Ghillie James's Thai curry paste lends an instant shot of flavour to soups and stir-fries
I am a huge fan of the late Keith Floyd, who looked after my friend Suzanne and I when we were travelling and cooking around Ireland. We met Keith in a pub we were cooking for in Kinsale and when he heard we were camping, he very kindly offered for us to stay with him. He was quite the gentleman, cooked us a magnificent roast lamb and charged us £10 a week for cornflakes and loo roll! His Thai red curry paste has always been a favourite, adapted and fiddled with over time, and this version doesn't contain a madly long list of ingredients.
If you have the time, I would recommend making your own rather than resorting to shop-bought. Not only is it far tastier but more importantly you know exactly what's in it. The recipe does contain a small amount of salt, but if you want to leave it out, then do — just add a bit more fish sauce when seasoning.
Here's what you need:
4 large red chillies, 2 deseeded, all chopped
3 bird's eye chillies, with seeds, chopped
5 garlic cloves
1 small red onion or 2 red shallots, chopped
1 lemongrass stalk, tough outer leaves removed and remaining inner stalk very finely chopped
5 fresh or 8 dried kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded, or the zest of 2 unwaxed limes
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger or galangal
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground, or 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, ground, or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
5 cloves, ground, or 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3 tablespoons chopped coriander stems and roots
1 teaspoon dried shrimp paste, or 3 canned anchovies, drained
1/2 heaped teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons coconut or good-quality rapeseed oil
10 white or 6 black peppercorns, crushed
How to make it
Put all the ingredients into a processor and whizz until the mixture resembles a paste. A smaller processor works best, but you can use a bigger one — just keep scraping down the sides. Alternatively, use a large pestle and mortar. Transfer the paste to an airtight lidded container and keep in the fridge for up to two to three weeks or freeze in ice-cube trays, ready to use as needed.