The clock going back happens every year, but the speed at which night encroaches still comes as a shock. Dark at 5? Dark at 4:30? Yes, and it will get worse.
But I’ve found a bright side: With every minute of daylight that’s devoured, so my desire for dark beer ratchets up. Newbarns Brewery’s Deluxe Lagered Porter – a lower-strength Baltic porter by any other name – feels just right for this annual descent, so right that it hardly feels like a loss at all.
Made with heritage Chevallier malt, this beer is roasty and robust, but without heaviness – aromas of cocoa and molasses are balanced by Mosaic hops and a noticeable levity. It doesn’t require a roaring fire or snowy evening to enjoy; Halloween and wet leaves will do just fine. Still, a bowl of something warming alongside wouldn’t go amiss. I’ve said before that I think curries and other dishes with heat are well met by dark beers, which seem to temper chillis and whose broody depths provide a pleasing contrast, and this hearty, peanut-butter-centric Thai curry is the ideal foil for the beer’s burnished cocoa notes.
Loosely adapted from The Original Dish, this curry takes many of the same base ingredients of a panang curry but uses them whole rather than blitzed into a paste, then amps up the peanut butter by a significant quantity, making the final result as creamily decadent as a satay sauce.
In seeking to make this a primarily vegan dish (leave out or swap the fish sauce to make it so), l borrowed a technique from cookbook author Andrea Nguyen, who recommends slicing extra-firm tofu into rectangles and searing them with inky soy sauce. It’s fast, easy and imbues the tofu with umami depths, as well as some char.
And so, don’t be too wary of those long, dark nights. They’re not going anywhere anytime soon – and even in their depths, there’s still something to look forward to.
For the peanut curry:
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 echalion shallots, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, minced
1-2 bird’s eye chillis, minced
4 lemongrass stalks, woody outer layers removed, minced
Stems from large bunch coriander, minced
Fine sea salt, to taste
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon ground white peppercorns (optional)
1 400ml tin full-fat coconut milk
140g smooth peanut butter (I prefer a ‘natural’ option such as Meridian)
500ml mushroom or vegetable stock
3-4 makrut lime leaves
3-4 large, hot red chilli peppers, seeded or not, sliced
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons fish sauce (optional, or use vegan fish sauce)
Juice of 2 limes
3 bell peppers, sliced
For the tofu:
700g extra-firm tofu
6-7 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Steamed jasmine rice
Fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped Thai basil, roughly chopped
Spring onions, finely chopped
Roasted salted peanuts, roughly chopped
1. Add vegetable oil to a large frying or sauté pan and place over medium-low heat. Once hot, add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, for 3-5 minutes, or until softened and translucent. Next, add the garlic, ginger, bird’s-eye chillies, lemongrass and coriander stems, and cook for 1-2 minutes, or until they’ve lost their raw smell. Season with salt before adding the cumin, turmeric, coriander and white pepper, if using, and mix through; cook until fragrant.
2. Next, add the tin of coconut milk and stir to combine. Mix through the peanut butter until fully incorporated before adding the stock. Raise the heat until the mixture has just reached a boil before turning down to its lowest setting. Add the lime leaves and hot chilli peppers, and leave the curry to simmer and slowly reduce, stirring occasionally to prevent it from burning.
3. As the curry cooks, prepare the tofu. Drain and pat the tofu dry with paper towels. Slice it into thin sheets, then quarter them (you should have roughly domino-shaped pieces). In a large frying pan, add a single layer of tofu slices – you will likely need to do this in 2-3 batches – and drizzle over roughly 2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce. Gently flip the tofu pieces so they are evenly coated in soy sauce, and then turn the heat to medium.
4. Sear the tofu pieces for roughly 5 minutes, or until the soy sauce simmers then evaporates, and the tofu pieces are well-browned on the bottom. Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to the pan and turn so it coats the base. Using a rubber spatula, carefully flip the tofu pieces and cook for 4-5 minutes more on the reverse, or until evenly browned. Transfer to a bowl or plate, then carefully wipe the frying pan with a paper towel and repeat until all the tofu has been seared.
5. To the curry sauce, add the dark brown sugar, regular or vegan fish sauce (if using) and lime juice. Next, stir through the bell peppers and the seared tofu slices. Cook for 5-10 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
6. To serve, divide rice between bowls or plates and top with the curry. Garnish with coriander leaves, Thai basil, spring onions and salted peanuts.
Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound and all-around lover of tasty things. You can follow her at @clairembullen. For more recipes like this, sign up to our HB&B All Killer No Filler beer subscription - you'll receive Claire's recipe and food pairings, plus beer reviews and expert tasting notes with up to 12 world-class beers - like this one - every month.