Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been cooking loads of Indian food – recipe testing mainly. I had been sent a fabulous hamper from Natco foods as part of the Curry4Change competition that I’m taking part in – details on this will follow in June as YOU too can get involved.
I am now craving food from a different region and a rather delicious vegetarian Thai dish caught my attention recently, cooked by John Torode as part of one of the invention tests in the 2014 Masterchef series. I find the series completely addictive and a pleasure to watch. The invention test in particular is always rather exciting as it really demonstrates how much flair and knowledge of cooking the contestant really has. Basically the contestants get two boxes to chose from, one savoury and the other sweet – no prizes for guessing which I would always choose! After electing a box they have to create a dish using some of the ingredients within the box as well as a few staple ingredients that they are all given. Before the contestants dive in John has a go at choosing one of the boxes (away from the contestants), typically he too always chooses the savoury box. This time he created a red Thai aubergine, tofu, egg curry, which I thought looked delicious, spicy and relatively light – a dish that was beckoning me to cook.
Here is my version of the dish inspired from the John Tororde’s creation. I have a feeling that John may have included red peppers in his paste but I opted to not put them in – I leave it to you to decide.
Red Thai Tofu, Aubergine and Egg Curry
The proportions below will allow you to cook this dish a few times – freeze the paste left over.
To make the paste
5cm fresh galanga
5cm fresh ginger
3 cloves of garlic
13 small shallots (half that if they are larger in size)
3 small piece kaffir lime peel
4 large dried red chilli, soak for 10 mins in warm water to soften
2 fresh small red chillies
2 lemongrass sticks
1 tsp shrimp paste
1. If you have a gas hob, simply place all the ingredients, aside for the shrimp paste, on a rack and place over the flame so that the ingredients char slightly. This will give the paste a lovely smokey flavour. I did exactly the same thing when I was in Vietnam and made Pho – see here.
2. If you do not have a gas hob, simply place them into a pan (do not add oil) and let them heat and char this way.
3. Once the ingredients have charred and cooled, place into a blender and add the shrimp paste. Blend until you can get it as smooth as you can.
To make the curry itself
5 tbsp vegetable oil
800g firm tofu, cut into 3 cm cubes
4 tsp homemade curry paste
300g aubergine – if using baby aubergines cut into quarters, otherwise cut into 7x2cm matchsticks
400ml creamy coconut milk (1 tin)
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt
3 pak choi
1/2 lime, juice only
1. Firstly make sure the tofu is completely dry as it will then fry a lot better. I usually take the tofu out its packet a couple of hours before using and then place on kitchen roll so that it soaks up all the excess water.
2. Using a non-stick pan place a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil into the pan and when it is hot carefully add the tofu cubes. Fry on a low heat so that the tofu bronzes delicately. This should not take much more than 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile on a low heat, in a wok or karahi, add a couple more tablespoons of vegetable oil and add the thai paste. Stir around in the oil and add the aubergine and coat in the paste. You may find you need to add another tablespoon of oil at this stage as the aubergines do need quite a bit to cook.
4. As the aubergines begin to soften add the creamy coconut milk and the eggs in their shells. They will become hard boiled from cooking gently in the coconut milk.
5. Add the caste sugar and salt to taste.
6. Add the lime juice and then five minutes before serving add the pak choi and a little extra water. Remove the shells from the eggs and cut in half.
7. Serve in a bowl with a small bowl of rice on the side. John added roasted sesame seeds in his, which is a nice touch.
NB: My local Thai grocers said that they do not use fresh chillies in their red thai paste, but I decided to add a couple of help with the heat and colour.
PS: I realise I’ve been cooking rather a lot of dishes that include aubergine/eggplant lately. I do apologise if you can’t stand the vegetable. I don’t actively come up with recipes that include it but realise this is the third recipe that includes aubergines that I’ve cooked in the last month or so. I promise there will be no aubergines for a while as you are probably being polite and are actually really sick of them ;o).