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Dani VennUnder The Sea

Making a curry paste from scratch is not something most people do everyday as it does take a little bit more effort than cracking open the lid of a store-bought jar. But with the weather getting cooler and the time spent indoors getting longer, you may find yourself with a penchant for pottering away in the kitchen, trying something new and slowing down.

Curry pastes can seem a little overwhelming if you’ve never made one before, usually because the ingredient list is super long and made up of peculiar things you might not have in your pantry. But in this recipe I’ve tried to simplify things so that it doesn’t require taking a trip to Thailand to find the ingredients, rather they should be available at your local supermarket or grocer.

So why is it worth making your own curry paste from scratch rather than buying it from the shop? Well, firstly it’s all about the flavour! No matter what, your homemade curry paste will always pack a far superior punch of flavour than anything in a jar or zip lock bag that was probably made in a factory months, even years ago. It’s also very rewarding making something that seems so allusive when you are pounding (or blitzing) the ingredients together. Curry pastes take on a special alchemy, like when you are baking a cake, you don’t really know how it’s going to turn out until it’s cooked. And of course, you know what you are putting in your homemade curry paste, unlike some brands that whack preservatives, fake colourings and flavour in.

Don’t mind me as I’m going to get a little bit spiritual here but I think there’s something pretty special about making something that takes that extra bit of effort and concentration in a world where we often rush from one thing to the next without really being in the present moment. Being creative and making something, whether it be in the form of cooking, knitting, pottery – anything – it’s a chance to slow down and recognize what you are doing is good for you and your soul. Peeling garlic and pounding lemongrass might seem like mindless activities, but if you tune into what you are doing, you are being mindful. What I love about cooking is that it almost forces you to be in the present moment, if your mind wanders too far that pot boils over or you burn the rice. It’s a special reminder that we need to take the time to take time out.

This curry paste is particularly good for those with anti-inflammatory issues as it’s loaded with turmeric, ginger and garlic and it really goes well with all kinds of proteins and veggies. Salmon and dark leafy greens would be another really nice option, or eggplant, okra and soft-boiled eggs. I’ve also made it fairly family friendly with little chilli, but amp up the heat if you like it that way. Enjoy.

PS: I’m going to be sharing some of my Asian recipes, including this one at Westfield Fountain Gate this Saturday 21 May at the Level 1 Fresh Food Precinct from 10am – 2pm. Swing past if you’d like to taste this dish and pick up some cooking tips!


Takes about 45 minutes to prep and cook

Serves 4


Yellow Curry Paste

2 teaspoons fennel, cumin and coriander seeds (see tips)

½ cup chopped shallots

4 garlic cloves, medium sized, peeled and crushed

1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon ground or fresh turmeric

1 stick lemongrass, peeled, use white part only, chopped

1 long red chilli, chopped (see tips)

4 coriander roots, washed

1 tablespoon palm or unrefined coconut sugar

1 teaspoon shrimp paste or 2 teaspoons fish sauce (see tips)


1 tablespoon coconut oil

375ml can coconut milk

750g Australian prawns, peeled with tails in tact

400g green beans, sliced in half

6 small kaffir lime leaves, reserving one for garnish thinly sliced

Handful of fresh coriander or Thai basil

Serve with cooked brown rice or cauliflower rice


To make the paste, place a frypan over medium heat, add coriander, fennel and cumin seeds and roast, shaking pan occasionally, until spices are aromatic. Remove from heat and ground down to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle, spice grinder or high-powered blender. Alternatively use pre-ground spices and skip this step!

If you are using a mortar and pestle to make the curry paste, add one ingredient at a time ensuring each ingredient is pound to a paste before adding the next. Add shallots, garlic, ginger, turmeric, lemongrass, coriander roots, ground turmeric, sugar, shrimp paste or fish sauce. Alternatively, place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and blitz together. If you have a particularly big food processor you may have to add in a little water to get the paste smooth. (See tips)

Heat coconut oil in large fry pan, when hot add the curry paste and cook for about two minutes, stirring well until it’s fragrant and oily. Add coconut milk, stir well, and bring the milk up to simmering point then add prawns, green beans and kaffir limes leaves allow curry to simmer for about 8 – 10 minutes. Season with salt or fish sauce. Garnish with thinly sliced kaffir lime leaf and fresh herbs.


  • If you are in a hurry or are unable to ground your own spices, you can replace whole seeds with ground powder using the same quantities
  • If you are making a family friendly curry, you can choose to leave out the chilli or remove the seeds for less spice. Alternatively you can turn up the heat by adding extra red chillies, fresh or dried, to your taste.
  • To make life a little easier when making a curry paste, I like to crush the ingredient in the mortar and pestle to release it’s oil and flavours and then place into a blender to form a smooth paste.
  • Using shrimp paste will give the curry a deeper more ‘umami’  flavour but you can also use fish sauce if you can’t find it in the Asian section of the supermarket or grocer. Alternatively if you are looking for a vegan curry paste, use some tamari.

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