Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Ultimate Veggie Burger – Thai Style

A couple of weeks ago an Irish friend was in town on St Patrick’s day. Somehow this event has passed me by until now and I’ve never understood its significance beyond drinking a lot. And I still don’t because by the time I got round to asking him to explain it to me, I’d already drunk too much and now can’t remember. Something about snakes and a bloke who it turns out was actually English.

I don’t normally hang out in the farang (foreign) pubs and bars in Bangkok – I’m far too much of a snob for that, I'm all about the trendy rooftop bars. But I was warmed by my friend’s patriotism and nostalgia, and so was more than happy to get into the spirit of things, don a green t-shirt and tour the Irish pubs, which that night were bursting at the seams.

Experience has taught me that endurance on a big night out relies on a good feed beforehand so I took responsibility for feeding our party. Among us was a vegetarian.  I have made my feelings on vegetarianism clear in other blog posts: I am an ex-veggie, slightly ashamed that I abandoned the cause (though not that ashamed when faced with pork belly) and determined that no vegetarian should ever feel like a second class diner in my home. So I decided that we would fuel up with a vegetarian meal, as hearty and Guinness-absorbing as any meat feast.

Friends tucking into the burgers around my table
I have had mixed experiences with making veggie burgers in the past because it’s difficult to make them firm enough but still tasty. But I’m pretty sure I’ve cracked it with this recipe. This burger is, if I do say so myself, quite simply epic. It’s scrumptious, firm, filling, easy to make and really nutritious too. And put to the ultimate test, it saw us through a full night of Paddy’s Day fun, see:

Taken in Irish pub #4 of the night: O'Reilly's in Sala Daeng

I served the burger with the same accompaniments and garnishes as I did the Thai burger, only I didn’t have sweet potatoes so I used normal ones instead (fitting, given the Irish theme).

Time: 45 minutes
Rating: Easy, just a bit of chopping.
Serves: Makes 6 - They will keep very well in the freeze if you don’t need the whole batch at once


225g firm tofu, finely chopped
1 aubergine (about 250g)
100g shitake mushrooms
1 carrot
60g Breadcrumbs (you can make this from about 1-2 slices wholemeal bread)
80g cashew nuts
1 egg
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves,
1 stick lemongrass
1 inch knob ginger
2 small red chillis
1 bunch coriander
2 kaffir lime leaves
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2tbs flour
salt and freshly ground black pepper
vegetable oil for cooking

Sweet chilli sauce
Garlic and lime mayo
Slices of cucumber (pickled if you like), onion, tomato


  1. Start by very finely chopping the mushrooms and aubergine, so they’re about ½ centimetre cubed. Fry them in a wok or pan with a little vegetable and 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce until they are soft all the way through. Don’t be tempted to add any more liquid, you need them to be dry so they don’t make the burgers soggy. When they are done, set them aside to cool.
  2. Prepare all of your other ingredients: Finely pound the cashews in a food processor or mortar and pestle – you should have a fine powder with a few lumps for texture. Chop the tofu into small pieces about the same size as the aubergines and mushrooms. Finely grate the carrot. Finely chop the onion, garlic, chilli, coriander, ginger, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. Take time to do this properly – large chunks won’t be pleasant. The lemongrass and lime leaves are particularly tough and you should chop these as finely as you can. For the chillies, leave the seeds in (finely chopped) if you want them spicy, remove if not.
  3. Combine all of the burger ingredients into a large bowl and combine with your hands. Then divide the mixture into six and form into large patties. It should be a nice firm mixture but if not add a few more breadcrumbs and a bit more flour
  4. Heat a frying pan or griddle pan with a little oil over a medium heat and gently place the burgers in the pan. After 3-4 minutes turn over and cook for 3-4 minutes on both sides. Turn over again and cook for another 2 minutes on each side.
  5. Serve in the buns with the sauces and other garnishes.

Cooking ahead? You can make these a day in advance and keep them in the fridge, or well ahead and freeze, defrosting several hours before cooking.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

March’s Cocktail: Miss Casablanca

Sixteen years ago, I finished my high school exams and headed off to my first music festival – Glastonbury. My inebriation at the time and the years that have passed since, leave me with a hazy memory of the week. But I do remember going to watch a band called Elastica play on the main stage and just as they were about to start playing, the lead singer’s eye caught the beautiful sunset just behind us. She gave a big smile and said, “wow, look at the sun, everyone”. So hundreds of us turned around to look at the sun. She was right, it was gorgeous. “Let’s give a big cheer to the sun”, she bounced. So hundreds of us did. OK, looking back it sounds ridiculous. Maybe you had to be there. But it made sense to me aged sixteen and I still like the sentiment now – the sun is brilliant and deserves our cheers.

And March is the month when my dear friends in Europe are finally allowed to come out of their gloomy snowy hovels and enjoy the sun which those lucky enough to live in Thailand have been lapping up all winter. During February I could no longer bare to look on Facebook for all the grizzling about the weather in London. And who could blame them? If you blinked you missed daylight, the public transport system (still flummoxed by the predictable annual phenomenon of snow) came to a grinding halt, and reality TV replaced actual socialising.

But this month is a different story, look:

As true Brits, my friends at the first glimpse of the sun have stripped off and rushed out to populate London’s parks and beer gardens and are just so happy about it.

My seasonally-affected friends, this cocktail is for you!

 There is nothing that tastes like the sun coming out more than coconuts and pineapples. My marvellous Mixologist, Buk from Seven Spoons Restaurant in Bangkok has created this playful twist on a classic Pina Colada, spicing it up with delicious cardamom and giving it a modern, elegant make-over.

Cheers everyone, cheers to the sun!


2 oz / 60ml dark rum
½ oz / 15ml Malibu or coconut rum
 2 oz / 60ml pineapple juice
4 cardamom pods


  1. Put the cocktail glass in the freezer to chill
  2. Mash the cardamom pods with a bit of pineapple juice (about a tbsp) in a boston glass
  3. Add some ice and pour in the dark rum, coconut rum and remaining pineapple juice
  4. Shake well and strain twice to remove any bits of cardamom husk
  5. Pour into the chilled glass and garnish with a sprig of mint

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Monday Night Chicken Noodle Soup

In these times of austerity, there’s not much that can make you feel as virtuous as using an entire chicken, bones and all, to feed your household for two nights. There’s something about making stock that makes me feel, well, a bit smug. I entertain the illusion that I’m a proper domestic goddess who never wastes a scrap of food and makes everything from scratch. And it definitely cancels out the minus domestic goddess points I got last Sunday for ordering a pizza because I was too hungover to leave the sofa.

Noodle soup shops and stands are ubiquitous in Bangkok and for good reason – that stuff is seriously addictive.  Even without a sprinkling of MSG there’s something in there that makes you guzzle the stuff down, destroying your clothes with splashes of stock, and then ask for another bowl. Or is that just me?

Bangkok noodle soup street vendor
I have stood and stared at many a soup vendor to see how it’s done and it’s really amazing. The chicken is cooked whole in the stock. The remaining ingredients are put into a small sieve-like cup and plunged into the stock to cook and soak up the stocky goodness. And all this at lightening speed to feed the hungry lunchtime crowds. What can I say, it’s a dish that makes me happy to my core and I can’t think of a better way to start the week. Never have leftovers tasted so good!

Time: 40 mins (plus time to make the stock the night before)
Rating: Suitably easy for a Monday night
Serves: 2 (though add a little more water to the stock pot and you should have enough stock for 4)


For the stock:
Bones and carcass of one chicken.
Knob of ginger
3 garlic cloves
1 red chilli, seeds still in, halved lengthways
Bunch coriander (including roots, stems, leaves)
1 lime cut in half
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Pinch salt

For the soup:
2 portions of chicken – either left over from your roast, or I used 2 portions of leg and thigh
2 nests dried egg noodles
2 handfuls bean sprouts
3 spring onions
1 packet/ 3 bunches pak choy
3 tbsp dark soy
2 tbsp fish sauce
Juice 1 lime
1tbsp sugar
Salt and black pepper

20g peanuts
Small bunch coriander


  1. Place the chicken carcass and bones into a medium-sized saucepan and cover with water so it comes to about an inch above the chicken. Add all of the stock ingredients and bring to the boil. Reduce temperature and simmer for at least an hour, preferably two. If you are making the stock the night before or well in advance, allow to cool, drain and refrigerate.
  2. Preheat your oven to 180°C.
  3. If you don’t have meat left over from the roast, season your pieces of chicken generously with salt and pepper and place in a baking dish and put in the oven and cook for 25 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle the peanuts onto a baking dish. Bake for 5 minutes, shaking half way through. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, chop coarsely and set aside to use as a garnish at the end.
  5. Re-heat the broth and bring to the boil. Add the soy sauce, fish sauce, lime, sugar, salt, pepper and reduce to simmer.
  6. Once the chicken has been in the oven for 25 minutes remove it and put it into the broth to finish cooking. Allow the chicken to cook in the broth for ten minutes. If you are using already cooked left-over meat, put it into the stock to re-heat for five minutes.
  7. Bring a pan of water to the boil and cook the noodles according to packet instructions. Drain and divide into the bowls you will use to serve.
  8. Remove the chicken and place onto a plate or chopping board. Remove the meat from the bone and cut into small pieces.
  9. Return the stock to the boil. Plunge the pak choy, bean sprouts and spring onions into the stock and stir. After only a minute remove the vegetables using a slotted spoon and place on top of the cooked noodles.
  10. Divide your chicken over the noodles too. Then spoon over the stock until the noodles are mostly covered.
  11. Garnish with the roasted peanuts and coriander leaves.
  12. Serve with chopsticks and a soup spoon.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Singapore Satay Skewers with Peanut Sauce and Cucumber and Yellow Pepper Relish Salad

Last week work took me to Singapore for the first time: so close to Bangkok, where I live, but culturally so far. Bangkok’s hustle and bustle is replaced by something far more modern and orderly, and I was blown by some of the most outlandish architecture I have ever seen, including a hotel and casino in the shape of a ship perched ostentatiously on top of three sky scrapers:

Marina Bay Sands Hotel & Casino

Singapore boasts an impressive selection of restaurants with just about every cuisine you can think of. But I wanted to eat local so went in search of Singaporean street food. It’s hard to say what truly Singaporean cuisine is because the culture is a combination of Indian, Malaysian, Chinese and other influences. And so food courts are a mish-mash of curries and rotis, ramen noodles, stir-fries, and Chinese roast meat. My colleagues took me to Satay Street – a whole street dedicated to meaty, peanutty skewers -  where I found this fantastic sign. I’m a sucker for a good pun:


Satay is found all over South East Asia and the recipe varies from country to country. This version reflects the melting pot culture and cuisine of Singapore. It has notes of Chinese (in the soy), Indian (in the garam masala and cumin) and South East Asian (in the lemongrass) flavours.

Char-grilling beef, prawn and chicken satay sticks on Satay Street

The choices of satay on Satay Street were prawn, chicken or beef. But personally I think the peanut-pork combination is a winning one so opted for pork. It was served with chunks of cucumber an onion. I have turned this into a chunky salad with a relish dressing to cut through the richness of the pork and peanut sauce.

This makes a fun starter or a meaty main.

Timing: 1 hour plus plenty of marinating time
Rating: Moderate – a little effort to make the sauces
Serves: Makes 9-10 sticks which can serve 4 as a starter or 2 as a main


450g pork (or beef, prawn, chicken or tofu if you prefer)

For the marinade:
½  red onion or 2 shallots
2 large garlic cloves
3 stalks lemon grass (white part only)
4-5 sprigs coriander
1cm knob ginger
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1tbsp brown sugar
½ tsp salt
100ml coconut milk
10  wooden or bamboo skewers

For the Peanut Sauce:
120gm salted roasted peanuts
2 shallots/ ½ small onion
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 lemongrass stalk
1 small hot red chilli (e.g. birdseye)
200 ml coconut milk
1 tsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
juice of 1 lime

For the cucumber and yellow pepper relish salad:
Half a cucumber (about 250g)
1 yellow pepper
1 small hot red chilli (e.g. birdseye)1 shallot, very finely sliced or ¼ onion
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp caster sugar
½ tsp salt


  1. First make the marinade. You should do this ideally 8 hours before cooking or even the night before. Very finely chop the onion/shallots, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chilli (seeds included) and coriander. Then make into a paste either with a mortar and pestle or a food processor. If using a mortar and pestle, start with the hardest ingredient and adding the softest ingredient last. So pound the lemongrass first, then the chilli, ginger, garlic, coriander and finally onion.
  2. Add all the other marinade ingredients and stir well.
  3. Cut the pork into cubes about 1 inch in size, removing any fat. Pour all of the marinade over the pork. Cover and refrigerate.
  4. While the pork is marinating make the peanut sauce. Start by roasting the peanuts – this gives them a deeper flavour and colour. Spread them out on a baking sheet and place in a hot oven for about 5 minutes, shaking the sheet after a couple of minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Either in a food process or with a mortar and pestle grind the peanuts. It’s up to you how chunky you want the sauce to be. Some should be very finely ground as this will thicken the sauce, but also leave plenty of larger chunks to give the sauce crunch.
  5. Finely chop the onion/shallot, chilli, garlic and lemongrass. Fry the onion and garlic in a little oil for about a minute. Then add the chilli, lemongrass and garam masala and fry for a further minute. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Allow to cool and refrigerate until shortly before serving.
  6. A little while before you’re ready to cook the skewers, make the relish salad. If you want to prepare this in advance, don’t pour on the dressing more than an hour before you want to eat as it will make the vegetables less crunchy. Prepare the dressing first. Finely chop the chilli (seeds as well). Add the vinegar, sugar, salt.
  7. Peel and deseed the cucumber and slice into medium sized chunks. Chop the yellow pepper into chunks of the same size. Finely slice the shallots. Pour over the dressing.
  8. An hour before you are ready to cook the pork, soak the skewers in water to prevent them from burning during cooking.
  9. When the pork has finished marinating, thread the cubes onto the skewers – about 4 or 5 cubes per skewer. Lay the skewers out on a wire rack and place over a baking sheet covered with foil (to catch the drips). Place the skewers under a hot grill and cook for about 5-6 minutes on each size, until they are nicely browned all over. The meat should still be tender inside, not tough.
  10. Serve the skewers with the relish salad and the peanut dipping sauce.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Marinated Aubergine Thai-Style Salad

Last week Thailand kindly gave us all a day off work for a Buddhist festival. I spent the day on a culinary exploration of Bangkok. I started with an early lunch in a part of town near the river called Bang Rak which is becoming renowned for its street food. I followed a CNN street food guide and ate my way around the different recommendations. By a little after midday I’d put away a plate of ‘volcanic mussels’ (mussels fried in a gloopy pancake with chilli sauce), roasted duck and rice, some mango with sticky rice, and washed down with a coconut and a bottle of freshly-squeezed orange juice.

I decided to walk off my morning gluttony with a walk around the enormous fresh market at Nothaburi, a river taxi ride away. It’s a beautiful fresh market and a foodie’s paradise. But I’ll be honest, some of it really tested the parameters of my culinary open-mindedness. The meat stalls included every last part of the pig – entrails, ears, trotters. At the fish stall there were huge catfish flapping about in protest and eels squirming in buckets. At the random creatures stall there were terrapins trying to escape from tubs, and the least appetising of all were the frogs, some still alive and hopping about in a bag, others laid out flat on their backs with their innards on display. I toyed with posting some pictures but decided it would be in poor taste on a vegetarian recipe page.

The day left me craving ingredients which had never swum, walked, or hopped, so a vegan dinner it was.As a former veggie I have learned that the trick to making carnivores enjoy vegetarian food is to treat part of the dish as you would a protein – make it hearty, tasty and chunky. In this case, the aubergine is marinated in the same way I marinated the chicken in my marinated chicken recipe. The other salad ingredients are packed with texture and colour and the dressing is has a powerful flavour. Even my extremely carnivorous husband asked for more and didn’t, as I’d feared, head out afterwards in search of fried chicken.

Time: 1hr (including marinating and cooking time)
Rating: Super easy
Serves: 2 people as a main, 4 as a starter


For the marinated aubergines:
1 medium Aubergine (mine weighed 270g)
2tbsp soy sauce
1tbsp clear honey
1 tsp balsamic

For the salad:
1 avocado
1/3 of a cucumber (about 150g)
Handful of rocket leaves
100g cherry tomatoes
100g sugar snap peas
40g cashew nuts
Small bunch mint leaves
Small bunch coriander leaves
Small handful bean sprouts

For the dressing:
Juice 1 lime
2 small red chillis (a spicy variety like birdseye)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp rice vinegar (or white wine vinegar if you don’t have it)
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp sugar
2cm knob ginger
1 stick of lemongrass


  1. Mix together all the marinade ingredients
  2. Cut the aubergine into medium-sized chunks and cover with the marinade
  3. Refrigerate for 20mins at least, mixing half way through.
  4. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  5. Place the aubergines in a baking dish and cook in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the aubergine chunks are soft all the way through but not burnt.
  6. Next prepare the dressing. Very finely chop the chillis (including seeds), lemongrass, garlic and ginger – take time to do this thoroughly as large pieces in the dressing will be unpleasant. Put the chopped ingredients in a jar and add the remaining salad dressing ingredients. Shake well and set aside.
  7. Then prepare the other salad ingredients. Put the cashews on a baking tray and place in the oven for five minutes until brown, shaking half way through. Take out, allow to cool and chop or break the nuts in half.
  8. Trim the sugar snap peas and blanch them in boiling water for about a minute to soften slightly. Drain and run under a cold tap. Slice them in half widthways diagonally and put in a salad bowl.
  9. Peel and deseed the cucumber and cut into small chunks. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and cut the avocado into small chunks. Add all of these to the sugar snap peas.
  10. When the aubergines are cooked, remove from the oven and transfer to a plate to cool for about ten minutes.
  11. Coarsely tear the mint and coriander leaves and add them along with the remaining salad ingredients.
  12. Add the cooled aubergines, pour over the dressing and serve.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Tandoori Roast Chicken with Spiced Roast Potatoes and Garlic and Lime Greens

When people ask me what I miss about the UK (other than, of course, my loved ones), the answer is quite obvious for me. Roast dinners and curries. I think I have mentioned before that I lived in the curry oasis of London and so used to be very spoiled for choice. And I would regularly host Sunday roasts – cooking mountains of food and squeezing as many people into my flat as possible to eat off their laps.

The Thai climate isn’t ideal for big stodgy curries or plates heaped with roast. But if you turn the air conditioning up and close the curtains on the bright sunlight, it feels a lot more acceptable. So in this dish, I combine two of my food heroes – tandoori chicken and the Sunday roast. You get all the comfort of crispy roast potatoes, and all the excitement of fragrant spices and a good old kick.

Timing: 2 hours plus marinating time
Rating: Moderate – nothing very complicated you need to multi-task and keep an eye on your timings
Serves: 5


For the chicken:
2kg whole chicken
4 garlic cloves
1 inch knob ginger
2 tsp garam masala
3 tbsp paprika
2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1.5 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
Juice of 1 lime
1.5 tbsp vegetable oil
4 tbsp natural yoghurt
4 tbsp single cream
1 tbsp tomato purée

For the potatoes:
1.5kg potatoes
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp ground cumin
Salt & pepper
5 tbsp olive oil

For the greens:
600g greens
20g butter
2 garlic cloves
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Mango chutney and mint and yoghurt dip to serve


  1. First make the marinade. Either marinate the chicken overnight, or first thing in the morning for about eight hours. Start by mincing the ginger and garlic – either finely grate, or chop and then pound in a mortar and pestle. Add all of the dry spices to the ginger and garlic and mix well. Then add the yoghurt, cream, oil, salt, and tomato puree.
  2. Prick the chicken all over with a sharp knife to make lots of small incision.
  3. Cover the chicken with the marinade so that it is well-coated all over. You should have about a quarter of the marinade left over – you’ll use this later to baste the chicken – keep refrigerated until you need it. Cover the chicken with foil and refrigerate.
  4. About 2 hours before you want to eat, preheat the oven to 180°C.
  5. Place the chicken in a roasting dish and cover with foil. Roast for 1 hour. About half way through, baste with the remaining marinade. After 1hr remove the foil and put the chicken back in to oven to carry on roasting for another 30 minutes to allow the skin to brown.
  6. As soon as the chicken goes in the oven, start on your potatoes. I really like  Jamie Oliver's roast potatoes so I have based this recipe on his method. Peel your potatoes and cut them so they’re all an even-size. Rinse the potatoes in cold water to get rid of excess starch. Put them in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and a good pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and cook for 6 to 7 mins, so that they’re parboiled. Drain and leave them to steam dry for 3 minutes. Put the potatoes back in the pan, put the lid on and give it a good shake. This helps increase the surface area of the potatoes and so will make them crispier. Transfer the potatoes to a baking tray and add the olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Make sure they are all evenly coated with oil.
  7. When the chicken has been cooking for about 40 minutes, put your potatoes in the hot oven and cook for 30 minutes until lightly golden and three quarters cooked.  Then gently squash each potato with a potato masher to once again increase the surface area. Next combine the spices for the potatoes with a teaspoon of vegetable oil (just enough to form a paste) and coat the potatoes. Put them back in the oven and cook for a further 40 mins until cooked through and crispy. Remember to keep an eye on the chicken and keep track of how long it has been cooking for!
  8. While the chicken and potatoes are roasting, prepare your greens. Put a large pan of water on to boil. Trim any tough stalks and cut the greens into strips. Place the greens in the boiling water and cook just long enough for them to soften (about 2-3 mins). Drain the greens and then plunge them into ice water to stop them from cooking further, then drain. Slice the garlic very finely. You’ll finish cooking the greens a little later.
  9. After 1 hour and 30 mins of cooking, remove the chicken from the oven and check that it is done by inserting a knife into the chicken and making sure the juices run clear. Replace the foil over the chicken and leave it to rest for 20 minutes. This allows the juices to settle before you serve.
  10. While the chicken is resting, give the potatoes a shake and finish cooking your greens. Heat the butter in a large pan or wok. Add the garlic and cook until it is soft. Tip in the greens and add the lime juice, zest, and season with salt and pepper. Combine well and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until warmed through.
  11. Time to serve up your roast. Serve with some mango chutney and a mint and yoghurt dip.

Cooking ahead? You can prepare the marinade the day before and marinate the chicken overnight. You can get the potatoes up to the end of step 6 several hours in advance, and you can prepare your greens up to the end of step 8 several hours in advance too.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Baked Pea and Potato Samosas

The first time I went to India was fourteen years ago on my gap year. I travelled with two other girls with whom I’d been teaching English in Nepal. Throughout our adventures we took it in turns to suffer from the dreaded Delhi-belly, losing whole days to being curled up in grotty hostels, clutching our tummies in pain – but relishing the gruesome fodder this would provide for our gap year stories once we got to university.

My Delhi-belly did actually happen in Delhi. After the best part of a week I finally emerged from my bed, a ghostly, scruffy image of my former self, and announced that I was hungry. I broke my fast with a vegetable samosa from a street vendor, gently spiced and fresh from the bubbling oil. One bite and I was a new woman – the delicious little parcel had revived me. That day was the start of two life-long loves: for the friends who had nursed me back to health; and for the humble samosa; in my eyes the King of the South Asian street snack.

Samosas Frying in Hot Oil - Street Style

This is a healthier version of my beloved snack. Oven-baked so you get all the taste without the fat. This makes a great starter or serve as they would in India as a snack with tea.

Time: 1hr
Rating: A little fiddly
Serves: Makes 16 samosas. Serve 2 as a starter. You can keep them refrigerated or frozen and reheat in the oven.


For the filling:
300g potatoes
100g frozen peas
1 small onion
3 garlic cloves
1 inch knob of ginger
3 green chillies
Bunch corriander
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp tumeric
1 tsp garam masala
Generous pinch salt and pepper

For the pastry:
225g plain flour
2 tbsp vegetable oil
100ml water
1 tsp salt
More oil to brush

Serve with mango chutney


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  2. Start by making the pastry. Pour the flour into a bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour in the oil and water along with the salt and combine with your hands. Kneed briefly for a couple of minutes. Leave the dough in a ball in the bowl and set aside while you make the filling. The dough should rest for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Next prepare your filling ingredients. Peel and finely chop the potatoes. Finely dice the onions. Finely chop the garlic, ginger and chillis (including seeds). Finely chop the coriander.
  4. Heat a little oil in a pan and fry the onions, garlic, ginger and chilli for a minute. Add the potatoes and combine. Add the dry spices. Cook the mixture over a low heat, stirring regularly. Add 2-3 tbsp water every five minutes to make sure the mixture doesn’t stick.
  5. Once the potatoes are soft all the way through, stir in the peas and the coriander. Continue to cook, stirring regularly until the peas are thawed through. Take off the heat and allow to cool.
  6. Next prepare the pastry. Divide the dough into 8 and roll into small balls. Dust your surface with flour and roll the first ball out into a circle (about 15cm in diameter). Cut the circle in half. Then with your fingers, run a little water along the straight edge of the semi-circle. Bring one corner up to the other and using a fork, seal the straight edge of the pastry to form a small, wide cone.
  7. Carefully pick up the pastry cone and using a teaspoon, fill with the mixture. Avoid the temptation to overfill! Then pinch the remaining edge of the parcel together to seal.
  8. Place on a baking sheet and brush all over on both sides with vegetable oil.
  9. Repeat for the remaining 15 balls.
  10. Once all the samosas are ready put in the oven and bake for 10 mins. Take them out and brush again with oil. Return to the oven and bake for a further 10 mins, or until the pastry is lightly browned and crisp.
  11. Allow to cool and serve with mango chutney.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Speedy Steak Stir-Fry

“When in doubt, stir-fry” has become my culinary motto since moving to Thailand. Whenever I find myself stumped for inspiration about what to cook, or am confronted with a set of ingredients with no plan, I chop, throw in a wok over a high flame and hope for the best... and it usually works a treat. And I’m not the only one doing it – all over Bangkok, on every street corner are vendors throwing squid, pork, eggs, greens, noodles, rice and all sorts of tasty ingredients into giant woks and turning out delicious plates of spicy goodness.

A Bangkok stir-fry celebrity: King of the Sukhumvit soi 38 street food scene, he turns out delicious pad thais every evening with lots of dramatic flames and flamboyant flipping of the work. Definitely one for the list if you're coming to visit!

From watching these masters at work it seems that the secret lies in high flames and high energy stirring – stir-frying doesn’t take up much time but you have to give it your undivided attention to make sure everything is cooked evenly. And you also have to hold back on the liquids you season with – there should be just enough to coat but never so much that you’re boiling or steaming the food.

In Thailand meat tends to be consumed in tiny bite-sized pieces and in modest quantities. But I live with a man with very British meat preferences – it’s all about big hunks and lots of them. So this is a far meatier stir-fry than you’d be likely to find in traditional Thai cooking. It’s a delicious way to cook steak. With the veg cut thinly, the steak more thickly, and the garlic, chilli and ginger cooked a little first it really doesn’t need long in the pan. Avoid the temptation to over-cook – make sure the steak stays nice and tender and the vegetables crunchy.

Time: 30 mins
Rating: It doesn’t get much easier than this
Serves: 4


2 medium-sized steaks (I used sirloin), fat trimmed
½ small onion/4 shallots
2 cloves garlic 1 large carrot
2 large red chilli
1 inch knob ginger
80g mushrooms
1 medium red pepper
100g asparagus (trimmed)
1 small bunch spring onions, white part only
2tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1tsp sugar

Garnish with fresh coriander and a handful of peanuts


  1. Heat the oven to a high temperature (about 200°C). Spread the peanuts on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 3-4 mins until browned, shaking the tray half way through. Remove the nuts and allow to cool. Once cooled, coarsely chop and set aside to use as garnish.
  2. Then prepare your veg. Finely chop the ginger, garlic and chilli (deseeded). Finely slice the onion, carrot, pepper and mushrooms.  Cut the asparagus spears into quarters, and the spring onions into diagonal slices about 1cm in length. Slicing the veg quite thinly is important. This will make them cook quickly and prevents you over-cooking the meat.
  3. Then cut your steak into chunky slices , about an inch and a half in length.
  4. Heat a little olive oil in a wok over a high flame and add the garlic, chilli and ginger. Stir-fry for about 2 mins. Add the steak and stir-fry for no more than a minute, just until it is lightly browned.
  5. Add all the other veg and combine before adding the fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar. Keep stirring frequently over a high heat for about 5-7 mins until the carrots and asparagus have softened and the meat is cooked but still tender.
  6. Remove from heat and serve with either steamed rice or egg noodles.
  7. Garnish with roasted peanuts and roughly chopped fresh coriander.