Lately, I’ve been trying to eat less *whisper it* meat. I didn’t think I’d ever type that either, but here we are. I’m still steak’s number one fan, I’d still trade my boyfriend for sweet ‘n’ sticky baby back ribs and a nut roast will never be my kind of Sunday – my body just wants a little less of the red, or indeed white, stuff and my heart can’t handle all these trips to see the baby sheep at Mudchute farm and tucking into a juicy leg of lamb on the reg. What I’m trying to say is, I’m cutting back, but my carnivorous ways will probably never be forgotten. Flexitarianism is on the rise and I shall be on that bandwagon for the foreseeable future. And it’s curry that’s gotten me through my weaker why-don’t-we-just-add-some-chicken moments. Flavoursome and filling without the need for the aforementioned birdy, I think if I had to be a vegetarian, I’d do so in India.
I’ve been making a lot of the usual – bhuna, dhansak and makhani – to give my veg-only nights a boost, but tonight I fancied something a little more delicate, so I went for a Thai-inspired version. It’s nutty and fragrant and juicy without being overpowering and the coconut milk base rather than my go-to plum toms really allows the filler to cut through. My filler of choice for this paste – did I mention I used an easy-peasy out-of-the-packet paste for this? – is cauliflower, red pepper and sweet potato. They all go well together and all happened to be about to crawl off my kitchen counter – no points for guessing which was the stronger influence. This is a pretty healthy vegetarian and vegan-friendly recipe and I think it might even be gluten-free (?), but feel free to tell me otherwise. The sauce is medium-thick and the veggies are best when the red pepper is soft, and the cauliflower and sweet potato still have a little firmness. You can switch it up and try broccoli, take out the sweet potato – how about butternut squash now it’s October? – add extra chillis or serve with a sprinkle of cashews. Anything goes.
A note on the paste: I don’t usually use one. Thanks to The Hairy Bikers’ Great Curries book and my trusty NutriBullet, I’m a dab hand at making my own curry pastes now but when it comes to Thai red curry I prefer a shop-bought one. My go-to brand gets it really right <try it for yourself here> and we’ve eaten in Thai restaurants in London where they use and highly recommend it.
1 onion, diced
1 red pepper, cut into small squares
2 bird’s eye chillis, finely chopped – optional
60g Thai red curry paste
1 can coconut milk
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 sweet potato, cut into small chunks
3/4 cauliflower, cut into even florets
1 mug water
Get a wok nice and hot, add a generous glug of olive oil, salt and pepper, and then add the onion. Cook on a medium-high heat for 10 minutes or until starting to turn golden.
Add the red pepper for another few minutes, then the chillis for 1 minute more.
Next, drizzle in a little more oil if the wok is looking dry and then spoon in the curry paste and 1 tablespoon of coconut milk. It should sizzle and spit – give it a good stir until it calms down and the amazing fragrance is filling your kitchen (about 4 minutes).
Then pour in the rest of the coconut milk and soy sauce.
Add the sweet potato and cauliflower, stir well and turn up the heat for 10 minutes.
It should have reduced a little – make up for it with that mug of water, and then reduce the heat and pop a plate over the top for 30 minutes so it cooks the hard veg without releasing too much liquid.
If the veg is still too firm for your liking, cook it for another 10 minutes on a medium heat with the lid off.
Serve with sticky rice on cold wintry nights 🙂
Psst… it’ll also keep in the fridge for a couple of days!