Thai Food, Veggie sides

Stir-fried celery

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Yesterday at a local organic farmers’ market they were selling beautiful bunches of celery an I couldn’t resist buying some. Normally in Thailand we can only find tiny bunches of Chinese celery so it was irresistible. Celery is something my family are very fond of and as well as eating raw celery in the past, my grandparents had it fresh and crunchy just dipped in a bit of salt, I can remember having braised celery sometimes, although I wasn’t that fond of it cooked this way as it lost it’s crunch. Today I wanted to let the celery take centre stage in a cooked dish but I also wanted it to keep it’s crunch so I decided to stir fry it and resisted adding too much else to it. This is probably more Chinese than Thai in it’s style, whatever it’s great if you like celery!

Start by cutting the base of the bunch of celery and then wash the stalks and leaves. Remove the leaves, keeping all the fresh green ones. My bunch had lots of leaves so I kept half of them for making celery salt. Then chop the stalks into bite-sized pieces. Heat up about 2 tbps. of sesame oil, or other vegetable oil, in a wok. While the oil is heating finely slice two large cloves of garlic. Fry a couple of dried chillies and the garlic in the oil, these will flavor the oil, The chilles will cook very quickly so as soon as the puff up and start to change colour, brown, remove them and keep frying the garlic for a minute of so, turning occasionally, until golden brown and then remove these too.

Put the chopped celery stalks, not the leaves, into the wok and stir-fry for about a minute. Then add a couple of tbps. of water and about 1/2 – 1 tbsp. of light soy sauce and continue frying. The celery will let out some liquid too and will steam / fry and this will bring out it’s colour and stop it burning. Fry for a few minutes until it looks just cooked through, the colour will change as it cooks so check that it’s cooked almost through and most of the liquid has evaporated. This will take 4-5 mins. depending on the heat of your wok etc. Then add the leaves, 2 tsp. sesame seeds, I used a mix of black and white, a tbsp. of veggie (mushroom) oyster sauce and some white ground pepper. The oyster sauce can be left out if you don’t have it but it makes the dish nice and glossy and thickens the sauce up.  Stir-fry so the leave wilt and everything if coated in the sauce. Then add the garlic back in and break the chillies into the wok and give it a last stir. Serve with rice and any other dishes you like, I had it with a Massaman curry. Enjoy!

 

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Something fruity, Something sweet, Thai Food

Mango & sticky rice ice-cream lollipops with Sang Som

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Probably the most popular Thai dessert is mango and sticky rice which is delicious but can be a bit heavy in the hot Thai summer. This ice-cream take the essence of mango and sticky rice and make them into cool lollies, with the added twist of some Sang Som, Thai rum. This will make about 15 lollipops.

So what do you need?

  • 500mls whipping cream
  • 2 tbsp. Icing sugar
  • 300mls coconut milk (I used the scented dessert variety available in Thailand)
  • 400g sweet, coconut milk, sticky rice
  • 100mls Sang Som (optional)
  • the flesh of  2 medium sized mangoes (about 400g) chopped into small cubes
  • small (4oz / 5cms x 5cms) paper cups
  • lollipop sticks

So what do you do?

First put the whipping cream in a large bowl and whip it until it fluffs up a little then mix in the icing sugar, coconut milk and rum. Next crumble in the sticky rice and add the mango and stir them in so they are evenly distributed through the cream. Place the paper cups on a try and spoon in the mixture. Put in the freezer and after an hour or two when the ice-cream begins to freeze but is still slightly soft put a lollipop stick in each. Leave for another hour or two until frozen completely. Peel of the paper and enjoy a taste of Thailand!

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Baking, Veggie mains

Stuffed pumpkin

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This makes an impressive dish for a party that can be made and then left to cook in the oven unattended for a couple of hours. A 4 kg. pumpkin will give 8 good portions, or more if served with other dishes.

You’ll need a large, fleshy pumpkin the one I used was about 4kgs a pumpkin that’s heavy for it’s size will have good dense flesh. pre-heating your oven to 200 degrees C / 400F. Then make the stuffing. Chop and fry an onion in some vegetable oil add 2-3 crushed cloves of garlic a tsp. of salt, a tsp. cumin seeds, a tsp. mustard seeds and a tsp. turmeric powder. Gently fry and then add a chopped red pepper and about 200g chopped mushrooms. Fry for a few minutes then add 2 handfuls of cashew nuts, a handful of sultanas, 1 1/2 cups of brown rice and 1/2 cup red lentils. Next I added a small bottle (275 ml.) cider and then cover the mixture by a couple of cm. with boiling water (you can use veggie stock instead of cider and water if you prefer) and put a lid on the pan an simmered for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile wash your pumpkin and cut a lid out of the top of the pumpkin and scoop out all the seeds and the softest layer of flesh inside. In a mortar crush a clove of garlic with a pinch of salt, a few peppercorns, about a 1/4 tsp. nutmeg and 1/2 tsp. coriander seeds. Smear this on the inside flesh of the pumpkin. Check your rice to see how it’s doing you want it to be about 3/4 cooked so still a little hard and to still have a reasonable amount of liquid in it. Once the rice is almost cooked taste it and season with extra salt, if necessary, then scoop it into the pumpkin and put the lid on. Loosely wrap the pumpkin in foil to stop the outside burning and put it in the oven for about 2 – 2 1/2 hours. The cooking time will depend of the size and density of your pumpkin.

To serve I made a simple sauce that Ottolenghi uses with roast pumpkin. Mix 8 tbsp. of plain yoghurt and 2 – 3 tbsp. of Siracha sauce together. It looks good if it’s not completely mixed together. I also finely chopped a couple of spring onions and added them to the sauce. Once the pumpkin is cooked place on a serving dish. To serve take off the lid and cut slices of the pumpkin and filling and serve with the sauce and some fresh coriander leaves.

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Baking, Something fruity, Something sweet

Pears poached in Marsala 

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These make a great autumn dessert if you have the oven on cooking a roast.

Start by peeling your pears (one per person) leaving the stalk and the slice the bottom flat. In a casserole dish place your pears (I made 5) and pour in about 250ml of Marsala wine, a cinnamon stick, a tsp. vanilla essence and a tbsp. honey. Cover the casserole dish and put in the bottom of the oven at about 175 degrees C or 350 degrees F and cook for about 90 mins turning a couple of times. Take them out of the oven an allow to cool down. Serve warm with some thick cream.

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Salads

Green bean, ratatouille & feta salad

I made this as a large dish to serve at a party using almost 6kgs of seasonal vegetables. It’s good for a party as it can be made in advance and served at room temperature. You can obviously scale down the quanties if you like, but it will keep in the fridge so it’s worth making a reasonable amount.  I cooked everything in a large, wide, thick based saucepan. I started by heating up about half a cup of olive oil and then I peeled and sliced about 600g onions and slowly fried them. I added a whole bulb of garlic which I crushed with a teaspoon or so of sea salt and some black peppercorns and added to the pan. Then I deseeded and slice 4 bell peppers, about 800g, and added these and then I quartered 1kg of small purple aubergines and added them (you can cube a large aubergine instead). Next cut 800g courgettes into batons and added these. I fried everything for a while and then added 1.5kgs of cheery tomatoes and added a couple of bay leaves and a bouquet garni and a can (220g) of pitted black olives and a mixed everything together. Next I put 1kg of green beans on top and covered the pan for a few minutes to sweat some of the juice out of the veggies. Then I tool of the lid and simmered the veggies on a low heat for about an hour until everything was cooked and the juice was nice and rich. I allowed the ratatouille to cool to room temperature and then took out the bay leaves and the bouquet garni  and put the ratatouille in a serving bowl and cubed a 200g block of feta cheese and sprinkled it on top. I served with homemade focaccia, to mop up the juices, and a Spanish omelette.

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Salads, Thai Food, Veggie sides

Spicy sweet corn salad

This isn’t a traditional Thai salad / ‘yum’ but an adaptation that works well to make fresh and crunchy salad.

I steamed a couple of locally grown organic cobs of corn with their skins on for about 10 mins. They weren’t that big, one large corn would probably be equivalent. I then allowed them to cool and in a dry pan roasted a large handful of peanuts until they started to brown, I put these in a mixing bowl and the roasted a couple of tablespoons of sesame seeds and added them to the bowl. I chopped up a few small shallots and about a dozen cherry tomatoes and added them.. Next I peeled the corn and sliced the kernels off and added them to the bowl. I added the juice of two small limes and finely sliced a couple of bird’s eye chillis, two finely sliced young tender lemongrass stalks and a handful of chopped coriander leaves and added them along with a tablespoon or so of light soy sauce. I mixed everything together and tasted the salad to check there was a balance between the salty, spicy, sweet and  sour flavours. I served this as part of a Tai meal with other dishes however if you want to make a meal of it then mix in an equal quantity of cooked brown rice. I did this the following day with the leftovers for my lunch and it was really good too.

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Veggie mains

Vegetable stew with lentils and barley

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There’s something comforting about a pot of stew. When I was young my mum often made a lamb stew with barley in it. This is a meat free Monday version.

I think you need to be flexible when you make stew using the vegetables you find in season at the market. Today I found a nice cauliflower, some lovely asparagus, and sugar snap peas that I wanted to incorporate into my stew along with some other year round veggies.

I started by preparing all my veg and putting all the trimmings in  a pot with boiling water, some salt and peppercorns and some herbs, bay leaves, dill and rosemary to make a stock. While the stock was simmering I fried a chopped onion in some olive oil, to this I added a few crushed cloves of garlic and some celery and fried it until it began to soften. Then I added a bowlful of chopped mushrooms. Then I added a chopped carrot, a handful of pear barley and two handfuls of brown lentils a couple of bay leaves, some rosemary and a teaspoon or Marmite. I poured in some of the stock and a glass of white wine (optional) ensuring that everything was well covered in liquid and put the lid on and simmered it for about 20 minutes. I added some more stock along with the cauliflower, cut into florets, and the asparagus stems. I cooked this for another 10 minutes or so before adding the sugar snap peas, the asparagus tips, some dill and freshly ground pepper and cooked it for another 10 minutes.

I served it with some mashed potatoes like my mum used to.

 

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