Spicy Clear Tom Yam Prawn Soup

Tom Yam is a classic Thai soup and this recipe makes it extremely easy and quick to prepare without compromising on flavours, complexity or indeed heat.
Ingredients:
500ml Chicken Stock (I used Marc Pierre White’s chicken pots, which are perfect for this)
3 Birds Eye Chillies, halved and slightly crushed
5g Dried Lemongrass (used a fresh lemongrass stalk bruised)
3 Whole Kaffir Lime Leaves
5g Sliced Galangal (used Bart galangal in sunflower oil)
6 Large Fresh Prawns whole
100g Mushrooms sliced
4 Tablespoons Lime Juice (I find this is roughly equivalent to 2 juicy limes)
1 1/2 Teaspoons) Fish Sauce

Instructions:
1. Prepare the prawns by removing the heads, legs, and peeling. Leave the tails on. I used Waitrose frozen tiger prawns which came shelled already.
2. Bring the stock to the boil, and add the galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves. Break the chillies in half and crush them with the handle of a knife (or a pestle) before adding them to the soup.
3. After 2 – 3 minutes, add the prawn and the mushrooms and bring to the boil again.
4. Add the fish sauce and then remove from the heat. Finally add the lime juice to taste. Add more fish sauce or lime juice to taste. Garnish with fresh coriander and serve immediately.

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

I made this as a combination of two recipies for a creamy butternut squash soup. It came out truly amazing and I just have to make a note of what I did to recreate it exactly next time.

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes
Total time: 70 minutes  
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 500ml Chicken or Vegetable Stock
  • 800g-1kg Butternut squash, seeded and peeled
  • 4 tbsp Olive oil
  • 4 small Thai chillies choppped
  • 1 tsp Ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Garam masala
  • 6 Garlic cloves, peeled, whole
  • 1 Onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large piece of ginger (about 10cm) very finelly chopped
  • 400ml Coconut milk (1 can of Waitrose half-fat)
  • 1 Lime, juice (I used half a lemon)
  • Double cream, to serve
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • Fresh Thai chillies chopped
Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6. Cut the squash into 5cm chunks, drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil and toss with the chillies and spices. Roast for 20 minutes than scatter over the garlic and roast for a further 20 minutes or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil in a large saucepan; add the onion and ginger, cover, and allow to soften. Saute for about 10 minutes. Add the roasted butternut squash, stock and coconut milk. Simmer for 10 minutes, add lime juice or lemon juice to taste and season. Liquidise with a handheld blender or a processor.
  3. Serve with a drizzle of double cream, add fresh basil and chilli to garnish the soup.

Spicy sweet potato & tamarind soup

This is the most wonderful and complex soup I have had for a while and I already have some soup recipes on this blog that are truly wonderful. The soup combines tamarind with sweet potato and many other good ingredients such as cumin, coconut milk, star anise – the result is a mix of flavour competing for attention in a marvellous way. It is a Gordon Ramsay recipe that I found on the Times Online site. This is what he says:

Tamarind is a sharp and sour paste extracted from the seed pods that grow on trees in southeast Asia and India. You’ll find it in most supermarkets. The sweetness from the potato complements the sharpness from the tamarind perfectly in this recipe. You can substitute the potato with butternut squash or really ripe plantain.

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6

50ml sesame oil
1 large red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 red chilli, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
2 star anise
700g sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
400ml coconut milk
3 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp light soy sauce
600ml chicken or vegetable stock
Handful of basil and mint leaves, shredded

Heat the sesame oil in a large saucepan and gently sauté the onion for 5 minutes until soft. Add the garlic, chilli (seeds as well) and dry spices and fry for a minute until the spices smell fragrant.

Add the potatoes and pour in the coconut milk. Stir in the tamarind and soy sauce, then add enough stock to cover the potatoes. Bring the soup to the boil, cover with a lid and cook for 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Pick out the star anise and discard.

Remove the pan from the heat and blend until smooth. Pass the soup through a sieve into a clean pan. Stir in more stock or water until you have the right consistency, then reheat. Season with more soy sauce or salt to taste and add the herbs just before serving.

I also added some jambon pieces recently cut off the bone. Perfect texture and salty flavour to complement the soup.

Quick lamb, orange and fennel stew

This recipe works for a light, one-pot family supper. I made it last Friday for six people, because I didn’t want to spend much time in the kitchen in the run up to dinner. I tried to do it in two stages, adding potatoes later. Though the stew was tasty, I suspect it would have been better if I hadn’t done that – the fennel might have stayed crunchier. Will make again, as this is an interesting variety of lamb stew – no brown flavour and orange and fennel combination produce amazingly subtle flavours for a stew! I am not sure this is anywhere near Morrocan cuisine but people commented on the combination as being typical for it.

Ingredients:
Serves 4, Ready in 45 minutes

600g cubed lamb (as the number of guests increased, I added about as much of pork shoulder diced. Wasn’t noticeable in all the lamb juicy goodness.)
2 tbsp plain flour, seasoned
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp fennel seeds
Grated zest and juice of 2 oranges
300ml fresh chicken stock, hot
500g baby new potatoes (I didn’t have any new ones, so chopped bigger potatoes too big chunks at first, had to halve them as they have to cook in the stew)
1 large fennel bulb, roughly chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

  1. In a bowl, coat the lamb in the seasoned flour. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a high heat. Add the lamb, in batches, and brown for 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.

    Tip: Lamb is young and always tender, which is why this stew can be cooked so quickly. Use ready-cubed lamb or cut up your own choice of cut – for lean meat, choose leg; if you like it slightly fattier, try neck fillet.

  2. Add the onion, garlic and fennel seeds to the pan and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and golden.
  3. Stir in the orange zest and juice, the chicken stock, potatoes, fennel and browned lamb. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
  4. Stir in the vinegar and parsley and adjust the seasoning to taste. Serve in warmed bowls with steamed spinach or spring greens. I had to add quite a bit of salt at the end as I am scared of over-salting, but the meat and potatoes can take quite a bit of salt to get the flavours stand out as they should.

Note: Nutritional Information per serving:
422kcals, 19g fat (6.3g saturated), 37.2g protein, 28.9g carbs, 7.3g sugar
Ingredients

Duck legs in red wine & cranberries

This is my all time favourite dish, which I made more times I can count. It’s a reliable and delicious meal, which goes best with sweet potato mustard mash.

Cooking duck joints with liquid can result in a fatty dish, but here the skin of the duck stays just above the surface of the liquid where it browns, while a reduced souce is created around the meat. Dried sour cherries or prunes are good in this too.

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 duck legs
1l (1 3/4 pints) red wine
500ml (18fl oz) chicken stock
2 bay leaves
5cm (2in) cinnamon stick
2 medium onions each cut into 8 wedges
1 head garlic, cloves separated but skin on
4 sprigs thyme
125g (4 1/2oz) dried cranberries (original recipe calls for dried sour cherries but I have never been able to find them or looked hard enough)

Reduce the wine and stock, separately, until each comes to 250ml (9fl oz) of liquid. This can take up to 20 mins so add that time to the actual cooking time. I also use a large saucepan for the wine and smaller for the stock – that way they end up reducing approximately at the same time.
Trim the duck of any raggedy bits of skin and season with salt and pepper. Set a frying-pan on the heat (I always use a non-stick square deep frying pan) and, when it’s so hot that the duck will sizzle when it hits the surface, add the duck, skin-side down. Immediately turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook for about five minutes until the skin is golden brown. The fat from under the skin will melt. Turn the duck over and cook until plae gold on the other side.
Remove the duck, pour the fat off and then deglaze the pan with the reduced wine.

Put the legs in a roomy oven dish, skin-side up, add the wine from the frying-pan, the stock, thyme, bay and cinnamon and tuck in the wedges of onion and the garlic. I use a Japanese earthen casserole pot but a large Le Creuset would work too.

Cover and put in an oven preheated to 150C/300F/gas mark 2. Cook for an hour, then add the dried cranberries, making sure they are underneath the liquid. Cover, return to the oven and cook for a further 40 minutes, then remove the lid and turn the heat up to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Cook for a further 15 minutes. The duck should be tender, with dark golden skin, and the liquid reduced. If you find you are slightly short of liquid add a little water and gently heat. Serve with mashed (sweet) potatoes as mentioned above or potatoes fried in duck fat (render the skin that you trimmed from the duck to get the fat for the potatoes).

And now for a ‘trick’ that I discovered by accident. My oven’s thermostat is shot and I made this dish a few times before I discovered that it overheats by 50-60C. I then made the dish again, adjusting for the difference and monitoring the temperaturely carefully. Strangely enough, the duck was preferred cooked at the higher temperature. So for those who trust my taste and that of my dinner companions, the ‘adjusted’ temperature is 200-220C for 40 minutes, then 10-15 minutes without the lid. The duck is browner, crispier and always find that there is enough sauce in the pot.

Great wine to accompany the meal is any medium to full-bodied red wine, French in particular. Especially nice is one of my favourites, Chapoutier Côtes du Rhône. Bon appetit!

Noodle, chicken and aubergine coconut laksa

This is a summer favourite, tasty, filling but still light despite the coconut milk. I found it a few years ago in delicious magazine. The key for this dish is timing and preparation. It’s worth it.

Ingredients:
Serves 4
Ready in about 40 minutes

1/2 x 250g pack dried medium rice noodles (if you can’t find medium rice noodles, use ready-to-stir-fry rice noodles and add directly to the laksa in step 3.
1 medium aubergine halved lengthways and cut into 5mm slices
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste (I use Mae Ploy red curry paste, which is robust and perfect for this dish)
400 ml can reduced-fat coconut milk (my local Waitrose use to sell it, it can be hard to find so full fat has to do sometimes)
600 ml hot chicken stock
4 small skinless chicken breasts
1 lemongrass stalk bruised
150g sugar snap peas halved lengthways
1/2 tsp soft brown sugar
grated zest and juice of 1 lime plus extra lime wedges to serve
good handful of fresh basil leaves

1. In a wide bowl, cover the noodles with boilidng water and set aside for 5 minutes to soften. Drain, refresh in cold water and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, preheat the grill to high. Put the aubergine on a baking tray, brush with the oil and season with salt. Grill for 4-5 minutes each side, until golden. Drain on kitchen paper.
3. Stir-fry the curry paste in a large pan or wok over a medium heat for 1 minute. Stir in the coconut milk and stock and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken and lemongrass, cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until the chicken is cooked. Lift out the chicken with a slotted spoon and shred (I use two forks to do this, just like you see waiters in chinese restaurants shred crispy duck.)
4. Return the chicken to the pan with the sugar snaps and aubergine. Simmer for 2 minutes, then stir in the noodles, sugar, zest and juice, and most of the basil and heat through. Season and ladle into bowls. Garnish with lime wedges and the remaining basil leaves.

Wine note: A Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc goes well with this as does Australian Viognier.

Pot-roast pheasant with chestnuts

This one is a keeper, from The Sunday Times magazine. I made this recipe just once this year, in November, when chestnuts abound and butchers have pheasants on offer. The red current jelly served on the side is a must.

Serves 4
2 oven-ready pheasants
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
100g smoked pancetta, cubed or cut into strips (I often get bacon rashers from local butcher and cube them)
12-15 small round shallots, peeled (or 4 banana shallots, peeled and halved) – 250g in total
1 big stick of celery, halved lengthways and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
200g cooked, peeled chestnuts, quartered (an easy way to cook chestnuts is to put them in a microwave, covered, for about 3 minutes)
125ml red wine
250ml chicken stock
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of thyme
10cm strip of orange zest
1 tbsp redcurrant jelly

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Season the birds inside and out. Heat the oil in a casserole dish big enough to hold both pheasants. Add the birds and cook for a minute or so each side, to brown the skin. Remove from the pan and put to one side. Place the pancetta and shallots in the pan and cook for about 5 minutes, until they start to brown. Throw in the celery and garlic and stir for a couple of minutes more. Add the chestnuts and the birds, breast down. Pour over the wine, bubble for a minute, then add all the remaining ingredients. Stir, bring to a simmer, then cover and put in the oven for 40 minutes.

Finally, turn the pheasants breast side up. Return the dish to the oven for 15-20 minutes without the lid, to brown the breast a little. The pheasants are done when the legs pull away easily from the carcass.