This is one of my favourite dishes that I cook for my friends, as it's so fresh, aromatic and warming. The fish makes it a real treat, particularly if you use monkfish which has now become quite expensive. You could easily substitute the fish for chicken, but I would use thighs and breast as they are tastier and work very well in curries. This curry should have chilli heat, but be richly aromatic and unctious. The trick is to really cook the 'curry base aromatics', which add depth of flavour and base notes. It is finished with top notes of lime juice, slithers of spring onion and coriander leaves. I serve this with a sticky rice scattered with black sesame and a sweet and sour cucumber relish.
Ingredients for 4 people:
4 large raw prawns (deveined, head on)
1 tin Coconut Milk
500ml fish stock
1 tablespoon of Nam Plah (Thai fish sauce)
2 teaspoons of Palm Sugar
A little oil (peanut or sunflower)
6/8 shallots (depending upon size)
3/4 cloves of garlic
75g Galangal root (or ginger)
3/4 Red Chillies
4/5 Kaffir Lime leaves
1 stalk of Lemongrass
Coriander root, stalks and leaves
Thai pea Aubergines
First pound in a heavy mortar and pestle the shallot, garlic, chillies, galangal, lemongrass, coriander root and stalks with a little oil (2 teaspoons) with a pinch of sea salt until it forms a thick pulpy paste. Don't put this mixture through a food processor, as you want to extract as many of the natural oils as possible. (the food processor will only tear the ingredients).
Once you have your curry paste, fry it in the remainder of the peanut oil on a medium heat for at least 15/20 minutes, to cook through all of the aromatics through and let the flavours develop. Then, turn up the heat and add the palm sugar, stirring constantly. After 5 minutes, you should have a richly aromatic base that starts getting sticky and caramalised. Open the coconut milk and scoop off the top layer of cream, add to the mixture and stir through. Cook for a further minute then add the rest of the coconut milk. Bring to a gentle boil and then simmer. Add the Nam Plah (this adds a salty note), and snip the Kaffir Lime leaves into thin stripes (these add a sour, base lemony note). Add the fish stock and then simmer for 20 mins until the curry starts to develop little pools of oil on the surface.
Taste for seasoning and keep simmering until you get a curry sauce that has a consistency that coats the back of a spoon. Add the Pea Aubergines and the Thai Basil, simmer for a minute or two and then add the Monkfish, cut into chunks. Simmer in the broth for 4/5 minutes until just cooked. Add the deveined Prawns and cook for a further two minutes. Turn the heat off, then add the juice of half a lime. Add spring onions, coriander leaves (not too many), and a a few finely chopped Thai Basil leaves. Serve straighaway.
For the Rice:
I always cook 1 part rice to 1.5 parts water, bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer, put a lid on and then cook for 12/15 minutes. Do not touch the lid, even to peek inside - leave with the lid on for a further 10 minutes and rthe steam will have further cooked the rice through. To make the rice sticky I squeeze in the juice of half a lime, and a slug of sweet chilli sauce. Stir and replace the lid. Mould into a bowl and turn upside down to serve. Garnish with Black Sesame.
Cut a small cucumber into sharp shards, cutting out most of the seeds. Mix together a tablespoon each of Mirin, Rice Wine Vinegar and a teaspoon of sweet chilli sauce. Add sea salt and mix. Toss the cucumber in the dressing and serve as a side dish. For extra heat you can add a finely chopped red chilli.