The Curry Diaries

I always have a couple of tubs of curry paste in the freezer, stored in little single recipe batches. Right now there's Vindaloo, Tikka Masala and Tom Yum pastes in there, but the stores are getting a little low for my liking!

 The current curry selection (yes those dates are right... I probably keep them a little too long...)

The current curry selection (yes those dates are right... I probably keep them a little too long...)

There are a number of reasons I make my own curry paste; I can control the heat - I love flavourful curry, but I can be a bit of wus on the chilli front; I love knowing exactly what's in there - no preservatives, and no palm oil; and I like variety - we've never got through a full jar of curry paste before it went off, but since I freeze my home made stuff, that's not an issue.

I've collected my curry paste recipes from a range of places, but the curry pastes in Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food cookbook are a great place to start, and probably where I first started really getting into making my own. Since then, my favourite Thai cookbook - The Food of Thailand - and Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cookery, have sealed the deal. They just taste so much better than bought curry paste, I don't think I'll ever go back.

Tom Yum paste is the most recent addition to my repertoire, whipped up after work last week when I had a hankering for tom yum, but no desire to buy a jar of paste. I already had most of the ingredients at home - I just had to grab the shallots, lemongrass, galangal (much to the grocer's surprise!) and some tomatoes. This recipe is based on one from the SBS Food website, but there's no way I was adding pineapple... so I tweaked it to suit us.

Tom Yum Paste

  • shallots, peeled
  • garlic cloves, peeled
  • 5 cm piece ginger, roughly chopped
  • 4 cm piece galangal, roughly chopped
  • 2 red birdseye chillies, seeded (or more, if you like)
  • lemongrass stalks, white parts only
  • kaffir lime leaves
  • coriander (cilantro) roots, washed
  • large ripe tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 tbs shaved palm sugar

Put everything, except the tomatoes & palm sugar into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until finely chopped. It will be quite dry, but don't be concerned.

Add the tomatoes & sugar, and blitz again, until a rough paste forms.

This will give you enough paste for 2-3L of Tom Yum soup, or 4-6 serves, depending how fragrant you like it.

Tom Yum Soup
serves 2

  • ½ quantity of Tom Yum Paste
  • ½ tbs oil
  • 10 large raw prawns, peeled
  • 8 cherry tomatoes
  • 50g mushrooms, halved or quartered
  • 50g rice noodles
  • lime juice
  • fish sauce
  • coriander

Put a large pot over high heat. Add the oil & tom yum paste. Cook until fragrant. Add 1L water or chicken stock (or you can do some tricky thing with the prawn heads that I am yet to attempt...), and simmer for 5-10 minutes to let the flavours infuse.

Meanwhile cook the noodles according to packet directions - cover with boiling water for a few minutes is the norm - and drain.

Most Thai recipes tell you to strain out the solids at this point, but I don't bother (I would imagine its quite necessary if you had the prawn heads in there!).

Add the tomatoes & mushrooms to the soup. Boil for 2-3 minutes. Add the prawns and cook until they have just changed colour. Add fish sauce to taste.

Divide the noodles into two bowls, and top with ladles of soup.

Garnish with coriander, and add lime juice and more fish sauce as required.

(I usually add green veggies in with mine - beans/broccoli in with the mushrooms, or leafy greens like bok choy sliced and added on top of the noodles, cooked by the heat of the soup.)

Have you ever made your own curry paste? How did you go? Was it easier that you expected?