Brunch, Snacks

Creamy red pepper and cashew spread / dip

This is a lovely creamy dip / spread made with roasted bell peppers / capsicums. My friends at Simple Pleasures Cafe in Chiang Mai make a lovely dips and spreads similar to this.

Start by roasting about 4 red peppers in a hot oven, meanwhile put a cupful of cashews in a small saucepan with a clove of garlic and a couple of pinches of salt and add just enough hot water to cover the nuts. Leave to soak while the peppers cook. Once the peppers begin to char on the outside turn off the oven and allow to cool. Boil the cashews to reduce any excess water and dry roast a tsp. of cumin seeds in a frying pan. Then peel and deseed the peppers putting their flesh in a blender with a good glug of olive oil, the cashews, garlic and most of the cumin seeds. Blend until smooth and taste, add more salt if necessary and then put in a bowl, drizzle over a little olive oil and sprinkle on the remaining cumin seeds.

Snacks, Thai Food

Tod Mun Hua Plee – Banana flower fritters

Tod Mun Pla or fish cakes are popular in Thailand. The most common veggie variety are made with sweetcorn but I prefer Tod Mun Hua Plee made from banana flowers. My friends’ restaurant in Nontaburi Baan Rabiang Nam used to make delicious ones. I picked a banana flower the other day and was thinking of making Yam Hua Plee but decided to make these instead. This will make about 10 – 12.

Start by stripping the outer petals off the banana flower until you come to the lighter coloured centre. Save a couple of the outer petals to serve the fritters in. Prepare a bowl of water with salt and some lime juice in it, this will stop the banana flowers from discolouring. Cut the flower lengthwise into quarters and then cut out the centre core. You can then easily remove the actual flowers leaving you with the petals. Chop these into small pieces by shredding them lengthways and then cutting crossways and put them in the water. There should be about 1 1/2 cups . In a bowl add about a cup and a half of tempura flour, an egg and a (heaped) tsp. of red curry paste. Shred about 5 or 6 kaffir lime leaves and tear up a few sweet Thai basil leaves and add them top the bowl. mix this all together into a paste then drain the banana petals and mix them in. It should form a very thick sticky paste / batter that binds everything together. You can add some water or flour to get the right consistency.

In a frying pan heat about 1cm of vegetable to oil until hot then use a couple of spoons, I use noodle spoons, to form the patties in one spoon and ease them off with the other spoon into the oil. Fry in batches until they begin to turn golden brown  and then turn. When they are done drain them. Serve hot with a dipping sauce made from Thai sweet chilli (chicken dipping) sauce with some finely diced cucumber and crushed peanuts in it, if you like spice than add a bit more chilli powder to the sauce too and garnish with some coriander leaves.


Beetroot & bean spread

Beet spread

This is a yummy, vibrant spread / dip that’s quick to make. It’s has an earthy flavor and is nice and healthy.

Start by dry roasting 1 tsp. cumin seeds in a frying pan, then put them aside.  Chop a small onion and a stalk of celery and fry them in a couple of tbsp. olive oil, as they begin cooking add 3-4 clove of garlic. While they are all softening peel and grate a large beetroot (about 350 – 400g) then grate it coarsely. Add the beetroot to the frying pan and 1/2 tsp. salt. Fry for a couple of minutes until the beetroot begins to soften.

Meanwhile strain and rinse a can of beans (red kidney or mixed beans). Then add 1 tsp. of balsamic vinegar, 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika and half the cumin seeds to the veggies and turn off the heat.  Put the veggies and the beans in a food processor and blend until it becomes a smooth paste. Scoop out into a bowl and allow to coo. To serve drizzle with some olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining cumin seeds and a little smoked paprika.

Edible gifts, Snacks

Devilled peanuts

These make a nice snack and go very well with a cold beer or two. When I was in India a few years ago I really enjoyed all the flavoured nuts that were available. You can experiment with the flavours and how spicy you like them and the nuts that you use. For this recipe you need to use plain peanuts that have had their shells and skins removed.

So what do you need?

  • 500 g plain peanuts.
  • 2 or 3 lrage cloves of galic
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp. curry powder
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp chilli powder
  • a sprig of curry leaves (about 15 leaves)
  • 4- 6  dried chilles (optional)
  • 2 – 3 tbsp. vegetable oil

So what do you do?

Start by preheating your oven to 150 degrees C / 300 F. Spread the peanuts out on a large baking sheet and put them in the oven to start roasting while you prepare the other ingredients. Peel the garlic and pound it into a paste with a teaspoon of salt in a mortar. Heat the oil in a small frying pan and first quickly fry the chillies until crisp if using them and then put them to one side. Once they are cool break them open and discard the seeds, as these will make the nuts very spicy. Then add the curry leaves to the oil, be careful as they spit when they first go in the oil. Stir them until they become crisp and then remove them from the oil. Put the garlic in the oil with the curry powder and the chilli powder and cook gently for about half a minute to ‘temper’ the spices. The oil will become infused with the flavours of the spices, the garlic does not need to be completely cooked at this stage.

Next, take the nuts out of the oven and pour over the spiced oil, break most of the curry leaves into smaller pieces and add them to the nuts reserving a few whole curry leaves to garnish the nuts with. If you want your nuts to be extra spicy add the chillies at this stage too, if you want them milder reserve the chilles to garnish the nuts after cooking. Put the nuts back in the oven and stir them every 10 mins. Cook for about 30 mins. until they are golden brown. Taste the nuts and if necessary add a little more salt. Allow to cool and then serve garnishing with any reserved curry leaves and chillies. Store in an airtight container once cool.




Onion Bhajis


Onion bhajis make a great snack or starter for an Indian meal. I decided to make these after going out for an Indian meal in Birmingham this week. They’re easy to make and much better than shop bought ones.

This will make about 20 bhajis

So what do you need?

  • 4-5 medium-sized onions (about 800g of onions)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tsp. grated ginger
  • 2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp. chilli powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
  • a sprig of curry leaves (optional)
  • a small munch of coriander
  • a lemon / lime
  • 300g gram flour
  • 150ml water
  • vegetable oil for frying

So what do you do?

Start by peeling and finely slicing the onions. I cut the onions in half and then slice them finely and then separate the pieces and put them in a large mixing bowl. Then crush the cumin seeds in a mortar a little and add them, next crush the garlic with the salt and add it. Then chop up the curry leaves and a handful of coriander and add them along with the other dry spices and mix everything together. Then add the gram flour and the bicarbonate of soda and cover the onions in the flour. Next add a squeeze of lemon juice, about a tablespoon, and add most of the water. Mix everything together. you want a thick batter that covers all the onions so be careful not to add too much water and make it sloppy so add water until you get it right.

Leave to stand while you heat up some oil in a frying pan or wok. The oil should be at least a centimeter deep. When the oil is hot use a tablespoon to spoon dollops of the onion mixture into the frying pan, making sure you leave some space between each bhaji. Fry for a minute or two until golden brown and then turn over. Once cooked on both sides drain off any excess oil and keep warm in the oven while you cook the rest of the bhajis. Serve with a pickle or chutney.








Vegetable samosas


I’m not sure how many vegetable samosas I’ve eaten in my life but it’s a fair few, but I’d never made them myself before. They make a great savoury snack and I’ll certainly be making them again especially as they’re not that easy to come by in Thailand.

So what do you need?

For the pastry

  • 400g plain (all purpose) flour
  • 4 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp. nigella seeds (optional)
  • 180ml warm water

For the filling

  • 1 large potato (about 400g)
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 cup of peas
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2-3 tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. cuminn seeds
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. chilli powder
  • a pinch or two of salt
  • a few fresh curry leaves (optional)
  • 300 – 400ml vegetable oil for frying

So what do you do?

Start by making the pastry. Put the dry ingredients in a bowl or mixer and add the oil and mix together. Then add most of the water and mix together, you want a soft dough so keep adding water until you get this. Then kneed the dough for about 5 minutes and cover with a tea towel.

Next peel and dice the potatoes and the carrot into small cubes and boil in salted water for about 8 minutes and then add the peas cook for another minute or so until the carrot seems cooked but still firm and drain. Meanwhile peel and chop the onion and fry in a large frying pan with the oil, crush the garlic and add it. Once the onion is soft add all the spices and fry them for a minute or so and then add the vegetables and mix everything together and allow to cool.

Separate the dough into 12 balls about the size of golf balls. Mix some flour and water to make a watery paste about a tbsp. of flour and 2-3 tbsp. water. Then start making the samosas. Roll out a ball of dough on a flowered surface until its thin and about 16-18cms across. Then cut the circle in half. Turn the flat side of the pastry towards you and with a  pastry brush moisten the rounded side with the flour paste. Put a pile of the filling in the middle of the pastry (about a heaped tbsp.) and the fold the right bottom of the pastry up to the middle of the rounded edge and then put some of the flour paste on the left hand side of the pastry and fold this up over the top to make a triangular parcel and ensure the edges are sealed. Place on a floured baking tray, covered with a tea towel, and continue making the rest of the samosas.


When you have finished making the samosas heat the oil up in a wok until very hot. You can test the heat with a small offcut of pastry it should start cooking and brown quickly. Then cook the samosas in batches of 3 or 4 at a time turning occasionally until they are golden brown. Drain them of oil and place on a wire rack while you cook the others. Best served fresh while warm with chutney.







Snacks, Veggie mains

Arancini / risotto patties

This is a great way to use up any leftover risotto (there are several risotto recipes on the blog already). Just roll the cold, sticky risotto rice into balls or patties and coat in flour or breadcrumbs and shallow fry in oil until crisp and golden. You can put a small piece of mozzarella or blue cheese in the middle of the balls if you like. Serve on a bed of green leaves. Here I also added some homomade tomato sauce too. Enjoy!