Baking, Something fruity, Something sweet

Lamyai (longan) and cashew nut cake

IMG_4508This is a cake that I make every year when “lamyai” or longans come into season in Thailand. They are quite sweet and fragrant and although they are using in Thai traditional deserts, cooked with sticky rice, they aren’t usually used in baking, but they give this cake a great flavour. I’ve been making this cake for about 15 years now and it was originally adapted from a pear and pecan cake so feel free to revert to the original if you don’t have lamyais, but they are available canned in syrup, which I imagine would be okay. The cake above was made on special request for a neighbour’s birthday using lamyai that I picked myself! This is also my 100th blog post so I hope that you like it!IMG_4514So what do you need?

  • A cup, or just over, of lamyai flesh (torn into halves)
  • 120g of cashew nuts
  • 150g of softened butter
  • 150g of brown sugar
  • 3 free range eggs
  • 2 tsp of freshly ground spices (I use mainly cinnamon with a 2-3 cloves or a little nutmeg)
  • 200g of plain (all purpose) flour
  • 2 tsp of baking powder
  • 2tbsp honey

So what do you do?

Start by soaking the cashews in some water for a few hours to soften them. They don’t need to be totally submerged but put them in a  bowl and half cover them in hot water and stir them around occasionally. They will soften and absorb some of the water. Then turn your oven on 175 degrees C / 350 F and grease a 20cm non-stick cake tin (or a slightly larger bunt tin as I used above). In a bowl of a food processor beat the butter and sugar together until it’s light and fluffy. If you are using unsalted butter add a pinch of salt. Next beat in the eggs, and then add the spices, sifted flour and baking powder and mix well. Then add the lamyai pieces, along with any juice that has come out of them, and most of the cashews (reserve some cashew halves to decorate the top of the cake) and mix these in by hand. Then spoon this into your cake tin and decorate the top of your cake with the remaining cashew nuts. Bake the cake for an hour, checking after 45 mins,  if it’s browning too quickly cover it with foil. Bake until a skewer comes out clean then remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 mins before removing from the tin. Then when the cake has cooled heat the honey until it becomes runny and glaze the top of the cake with honey using a (pastry) brush. As the cake is make with fresh fruit it’s best eaten the day it’s made or the following day. Enjoy!

Edible gifts, Preserves

Homomade lime marmalade

marmalade 1

This is the first time I’ve made lime marmalade, it’s the first year that we’ve had so many limes! As a child I helped my dad make marmalade and I can remember once when using a pressure cooker we took the valve off the top and boiling molten marmalade shot out like a geyser all over the kitchen ceiling, as you can imagine my mum wasn’t impressed. My dad still makes very dark thick cut marmalade each year.


I used 1kg of limes, 1kg of sugar, 2 liters of water and 1 tsp of bicarbonate of soda (which I read helps balance the acidity which helps ensure that the marmalade sets). I started by halving the limes and squeezing out the juice, in a normal lemon juicer. The juice can be poured into a large stainless steel pan with the water which you can begin to heat. The pips and pith should be kept, once you have juiced all the limes take a piece of muslin and use it to line a bowl, double thickness, and then put all the pips and pith in the middle and then draw up the sides of the muslin to form a ball with and tie it so that the pips and pips can’t escape and then put this ball in the pan, you can tie it to one of the handles. Next cut the lime rinds into quarters and the slice the rind thinly and the add it to the saucepan.

marmalade 2Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 90mins until the strips of rind are soft and break in half easily. Meanwhile was 8-10 jam jars in hot soapy water then rinse and dry them. About 30 mins after you begin simmering the marmalade mixture turn your oven on to 175 degrees C / 350 F and heat the sugar up in a baking tin. Heating the sugar speeds up the cooking process. Take the muslin bag out of the saucepan, with a slotted spoon squeeze as much of the liquid out of it as you can as this contains the pectin that will make the marmalade set, put it aside to cool. Then poor the hot sugar into the saucepan and bring up to a fast boil, stirring occasionally. While you are doing this put your jam jars in the oven and turn off the heat. Put a couple of saucers into the fridge. Boil the marmalade for about 30 mins the marmalade will have reduced down a bit then turn down the heat and take a teaspoon of the marmalade liquid from the pan and put it on a cool saucer and put it back in the fridge for a couple of minutes. Then check to see if it has set, it should have thickened and become sticky and wrinkle if youtry and move it with a finger. If it sets then turn off the heat, if not bring the marmalade back to a fast boil for 10 minutes and test it gain, continue until the marmalade sets. The boiling marmalade will also appear thicker and more glossy when it’s ready. Once it is ready turn off the heat, remove any sum from the surface and leave for 15 mins before ladling into the warm jars. If you want to ensure it lasts a long time cut a circle of parchment paper and put it on the top of the marmalade. Seal the jars once it’s cooled a bit and then wipe the jars to remove any marmalade from the outside and label. Preserves make great gifts.

Veggie mains

Nut & mushroom roast (dinner)


Nut roast is a classic veggie Sunday lunch which I have been eating for over 30 years. In Thailand I don’t make them that often but occasionally I really fancy a roast dinner. The recipe can be adapted using different nuts and / or vegetables you can reduce the amount of mushrooms and add some grated carrot or courgette or some fried red peppers it’s really depends on what you like and what you have available.

For four servings I used 300g mushrooms (I mixed a couple of varieties including shitake which have quite a strong flavour and aroma), 250g nuts (I used 100g of cooked chestnuts, 50g of peanuts and 100g of cashews), some sesame seeds, 100g of whole meal breadcrumbs, 1 medium onion, two cloves of garlic, some mixed herbs and some flavouring (I used marmite,  mushroom soy sauce and truffle oil).

I started by chopping in a food processor the onion and about 100g of the mushrooms (so that they were quite well chopped but still in pieces and added them to the onion) and fried these in some oil (if you are using some red pepper this can be added now). I then blended to a finer consistency the garlic, chestnuts and the rest of the mushrooms  to form a kind of thick pulp and added this to the frying pan (if you are using grated carrot or courgette it can be added now) with a splash of light mushroom soy sauce, 1/2 tsp of marmite and a good pinch of mixed herbs and some ground black pepper and fried the mixture for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, if it becomes too dry and starts to stick add a little water. Meanwhile I ground the nuts and the breadcrumbs. Then turn of the heat and mix in the dry ingredients. They will absorbed any moisture from the fried mushroom mix. If the mixture seems too dry and crumbly add a little water, but not to much, just enough to get the mixture to bind together.

Then I put the mixture in a greased oven dish I like my nut roast crispy on top so don’t make a thick loaf style roast I prefer it to be about 3-4 cms thick. I then drizzled some truffle oil on top, just because I had some in the fridge I don’t usually do this, and then sprinkled on sesame seeds. It needs to be baked in an oven at about 175 degrees C / 350F for about 45 mins. If you are roasting potatoes in a hotter oven then put the nut roast on a lower shelf for about 30 mins. It should be crisp on top and the sesame seeds should be golden brown.

Nut roastI served this with roast potatoes, baked cauliflower and leeks, red cabbage and cauliflower and leak cheese.


For the baked cauliflower and leeks I parboiled the cauliflower whole for a few minutes (its best not to overcook it at this stage as it still needs to be baked in the oven), while I was doing this I made a white sauce, I briefly added the leeks to the cauliflower and then drained them and put them in an oven proof bowl and poured over the sauce and topped with some grated cheese and then baked it along with the nut roast until brown on top.

Any leftover nut roast is good served the next day with a salad.

Nut roast salad

Thai Food, Veggie sides

Stir-fried asparagus & mushrooms

asparagus1Today Tom brought home some gorgeous fresh asparagus from the market. I had already cooked a red curry and was planning a veggie stir fry so I decided to use the asparagus.

asparagus 2

First I snapped the woody ends off the aparagus. To do this you just bend the asaparagus in half and it will snap off just where it starts to get woody. I used the ends to make stock and lightly steamed the rest. Then in sesame oil I fried some mushrooms and garlic and as they began to brown I added the asparagus, a slug of light soy sauce, some mushroom oyster sauce and a sprinkle of sesame seeds. I added a little water and stir fried the asparagus for a couple of minutes and served it with organic rice and my red curry.


Sweetcorn soup

corn soup

This is inspired by my cousin Kirsten who makes it for our family gathering on Boxing Day to warm everyone up after a walk. I’ve only experienced this a couple of times as I’m usually in Thailand but it’s certainly become a family tradition. It’s great to make in the summer too with fresh corn, which retains a nice crunch. This recipe makes enough for about 4 bowls so multiply if you want to make enough for a  family gathering!

I started by chopping a medium-sized onion and frying it in some butter with 1/2 – 1 tsp of (celery) salt while this was frying I peeled and grated a potato (about 250g) then added this to the onion, which had started to soften, and added 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder and fried this for about a minute stirring so the potato didn’t stick. Then I poured in boiling water to about 2cms above the vegetables. I put in a couple of bay leaves, some pepper and 1/2 tsp of marmite (or add some veg stock powder / cube) and covered the pan and simmered for about 10-15 minutes. I removed the kernels from 2 medium sized cobs of corn which gave me over 300g of kernels. I added this to the pan with a couple of tsp chopped fresh herbs, I used coriander and dill. I covered the put and simmered for another 10 minutes and then added about a cup of milk and simmered the soup for another 5 minutes. Taste the soup and adjust seasoning as necessary.I made a herb oil (optional) in my mortar and pestle by pounding some of the herbs I used in the coup with a  little salt until they became a paste about 1 tsp and then added a couple of tbsp of olive oil. I served the soup with a drizzle of herb oil, you could drizzle in some cream instead if you prefer.


Warm ‘tiger’ salad

I made this salad the other day from grilled summer veggies and Halloumi cheese with a Tzatziki-style dressing. It makes a delicious light meal or lunch served with some fresh bread.

I stated by preparing an assortment of veggies, courgettes / zucchini sliced thinly lengthways, aubergine / eggplant also sliced quite thinly, a red onion cut into segments and some mushrooms, and made the dressing from a crushed garlic clove about a tbsp of olive oil, 4 or 5 tbsp of plain yoghurt, some salt and pepper (to taste) a little squeeze of lime juice and some fresh mint and dill leaves. I then tossed the veg in some olive oil that had a couple of cloves of crushed garlic in it and grilled them.I also steamed some purple beans from the garden, which unfortunately turn green when cooked, and grilled the Halloumi. I then put the veggies on a serving plate, with the Halloumi on top and drizzled over the dressing. Yummy!

Thai Food, The Basics

Summer veg fried rice

IMG_4291-0I wasn’t planning to  post this as a recipe but I put a picture on my Instagram feed a few people said they wanted to make it so here you go, by popular demand! Fried rice makes a quick easy meal and is very versatile in terms of using the veggies you have available. This one includes summer veg, sweet corn, courgettes / zucchini, green beans, tomatoes and spring onions as well as mushrooms. It can easily be made vegan or you can add eggs it’s up to you. The best rice to use in fried rice is cold left over rice as it will be less sticky, so it’s a great way to use up left rice. The rice shouldn’t be overcooked. I use a mix of brown and red local organic rice, which tends to keep it’s shape and doesn’t become sticky unless really overcooked, but use whatever you have. This will feed four people.

So what do you need? (approximate quantities)

  • 200-250g of chopped mushrooms
  • a large courgette / zucchini (or 2 small ones)
  • 4 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • the corn from one large, fresh cob (pre-boiled / steamed)
  • 150g green beans
  • 2 or 3 tomatoes
  • 4-6 spring onions (or one regular onion)
  • 3-4 large dried chillies (not too spicy type – optional)
  • half a cup of plain cashew nuts (optional)
  • 3-4 tbs sesame seeds
  • 1tbs of curry (regular yellow Indian style) powder
  • 2 large free range eggs (optional)
  • coriander leaves
  • oil for frying (sesame oil is good)
  • light soy sauce
  • some white pepper
  • about 4 -6 measuring cups of pre-cooked rice (depending on how hungry you are)

I start by chopping up all the vegetables and divide them into those that need a little longer to fry mushrooms, courgettes and garlic. and thise that cook quicker sweetcorn (I bought this on the cob at the local market ready steamed you could use frozen or canned instead but fresh is tastier and has more crunch), green beans (you could use peas instead), tomatoes and the spring onions (if you use a regular onion instead this should be added to the mushrooms and zucchini).

I heat some oil in my wok enough so that it’s about a cm deep in the base of the wok and start by frying the chillis in it, I then remove these. If you are using the cashews then fry these too until golden and put them aside too. I didn’t use cashews in my rice below as I was planning to serve it with fried tofu. If you are planning to have the rice on it’s own, and if you want a vegan version, then I suggest adding the cashews. Then in the same oil I fried the first batch of veggies: mushrooms, courgettes and garlic until they began to brown a little and then I added the other veg and cooked for a couple of minutes. Then I added the eggs, make sure you stir quickly at this point so the eggs don’t stick to the bottom of the wok. I then added the curry powder, the sesame seeds and a couple of good splashes of soy sauce and then I added the rice. Once you have added the rice keep stirring so all the rice gets hot. I broke up the fried chillies and added these (add the cashews too if you are using them).

IMG_4280I think the trick with fried rice is to try and get the grains to stay separated to do this the rice you use shouldn’t be overcooked and it should be cool and you need to fry it for some time, longer than you may think, stirring constantly, on a hot heat so that the rice heats through and dries out a little this ensures that your fried rice doesn’t stick together. Finally add in some coriander leaves and a shake of white pepper, taste it and add more soy sauce if necessary. The fried rice can be served as is, traditionally in Thailand it would be served with a garnish of fresh coriander leaves, a slice of lime to squeeze on it ad some sliced cucumber. Below I served it with some fried tofu on the side which was accompanied by a sauce (Thai sweet chilli dipping sauce with extra dried chilli and ground roasted peanuts and some fresh coriander leaves) and a local mushroom veggie chilli paste.IMG_4285