What you need to know:
- DIY. This is a recipe you ought to try, writes A. Kadumukasa Kironde II.
Coconut milk and cream should not be confused with the ‘milk’ or juice that is found inside a fresh coconut (albeit the latter makes a wonderful refreshing drink!) The coconut milk that is used for cooking is produced from the white part (the flesh) of the milk and it will rise to the surface just like cream.
To make your own coconut milk, break open a fresh coconut and remove the brown inner skin from the flesh. Grate sufficient amount of the flesh to measure about half a litre.
Place the grated flesh, together with 300 ml of water, in a blender or food processor that is fitted with a metal blade and process for about a minute and strain the mixture through a sieve that is lined with muslin into a bowl.
Gather up the corners of the muslin and squeeze out the liquid. The coconut milk is then ready to use but you must stir it before use. Nowadays one does not have to go through the above process since coconut milk is readily available in cans or a soluble powder and as creamed coconut that is sold in block form. Powder and creamed coconut make a poor milk but are useful for sauces and dressings.
The recipe given here for green curry paste takes time to make properly but in the end is worth it and you will have no regrets. Pork, prawns and fish can all be used instead of chicken, but cooking times must be adjusted accordingly.
I am the first to admit that making curry paste is time consuming but on the plus side it tastes excellent and keeps well stored in the fridge. However, ready-made pastes are available in packets and tubs and all in all they are satisfactory substitutes.
1.If you are using a whole chicken, remove the legs and then separate the thighs from the drumsticks. Separate the lower part of the chicken carcass by cutting through the rib section with kitchen scissors. Divide the breast part in half down the middle, then chop half in two. Remove the skin from all the pieces and discard. When you are using chicken filet or tenderloin, you may be advised to purchase chicken carcass from Carrefour supermarket which work well in making your chicken stock. They are inexpensive and readily available and will give your stock much needed flavor.
2. Strain the coconut milk into a bowl, reserving the thick part. Place the chicken in a stainless steel or enamel saucepan, pour in the thin part of the coconut milk and stock. Add the lime leaves or if you are using the lime zest and simmer, uncovered over gentle heat for 45 minutes. Remove the chicken from the saucepan and allow to cool. Reserve the cooking liquid. Remove the cooled meat from the bone and set aside.
3. To make the curry paste, dry fry the cilantro seeds and caraway or cumin seeds. Grind the chilies with the sugar and salt and pepper in mortar and pestle to make a smooth paste. Combine the seeds from the wok with the chili paste, the lemon grass, galangal or ginger, garlic and shallots or onion and then grind smoothly. Add the shrimp paste or anchovy paste or anchovy filets, cilantro leaves, mint, nutmeg and vegetable oil.
4. Place 250ml or 1 cup of the reserved cooking liquid in a large wok. Add 5 tbsp of the curry paste to the liquid, depending on your taste. Boil rapidly until the liquid has completely reduced before adding the chicken stock, chicken meat, sweet potatoes, squash and the French beans.
Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked. At this point stir in the thick part of the coconut milk and simmer gently to allow the dish to thicken.
Just before serving, taste and correct seasoning and serve garnished with chopped fresh cilantro.
Serves 4 – 6
1 kg chicken though I prefer using chicken tenderloin or fillet which is available in the supermarket but using the whole chicken has the advantage of the bones which lend more flavour. On the other hand, you can use boneless chicken
600 ml canned coconut milk
500 ml chicken stock
2 kaffir lime leaves, or substitute with the zest of lime to add a fresh citrus flavour.
350g sweet potatoes, roughly chopped
350g squash, seeded and roughly chopped
200g French beans, halved
1 small bunch fresh cilantro, shredded garnish
For the green curry paste
10 ml/2 tsp coriander seeds
2.5 ml/ ½ tsp caraway or cumin seeds
4 – 6 finely chopped
medium fresh green chilies or depending on your taste
20 ml / ¼ tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
7.5 cm/ 3-inch lemon grass
2 cm / ¾ inch fresh ginger root, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
4 shallots or medium onion, finely chopped
2cm/ ¼ inch square shrimp paste. Or substitute anchovy paste or fillets.
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
½ tsp ground nutmeg
2 tbsp vegetable oil