I love travelling. The very idea of packing my bag and going away excites me, whether it be a weekend away in the UK, or further afield. This love of travel most probably stems from being flown back home from England to Manila when I was just 4 weeks old. My parents wanted me to be born in the UK so my mother spent the last 2 months of her pregnancy here, mainly in deepest, darkest Kent, but also in London where two of her sisters were working as nurses. I expect that it would have been quite dreary compared to Manila in the sixties! So at 4 weeks old, I flew back to my home in Magallanes village in Makati, Manila and life for my parents returned to normal, in that sixties era kind of way. I heard tales of fabulous dinner parties which started with ‘Black Velvet’ cocktails and ended with brandies. My mother taught herself to cook Western dishes, mostly from a dog-eared Margueritte Patten book that my grandmother had given her on her wedding day, but also gleaning tips from their cook who had worked for other expat families previously.
My taste for travel continued as I grew up… we moved from Manila to Jakarta and then to Singapore where we stayed for 12 years. My father was a great organiser and used our location of plan exotic holidays, en route back to the UK each summer – the lakes in Kashmir, Hawaii and Disneyland in LA, the Khyber Pass in Pakistan on the Afghan border, Nairobi and the game parks in Kenya to name just a few destinations. Little did we know how privileged we were.
This weekend was spent in the Cotswolds. Not as exotic, but as someone brought up outside of the UK, I still love the English countryside, and that ‘twee’ vibe that Cotswolds villages have. We stayed at The Fish, in the middle of the Farncombe Estate – low-key, very chilled, just what was needed. Saturday was blue skies and sunshine, but driving home on Sunday afternoon in the relentless rain was less fun, and I plotted to have a bowl of spicy goodness for supper!
My easy go-to spicy dish is Thai Green curry. Whilst my mother has a recipe for homemade paste, time (and ingredients) were not on my side, so I used my store cupboard standby, Green Curry Paste. I enhanced this with an onion, ginger, lemongrass and a fresh green chilli… and went meat-free with the addition of butternut squash, aubergine and tofu. Rather than frying the vegetables separately, I roasted them which sped up the process, and was a little healthier. Feeling extra virtuous, I served it with brown basmati rice – I’m sure this made up for that cream tea we had!
4 Tbs Green Curry Paste
2 Tbs coconut oil (or any vegetable oil)
1 Onion – sliced finely
2 bulbs lemon grass – bruised
1 Tbs grated fresh ginger
1 green chilli – finely sliced
Fresh Lime to taste
1 Tbs Palm sugar (you can used dark brown sugar)
3Tbs Fish sauce
1 can coconut milk
1/2 Butternut squash – cubed and roasted
1 aubergine – cut into large cubes and roasted
1/2 pack of Cauldron firm tofu – cubed
2 Tbs roasted peanuts – crushed
Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the onions, ginger and lemongrass. Fry until fragrant and softened. Add the curry paste and stir. If it sticks, add the cream from the top of the tin of coconut and fry until the oil just starts to separate.
Add the remainder of the coconut milk and half a can of water. Then add the palm sugar, fish sauce and chilli. As the sauce starts to simmer, add in the vegetables and then the tofu. Bring to the boil and then leave to summer for about 15 minutes. The oil should separate and rise to the top.
At this stage taste the sauce. You can add more salt (fish sauce), sour (lime juice), heat (fresh chilli) and sweet (sugar) to taste… I think its a personal thing and I like my spicy, sour and sweet, all at once.
Serve with a sprinkling of crushed roasted peanuts and some chopped red chilli. I would also normally garnish with coriander or shredded kaffir lime leaves, but didn’t have any to hand.
This keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days and can be reheated gently to feed hungry teens, either with rice, or over noodles. Vegetables & Tofu can also be substituted for meat, prawns or fish.