A good meal

We recently invited our friends Ben and Sue over for tea, and I decided that I wanted to make something I’d never attempted before. One of my “to-do list” meals was the thai curry from Nigel Slater’s book The Kitchen Diaries. A lovely book, it’s great for inspiration all through the year. I ended up making a never-before tried recipe for pudding, too, which was the caramel banana split from Leon’s Baking and Puddings book. Both recipes turned out better than I had hoped, everyone loved the food and there were full and happy bellies all round. Such a good result that I couldn’t resist sharing them with you.

These recipes are a great combination. The curry is surprisingly easy to make but does require buying some specialist ingredients and a bit of faffing about to make the green spice paste. After that, the banana split can be whipped up while your guests are working off their full stomachs in the living room with a glass of wine – or, in our case, finishing off a round of the ‘Jurassic Park: Lost World’ board game (yes, it’s as good as it sounds). The banana split only took me about 15 minutes to make, and sent inviting smells wafting through to our guests. It’s an old-school, kiddy dessert, but is delicious and a lot of fun to devour. It’s also light and refreshing after the rich curry: a perfect combination.
Mmmm, just thinking about that meal makes me want to make it all over again. Anyone fancy dinner?

This version of the curry recipe includes a few adjustments which we made on the evening. For example, we weren’t able to get certain ingredients, like Thai and pea aubergines, so we them replaced with courgettes and peppers. You could of course use your own preferred veg in this curry, but to make the original Slater version you should definitely check out the book.

Green curry of prawns, peppers and courgettes
from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries

about 150g shallots
3 tablespoons groundnut oil
2 red peppers
1 courgette
12 cherry tomatoes
400ml coconut milk
a tablespoon shrimp paste
a teaspoon vegetable stock (we use this one)
300g large prawns (we used frozen ones)

For the green spice paste:
4 green bird’s eye chillies
2 large stalks of lemon grass, chopped
6 lime leaves (we used dried ones)
3 large cloves of garlic
50g lump of ginger
6 heaped tablespoons of coriander leaves

First, make the spice paste: discard the stems from the chillies, then chop the flesh and tip it into a blender (or a bowl if using a handheld blender). Add the chopped lemongrass. Crunch up the lime leaves, peel and chop the garlic, then peel the ginger and cut it into shreds. Tip everything into the blender/bowl. Add the coriander leaves and blitz to a paste with enough water to make the mixture come together – two or three tablespoons. Continue to mix until you have a coarse paste.

Peel and finely slice the shallots. Warm two tablespoons of the oil in a pan, then add the shallots and cook them over a moderate to high heat until they are golden and soft. Once they have softened, slice the peppers and courgette and add them to the shallots, letting them soften and colour slightly. Scoop the shallots, peppers and courgette out of the pan, then add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan.

When the oil is warm, add the green spice paste. Let it fry briefly – the water will evaporate – and then halve the cherry tomatoes and add them to the pan. Continue cooking for a few minutes, then return the shallots, peppers and courgette to the pan and pour in the coconut milk. Season with the shrimp paste and vegetable stock, adding more if you wish, along with some salt and pepper. Fry the prawns separately for a couple of minutes until they are pink, then slip them into the sauce and leave everything to cook for a minute or two.

Serve the curry with white white rice, and top with coriander and lime leaves. Then tuck in!

Then on to the banana split…this really is a doddle to make, the perfect dessert for minimum effort/maximum impact on your guests. My only issue was that when it came to making the caramel, I heated the sugar and cream to quickly and ended up making toffee! It was still delicious, though, and we enjoyed toffee lumps instead of gooey caramel. If that happens to you, just go with it – it’s not a bad thing. The recipe below has been altered slightly to feed four, instead of six, so adjust accordingly if you are feeding more (or just feeling greedy).

Leon caramel banana split
from Leon Baking and Puddings

100g flaked almonds
2 tablespoons icing sugar
4 bananas
500ml double cream
100g caster sugar
couple of scoops each of strawberry and vanilla ice cream
50g dark chocolate

Heat the almonds in a non-stick frying pan with the icing sugar until they turn golden and the sugar has caramelized. Put into a bowl and set aside. Slice the bananas in half lengthwise and lay the halves on a large serving plate. Whisk 350ml of the cream until it is thick and set aside.

Heat the caster sugar in a pan until it has melted and caramelized – not too dark. Add the remaining 150ml of cream and stir well; it will froth right up. Heat through the make sure all the sugar has melted into the cream, stirring occasionally. Place the dark chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until it has completely melted.

Scoop the ice cream onto the split bananas, drizzle the ice cream with the caramel and scoop on the cream. Sprinkle on the caramelized almonds and pour over the melted chocolate. Serve and DEVOUR!

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