Sea Beet and Potato Curry

Recently I went on a lovely coastal walk on Mersea Island, which is off the Essex coast (it’s reached by a tidal causeway). I hadn’t planned to go foraging but when I came across sea beet growing in large clusters, it made sense to gather up two large handfuls to take home and cook into something interesting.

I do love to forage from time to time – not mushrooms mind you as they can be tricky to identify unless you are with an expert. Somethings are easier to recognise and sea beet is one of those. Disclaimer: If you are going to try to find some yourself please consult the internet for other sources to check on identification. John Wright’s book ‘Edible Seashore’ may also be a good book to take on your walks to help identify. It’s best to check with a few sources to be sure.

I thought the sea beet would lend itself well to a ‘sag aloo’ type dish (spinach and potato curry). It’s more robust than spinach and has a lovely earthy taste to it. It is in fact the wild ancestor to the beetroot, sugar beet and swiss chard and is called a host of names including sea beet, sea spinach, wild beet and wild spinach. In ancient times, the leaves and root of the sea beet were used to treat several diseases, particularly tumours. The juice is even good for treating ulcers apparently!

When you forage you need to wash and clean your ‘treasure’ properly in cold water. I rinsed the leaves three times to be on the safe side. I then roughly chopped the leaves and prepared the potatoes. This curry is a lovely way to include sea beet into your diet, but if you are not going near any coastal areas you can always use spinach instead.

I would love to hear from any of you who may have used this ingredient before? How did you cook it? Leave a comment in the comment box below.

Sea Beet and Potato Curry

1 tbsp oil

2 dried red chilli

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

pinch of asafoetida/hing (optional)

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut roughly into 2 inch cubes

1 tsp salt to taste

2 large handfuls of foraged sea beet or around 260g of fresh spinach

2 tbsp water

  1. Heat the oil and then add the dried red chillies. Move around the pan for 10 seconds before adding the cumin seeds. Let the seeds begin to fizzle and then add the turmeric powder and asafoetida (if using).
  2. Add the potatoes and cover them in seeds and spices and cook gently on a medium to low heat, stirring every now and then. Add the salt.
  3. After about 8-10 minutes, add the washed sea beet and fold in gently to the potatoes.
  4. Add 1 tbsp of water and allow the sea beet to wilt and the potato to soften completely. To check the potato has soften stick a sharp knife into it, if it goes in easily then they are ready. You may need to place a lid on the pan to help steam it, if the potato needs more time to soften,  which will speed up the softening. Add the remaining water if need.

Serve immediately with a dollop of yogurt and a wedge of lemon on the side. It also works really well if you cook my chana dal to eat along side it.


Mild Indian Cod Curry for the Whole Family

How have you all been? I hope you all enjoyed the bank holiday – for those of us based in the UK we were blessed with three days of brilliant sunshine. I’m aware I have not posted an Indian recipe for a while so I hope that this one will greatly please you.

If your spice cupboard is fairly limited and you want a quick but satisfying curry, then this mild cod curry definitely ticks the box. It’s a crowd pleaser for the whole family as it is only delicately spiced and the one fresh chilli that I do add, I make sure it does not go onto the plate of any unsuspecting guest or family member. I adore purchasing fresh curry leaves from my friends down in Tooting, but I find that they freeze really well, so I always have a good supply ready to use. If finding fresh is tricky, then dried will be a good stand-in, although fresh is ideal.

Mild Indian Cod Curry

serves 4

2 tbsp oil

10 fresh curry leaves

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp of turmeric powder

1 thin green chilli, stalk removed

1 white onion, finely chopped

1 heaped tsp ginger paste

1 heaped tsp garlic paste

3 medium sized tomatoes, diced

1 heaped tsp of tomato paste

1 tsp salt

1 tsp caster sugar

1x400g can of coconut milk

1 large cod fillet, skinned and cubed

 

  1. Add the oil in a large non stick wide pan and when it is hot add the curry leaves, cumin seeds and turmeric powder. Move around the pan for 20 seconds before adding the onion.
  2. Gently cook away for 6 minutes before adding the garlic and ginger past. Cook for a further 4 minutes.
  3. Now add the tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and sugar and simmer gently for a few minutes.
  4. Add the coconut mild and let it simmer for a few minutes before adding the cod pieces.
  5. Continue to simmer for up to five minutes with a lid on the pan, stirring gently once or twice. You do not want to break up the cod pieces so be careful. Take off the heat to rest.

Serve with rice or paratha and some fresh lemon on the side. If you want some accompanying greens this recipe is great and super quick.


The Little Viet Kitchen Cookbook and Lemongrass Chicken Banh Mi

Recently, the lovely Thuy Diem Pham – founder of my favourite Vietnamese restaurant in London, The Little Viet Kitchen launched her very first cookbook of the same name published by Absolute Press.  I preordered a copy for it to arrive on launch date and it is as beautifully styled and photographed as I had hoped.

It is clear that a lot of love and attention has gone into compiling the recipes in this book and the photos, by David Loftus, are just dreamy. Just take a look and you’ll see what I mean.

I could literally eat all the recipes in the book, so will be working my way through it over the coming months. Happy days.

Just looking at the photos has me salivating.

Summer rolls – perfect for the months ahead and oh so pretty.

I was pondering on what to cook – so many choices – but I decided on Thuy’s lemongrass chicken banh mi – Vietnamese baguettes. My family are obsessed with them so I knew it would be a hit with everyone. If you prefer tofu I have a recipe post on how to make them here, and of course Thuy has her tofu version in the book too, which I will most definitely try out.

The cookbook guides you gently through Vietnamese cooking – from Thuy’s larder where she shows you clearly how to make all manner of sauces and dressings, to wonderfully fragrant broths – known as Pho (pronounced ‘fur’), street food, small plates, colours of Vietnam, Thuy’s creations and sweet treats. Like Indian cuisine, Vietnamese does require a few specialised ingredients, but once these have been found then you are ready to go.

Unlike Thai cooking, Vietnamese food is less chilli hot so is pretty versatile for the whole family to eat it. It is packed to the brim with fragrant, refreshing flavours such as lemongrass, tamarind, mint, coriander, ginger and lime juice. It’s all about balancing the sweet, salty, sour and hot and throw a good crunch and texture into the mix then you have the perfect dish. To make banh mi there are a few steps, but nothing that a bit of planning can’t solve.

SO here is what you need. Don’t panic if you find this too long winded. I promise you it really is simpler than it looks. I made a few changes, namely store bought mayo and adding sriracha and then I completely forgot to add the crispy shallots and spring onions – oh dear! – so you won’t find any of those in my photos.

Serves 4

1 or 2 large baguettes (I’ve been told the ones in Sainburys that you heat up in the oven are rather good for banh mi, but not tried and tested as yet)

4 tsp butter

4 tbsp mayonaisse

1 tbsp Sriracha sauce 

1 cucumber, seeds removed and cut into thick diagonal slices

2 spring onions, sliced lengthways

4 tbsp crispy shallots, either store bought or fry up your own (banana shallots work well)

pinch of crushed black peppercorns

4 tbsp chicken liver pate

small handful of pickled carrot and daikon (see recipe below)

large handful of fresh coriander leaves

3 tbsp light soy sauce

optional 1 red chilli, finely sliced

 

 

STEP 1

Make the pickled carrot and daikon (also known as mooli or white raddish).

Makes enough to fill a 500ml jar and will last for a couple of weeks

250ml rice vinegar

250g granulated sugar

250g carrots, cut into fine matchsticks

250g daikon, cut into fine matchsticks

  1. Heat the rice vinegar and sugar together in a saucepan over a medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Allow to cool completely before pouring over the finely cut carrots and daikon.
  3. Seal properly and cool before placing in the fridge.

 

STEP 2

Prepare a little bowl of the mayo/sriracha mix, to taste

 

STEP 3

Prepare the cucumber, spring onion and coriander and place in a bowl ready to fill the baguette.

 

STEP 4

Place the fried shallots in a separate bowl

 

STEP 5

Cut up the baguette at a diagonal. Scrape out a little of the bread so that there is more room to add the filling.

 

STEP 6

 

Lemongrass Chicken Banh Mi

750g chicken breast fillets, sliced diagonally into 1 x 5cm strips

2 tbsp vegetable oil

for the marinade

2 tsp light soy sauce

1 tsp fish sauce

1 tsp oyster sauce

1 tbsp granulated sugar

1 tsp honey

2 tbsp finely diced lemongrass stalks

2 tbsp finely diced garlic

1 tbsp finely diced chillies

1 tbsp finely diced onion

4 tbsp sesame oil

 

  1. Combine all the ingredients and place in a large bowl in the fridge to marinate for at least 3 hours or ideally overnight (I did the latter).
  2. When almost ready to fill the banh mi, heat the oil in a frying pan and when it is hot add the chicken strips and stir-fry for 10-12 minutes, or until the chicken in golden in colour and completely cooked. Keep the chicken moving around the pan or it will burn because of the sugar.
  3. Take off the heat and place immediately into your banh mi.

 

STEP 7 – to serve

  1. Put a little butter and chicken liver pate in the baguette.
  2. Add a good dollop of the mayo/sriracha filling
  3. Lay the cucumber inside, careful not to overfill and add the pickled carrot and daikon.
  4. Add the lemongrass chicken followed by the coriander, spring onion and drizzle of soy sauce
  5. Lastly, sprinkle with chilli slices, crispy fried shallots and crushed black peppercorns.

 

Dive in and enjoy.

 

You can purchase Thuy’s book at all good book shops and of course online here

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A Weekend in the Brecon Beacons, Wales

Fancy a weekend of fresh air, open spaces, glorious views, rolling countryside and peace and quiet? Then I have just the place for you. The weekend before last  – you know the glorious hot one  – me and a couple of girlfriends – headed to the Brecon Beacons in Wales,  an area of outstanding beauty. Not sure that’s the official line but it definitely warrants that accolade. It was a very stress free journey from London Paddington to Newport, a quick change of trains and then a further 30 minutes or so onto Abergavenny – a charming station, which really makes you feel as if you have gone back in time.

Greeted by one of my friends in her car (she had driven from the Cotswolds) we whizzed a further 45 minutes to the picturesque Brecon Beacons National Park where we would be staying for two nights in Fan Cottage (sleeps 6), which is part of the Cnewr Estate. If you are with a larger party you can book out the Farmhouse (sleeps 16). You can book them for the week or the weekend. Fan cottage is the little white cottage that you can see in the photo above.

Both properties have been tastefully refurbished in 2017. The beds are super comfortable (that’s mine above) with puffy pillows and duvets, the bathrooms have excellent power showers (one had a bath and shower), there is a snug and sitting room and a good sized, well equipped kitchen with stylish crockery. I was also really impressed by the quality of the curtains – random I know – but seriously people they were so beautifully made. Also the place is really well heated – we had to turn off some of the radiators the weekend we visited as the weather was a scorcher. We couldn’t resist putting on the log burner one evening though to add to the atmosphere of the cottage – so warm and inviting.

Both cottage and farmhouse afford incredible vistas of the Cray Reservoir (no swimming as it’s super dangerous), but fun to admire and walk around at leisure. The dam was pretty spectacular, although am I the only one who imagines it breaking when waking this side of it? Now the sunsets from the cottage were just divine.

It did not take us long to feel relaxed and rejuvenated. One day we went and ate lunch at The Felin Fach Griffin which is about 10 minutes on from the town of Brecon. I had met the owner – Charles and his family – last year at the Ballymaloe Food and Drink Festival in Ireland and he had spoken about his three Inns – two in Cornwall and one in Wales.

The food and service were excellent and I would return in a heartbeat. The place is rustic and low key, the perfect place to nestle in for the afternoon around the fire with the papers or in our case on the grass outside. The food was full of flavour, original, but not too left field, and platted in a way that makes you want to actually dive in. The faro risotto was the tastiest I’ve eaten – just check out the colours on the plate.

Whilst we didn’t even see even half of the Brecon Beacons we did climb the highest peak in South Wales – Pen Y Fan – 886 metres about sea level and Corn Du just next to it, which enabled us to see for miles around.

The round trip, interspersed with lots of chatter and going at a slow and steady pace, is about 3 hours. We did pass a few people running up and down it – but each for their own hey!

We rewarded ourselves with lunch at the beautiful fishing hotel of Gliffaes, which is perched above River Usk. My cauliflower and roasted garlic soup definitely hit the spot after my hike.

The place is enchanting and feels as if it’s from another era, where time has literally stood still. Imagine grandfather clocks, roaring fires, tea in the drawing room, butler service (not quite, but almost) then you get the picture. The grounds and position are beautiful and great to wander around after a bite to eat and before catching the train back to the big smoke refreshed and rejuvenated after a wonderful weekend in Wales.

 

 

To Book:

Fan Cottage or the Farmhouse on the Cnewr Estate – click here

Felin Fach Griffin – click here

Gliffaes  – click here 

 

 

 

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Wild Garlic Scones

Continuing with the wild garlic theme for another week, (I hope you are not bored yet!) I thought you might like my recipe for wild garlic scones, which are wonderful slathered with a little butter and a cup of tea. Scones are ridiculously easy to make and are great to freeze and then reheat when you want to eat one of two. All my family love this delicious snack, and as you can freeze them, are perfect all year round. A taste of spring even in the winter!

Unlike my wild garlic pesto you actually need no more than a handful of wild garlic but will still get the wonderful flavour resonating through the warm scone. If you have more of a sweet tooth then you might want to see my sweetened scone recipe here.

To make and cook these little beauties takes no more than 30 minutes, so are quick to prepare a batch. My girls always love to get involved in the kitchen and making scones is very straightforward so fun activity to do together.

 

Wild Garlic Scones

Makes around 22 scones

350g self-raising flour

pinch of salt

1 tsp baking powder

85g softened unsalted butter, cut into cubes

125g mature cheddar cheese, grated

1 handful of wild garlic, washed and finely chopped

2 eggs

1 tsp fennel seeds

175ml milk, gently warmed

1 egg, beaten to glaze

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7 and line a baking tray.
  2. In a large bowl sieve the flour and then add all the ingredients*, aside from the milk and the final egg to glaze.
  3. Mix together gently using your hands and slowly add the warmed milk to bind. Add a little more flour if it remains a little sticky.
  4. Flour your hands and the work surface and move the dough onto the surface. Flatten it with your hands and fold it over a few times. Use a rolling pin to flatten it to a thickness of about 3cm. Use the top of a small glass or a cutter to cut out the scones evenly.
  5. Place the scones at intervals on the lined baking tray so they do not touch. Brush the tops with the beaten egg.
  6. Once you have used up all the dough, place in the oven for 11 minutes exactly. Remove from oven and then either leave to cool completely and then freeze or eat immediately with some butter. YUM.

Note: *If the butter cubes are not super soft then add these first with the flour and baking powder and using your finger tips mix with the flour to create a crumbly mixture. Then add all the ingredients. 

If freezing, when you want to eat them simply defrost completely then heat in a very low oven for 2/3 minutes to rewarm the scones.

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Wild Garlic Pesto

I love this time of year, when the rain stops, the sun comes out and if you head into the woods you are likely to be rewarded by a bountiful supply of wild garlic. When I was down at my parents recently I went to my usual secluded wood to gather up some bags  of the stuff. The photo below is of my father looking rather fetching in his country garb standing amongst the wild garlic.

I’m not going to reinvent the wheel here as I did a couple of blog posts a a few years ago about how to actually make wild garlic pesto – you can read the post here. It is SO good to freeze that I make enough to carry us through the whole year. I only finished last year’s batch about a month ago.  My family are all slightly addicted by it and one of my daughters even pops it on her toast.

 

If you want an alternative to pesto and wild garlic linguine with sausage crumb then I have a rather delicious soup – wild garlic, courgette and lemon soup with poached egg with crispy panko breadcrumbs which you can see here.

I still have two whole bags to use up so may make some more pesto today and then maybe some wild garlic scones – as they’ll be good to freeze too. Check out instastories to see what I get up to.

 

Have you been gathering wild garlic yet this year? What are you going to do it. Would love to hear so leave a comment below.

 

 

 

 

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Rhubarb and Custard Slice – Competition to win ‘Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe’ cookbook by Mat Follas

Spring is in the air, well at least for the moment it is. Sunny skies make all the difference and you can notably see everyone feeling that extra bit cheery. Polo-neck jumpers can be cast aside and thick winter coats can be put away, for a while at least. With longer days and flowers beginning to make an appearance, the thought of doing some spring baking is rather attractive.

‘Images from Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe by Mat Follas. Photographs by Steve Painter. Published by Ryland Peters & Small.’

Enter Mat Follas – masterchef UK winner way back in 2009 – new book ‘Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe’. I can almost smell the delicate scents from the sweetpeas on the front cover and that cheesecake screams ‘summer’ to me. Mat, his wife Amanda and their business partner Kate, opened Bramble Cafe & Deli in Poundbury in Dorset in 2016 and this book is a collection of all the lovely recipes that they showcase in the cafe.

‘Images from Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe by Mat Follas. Photographs by Steve Painter. Published by Ryland Peters & Small.’

Sweet and savoury are both included ranging from the classics, such as the ‘Victoria Sandwich Cake’, to fancy dainties and patisseries, such as the ‘Salted Caramel Tartlets’. He includes some wonderful sounding jams, jellies and marmalades – strawberry and elderflower jam, as well as some alcoholic and non-alcoholic tipples.

‘Images from Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe by Mat Follas. Photographs by Steve Painter. Published by Ryland Peters & Small.’

I decided to make the ‘Rhubarb and Custard Slice’, which is a take on a classic custard slice or mille-feuille. It also reminded me of my ultimate favourite cake ‘Pasteis de Nata’ also known as ‘Portguese custard tart’. It was super easy to prepare and makes a great dessert or tea-time fancy. The only slight alternation I’ll make next time is that I will oven bake the puff pastry for a little longer and lightly brush whisked egg allowing it to bronze more. Other than that it tasted great and the custard was very similar tasting to the Portuguese custard tart. Rhubarb is so pretty, and tastes fabulous that the combination of the custard and rhubarb brought back many childhood memories for me.

If you would like to win a copy of this book head on over to my instagram page and look for this photo above which will provide all the details. It’s very straightforward so have a go at winning a copy.  UK residents only I’m afraid. For those asking, the beautiful plates above I have collected over the last few years from Anthropologie, which always stock such gorgeous things.

Rhubarb & Custard Slice

recipe from ‘Afternoon Tea at Bramble Cafe’ by Mat Follas

150g puff pastry (bought)

1 egg, whisked

300g fresh rhubarb, trimmed and cut into 2cm length pieces

vegetable oil, to coat,

50g Demerara sugar

200ml milk

100ml double/heavy cream

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

50g plain/all-purpose flour

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

100g caster sugar

non-stick 30x20cm/12×8 inch brownie pan, light oil and lined with baking parchment

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees centigrade (35o Fahrenheit) Gas 4.
  2. Roll out the pastry to 3mm thickness and trim to fit the base of the brownie pan.
  3. Using a fork prick holes over the base to stop the pastry rising too much. Use the whisked egg to brush the pastry to help it get a beautiful bronzed colour.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven for 12 minutes or until it is golden brown. If it has puffed up it will shrink when you allow it to cool out of the oven.
  5. Meanwhile trim and cut the rhubarb into evenly-sized pieces, about 2cm/2/4 inch in length. Toss them with a little vegetable oil and then the Demerara sugar. Spread them out on a lined baking sheet and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, until they are just softened and cooked through.
  6. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the milk and cream on a low heat, stirring gently until simmering, then immediately take off the heat.
  7. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, flour, vanilla and caster sugar to form a paste.
  8. Pour the hot milk and cream mixture into the mixing bowl, whisking constantly to combine into a think custard.
  9. Now return the custard to the saucepan and on a low heat whisk the custard over the heat until it has thickened and holding soft peaks. It is really important to have it on a low heat so it does not burn!
  10. Pour the thick custard over the pastry base and smooth it to make level.
  11. Place the rhubarb pieces on top of the custard – they should be half submerged.
  12. Refrigerate for at least and hour before cutting into 10 with a bread knife.
I was very kindly sent a copy of this beautiful cookbook. All views and opinions are my own.

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Roasted Sweet Potato, Garlic and Smoked Paprika Soup

So hands up if you are as addicted to soup as me? I could, and almost do, have a bowl most days. Indian dal is very like soup and I often make one up for lunch – my red split lentil dal is a fav – see here.

Today however I wanted to show you my roasted sweet potato, garlic and smoked paprika soup. Anything roasted has that wonderful smokey flavour that is so addictively satisfying. This soup will warm the belly and soul with one spoonful (or preferably a whole bowl). The snow provided such a good backdrop the other day that I ran outside to take this shot. When I came to eating the soup later in the day I realised it was far too thick so I added more liquid. How thick or soupy you like your soup is up to you but just add the stock a little at a time until you have reached your desired consistency.

The whole family will love it and it involves minimum fuss so win win.

 

 

Roasted Sweet Potato, Garlic and Smoked Paprika Soup

5 sweet potatoes, cleaned and chopped into cubes (skin on)

1 whole garlic bulb

1 heaped tsp smoked paprika

1 tbsp olive oil

1 red onion, roughly chopped

1 tbsp butter

2 stalks of rosemary, leaves only, stalk removed

1 tsp salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

1- 1.5 pint of vegetable stock, add more if you refer a less thick soup

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees.
  2. On a baking tray place the cubed sweet potatoes and add the olive oil and smoked paprika and mix together so that the sweet potatoes are nicely covered. Add the whole garlic. Place in the oven for 40 minutes or until the sweet potato has softened.
  3. Meanwhile in a large casserole pan add the butter and a splash of olive oil and gently fry the red onion and rosemary for 7 minutes so that it has nicely softened.
  4. Remove the garlic cloves from the bulb, which will be all soft and gooey at this stage. Add them and the sweet potato to the main casserole pan and add seasoning and the vegetable stock.
  5. Using a hand whisk, blend until smooth. Add more boiling water/stock depending on how you like your soup consistency. I actually added a lot more water after this photo (above) was taken as it was too thick initially.
  6. Serve piping hot with some crunchy bread on the side. If you want to add a topping you could add a dollop of creme fraiche with a sprinkling of smoked paprika on top,  a little extra virgin olive oil or perhaps some roasted pine nuts.

If you try making this soup please post a photo on instagram and use the #soupmeuptoday so that I can see it.

 

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Thai Jungle Curry and Review of “Mae’s Ancient Thai Food” by Carole Mason and Ning Najpinij

I bought a new exciting cookbook recently all about Thai heritage cooking called “Mae’s Ancient Thai Food” by Carole Mason and Ning Najpint. Bold, bright and bursting with a wonderful range of recipes that you actually want to cook straight away.  The book is an ode to Ning’s mother – Kobkaew – who sadly passed away, but was a known figure in the culinary world both in Thailand, and more globally. Her recipes and articles appeared in a number of magazines including: Vogue USA, Australian Gourmet, Tatler, as well as David Thompson’s books, “Thai Food” and “Thai Street Food”. It seemed a fitting tribute therefore for Carole, her protege and friend, and daughter – Ning, to create a beautiful cookbook dedicated to Kobkaew – known affectionately as ‘Mae’ (mother) to both her daughter and her beloved students.

Thai cooking does require a little forward thinking to get the fresh ingredients. One ingredient that is as ubiquitous in Thailand and Thai cooking as onions are to British fare, is coriander root. The bad news folks is that hard to track down, although not impossible in the UK.  Carole is trying to spread the word that this needs to change so that second and third generation Thais living in the UK, and those who are passionate about Thai cooking, don’t lose touch and knowledge of heritage Thai cuisine. She has even placed “we love coriander root” on the front of the book itself to signal its importance in Thai cooking. If larger supermarkets could start stocking it, and we all start using it, her campaign will be achieved. In the meantime if you can’t track it down  you could use a good handful of coriander stalks and leaves to create the colour and then add a teaspoon of coriander root powder, which is easier to source in the UK.

Other than the obvious ingredients, who will have to go to an Oriental supermarket to source some things or go online to the suppliers that Carole outlines in her book. She clearly explains techniques and explanation of the various Thai ingredients you may not be familiar with. The chapters are then split into: curries,  soups (including hangover cures), salads, seafood, dips, nibbles and canapés, vegetables, noodles and stir frys and desserts.

Jumping out at me is: Muu Parlow – Pork and Egg Soup, Gaeng Som – Prawn and Papaya curry, Gaenglean – Good Old Fashioned Soup, Nahm Prik Pao – Thai Chilli Jam (HELLO yes please), Yam Plate Too – Mackerel Salad, I could go on as they all sound so good.

 

So what type of person would this book suit?

Personally, I think anyone who loves cooking and trying out new recipes and does not flinch at the thought of sourcing a few ingredients will LOVE it. Those who want their meal on a plate with minimum effort and the thought of searching for a particular ingredient causes them to break out in a sweat, then perhaps this isn’t for them. I only own one other Thai cookbook so for me this book was screaming out at me to be bought. Oh yes, and you need to like chilli as chilli is definitely a cornerstone in Thai cooking.

Publishing a cookbook is never easy, especially when you self-publish, which is the route that Carole and Ning went down. It is an incredible achievement but now comes the equally hard work of spreading the word. So folks feel free to retweeted and forwarded this post (or photo on instagram) as much as possible. Blogging is an amazing community of wonderful folk,  so lets help ‘Mae’s Ancient Thai Food’ gets the notice it deserves. I bought the book myself and all my views are my own (as they always are) in case you are wondering.

So are you intrigued by what I cooked? ……

I went for “Gaeng Pah – Jungle Curry”. Packed full of flavour and zing, but no coconut milk. Now I will be honest that I did change some of the ingredients because if you can’t get hold of a particular ingredient then replace it with something similar, its not worth getting too stressed about.

So these are the changes I made:

I converted everything from cups to grams, cause that’s how I roll.

coriander root – I replaced with coriander stalks and a few leaves and coriander root powder

small green apple aubergine – I used one courgette, peeled in striped and cut at angles

snake beans – I used regular beans and also added sugar snaps (cause I love my green veg)

holy basil – I could not source it so used Thai basil

I added 1 tsp of caster sugar – you could also add palm sugar. Carole does not add either.

The recipe was a triumph and I think I went back for thirds. It feeds around 4 people.

First I made some fresh chicken stock – which is super straightforward:

Fresh Chicken Stock

4 chicken wings on the bone

10 white peppercorns

3 garlic cloves,

half an onion, peeled

a lump of ginger

if you live in a country that you can get hold of coriander root or Chinese celery pop them in

bay leaf

  1. Simply cover the wings with water and an extra 3 inches of water on top and bring to the boil and simmer for 30 mins.
  2. Strain the stock and remove the flesh from the chicken wings and keep for another time. I also keep the garlic too. Discard the rest.
  3. Either use of freeze the stock.

 

Gaeng Pah – Jungle Curry

Serves 4

Jungle Curry Paste

10 small green Thai chillies

a pinch of salt

1 coriander root OR a handful of coriander root and leaves and 1 tsp of coriander root powder

2 whole lemongrass, finely chopped

1 shallot, finely sliced

1 tbsp galangal, sliced

3 garlic cloves, sliced

1 tsp coriander seeds dry roasted and ground

10 white peppercorns

1 tsp of shrimp paste

  1. To save time, although not authentic (sorry Carole) I popped all the ingredients into my little mini blender, added a couple of tablespoons of water and blended together. If you have time however using a pestle and mortar will give you a better, more authentic paste. Carole has laid out the steps to do this properly – in short – hardest ingredients first one at a time until they make a paste before moving onto the next. Add the dried ingredients last and the shrimp paste. Pound until smooth.

Other Ingredients

1 batch of jungle curry paste (as above)

3 tbsp of vegetable/rapeseed oil

300g chicken sliced diagonally (I used thigh, but use breast if you prefer or you could use white fish)

1 tbsp fish sauce

750ml chicken stock (or fish stock if you are going down the fish route)

1 courgette, peeled to create stripes and cut into diagonally strips

100g green beans, cut in half

100g sugar snap peas

1x227g tin of bamboo shoots (drained weight 140g)

1 tbsp grachai, peeled and shredded (I had never used this but my local Thai grocer had it so was able to use it. Finger shape and size but with a similar skin to ginger or turmeric.

5 young green peppercorn strips, washed and left whole

5 kaffir lime leaves, de-veined and torn

 

a handful of thai basil leaves, washed and stalked removed

1 lime, quartered to serve

2 red chillies, cut into fine strips to decorate to serve

 

  1. First make the paste above.
  2. Next heat the oil in a pan and add the curry paste, stirring gently to let the aromas develop.
  3. Add the chicken (or fish) and stir into the paste.
  4. Heat the stock and add it to the pan and bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes.
  5. Add the courgettes, beans, sugar snaps, bamboo shoots and after a couple of minutes add the grachai, green peppercorns, kaffir lime leaves and Thai basil.
  6. Taste and add more fish sauce. I added a little caster sugar, but you may find you don’t need to.
  7. Serve with a quarter of fresh lime per serving and some fresh red chilli strips.

I ate mine with a bowl of rice.

You can buy Carole and Ning’s book  here or if you are based in London it is now stocked at the heavenly bookshop “Books For Cooks” in Notting Hill.

 

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Cambodian Nut Mix

I wanted to introduce you all to my favourite snackage at the moment. I only came across it recently when I was staying in Kep-sur-Mer in the south of Cambodia – you can read about my stay in Kep here. Most evenings we would head to the sailing club (below – the pool table was a perfect activity during cocktails hour) next to our hotel – Knai Bang Chatt – which I really recommend if you are thinking about a trip – and when you order your drink they give you a bowl of this delicious nut mix.

They are so simple to make and yet completely addictive and because they are a little salty you naturally want more to drink. Clever hey.

Anyway I thought it would be perfect to show you how to make your own nut mix at home. It makes sense to make a decent amount and then store it in an airtight container. There seems a bit of a theme with airtight containers – I blame it on the snow and being stuck inside few weeks back. There is literally 5 ingredients: peanuts – with their red skins on- fresh curry leaves, dried red chillies, garlic and salt. That said I think there may have been some lemongrass mixed in with the nuts, but I can’t be sure, so if you have any by all means finely slice it lengthways and fry it with the sliced garlic.

Cambodian Nut Mix

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 whole garlic, pealed and thinly sliced

2 steams of fresh curry leaves (approx 20 leaves)

5 dried red chillies

1kg of red peanuts

rock salt to taste

optional: lemongrass, thinly sliced lengthways and fried with the garlic

 

  1. In a large pan gently heat the oil and then fry the garlic so it turns a light brown. If you are also going to use lemongrass, add it at this stage.  Remove and place on kitchen paper.
  2. Using the same pan gently fry the fresh curry leaves and add the dried red chillies. I tend to split some of them so as to release some of the seeds to give heat.
  3. Add the nuts and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle with salt.
  4. Take off the heat and add the garlic (and lemongrass if using) thoroughly.
  5. Once cooled store in an airtight container. They will last for ages and are good to bring out with drinks in the evening.

 

 

 

 

 

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