October 06, 2021
As cooler weather approaches, I begin to imagine comforting warming curries and stews bright with fresh herbs — particularly basil, which is at its peak growth now.
While most people think of green curry originating in Thailand, southern states in India, the cuisine of Sri Lanka and Myanmar also encompass fresh aromatic herb pastes and masalas.
During my childhood, my mother would buy large quantities of seasonal herbs and assign one of her helpers to make green masala with a horizontal stone mortar and pestle called a “sil batta.” This often took upwards of an hour, but what emerged was a bright, rich thick green paste that would be batched in the freezer to produce green-tinged curries for our family to enjoy.
Fast-forward to current cooking techniques_ A blender or food processor do just fine and is what I used to make this curry, which is reminiscent of Thai and South Indian food. I made it entirely with vegetables, but feel free to add meats or seafood — in either case, be sure to cook everything in the curry before adding the green herb sauce. Just before serving, add the green herb sauce to keep the colors bright and the flavors vibrant.
serves 4 to 6
Green Herb Sauce
1 can coconut milk
2 cups loose basil leaves
1 bunch cilantro, bottom 3 inches of stems discarded
2 tablespoons cashews
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled
1 small Serrano pepper, de-stemmed
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons coconut oil plus a little more to drizzle on top
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
10 to 12 kari (curry) leaves
1/2 cup minced white or yellow onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
5 to 6 small red potatoes, cut into 1-inch halves or quarters
1 large or 2 small carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch wheels
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 small zucchini or yellow squash, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 yellow or red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch chunks
Few herb sprigs for garnish
Juice of 1 lemon
To make the green herb sauce: In a blender bowl, combine the coconut milk, basil leaves, cilantro stems and leaves, cashews, ginger, whole serrano pepper, and salt with 1 cup of water and purée until smooth. Set aside and keep chilled until the curry is ready to serve.
To make the curry: In a stockpot or shallow saucepan, warm the coconut oil over high heat. Pop the mustard seeds, then immediately add the kari leaves, minced onion, garlic, potatoes, and carrots. Continue cooking on high heat until the mixture starts to sweat, then turn the heat down, cover the pan, and simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes. If the mixture appears to be dry or sticking to the bottom of the pan, add half a cup of water to help soften and cook the vegetables.
Add the zucchini, bell pepper, and salt and continue cooking the mixture until everything is cooked — this should take another 5 to 6 minutes.
Just before serving, pour in the green sauce, bring to a boil, and immediately turn the heat off. Serve garnished with fresh herbs, a drizzle of coconut oil, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Instead of coconut milk, use water to lighten the curry.
If adding chicken pieces, add them to the beginning of cooking with the onions; if adding shrimp, add it towards the end of cooking.
Any vegetables work in this curry. Best to add the long-cooking vegetables at the beginning and the quick-cooking ones at the end.
December 02, 2022