Friday, 4 April 2014

Thai Red Duck Curry (Gaeng Phed Pet Yang)

I do love the exciting mix of different flavours and textures in a Thai red duck curry... they're amazing!

I don't think there's another curry *quite* like it, especially if you go the whole hog and make your own Thai red curry paste! (I thoughtfully posted my recipe here for you, including Thermomix instructions which will keep for a few weeks in the fridge, or freeze in portions and keep for months, just before I posted this, the first of my Thai recipes including red curry paste - or if you don't want to make your own, you could use one of the better bought brands, e.g. Thai Taste).


This recipe serves two, and is easily doubled (or serves more as part of a meal with accompaniments).
Calories (if you're counting) are 472 per serving, if made with full fat coconut milk and served to two people; 350 per serving if made with ‘light’ coconut milk.
Scroll down until you hit Ingredients if you want to avoid my musings about Thai curries and see what you need and what to do!

Many years ago, when Thai green curries started creeping up in popularity in the UK they seemed to become popular really quite quickly (or at least our Anglicised versions, with those terrible little jars of supermarket green curry paste or worse still, jars of actual 'green curry sauce'), because they were easy (well, you threw in some paste, and a tin of coconut milk, so we could deal with that after years of similar with Indian curry pastes and tins of chopped tomatoes) and full of flavour - even the insipid versions you bought. The Thai red curry was its slightly less popular cousin, and often mistakenly thought of as hotter than the green curry. Understandable given the general connotations of green and red as colours.

So anyway, I digress - when I ate my first red curry in Thailand, I was surprised and amazed at what was lurking in there, that I didn't expect - these tiny little green things, the size of peas, which were aubergines, grapes (!), pineapple (well, that wasn't quite so surprising), and even a couple of cherry tomatoes. It was like a little treasure chest of different textures and flavours that exploded in your mouth, just a few of each. It was actually, kind of bonkers, and I'm sure it's evolved to this over the years, as new ingredients come into circulation. But I loved it, so here's my homage to recreating it - even better, because these days you can actually buy little jars of pea aubergines in a few places (they're hard to find fresh) to complete the dish!

This curry is hot (if made with the home made Red Curry Paste recipe – I can’t speak for bought ones, although I recommend the ‘Thai Taste’ brand if you don’t want to make it yourself – just adjust the calorie count), although the heat is tempered by the sweetness of the pineapple and grapes, and strangely once you’ve finished, your mouth doesn’t continue to burn (could be because it uses dried chillies, rather than fresh?)! If you don’t like your curry too hot, you may wish to cook off the curry paste, and then set half to one side before adding the coconut milk, and then when you get to the end, add more in to your taste, and omit the fresh sliced chillies on the top. Or just have a chicken korma instead. ;)

You can serve this with steamed Jasmine rice or Cauliflower rice if you're eating Paleo/5:2/cutting down the carbs/calories (you can steam grain rice in your Thermomix while the curry is cooking - up to 400g total in the internal basket, 1 litre cold water or 800g if cooking 150g of rice or less, a little salt: 5 seconds/Speed 5 to rinse 20 minutes / Varoma Temperature / Speed 2 1/2 with Measuring Cup open end UP, turning the speed up to 4 if it starts to bubble up onto the TM lid - method for Cauliflower rice in the TM is here).

  • 220g skinless, boneless duck breast (or leave the skin on if you're not counting calories - when I make it, I leave the skin on one duck breast for the old man, and take it off mine, so you can do both at the same time if you want!) [202]
  • 50g red curry paste (home-made, see recipe; or bought e.g. Thai Taste brand and re-calculate the calories. Check ingredients if bought, to ascertain it's suitable for your diet, e.g. gluten/wheat) [33]
  • 1 tbsp coconut/sunflower/groundnut oil (Paleo, coconut/macadamia/avocado oil) [136]
  • 300ml full fat coconut milk (if you use 300ml ‘light’ coconut milk instead of full fat, the calories will be 219) – if you find the curry is on the hot side, you can always add a little more of the can to reduce the heat [462]
  • 3 ‘double’ kaffir lime leaves (preferably fresh or frozen) [flavouring – not eaten]
  • 15g palm sugar (or use raw honey, if Paleo) [17]
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce (Paleo, Red Boat brand) [7]
  • 20g ‘pea aubergines’ (available in jars) [6]
  • 6 grapes (30g) [20]
  • 6 cherry tomatoes (50g) [10]
  • 100g fresh pineapple, cut into cubes [45]
  • Handful (5g) sweet (thai) basil leaves if you can get them (not holy basil, just use normal basil if you can’t get sweet - it's not quite the same, but it's still delicious!), or more to taste [1]
  • 5g red and/or green sliced chillies (e.g. ½ large red, or to taste), to garnish [4]

1. Firstly, using half of the oil, season and then cook the duck breasts to *just under* how you like them (because you’ll be re-heating them at the end) - they will be best cooked rare to medium rare, or medium if you like them well done. Then set aside. Skip to the next paragraph but one if you’re confident about doing this – keep reading if you want some more tips!

The duck breast on the right has skin, the left does not.
If you have the skin on, trim the edges (and excess fat) and pluck out any remaining pen feathers or quill ends. For skin on breasts, start off in a cooler pan (oiled – because fat renders fat), so that the skin doesn’t ‘seize up’ and gently rest a spatula or similar on top (while it’s skin side down) to make sure the skin is in contact with the pan and browns evenly. Cook mostly on the skin side (give it maybe 4 or 5 minutes t start with, skin down), then turn every 30 seconds or so (see below for why) until the skin is nicely browned and crisp and the duck cooked nearly to your liking.  If you are using skinless breasts, oil the breasts (if you’re using coconut oil, you'll need to warm it until liquid first) rather than the pan, and get the pan hot (use a decent, heavy weight non stick pan). Put them in for a minute or two, to slightly brown, turn over and slightly brown again… and then, for the most evenly cooked duck, you need to go against traditional beliefs you may hold (for any red meat or game: steak, lamb, venison, duck etc. that you want to cook to a nice even pink) about not turning the meat very often, and turn it every 20-30 seconds or so, if you want to get a really good rare-medium result. Why? Because once you’ve started to brown in for flavour (maillard effect, if you’re interested!), every time you turn it, you’re allowing the residual heat to continue penetrating more gently without drying out and overcooking the outside by keeping one side on a searing direct heat for long periods of time. It’s just a gentler way of cooking meat, but requires more attention.  You don’t have to do this, mind you, you can chuck it in the oven, or under the grill, or however you prefer! You just need to cook it, then set it aside to cool. Don’t worry too much about under-cooking it, as you’ll be slicing it then putting it into the hot curry sauce to heat through, and if it’s undercooked for your taste, you just leave it in the simmering curry sauce for longer to cook through – so don’t burn the outside, you *will* be cooking it more!

2. Fry the paste in the remaining oil in a good (non-stick) wok (or large pan) for 3 or 4 minutes (you can use the same pan for both if you want, to pick up the flavours of the duck, just add the extra oil to the pan), until it becomes aromatic. Keep stirring to avoid sticking, being careful not to burn it and add a little of the coconut milk if necessary.

3. Add the coconut milk, kaffir lime leaves, palm sugar and half of the fish sauce, and bring to the boil, then turn down to a gentle simmer. Keep simmering for 10-15 minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly.

4. Slice your duck across the short part of the breast, into slices about ½ - ¾ cm thick and check for done-ness (how close is it to what you want!). You can tip any juices into the curry, if you like.

5. Add the pea aubergines (from a jar - fresh ones will need longer cooking), grapes, cherry tomatoes and pineapples (if you want your duck cooking through significantly more, add this in now too). Heat through for a couple of minutes, until the sauce has started to simmer again, and then add your sliced duck (and any juices), and keep stirring for about a minute, until it’s just heated back through again (it will start to look ‘cooked’ on the outside of the slices).

6. Quickly check the curry for seasoning and add the rest of the fish sauce if desired – if it’s too hot or salty, you could add some more coconut milk from the tin, or a little more palm sugar. If you think it needs more seasoning or zing, then reach for more fish sauce, and adjust to your tastes, then you can either stir through 2/3 of the basil leaves as you’re about to serve, and scatter the rest on top with the sliced chillies, or serve all of them on top if you’d rather.Serve immediately to enjoy the duck at its best.


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