Good old leftovers
As anyone who has read this blog previously will know, I try and make food go as far as possible and really make the most of leftovers. I hate wasting food, and there is nothing worse than letting good quality, expensive ingredients go off in the bottom of the fridge. To avoid this, I try and shop every day for exactly what I need that evening, and also having handy recipes that can make the most of anything that I have going spare. I think that the word leftover doesn’t help things either, making ingredients sound unappealing and past their best when they often aren’t.
Curries are a really great way of making leftovers into meals of their own. This meal came about because I bought a whole duck for a confit leg dish, and had the breasts left over. Duck breasts are very expensive in their own right, so there was no way that I was going to leave these to waste, and I really wanted to make something nice. I already had a lot of the dry ingredients required for this recipe in my cupboards, so it really wasn’t much effort to put together quickly. Although this recipe uses baby aubergines, french beans and bamboo shoots, you can easily swap these for what you’ve got lying around.
I love Thailand and Thai cooking. But I find it so difficult to replicate the amazing dishes that you eat when there on holiday. It is only recently and after many attempts that I have finally managed to come up with something anywhere near that quality. Many of the european recipes for Thai curries lack the real intense flavour combinations - the right amount of sweetness, saltiness, spiciness and creaminess. I think that the main problem is sourcing the ingredients; things like galangal, thai basil and fresh lime leaves are still quite tricky to get hold of. The dried alternatives really aren’t suitable substitutes, and don’t have anywhere near the flavour. Luckily there are a couple of good greengrocers near me in Stoke Newington that occasionally have galangal and lime leaves, and you can now buy Thai basil in Waitrose. Try as much as possible to source these tricky ingredients as they make all the difference to the finished dish.
Don’t be afraid of the chillies too! You can counter this heat with the coconut milk later.
For the paste (makes enough for two batches):
1/2 a large shallot
4 lemongrass stalks, tough outer leaves discarded
1 lime, juice only
2 large pieces of galangal
10 fresh lime leaves
10-12 bird eye chillis, seeds left in
Small handful fresh coriander root (save the leaves to finish)
5 garlic cloves
2 cardamom pods
1 tbsp coriander seeds, finely crushed
1 tbsp shrimp paste
50ml olive oil
Salt and pepper
For the curry:
2 duck breasts
Large handful french beans, trimmed and halved
6 baby aubergines, quartered at the last minute
225g bamboo shoots
1/2 a large shallot
250ml coconut cream
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp light brown sugar
400ml coconut milk
6 fresh lime leaves, stalk removed and quartered
large handful Thai basil leaves
Sprinkle of Thai basil leaves and coriander leaves
1 red chilli, finely sliced
1 cup of rice, cooked as instructed on the packet
Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC and take the duck breasts out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking. Put a baking tray lined with baking paper in the oven.
First make the paste by putting all of the paste ingredients into a food processor and blitz everything together until they form a smooth paste. You want it to be as fine as possible so keep scraping the sides of the bowl to make sure everything gets chopped. You only need half of the paste for this recipe, the other half will keep in the fridge for a week or so. Set aside to infuse together while you prepare the other ingredients.
Now cook the duck. Using kitchen roll, dry the skin of the duck and season each side. Put the breasts skin side down on a cold, non stick frying pan and bring it up to a medium-high heat, keeping the skin side down at all times. Fry the duck for 4-5 minutes or until the skin is crispy and a lovely golden brown colour. As soon as the skin is cooked, turn the duck over and seal the flesh side quickly before placing them on the heated oven tray skin side down. Roast the duck for 5-6 minutes before removing and putting aside to rest for about ten minutes. Once rested, slice thinly - it should still be pink and succulent.
Start cooking the rice as instructed on the packet. Once cooked, keep covered and warm while you cook the curry.
Heat a large frying pan or skillet onto a medium heat. Add the coconut cream and bring to the boil. Spoon in the curry paste mixture, fish sauce and sugar and bring back to a simmer for a couple of minutes before adding the aubergine, shallots, bamboo shoots, beans, lime leaves and most of the coconut milk. Bring back to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Taste the sauce and add more coconut milk or paste to get the heat/creaminess right to your taste. After 5 minutes, add the roasted duck slices and cook for another 2 minutes to heat through. To finish, sprinkle in the Thai basil leaves, stir together and turn the heat off.
To serve, ladle a good mixture of curry and sauce into each bowl and top with sprinkled Thai basil leaves, coriander and sliced red chilli.