I've been trying recipes from The 30 Minute Vegetarian Thai Cookbook, by Sarah Beattie.
I decided to start by making a homemade red curry paste. The recipe begins with the instruction to soak "large dried red chilies," but the book did not provide much detail about the types of chilies to use. A website that I found on-line stated that it would be fine to substitute dried Mexican red chilies, but in retrospect, I'm not sure that was right. My chilies stubbornly floated, instead of soaking as contemplated by the recipe.
The recipe then directs that the chilies be blended in the food processor until a paste forms. However, no matter how long I pulsed the food processor, there was no paste - just stubborn red chunks, and a whole lot of seeds.
Garlic, ginger and shallots are then added to the food processor, followed by lemongrass, "15 peppercorns, ground," coriander seed, salt and lime zest.
Chopping the lemongrass was my favorite part of the preparation. Not only does lemongrass smell wonderful, but it has lovely purple streaks inside.
Because I could not figure out what "15 peppercorns, ground" would look like, I decided to throw 15 peppercorns into the food processor.
Mistake. Rather than pureeing the peppercorns, the blades of the food processor just bounced them around the inside of the machine. (You might be able to make out two blurry whole peppercorns towards the back of the photo up top.)
The nice thing about this recipe is that the paste can be assembled in advance, and refrigerated, in order to expedite the cooking process. While the appearance may be off, when combined with coconut milk, the paste creates a curry sauce that tastes like one served in a Thai restaurant.
As for the cookbook, the basic information is there, and there are some good recipes, but as someone who is not familiar with Thai cooking techniques, I could have used some more detailed explanations. I will use the red curry paste recipe again, but I'll substitute fresh red Thai chilies for the dried chilies that gave me so much difficulty.