Monday, 20 June 2011

Father's Day Thai Dinner (Pad Thai, Red Curry & Rice)

I asked my Dad what he wanted for his Father's Day dinner and, after talking about a few ideas, we settled on a home-made version of his favourite Thai takeaway - without the insane amounts of fat, msg, salt and sugar.

I chose to make a chicken pad thai and a king prawn red curry, alongside the obligatory semi-steamed, shortgrain rice. We also agreed on his favourite pudding, a lemon tart, but I'll cover that in a separate post.

I did as much of the prep as possible before cooking anything, obviously making the two dishes at the same time. I debated whether to write this post in the same order but changed my mind. I've put the steps of each dish separately as, although I wanted to give my Dad that "takeaway experience" of variety (and leftovers!), either one of these would quite comfortably stand as an entire meal for four people.

Thai Red Curry Paste (inspired by Keith Floyd's "Thai Food", p45)

I put three long, red, deseeded chillies in a bowl with hot water to soften up. While they were doing that, I finely sliced 2 lemongrass stalks and 3 shallots, several garlic cloves, plus I zested a couple of limes. All of this went into my Mum's little magimix, along with 10 white peppercorns and a teaspoon of shrimp paste. I briefly heated a heaped teaspoon each of ground cumin and coriander and half of nutmeg, until they started to smell strongly, these also went in the magimix with the chopped chillies and a little water.
It took a while to turn into a paste, and a bit more water, but it did eventually turn into a nice paste. It keeps in the fridge for almost a week and works brilliantly as a marinade.

Prawn Red Curry (inspired by Keith Floyd's "Thai Food", p13, & "Nigella Express", p15)

This is quite an easy one, once you've made the curry paste. First de-skin and cube half a butternut squash and a sweet potato. Heat up a large pan and fry a couple of tablespoons of the curry paste plus a sliced spring onion for a few minutes. Add a tin of coconut milk, half a pint of chicken stock and a good few squirts of nam pla (fish sauce). 

When it's simmering add the sweet potato, butternut squash and a good tablespoon of lime leaves (they sell these frozen in packs at waitrose). Leave it for quarter of an hour and add some green beans and a load of raw prawns, I used frozen ones but there's no reason not to use fresh.

When they're cooked, season with a little dark sugar, a few squeezes of lime juice and extra nam pla if needed. Finally, mix in lots of chopped fresh coriander just before serving. It's great with sliced mango, but my Mum doesn't like fruit in savoury food so I left them out.

Chicken Pad Thai (inspired by Keith Floyd's "Thai Food", p77)

First of all, put flat noodles into a bowl of hot water for 15 minutes. Move them about with a fork every so often, to stop them sticking together. 
Add 3 tbsp of tamarind paste, 2 of nam pla and 2 of dark sugar, plus a teaspoon of chilli powder together in a small bowl. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. On a chopping board, smash up a handful of dry roasted peanuts.

Fry up some chopped garlic, followed by chicken peices (preferably thighs) until cooked through, then put these into a dish on the side.
Reheat the pan with a bit more oil and then scramble a couple of eggs in it.  Return the chicken to the pan, along with the mostly-cooked noodles and a sliced spring onion. After a minute or so, add the pot of tamarind mixture and half of the peanuts. I didn't have any beansprouts, but this is where you'd add them if you did. I had mushrooms, so that's what I added.

Keep stir frying until the noodles are cooked through, then add the rest of the nuts, a load of fresh chopped coriander and fresh chilli (I put this in a bowl on the side, so we could all choose the heat we liked).

Steamed Rice (memorised from "Korean Cooking" by Young Jin Song)

One teacup of shortgrain rice is enough to generously feed two people, in this case I used two cups. The first step is to wash it; quite apart from possible contamination by rat wee in a warehouse, this removes all the dust and some of the starch too, which leads to tastier, less squishy rice.

I put the rice in its saucepan, fill it with water, gently squoosh it around and drain it - five times. Then I cover the rice with cold water to about half an inch over the rice for one cup, an inch for two cups and so on. Add a few drops of sesame oil and cover with the lid. 

Put on a high heat and keep an eye on it, once it starts to bubble you need to turn it right down and then leave it for 14 minutes.
Take it off the heat and leave it to sit for another 5 minutes. Don't take the lid off! Serve it using a fork, it separates the grains nicely instead of squishing them together. I love this rice and I make it to go with all sorts of things.

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