Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Thai Coconut Curry

           Well. This blog seems like the perfect opportunity to talk about how much I love my neighbourhood. My neighbours are delightful people. I thought we really felt like a community when we were all drinking ales on our balconies this summer, but no, true Canadian community is when you are all out there in your snow suits shovelling your driveway, up to your arses in salt and snow, and cursing the northern hemisphere.

Finished product 
This has been the kind of week where you can’t quite remember what +30C feels like, but you really regret that day in July where you stepped outside and said, “Oh my, it’s TOO hot.” Because you didn’t mean that. You didn’t mean that at all, now that you can remember what thirty below feels like. What you meant to say that day was, “Oh my. Today is a lovely day. I love sweating the second I step outside, because I really hate it when I step outside and my nostrils freeze together.”

But back to my neighbours. Firstly, the couple that lives next door to me are possibly the best neighbours you could ever have. Kelly drinks wine and Erik shovelled my driveway while I was away for Christmas. It doesn’t get any better than that. Erik put salt down and everything, it wasn’t some shoddy job that was half-done. For his trouble, I baked him a chicken potpie.

Now the family that lives across from me, I don’t know anyone’s names, but they are pretty nice too. And one Sunday a few weeks ago, I had a compulsion to attend yoga class at 10:30 a.m. on a Sunday. Which meant that at 10:15, my car was stuck and I had to get out and try to shovel myself out in my yoga pants. The man across the street could have watched this hilarity from his window and laughed, but instead he came down and pushed my car out all by himself. I was duly impressed and offered free babysitting to him any time he needed it. (Upon reflection, I may have over-extended the generosity there because his children are… energetic.)

This may bring you to the question, “Where were you stuck, Bailey?” Well, I was stuck in my driveway. This is not to speak to the great job Erik had done on the driveway previously. The annoying thing about these Canadian winters is that they can’t just stop at one snowfall. After Erik did the driveway, it continued to snow and I had to deal with it myself. Which brings me to snow shovelling. Now, I am a homeowner. I am a woman of the new millennium. Hear me roar. But I am not a shoveller of snow. This is not a hidden talent of mine that I recently discovered. In my defense, I have made several noble attempts to shovel my driveway. I actually own a shovel. I gear up, I put on my toque, and I even put on snow pants sometimes. In my mind, I can visualise myself moving snow from one place to another. But, this is not the reality of my life. What actually happens is I flice the snow around enough to create several different sizes of snow piles. In my mind, my car can then manoeuvre about the various piles and drive onwards. When I arrive back home, I always have this impression that these piles will have somehow magically removed themselves from my driveway and then my driveway will be clear and I will be a triumphant Canadian driveway-clearer.

If you have a driveway, you likely know this does not happen. What actually happens is that you create ruts in your driveway that, if you are wonderfully accurate with your car navigation, you hit the ruts close enough that you get in the driveway. If you failed your driving test 4 times like I did, you may be unlucky with the navigation and instead get stuck in your very own driveway. Anything can happen, because Canada is not a civilized nation. It is the wilderness, and in Suburbia, it is quite possible to become entrenched in your own driveway.

Now that was a long and roundabout way of getting to this point. Just two days ago, I arrived home, and the driveway had, in fact, magically cleared itself. It was a miracle. I expected to see the face of the Virgin Mary in a snow bank on my lawn, weeping tears of kindness for me. I was all prepared to call the Enquirer when my third neighbour, Andre, told me he had snowblowered (I have been struggling with the past tense of this word all week- snowblowed?) my driveway for me. I nearly ran to his arms I was so happy and grateful. I made him some brownies for his trouble.

Shrimp rice wraps for an appetizers 
What we have learned from all of this is that we should help each other the best we can. While my brute strength is lacking, my cooking skills are not, and I will continue to offer baked goods in exchange for driveway shovelling. Now, if you are a lovely, strong person who shovels your driveway, and the driveway of the elderly woman down the street, you deserve a nice warm meal. Maybe someone wonderful in your neighbourhood shovels your driveway for you. Or gave you some salt. If so, you should cook them a nice warm meal too.

Here is a great Thai Curry recipe that is guaranteed to create some heat for you. You can use shrimp, chicken, beef or tofu for your protein, and it’s totally up to you which curry paste you use. I like green because it tends to be spicier, but red or yellow works too.

You need:
·      Curry paste
·      Protein (shrimp, tofu, beef, chicken, whatever!)
·      Coconut milk
·      Chicken stock
·      Fish sauce
·      Soy sauce
·      Onion
·      Garlic
·      Ginger
·      Various vegetables like bok choy, peppers, spinach, mushrooms, etc. (this is really just a matter of what you like)
·      Fresh cilantro (quite necessary for garnish and flavour)
·      Limes
·      Peanut or sunflower oil
Start with a wok if you have one, otherwise a big and deep fry pan will do. There is going to be a fair amount of liquid in the pan at the end, so just make sure you pot will be deep enough.

Sautéing tofu
If you are using chicken, beef or tofu, we will start by sautéing that. If it’s shrimp you are using, add them at the end so they don’t become overcooked chunks of rubber. Add a little oil in the bottom of your wok and throw in your meat. Cook that (or brown it- just don’t serve it raw and full of botulism, you know what I mean) a little, it doesn’t have to be cooked all the way through until the end. How much you add depends on how spicy you like your food and what curry paste you use. Then add a scoop of curry paste, a few cloves of garlic, grated ginger and an onion sliced. Now you can add your very crispy vegetables and sauté them. When they are soft, add a can of coconut milk and some chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you are making this vegetarian) to cut the broth a little. Add your fish sauce and soy sauce- a few splashes of each.

This will simmer until your meat is cooked and the flavours develop. Right at the end, add fresh cilantro, lime juice, spinach or the leafy bok choy, and you can garnish with some sliced scallions. Serve on a bed of rice or noodles and enjoy! 

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