Before I made this, the last time I used a mortar and pestle was in chemistry class. I felt oddly alchemic (is that even a word?) while making this curry paste, continually turning and grinding – this is a process that is slow, repetitive, meditative even. I found it surprisingly therapeutic – though I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, as I find most activities in the kitchen relaxing (well, except dishes – dishes are evil). I sat at my dining table (since I have like 0 counter-space), opened the window, and felt the breezes of the next Spring storm against my face, enjoying the last few bits of sunshine before the rain clouds rolled back in. Oh and the aromas wafting up from the blending of all of the flavors was incredible! Ground coriander seeds have a bright fresh, almost even lemony scent – add in some lemongrass, cilantro leaves, a little basil, and one ends up with bright fresh green flavors whose aromas fill the entire room.
The key to using a mortar & pestle is taking your time, and actually not using that much force. I ground up salt/spices first before gradually adding in the wetter ingredients like onions, garlic, and the herbs – I think the salt/spices helped to act as an abrasive which aided me greatly when working with the other ingredients. Oh and it’s also useful to mince everything up as finely as you can first – it’s a lot of chopping, but well worth it. How did this compare to the jarred stuff? It was more fresh, more vibrant, more full of flavor, and made for one heck of a curry sauce
1 tbs. sea salt
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. cumin
2 stalks lemongrass, minced
2 thai red chiles, minced (alter depending on your heat tolerance)
2 kaffir lime leaves, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots or 1/2 small red onion, minced
handful cilantro, minced
handful thai basil, minced
juice of one lime
2 tbs. vegetable oil
1. With a medium sized mortar & pestle (one that holds at least a cup) grind salt, coriander, and cumin until a fine powder.
2. Add in a little at at time (about a tbsp. amount) other ingredients, successively. First add in some lemongrass, then more lemongrass, once that is worked in, add in chopped chiles, etc. until you work your way down the list. It will take a while. Pop in your favorite movie to watch while you do this, or have your husband entertain you with silly songs and choreography.
3. When all ingredients are combined and you have a somewhat smooth texture, mix in the lime juice and oil and use as directed in your favorite recipes.
Also submitted to – Slightly Indulgent Tuesday