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    Aromatic Duck Curry

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    Aromatic Duck Curry

    Making your own curry paste in a food processor is easy. However, if you want to embrace true authenticity, consider pounding the spices in a pestle and mortar – this releases more of their fragrance. The downside is that it's a somewhat time-consuming and messy business. A lot of fuss is made in Thai books about 'splitting' the coconut cream, so you can fry the paste in the coconut's oil and draw out the aromatics. Now, unless you siphon off your own fresh coconut cream, you can't do this, because cartons of coconut cream are homogenised. Instead, I pop my coconut milk in the fridge as soon as I buy it. The fattier part clings to the lid, and I fry the paste in this, together with a little bit of extra oil. I use dried red chillies in the paste as they are intensely fruity without all the heat, but if you prefer a more vibrant colour, use fresh chillies. In Thailand, meat is mostly braised, as it needs to be tenderised. If you want to skip the braising for a quicker curry, don't swap the duck legs for breast meat – it will dry out. Instead, use vegetables only, or add seafood. Whatever you put in, though, you should always aim for a rich, oily sauce that is salty, hot and sweet, all at once.

    • Preparation time: 15 minutes
    • Cooking time: 75 minutes
    • Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes 60 minutes 30 minutes

    Serves: 4


    • Curry
    • 400ml coconut milk in a tin, chilled for 1 hour
    • 200ml coconut cream
    • 3 duck legs, skinned
    • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
    • 1 tbsp palm or brown sugar
    • 3 tbsp Thai Fish sauce
    • 400g vegetables, such as bamboo shoots; aubergine, cubed; and green beans
    • 4 lime leaves, dried or fresh
    • Red curry paste
    • 5 cloves
    • 1 tsp coriander seeds
    • ½ tsp cumin seeds
    • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
    • 1 tsp ground white pepper
    • ½ small red onion, peeled and chopped
    • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
    • 15g coriander stems (leaves reserved)
    • 2.5cm fresh root ginger, peeled and sliced
    • 1 lemongrass stalk (tough outer stalk removed), chopped
    • 2 limes, grated zest
    • 6 dried red chillies, soaked in hot water, roughly chopped


    1. To make the curry paste, toast the cloves, coriander seeds and cumin seeds in a frying pan for 40 seconds, shaking the pan. Add the nutmeg and toast for 20 seconds until fragrant, then grind to a powder in a pestle and mortar, with salt and the white pepper. Cool. Grind in the other ingredients, or, if using a food processor, add 1 tbsp water and blend everything to a paste. This will keep for 10 days, wrapped in clingfilm in an airtight container.
    2. Reserving 1–2 tbsp of the thick white cream clinging to the coconut milk tin's lid, pour the coconut milk and coconut cream into a large saucepan, and bring to the boil. Add the duck. Cover with a lid and simmer over a low heat for 45 minutes or until tender.
    3. Meanwhile, put the thick white cream from the coconut milk tin into a wok; add the oil and 4 tbsp curry paste and stir regularly over a medium heat until the oil starts to separate (about 3–4 minutes). Add the palm sugar and cook for 1–2 minutes, stirring, until it caramelises. Add the fish sauce and 450ml of the liquid that the duck has been braised in (discard the rest) and simmer for a further 2 minutes. Shred or cut the duck from the bone and add the meat to the sauce along with the vegetables. Cook for 8–10 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Scatter with the reserved coriander leaves and serve immediately with plain rice.

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    Kitchen tools

    Pestle and mortar (or food processor)


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    5 stars