Tofu and Pepper Red Curry
A savoury, sweet, spicy and punchy Thai-inspired vegan red curry, which can be on your table in under 30 minutes.
In the past couple of years I tried making different Thai curries to no avail. Every time, I'd be deflated by how underwhelming they tasted compared to the punchy, flavourful curries I would eat at my favourite local Thai restaurant. During lockdown, I decided to do a little research, and I learned what I was doing wrong. If we're being honest, most were things I should have probably known, as I talk about them a lot in my day to day cooking, but somehow hadn't considered putting into practice here.
The first is using good quality ingredients. Whereas I used to use to use any red curry paste I could find, it's what flavours the whole curry, so it's no surprise that the better the paste, the deeper the flavours in the curry. I tried making my own following this recipe - leaving out the shrimp paste - and along with tasting a huge difference immediately it gave me an actual understanding of what the flavours that make up a red curry are and how they work together. Because of that, I had a lot more control whilst cooking the curry, as I could balance those flavours and spices out appropriately rather than blindly. I'd suggest making your own paste at some point if you haven't before, not only for the grasp it gives you over the cooking process, but because you can have a say over your preferred spice and salt levels, and can tailor it to your taste. When I don't make my own paste, I rely on this curry paste which has a great balance of flavours and spice, and lasts for many, many curries.
In my failed Thai red curries, I also wasn't adding any lime juice or sugar, which resulted in a flat and unexciting curry sauce. Using acidity and sweetness helps cut the richness of coconut milk, and brings so much more depth and balance to the sauce. It's also what gives it that "I can't stop eating this" characteristic that I was after the whole time. I use bell peppers, tofu and mangetout in this curry, but it also tastes delicious with panfried aubergine, as well as sliced bamboo shoots.
2 tbsp neutral oil
1 white onion, finely diced
1 inch ginger, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
3 tbsp thai red curry paste
2 bell peppers, sliced into strips
1 400ml tin full fat coconut milk
3 kaffir lime leaves
½ tsp salt
400g tofu, cubed
2 tsp coconut sugar (optional)
10g thai basil
½ lime, juiced
20g fresh coriander
1 tbsp nigella seeds
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and ginger and sauté for 5-6 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Stir in the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
Add the curry paste, and stir through the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook for 2-3 minutes, until the paste darkens. Stir in the sliced peppers and and cook for 2-3 minutes, until they soften.
Add the coconut milk, 100ml water, salt and kaffir lime leaves. Simmer for 20 minutes on medium heat, adding the tofu half way through.
Add the mangetout and coconut sugar (if using), and continue simmering for 5 minutes.
Fold in the thai basil and lime juice. Taste for seasoning and adjust to taste - it should be slightly sweet, salty and a little spicy.
Serve topped with fresh coriander and nigella seeds.
By Valentina Concordia
Valentina is our Food Editor, who dreams up our tasty dishes and recipes for our social channels. She has loads of experience cooking up a storm in Italian kitchens, so it’s no surprise she can’t live without good-quality olive oil (don’t come between her and her olive oil) and fresh pasta.