there is a huge difference in both flavour and colour when compared to supermarket spices.
4) Some recipes call for some spices to be dry roasted before being ground and cooked. We must admit we often skip this step in order to save time but, realistically, all that’s required is just a couple of minutes in a hot pan, ensuring you stir constantly. This will definitely give your dish a richer depth of flavour, but if you’re pressed for time and only follow the 3 steps above, you’ll still cook something to be proud of.
For the red curry paste, we used:
1 fresh coconut, flesh roughly chopped and liquid reserved
1 tsp ground cumin
1 ½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
12 whole black peppercorns
¾ tsp shrimp paste
4 coriander roots, rinsed well and roughly chopped
5cm piece galangal, peeled and roughly chopped
3 stalks lemongrass, white part only, roughly chopped, outer layers discarded
4 garlic cloves
1 long red chilli, seeded, roughly chopped (this will give you a mild curry paste, increase the quantity of chilli if you prefer it hotter)
1 tsp chilli paste or dried chilli flakes
2 small onions, roughly chopped
2 tbsp fish sauce (use salt for seasoning instead if you don’t like the fish sauce smell)
Place the coconut flesh and all other ingredients in a food processor and blend until you obtain a smooth paste. Set aside.
For the fish curry, you will need:
3 tbsp olive oil
600 g firm fish fillets of your choice
One large piece (approx 600g) pumpkin, cut into 2 cm dice
One medium sized sweet potato, cut into 2 cm dice
300g green beans, cut into 3 – 4 cm lengths
2 x 400ml cans reduced fat coconut milk
300ml fish stock
10 kaffir lime leaves, shredded
Coriander leaves and Thai basil leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp lime juice
Heat the olive oil in a sauce pan. Add the curry paste and fry for 3 – 4 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.
Add the reserved coconut liquid, coconut milk and fish stock and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the diced pumpkin and sweet potato and cook for another 10 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften.
Add the fish fillets and cook for 10 more minutes, ensuring the fish is completely immersed in the broth. I prefer to cook the fillets whole and break them up at the end. You can, obviously, cut the fish into chunks first if you prefer.
Add the green beans and cook for a further 5 minutes, then stir in the fish sauce/salt, lime juice, lime, coriander and Thai basil leaves, give everything a good stir and remove from heat. Serve with crusty bread or steamed rice. Serves 4