Penang Vegetable Curry with Eggplant, Peppers, Potatoes & Coconut Milk
Wow- what a storm this evening! This is as crazy a Summer as we have ever had- up again, down again temperatures and lots of rain... like this evening! Although it isn't really cold, after getting soaked in the deluge on my way home from work, I was shivering by the time I got in and was in two minds as to whether I wanted to grill that eggplant I had in the fridge after all... and all of a sudden, I decided I should make something spicy and comforting instead... and this is what I came up with!
Penang curry has always been one of my favorites, with its lemon-grass, kaffir lime, ginger, chili, cumin, garlic, cloves, peanuts and galangal- it tastes really fresh and fruity and is one of the most delicious coconut-milk sauce bases you can buy! (Or make for yourselves if you happen to be that way inclined!)
I love the pork panang curry most of all I suppose, but this evening I decided to try making a vegetarian version and made it using 1 medium-sized eggplant, 2 small, sweet red peppers, 2 small potatoes, 1 small carrot, 1/2 stalk of celery, 1 Spring onion, 1 small can coconut milk, 1 heaped tablespoon Penang curry paste, 1/2 of a fresh, hot chili, basil and cilantro.
The resulting dish is spicy and aromatic, exotic looking and tasting... but as it happens, just about as simple as simple can be to make!
I peeled and sliced the eggplant into thick strips, cut the peppers, potatoes, celery and carrots into bite-sized chunks and cut the onion into chunky little slices.
I started off by adding half of the coconut milk to my frying pan and bringing it to the boil. After a minute or two of bubbling away, you will notice the milk "split" into a white and a clear liquid- this is because the fat content of the milk liquifies and begins to boil at a different rate- and this is the time to add the curry paste and stir it in. Once it is totally blended into the coconut milk, add all of the vegetables as well as the stalks of the cilantro that we will be using later- they give great flavor to the sauce!
It may not seem like enough liquid in the frying pan at first, but keep stirring gently and soon everything will become nicely coated. Season with a good splash of fish sauce and keep stirring until the eggplant begins to soften a little.
After around 5 minutes of cooking, the vegetables will look something like this. Season them well with freshly ground black pepper and then add enough boiling water to the pan to cover the base. Reduce the heat to a simmer, pop on the lid and let it slowly bubble away for around 10 minutes, stirring only occasionally.
After 10 minutes of cooking all of the water will have been absorbed and the vegetables will be half-cooked. At this point, add the rest of the coconut milk, a little more water and a good sprinkle of finely chopped cilantro. Stir-in well and return to the heat for a further 10 minutes... just until those potatoes are nicely cooked.
Serve with some fresh cilantro and basil (Thai basil is better- but this is all I had at home tonight!)- and if you can take it- some thiny sliced fresh chili to take the heat-level a little notch higher...
The great thing is that although the curry paste and the chili are hot and spicy, all of the other ingredients are mild and they combine wonderfully to make a really good blend of flavors!
There is something wonderful about the flavor of potato cooked in coconut milk- and although these were just 2 little ones, they were satisfying enough that I didn't even need rice to go with this- so using just one of those mini-cans of coconut milk, this dish was also quite a bit "lighter" than most... yay!
Now, I would say that, THAT, is a plate of food that looks good enough to eat! Right now!