Thai Food

Laab tofu

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This is a popular dish from Issan, north-east Thailand and it’s usually made with minced meat this version is made with tofu and some mushrooms. It’s  a spicy dish so best eaten with sticky rice and fresh vegetables to temper the kick. Adjust the spice to your liking and aim for a balance of flavours. It takes a little preparation but is pretty easy to make. If you eat eggs then it’s good with either hard boiled eggs or a Thai omelette.

So what do you need?

  • 300g firm tofu
  • 150g mushrooms (I used Thai straw mushrooms)
  • 2tbsp toasted rice
  • 1cm galangal
  • 4 small red shallots
  • 4 spring onions
  • a few culantro (pak chii farang) leaves
  • a small bunch of mint
  • 2 limes
  • 3 – 4 tbsp. light (mushroom) soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1-2 tsp hot chilli powder
  • a few dry chillis (for decoration)
  • some lettuce leaves
  • a chopped cucumber
  • a bunch of Thai sweet basil
  • some blanched green beans

So what do you do?

Start by toasting the rice in a wok. Put 2 heaped tbsp. of rice in a wok on a medium heat and toast it, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown and starts to give off a nutty aroma. Put this in a mortar and grind it into a powder, which will have a lovely nutty smell ad flavor, and set aside. Cut the galangal root into about 4 slices / disks and also toast these until they are golden brown and then pound these in a mortar and set aside. Next crumble the tofu with your fingers into a bowl and add 1 tbsp. of light soy sauce and mix it up and leave it. Dice up the mushrooms and steam them for a few minutes, or cook them for a minute or so in some boiling water and drain them. Peel and finely slice the shallots, chop up the spring onions, chop up the culantro leaves and pick a handful of mint leaves off their stems. Now put a little (sesame) oil in your wok and quickly fry the dried chillis to crispen them up and put them to one side. Next put the tofu and mushrooms in the wok and fry them for a few minutes stirring so they don’t stick. You want to cook them so that they dry out a little. They will be crumbly and start to brown a little. Put the tofu and mushrooms in a mixing bowl add 3 tbsp. light soy sauce, the juice of one lime, 2 tbsp. toasted rice, about 1 tbsp. of pounded galangal, 1 tsp chilli powder, the shallots, onions, mint and culantro and mix everything up. It will probably be quite dry so add some warm water, you want the dish to have some juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning you might need more chilli, or a little more lime or more soy sauce. You want to balance these flavours, spicy, sour and salty. The chilli powder I have at the moment seems very spicy so I use it quite sparingly so adjust the flours until you are happy. Remember that you will be eating it with rice which will help balance the heart too. Serve on a bed of lettuce and garnish with some mint leaves and your dried chillis which will allow people to up the spice if they like by crumbling it on their laab.

 

 

 

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Veggie mains

Courgette ‘kinda’ carbonara

This is based on Rachel Roddy’s Linguine with courgettes, egg and parmesan in The Guardian last week. I’ve been noticing, and liking, her column and this is the first time I’ve made something from it. I’ve adapted it a little upping the veg a bit and using leeks instead of onion. This will serve 2.

So what do you need?

  • 1 or 2 leeks (about 200g)
  • a couple of courgettes (about 300g)
  • a knob of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 whole egg plus one yolk
  • 50g grated parmesan
  • 200-250g linguine / spaghetti
  • 2 large cloves of garlic
  • salt and black pepper
  • a few basil leaves

So what do you do?

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Meanwhile slice the garlic thinly and fry in the olive oil until crispy and golden, and lift out of the oil. Then finely slice the courgettes and leeks into small strips about 5- 6 cm long and 3mm thick.  Now add the butter to the oil and fry the courgettes with a pinch of salt for a couple of minutes as they begin to soften add the leeks and fry until soft and then cover the pan and turn off the heat. Next put on the pasta. While the pasta is cooking beat together the eggs and most of the cheese with a generous grinding of black pepper. When the pasta is almost done heat up the vegetables again. Drain the pasta reserving about half a cup of the water. Turn the heat off the vegetables and add the pasta then pour in the egg mixture and stir / toss with the pasta so the egg starts cooking then add about half of the reserved pasta water. Stir again so everything is coated in the creamy egg mixture, if it seems too dry / not glossy add a little more of the pasta water. Tear these basil leaves and stir them in. Serve garnished with the remaining cheese, the fried garlic and some basil leaves.

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Baking, Edible gifts, Something fruity, Something sweet

Chocolate fruit & nut cake

Something chocolatey for Easter, always love fruit & nut chocolate so I decided to make a cake version with overripe bananas in it too to give it extra flavor and keep it moist. This would be great to make with kids as it’s quick & easy.

So what do you need?

  • 150g softened unsalted butter
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 1tsp. vanilla essence
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 3 overripe bananas
  • 225g plain (all purpose flour)
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • 3tsp baking powder
  • 75g walnuts (or nuts of your choice)
  • 75g raisins
  • 150g chocolate chips
  • 4 tbsp. milk

So what do you do?

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C / 350 F. Put the butter, sugar and vanilla essence in a food processor and blend together, then add the eggs and mix in, next add the bananas and blend everything together. Soft the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder and add this and mix everything together. If your cake mix seems very stiff add some milk Lo loosen it up a bit, I added 4 tbsp. then break up the walnuts a bit and add these, the raisins and 100g of the chocolate chips and stir them in by hand. Grease and line a baking tray mine is 26 cm square and about 3 cm deep. Pour in the cake mixture and spread it out evenly and the sprinkle the remaining choc chips on top and bake for 30 mins. Allow to cool in the tray for at least 5 mins. You can dust the top with cocoa and / or icing sugar. Slice into squares and enjoy. Perfect served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream and caramel sauce!

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Baking, Edible gifts, Something fruity, Something sweet

Hot cross buns

So Easter is just round the corner, time to make hot cross buns. As with most things there’s a pleasure in making them yourself, but living in Northern Thailand it’s also the only option available! This recipe is based on one by Rachel Allen from her book Bake with a few adaptations. I used uncrystalized (naked) ginger instead of candied peel, which I don’t like, I also soaked my dried fruit in tea too and glazed my buns with honey. This will make 20 buns.

So what do you need?

  • 150g dried fruit (half currants and sultanas)
  • 1/2 cup of strong black tea
  • 50g uncrystalized (naked) ginger
  • 500g strong plain flour
  • 220ml milk
  • 5 tsp  / 2 sachets of fast acting yeast
  • 2 free-range eggs beaten
  • 100g unsalted butter (cubed)
  • pinch salt
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 – 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • seeds from 10 cardamom pods
  • 4 tbsp. milk
  • 4 tbsp honey

So what do you do?

Start by soaking the dried fruit in the tea for an hour or two this will make the fruit extra juicy. I used a breadmaker to make my dough, you can do it by hand if you prefer. I warmed the milk and put it in my breadmaker along with the butter, sugar, eggs, salt, 450g of the flour and the dried spices (freshly ground) and the dried yeast and put it on the dough setting. After about 20 mins my breadmaker bleeps and I added the dried fruit (drained of any excess tea) and the naked ginger. If the dough seems too sticky at this point add a little more flour. Once the dough was done I knocked it back on a floured work surface  then formed it into 20 buns and put them on baking trays lined with parchment paper. I left them for 45 mins to rise to about double size. Meanwhile I pre-heated my oven to 220 degrees C / 425 F and made a paste for the crosses from 50g flour and a couple of tbsp. water mix it together to make a dough, like pizza dough.

Once the buns had risen I rolled out the plain dough thinly and cut it into strips to make the crosses with. I then ‘painted’ the top and sides of the buns with milk and placed the crosses on and ‘painted’ them with milk. I put the buns in the oven and after 5 mins turned the temperature down to 200 degrees C / 400 F and cooked them for another 10 minutes or so until golden brown. While they were still hot I glazed them with warm honey using a pastry brush, if you want them extra shiny and sticky give them a second coat. Enjoy warm or toasted with butter.

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Baking, Something sweet

Chocolate and vanilla cake

marble cake

This makes a lovely cake for afternoon tea and gave me a good excuse to try out a new diamond shaped cake tin I bought at the weekend. I based it on a recipe by Paul Hollywood, but I didn’t quite get the marble effect.

So what do you need?

  • 250g plain flour
  • 200g unsalted butter, softened
  • a pinch of salt
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp. plain yoghurt
  • 20ml full-fat milk
  • ½ tsp. natural vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  •  1 tsp. icing sugar for dusting

So what do you do?

Start by preheating your oven to 175 degrees C / 350 F and grease a 1kg cake tin. Then cream the butter, sugar and vanilla essence together, either in a food processor or in a mixing bowl, and then add the cocoa powder and the rest of the milk mix to the remaining cake batter and mix it in. Now add the chocolate cake mixture to the cake tin, if you want a marble effect give it a stir trying to swirl the two mixtures together without completely mixing them together. Bake for 60-70 minutes until the cake is cooked and a skewer comes out clean. Allow to stand in the tin for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cook. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

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Salads, Thai Food

Noodle salad


This is a bit of a hybrid salad, Thai spicy noodle salads are normally made with glass noodles, but this is made with fresh rice noodles, it has Vietnamese flavours too and is a bit like having unrolled fresh spring rolls. You can use whatever veggies you like or have available to go in the salad. This makes a big bowl of salad, plenty for two as a meal.

I made a dressing using 1 tbsp sesame oil, 1 1/2 tbsp of light soy sauce, 2 tsp brown sugar dissolved in 3 tbsp hot water, 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce the juice of a lime and a couple of crushed fresh chillis, I mixed everything together and added a tbsp of dry roasted (black) sesame seeds. I then prepared a block of firm tofu which I cubed and fried with a three cloves of crushed garlic until golden, I also dry roasted a handful of raw peanuts and then crushed them.

I put about 300g large flat rice noodles in a bowl with a couple of handfuls of lettuce leaves, half a grated carrot, a cupful of blanched bean sprouts, a good handful of fresh sunflower sprouts, some blanched green beans and mushrooms, a handful of cherry tomatoes, some chopped spring onions, and a handful of fresh herbs, coriander, sweet basil, mint. I added the tofu and peanuts to the salad. Just before serving I mixed everything together with the dressing.

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Brunch, Thai Food

Pad see ew noodles

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This is one of my favourite Thai street food dishes, if not my favourite, I think it’s the one I order the most often and that’s probably why it’s not something I usually make at home. If you’re not in Thailand surrounded by street stalls then you probably need to know how to make it yourself so here goes. The recipe is for one serving and I suggest you make individual servings, at least to start with and don’t try to make more than a couple of servings at a time as the noodles will probably stick together unless you are an expert.

So what do you need?

  • 200g fresh fat rice noodles (sen yai)
  • 100g greens asian kale (pak kanna)
  • 60g mushrooms
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 1 free-range egg
  • 2tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp. dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar

Condiments

  • Chilli powder
  • White pepper
  • Fresh large chilli in vinegar / a slice of lime

So what do you do?

Start by preparing everything as when you cook you will have to work quick. Slice up the greens and mushrooms,  measure out the soy sauces and sugar, and separate the noodles. Once you get the hang of it you won’t need to measure things exactly.

Heat the oil in a wok and add the garlic and mushrooms and stir fry until they begin to cook and the garlic goes golden. Next break in the egg and give it a quick stir around, you don’t want to cook it too much or break it up into small pieces. Then add the noodles soy sauces and sugar, quickly stir fry so the noodles get coated in the soy sauce then add the greens. Cook quickly stirring all the time so the noodles don’t stick until the greens are just cooked, this will depend on how powerful your gas is, at the street stalls it takes no time. Sprinkle over some pepper and serve. It’s great spiced up a bit with chilli powder and something to cut through the oil, big chillis sliced in vinegar or a squeeze of lime.

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