Thai Green Chicken (or Prawn) Curry

This is a very quick simplified version of an authentic Thai green curry. The preparations are all done first, in much the same way as you would if you were making a stir-fry. Hence, chicken is diced or prawns shelled, an onion chopped, beans topped and tailed, a can and sachet or two opened, and a couple of lemons squeezed. It is a semi-cheat`s recipe made with a mixture of fresh and preserved ingredients but relies on a commercially made Thai curry paste. I bump up the flavours, whilst giving the gravy a fresher taste, with a stick of lemon grass, some fresh ginger and the juice of two lemons. Extra coriander – which, along with green chillies, is the green in the curry paste – is vital and so too is a slug of Thai fish sauce. Miss out nam pla or nuoc nam, as its called in Vietnam, and a vital component of the essential sour/chilli/creamy flavour is lost. Vile though it smells, nam pla lifts the flavours with its salty savoury tang. Usefully, the green curry sauce can be made in advance and kept on hold to suit your timings.

Serves 6
Prep: 35 min
Cook: 30 min

800g chicken thigh fillet or 800g raw giant Tiger prawns in their shells
1 medium red onion
2 tbsp cooking oil
1 garlic clove
1 lemon grass stalk
2.5cm piece fresh ginger
2 lemons
2 sachets of Thai green curry paste
400g can coconut milk
½ chicken stock cube dissolved in 250ml hot water
2 tbsp Thai fish sauce
200g green beans
225g can bamboo shoots in water (optional)
2 tbsp coarsely chopped coriander leaves

If using chicken, cut it into bite size pieces; either kebab style or longer and skinnier. If the prawns are frozen, place them in the sink and cover with warm water. Leave for a few minutes. Meanwhile, halve, peel and finely chop the onion. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Peel away the outer layers of the lemon grass to locate the tender inner shoot. Cut into 3 pieces. Peel the ginger, chop finely. Using a potato peeler, remove 2 strips of lemon zest (no white) from 1 lemon. Heat the oil in a pan that can hold the complete curry; a wok would be fine. Add the onion, garlic and ginger, stir-fry over a medium heat until the onion is slippery soft, the garlic and ginger aromatic. Add the lemon grass and lemon zest. Stir in the curry paste with 2 tbsp coconut milk. Cook, stirring constantly for a minute or so. Add the rest of the can of coconut milk and the stock. Bring to the boil then season with a splash of Tabasco, the fish sauce, ½ tsp salt and a little pepper. Squeeze in the juice from 1 lemon. Taste and fine-tune the seasoning with salt, lemon juice and Tabasco. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes or while you peel the prawns. Meanwhile, bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Top and tail the beans (don`t bother to remove the pointed ends) and cut them in half. Add the beans to the boiling water, bring back to the boil and cook for 30 seconds. Drain. Drain and rinse the bamboo shoots (if using) and add to the sauce. Bring back to simmer and add the chicken or prawns. Cook for 10 minutes if adding chicken, or 4-5 minutes until all the prawns are pink and tender. Add the prepared beans and most of the coriander. Bring back to simmer, cook for a couple more minutes, taste and adjust the seasoning with lemon juice, salt and possibly Tabasco. Serve garnished with the reserved coriander leaves.