Peel the outer two layers off the lemon grass, discard the top third, remove 8mm (¼in) from the bottom and slice finely. Then put it and all the ingredients down to the cloves into a food processer and purée for 1 minute (if you prefer you can chop them by hand, but this is by far the easiest way).
Heat a 5 litre (9 pint) pot and add the sesame oil. When it’s smoking, add the paste and stir well for 2 minutes on a medium to high heat. Add the coconut milk and bring to the boil before adding the pumpkin and simmering for 15 minutes. Add the courgettes and stir well, then cook until the courgettes are almost done (about 10 minutes) – they should still be a little firm. Test for seasoning and add salt or fish sauce to taste. Then stir in the spinach and bring to a gentle boil, remove and serve with plain boiled rice.
© 1997 Peter Gordon. All rights reserved.