My tolerance of spicy food has lowered significantly in recent years. I used to show off by ordering the hottest type of madras on the menu and adding chilli flakes to pizza, just because I could. However, these days you’re more likely to find me with a veggie tikka masala or a korma, incessantly de-seeding when preparing chilli-based dishes.
About three weeks ago my colleague, Sarah, gave me five red chillies picked from her chilli plant. These chillies were even smaller than they look in the picture above but Sarah warned me not to be fooled by their delicate appearance. She certainly wasn’t wrong! In these next few posts, I’ll be sharing the delicious vegetarian and vegan friendly dishes that I prepared with these little pieces of spice.
In my post, The Shoreditch Grocery, I wrote about the tempeh (fermented soy product) that I had purchased and used this as a key ingredient in a Balinese-style curry, a dish I ate many a time whilst holidaying in Bali last April.
Don’t be fooled by its shrivelled appearance; tempeh has a chewier texture and contains more flavour than tofu. I based my recipe on this one from The Food Show, alternating the chicken for tempeh (obviously) and I swapped lemon juice for a chopped lemongrass stalk.
INGREDIENTS (makes 4 portions)
•2 tbs olive oil
•1 pack of tempeh, chopped
•3 cloves of garlic, crushed
•2 red chillies, de-seeded
•1/4 cup cashew nuts
•1 tsp tumeric
•1 stalk of lemongrass, chopped
•1 tbs dark soy sauce
•1 tbs fresh grated ginger
•1 tbs brown sugar
•A handful of green beans
•200g coconut milk
•1/2 cup of water
1) Put the onion, garlic, chillies, cashew nuts, turmeric, lemongrass, soy sauce, ginger and sugar in a food processor or mortar and pestle and blend or grind to form a smooth paste.
2) Heat the oil in a heavy-based pot or pan and add the spice paste. Fry this, stirring to prevent sticking, for 4-5 minutes to let the flavours develop and until the sugar caramelises. Add the green beans and tempeh and cook for a further 15 minutes.
3) Add the coconut milk and water, reduce the heat to low. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened (about 10 to 15 minutes).
I served this with steamed rice. The curries I had in Bali were far milder than this; I needed to sip water and wipe my eyes after every mouthful thanks to those powerful little chillies!! It still made a tasty meal though which lasted me the whole week. Perhaps I’m beginning to build up my resilience to spicy food once again!