This curry base can be used for meat and fish as well – adjust the amount of spices and chilli to suit your taste. The paste can be made up in large quantities and kept, tightly covered, in the fridge for up to two weeks. If you want to freeze it, lay it flat on baking parchment on a baking sheet until solid, then break it up and store in an airtight container. When you need it, take out only as much as you want. Lime leaves, lemon grass and Asian fish sauce are readily available from Thai food stores and some larger supermarkets.
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.