There's been a jar of Thai green curry paste lurking in the back of my pantry for ages. Ages. Resolved to use it, I even brought it with me when I moved from Iowa back to New York. So when I opened up Nigella Lawson's new book, "Simply Nigella," and discovered this cheery dish that prominently features green Thai curry paste, I knew this is what this jar was waiting for.
In true Nigella fashion, this recipe is delicious and unpretentious, with Nigella saying up front that the curry paste and coconut milk are about the only things authentically Thai about this recipe. Not a chance on the turkey making that list.
But back to the curry paste and coconut milk: Nowadays, these items are pantry staples. And along with the fish sauce, it's a sign of the changing composition of our pantries. The traditional staples of beans, grains, and chicken broth still hold their place, but as a whole bevy of globally influenced ingredients find their way onto our daily plate, these items become ones we always have on hand. Which means a dish like Thai turkey meatballs can be made from the pantry — even if you have to bring that green curry across the country in order to make it.
Even though I don't eat meat, the smell of this was intoxicating! I used ground turkey thigh meat instead of breast meat because the butcher said it would be more flavorful. My sisters loved the spiciness and the coconut flavor in the curry, and said the meatballs were very tender. It was super simple to cook, too. I had several requests for the recipe!
Nigella Lawson's Thai Turkey Meatballs
4 zucchini (approximately 1 1/2 pounds)
1 pound ground turkey
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely grated or minced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated (1 1/2 teaspoons)
Small bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Zest and juice of 1 lime, preferably unwaxed
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes or kosher salt, plus more to taste
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons Thai green curry paste, or to taste
1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
2 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons fish sauce
12 ounces sugar snap peas
Small handful Thai basil leaves
2 to 3 limes, cut into wedges
To make the meatballs, take one of the zucchini (approximately 6 ounces) and trim the ends. Using a vegetable peeler, remove some of the skin in stripes, and then coarsely grate the zucchini onto a piece of paper towel: I recommend you use a coarse box cheese grater here; if the grater's too fine, the zucchini will just turn to mush. Press as much water as you can out of the grated zucchini.
Put the grated zucchini, and any excess liquid now squeezed out of it, into a big bowl, and add the ground turkey, breaking it up as you tip it in.
Trim the scallions and halve lengthways, then finely chop them, putting the white part in with your turkey and reserving the green part for later.
Add the garlic and ginger, then add 2 tablespoons of the chopped cilantro, along with the crushed red pepper flakes, lime zest, and salt.
Using a fork or your hands (the latter being my preference), mix the meatball mixture thoroughly but lightly. If you handle it too much, you will make heavy, dense meatballs, which you don't want. Once the mixture's gently combined, shape into small meatballs, using a heaping teaspoonful as a guide. You should get about 30 meatballs, provided you don't start making ever bigger ones as you go, which is easily done.
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or pan (with a lid), and fry the chopped green part of the scallion briefly, just turning it in the hot pan. Now add the Thai green curry paste, and then use the cream from the top of the coconut milk, whisking it into the paste over the heat.
Pour in the rest of the coconut milk, along with the chicken broth and fish sauce, and let it come to a boil.
Peel the rest of the zucchini in stripes as before, then halve them lengthways, quarter them in the same way, and slice into (roughly) 1/2-inch pieces. Add these to the bubbling pan, then gently drop in the meatballs, letting them fall in circles as you work around the pan from the outer edge inward, and leaving them unprodded, as they will be very tender and easy to break up.
Wait for the pan to come to a bubble again, then clamp on the lid, turn down the heat, and leave to simmer for 20 minutes. Check that the zucchini are tender and the meatballs are cooked through, before stirring in the sugar snap peas and the juice of the zested lime. Check the seasoning, and adjust as you wish.
Take off the heat and scatter with Thai basil (if you have some) or just sprinkle with a little more of the chopped cilantro. And I like to chop some limes into wedges and bring to the table for people to spritz over as they eat.
Make-ahead note: The meatballs and sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate within 2 hours of making. Reheat gently until piping hot, being careful not to break up the meatballs.
Freeze note: The cooked and cooled meatballs and sauce can be frozen, in an airtight container, for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in refrigerator before reheating as in make-ahead note.
Reprinted with permission from Simply Nigella by Nigella Lawson, copyright (c) 2015. Published by Flatiron Books.