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This is a completely delicious Malaysian curry, which is similar to many Thai curries. It's rich, creamy and full of that quintessential south-east Asian flavour. I made this recipe using bought-in curry paste rather than making my own from scratch. Panang curry paste typically contains cumin, coriander, shrimp paste (or shrimp belacan) and raw red-skin peanuts with those fresh ingredients classic in Thai cuisine - lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal and garlic. While we encourage people to make from scratch as much as possible, and reduce their reliance on processed foods, sometimes life's too short!
I used Mae Ploy brand curry paste, which is a great authentic paste but not vegetarian as it includes shrimp. Flying Goose brand does some very good vegan curry pastes, so worth searching those out if you want a strictly animal-free meal.
There's a huge range of veggies you could use in this curry. I really like the roast carrots as they add a lovely sweetness, but there are so many veggie combos that would work; courgettes, broccoli, mange tout, sweet potato, squash, aubergine or red pepper. You could add cashews instead of tofu for a bit of extra protein.
I'd also really recommend using organic coconut milk - not just for environmental reasons, but also because they taste so much better. Conventional brands typically use chemical stabilisers and emulsifiers to stop the cream from separating from the watery milk into a clump at the top of the tin. So organic coconut milks are more likely to have this separation but without the faint chemical taste in the background. Once scraped into the pan and heated through it all blends together nicely.
1 x 400ml can coconut milk
1 Tbsp Panang curry paste (if you can't find that, red thai curry paste will work too)
1 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
1 tsp sugar
Juice of 1 lime
2 lime leaves (or zest of a lime if you can't get hold of these)
500g carrots, cut into 2cm chunks
100g french beans, cut into 2cm pieces
1 block of firm organic tofu (about 250g)
Handful of coriander and/or basil leaves
Fresh red or green chilli, sliced
Pre-heat the oven to 180C, gas mark 5
Toss the chopped carrots in vegetable oil to coat them, season with salt and pepper and roast in oven for about 30 minutes.
Drain the tofu and press between a tea towel to squeeze out excess water. Put a frying pan over a medium heat and add a tablespoon of vegetable oil. When hot, add the tofu to the pan and stir so it's coated. Fry on one side for 3-5 minutes, until going brown and crispy. Turn the tofu pieces over to cook the same on the other side. Once nicely browned and crispy on the edges, remove from the heat and set aside.
In a large saucepan, add 2 Tbsp oil and bring to a medium heat. Add the curry paste and stir fry for 5 minutes – until fragrant and starting to stick to the bottom of the pan. Pour in a small bit of the coconut milk and stir it into the paste so it's nicely combined and has lifted off any paste caught on the base. Stir this sauce base for a further 5 minutes until it's rich and bubbling. Stir in the rest of the coconut milk, plus another 400ml of water. Add the lime leaves or zest, soy sauce and sugar.
Bring to a simmer and then add the french beans, roasted carrots and tofu pieces. Leave on a low simmer for a further 5 minutes until the veggies are warmed through but the beans aren't too soft.
Take off the heat, squeeze the lime juice into it, and stir in the coriander and basil leaves. Garnish with chopped chillies, more chopped herbs and serve with jasmine rice.