After the Laksa success – a dish of simplicity and spicy sophistication – it would have been easy to think I could tackle anything again. But with the Indian ignominy still haunting me, I decided baby steps is the way to go.
Pork shoulder curry is a recipe from Neil Perry’s fantastic Balance and Harmony cookbook. It’s an elegant book, which includes ingredient-based chapters, and also chapters based on cooking techniques (for example tea smoking, steaming, braising and stir frying). There is also menu advice for banquets (another 1,000 baby steps before I get to that stage I think).
In this curry, the sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavours come to the fore – less sweet, more sour because of the addition of lime juice at the end.
Don’t be put off by the long list of ingredients (see the list below). The dish is easy to assemble and although time consuming, it’s relaxing and methodical rather than frenetic and last minute. I also chopped and changed a few things and the finished dish was still fab.
I bought pork shoulder on the bone. As the recipe states, I removed the skin, and then cooked it, covered, in water and a quarter of the coconut milk for a couple of hours. I then removed the pork, let it rest and chopped it into bite-sized chunks.
The key – as with any Thai curry – is making your own spice paste. There is plenty of good shop bought spice pastes available, but in my view they don’t cut it compared to the home-pounded version. It is quite therapeutic to bash and pulverise the ingredients into a smooth paste. The process also releases the fresh flavours and fragrances. The results are always amazing if you are willing to put in the effort.
For the spice paste, add all the ingredients to a pestle and mortar and pound until you have a smooth paste. It’s tempting to stop early, leaving a few ingredients still a bit chunky. The dried chillies in particular can be stubborn. Persevere though, and pound it to an even paste. The final curry will be much more wholesome and consistent.
Then add oil to a large heavy duty pan, add the coconut cream and lime leaves, then the paste and cook until the curry base become fragrant (about 15-20 minutes). Add the remaining coconut milk, sugar (I used castor), fish sauce and eggplants (I used green beans) and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, simmer for five minutes and then add pork and chillies to stir through. At the very end, squeeze over the lime juice and sprinkle with Thai basil (I used mint instead). Enjoy!
Pork shoulder curry
500g pork shoulder, skin removed
750 ml coconut milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
250 ml coconut milk
5 kaffir lime leaves
2 tablespoons of grated palm sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
160 g Thai pea eggplants
5 long red chillis, halved lengthways
juice of 2 limes
1 small handful of Thai basil leaves
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon white peppercorns
a pinch of salt
8 dried long red chillis, deseeded and soaked in warm water for 30 minutes
2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer leaves removed, chopped
1 knob of ginger, peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons Thai shrimp paste, wrapped in foil and roasted until fragrant (5-10 mins)
3 red shallots, chopped
12 garlic cloves, chopped
finely grated zest of 1 kaffir lime leaf