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Ragout of Shellfish with Sweet-scented Basil

Green curry paste, so called because it is made with green chillies, is an essential part of Thai cuisine. It can be used to accompany many other dishes and will keep for up to three weeks in the refrigerator. Ready-made curry pastes are available, but they are not as full of flavour as the home-made variety.

ingredients

serves 4 - 6
450 g (1 lb) mussels in their shells 60 ml (4 tbsp) water
225 g (8 oz) medium cuttle fish or squid
400 ml (14 fl oz) 1 2/3 cups coconut milk
300 ml (1/3 pint) 1 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
375g (12 oz) monkfish, hoki or red snapper, skinned
150 g (5 oz) raw or cooked prawn tails, peeled and deveined
4 scallops, shelled and sliced
75 g (3 oz) French beans, trimmed and cooked
50 g (2 oz) canned bamboo shoots, drained
1 tomato, skinned, seeded and roughly chopped
4 sprigs large-leaf basil, torn, to garnish
boiled rice, to serve

for the green curry paste

10 ml (2 tsp) coriander seeds
2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) caraway or cumin seeds
3 - 4 medium fresh green chillies, finely chopped
20 ml (4 tsp) sugar
10 ml (2 tsp) salt
7.5 cm (3 in) lemon grass
2 cm (3/4 in) fresh galangal or ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
4 shallots or 1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cm (3/4 in) square shrimp paste
50 g (2 oz) fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
45 ml (3 tbsp) finely chopped fresh basil
2.5 ml (1/2 tsp) grated nutmeg
30 ml (2 tbsp) vegetable oil

method

1. Scrub the mussels in cold running water and pull off the "beards". Discard any that do not shut when sharply tapped. Put them in a saucepan with the water, cover and cook for 6 - 8 minutes. Discard any mussels that remain closed and remove three-quarters of the mussels from their shells. Set aside. Strain the cooking liquid and set aside.

2. To prepare the cuttle fish or squid, trim off the tentacles and discard the gut. Remove the cuttle shell from inside the body and rub off the skin. Cut the body open and score in a crisscross pattern with a sharp knife. Cut into strips and set aside.

3. To make the green curry paste, dry-try the coriander and caraway or cumin seeds in a wok. Grind the chillies with the sugar and salt in a pestle with a mortar or in a food processor. Add the coriander and caraway or cumin seeds, lemon grass, galangal or ginger, garlic and shallots or onion and grind. Add the shrimp paste, fresh coriander, chopped basil, nutmeg and oil and combine thoroughly.

4. Strain the coconut milk and pour the thin liquid into a wok with the chicken or vegetable stock and reserved cooking liquid from the mussels. Reserve the thick part of the coconut milk. Add 60 - 75 ml (4 - 5 tbsp) of the green curry paste to the wok and bring the mixture to the boil. Boil rapidly for a few minutes, until the liquid has reduced completely.

5. Add the thick part of the coconut milk, then add the cuttle fish or squid and monkfish, hoki or red snapper. Simmer for 15 - 20 minutes. Then add the prawns, scallops, mussels, beans, bamboo shoots and tomato. Simmer for 2 - 3 minutes until heated through. Transfer to a warmed serving dish, garnish with torn basil leaves and serve immediately with boiled rice.

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