A Couple of Meals, Here & There
Thai red curries are among the quickest of meals we know in terms of preparation and food shopping. Keep a small can of red curry paste in the pantry, along with the canned coconut milk that's already sitting there, and you can throw together dinner in minutes utilizing whatever proteins and vegetables you have at hand. Above is Cafe Drake's lazy but scrumptious version borne from a fridge stocked only with chicken thighs, cauliflower and a red bell pepper. The recipe below can be endlessly adapted in a multitude of ways.
CHICKEN AND CAULIFLOWER RED CURRY
Best with rice or soft, gravy soakable flatbreads, red curry is also good with rice noodles or very thin spaghetti. Some sort of green salad is all you need to complete the meal; in a pinch just slice some cucumbers and onions and toss with a light dressing.
3 T. vegetable oil
3 T. red curry paste (available at most supermarkets)
2 red bell peppers, sliced thinly
4-5 chicken thighs, bone-in, skin off
1 can coconut milk
1 1/2 cups water
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 onion, sliced
1 T. soy sauce
2 T. brown sugar (white is ok)
Sliced red or green chilies, chopped cilantro, 10-12 torn basil leaves: for garnish as desired
Heat oil in a large saucepan until hot and then fry curry paste, over medium heat - for 2-3 minutes. Add chicken thighs and brown on both sides for 1minute. Add the bell peppers and onions and cook for another minute or two. Add the coconut milk, water, cauliflower, soy sauce and sugar. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened. Adjust for seasoning and serve garnished as desired with chilies and/or basil and cilantro leaves.
Karhis, or soupy yogurt sauces/side dishes, are in name the origin of the term "curry". With endless variety and ingredients used, karhis can range from mild to fiery and from quite thin to thick in consistency. They are always eaten either spooned over rice or dipped into with plenty of parathas or naan breads. A bowl of karhi, some basmati rice, a dab or chutney and a few toasted pappadums comprise one of Cafe Drake's favorite at-home lunches of all time. The recipe below is the simplest we know; if you can't find the vadis you can make the karhi without or substitute diced veggies such as carrots, turnips and/or daikon.
KARHI WITH VADIS
Chickpea flour is used not only in Indian and North African cuisines but is also common in Mediterranean France and Italy. It should be relatively easy to find and keeps forever refrigerated. Vadis are small nuggets of sun-dried soaked and ground chickpeas; the flavor is reminiscent of falafel.
Whisk the following together in a very large mixing bowl: 1 1/2 cups each plain yogurt (NOT fat-free) and water, 1/2 t. turmeric powder, 2 T. chickpea flour, 1 t. salt, 1 t. sugar and 1 t. cayenne pepper. Stir till smooth.
Heat 1 T. oil in a large skillet and fry until just golden 1/4 cup vadis. This will only take a minute over a medium flame and the vadis must not burn or blacken. Remove from the oil and add another bit of oil and then: 1/2 t. cumin seeds, 10 curry leaves and 2 dried red chilies (torn into pieces). Cook for 30 seconds then pour in the yogurt mixture.
Add in the fried vadis and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and stirring frequently, simmer for 5 minutes, adding splashes of water as needed. The consistency should be slightly thick but pourable. Remove from heat, cover for 5 minutes then serve hot or at least warm. May be garnished with sliced green chilies.