A vibrant soup to nurse you back to health. Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients: everything should be in a decent supermarket. The bok choi is inauthentic - true Malaysian laksa has no vegetables except bean sprouts - but I think it brings a nice cabbagey crunch to proceedings. Feel free to fiddle with quantities and ingredients. You might consider adding some finely sliced cucumber just before serving.
For the curry paste:
3 fat cloves garlic, peeled
5 shallots, peeled
2 sticks lemongrass, stripped of their tough outer layers and finely chopped
2-6 bird's eye chillies, depending on taste (I used four, including seeds)
A lump of galangal or ginger, the size of your thumb, chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
Big bunch of coriander, with root, roughly chopped
About 10 leaves of holy basil
1 tbsp fresh green peppercorns
1 tsp palm or caster sugar
500ml good chicken stock (I used the chilled Waitrose stuff this time)
250ml coconut cream
200g rice noodles or vermicelli
2 big handfuls of large raw prawn tails
4 tbsp shelled, unsalted peanuts
Small bunch holy basil
2 tbsp fresh green peppercorns
4 pak choi
Groundnut or sunflower oil
First, make the curry paste. In a pestle and mortar or food processor, thoroughly blend the garlic, shallots, lemongrass, chillies, galangal or ginger, spices, the zest and juice of one lime, the roughly chopped coriander root and stalks, holy basil, peppercorns, 3 tbsps of nam pla, sugar, a decent pinch of salt and several grinds of the pepper mill. It's almost impossible to overblend curry paste - the more you mash it all together, the better it will be. Doing it by hand might give a slightly better result, but it's a damn sight more work. I used the Magimix.
Put a biggish saucepan on a medium heat. Add 2-3 tbsps of oil, and gently fry the paste for a minute or so. It should smell fantastic. Add the chicken stock, coconut cream, green peppercorns and several shakes of the nam pla bottle, and simmer with the lid on for about 15 minutes.
Roast the peanuts in a dry frying pan until they've taken on lovely burnt spots. Set them aside.
Add the dried noodles to the soup and let them soften. Separate the leaves and stems of the pak choi. Halve the stems so that they cook more quickly, and add them to the soup with the prawns. When they're all pink, add the bok choi leaves and the roasted peanuts. Season to taste. Garnish with more holy basil and coriander, and serve with cut limes.