Monday, June 25, 2012

Mango Ginger Supper Club 2

Last Thursday I hosted the second Mango Ginger Supper Club. The eight places filled up almost as soon as I posted the event, which I think reflects three good reasons why the Supper Club model works in Bangkok:

Firstly, Thai people (and people who live in Thailand) are obsessed with food. It’s such a big part of culture and life here that foodie events will always be a big hit. Secondly, it is far cheaper to eat out than cook, so it is a rare treat to be invited over to somebody’s place to eat home-cooked food and bring your own wine. And finally, Bangkok is a cosmopolitan city, home to people from all over the world, from all walks of life, doing every imaginable job. It is near impossible not to have fun and interesting people at the table.

Thursday night was no exception. My eight wonderful guests (and  my lovely helper – a guest from the last event) ate, drank, talked and laughed until well into the night. One of my guests, Ramya, a fellow food blogger and all-round awesome chick wrote up a lovely account of the evening on her blog – check out what she made of it and while you’re there, some of her delicious vegetarian recipes right here.

Watch this space for the next Supper Club dates in August!

Here’s what I served in July:

 To Welcome
Thaijito Cocktail

To Start
Asian fusion mezze of:
Miang Kam – little gem lettuce flavour bombs with crispy bacon (or veggie)
Bangladeshi-style butternut and red lentil hummus
Mina’s Thai Island fish cakes 

Main Event
Spiced crispy duck breasts with ginger and orange sauce
served with sesame noodles and Chinese greens

For vegetarians: spiced blackened tofu served as above

Sweet Ending
Creamy mango and cardamom mousse
with soft pistachio cookies

Fragrant Bombay Fish Curry

When I first got into the humanitarian line of work, one of my first work trips was tp India. I was visiting projects in the States of Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh for a small NGO and squeezed in a couple of days in Delhi and Mumbai (or Bombay as it was still ok to call it back then). Wide-eyed would be an understatement. I was so madly excited by everything – by India, by my job, by all the people I met. And of course, by the food. That trip sparked my life-long love affair with Indian food. There is one dish that stands out from that first trip and it’s a fish curry that I ate on my last night in Mumbai. I can’t remember where I ate it or what it was called but I remember being bowled over by it.

Over ten years on, I had to find a way to recreate it. Given how much time has elapsed since, I had to summon some amazing Proustian powers of sensory recollection to recall the flavours and figure out the ingredients…and then revert to the more modern day technique of googling. It turns out that there is such a thing as Bombay fish curry. I made it according to the recipes I found but it wasn’t quite right. It needed tweaking to get to the taste combination that has stayed on my lips all these years – more tamarind, less chilli (just a little heat), a touch of sugar, and fresh ginger. This version is it. When I  tasted it, I was suddenly ten years younger and back in Bombay.

There is something magical about this dish. It’s light but so fragrant – the cinnamon and cloves are powerful  and make it taste of lands far far away. The tamarind gives a bit of a punch and the coconut mellows everything out. I would be proud to serve this at any dinner party.

Fish curry cooking in my wok

Time: 30 mins + 30 mins marinating time
Rating: A little effort for the paste, the rest is super easy
Serves: 4


800g white fish fillets (I used flounder but cod, haddock, or barracuda would do)
300ml Coconut milk
1 small onion
1 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt

For the paste:
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp cloves
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp paprika
2 garlic cloves
1 inch knob ginger
3 small green chillies
1.5 tbsp tamarind paste
3 tbsp oil

Small bunch fresh coriander to garnish
Basmati rice to serve


  1. Start by making the paste. In a pan dry roast the dry spices (the first 5 paste ingredients) for about 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly until they smell fragrant. Grind all the spices in a grinder or mortar and pestle.
  2. Cut the fish into large chunks about 2 inches long, remove any bones and place in a dish. Coat the fish with about half of the paste and rub it in evenly using your fingers. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  3. If you are serving with rice, put the rice on as you are taking the fish out of the fridge so it will be ready at the same time as the fish.
  4. Once the fish has marinated, heat a little oil in a pan and fry the pieces in batches so gently browned – about 30 seconds on each side.
  5. Remove the fish pieces from the pan once browned, and set aside on a plate.
  6. Finely chop the onion and fry in the same pan used for the fish, adding a drop more oil if needed for about 2 minutes until lightly browned. Add the remaining paste and then the coconut milk, salt and the sugar and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  7. Gently add the fish, making sure all the pieces are covered with the sauce. Cook on a medium heat for about 5 minutes until the fish is flaky but not tough.
  8. Sprinkle with freshly chopped coriander to garnish and serve with basmati rice.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Japanese Salmon Fish Cakes with Ginger Wasabi Mayo

For years I was a faux-vegetarian. I didn’t meat but I ate fish and seafood in abundance. I was well aware of the hypocrisy of this, and under no illusion that fish was any more a vegetable than pork. But it was as large a compromise as I could make, between my inner foodie and inner hippy. In the end, years of working in rural parts of Africa made vegetarianism nutritionally, logistically and culturally unviable. So that was the end of that and meat was back on the menu.

During my fish-eating vegetarian years, friends and caterers didn’t know what to do with me and they’d skip straight to the safe bet of a fillet of salmon, baked or grilled. Salmon became the most boring and predictable food to me…until I moved to Thailand, where it is imported, expensive and a rare treat. So on my trip back to London I was excited to pick up some fresh Scottish salmon. This recipe is a far cry from the drab fillet. It is rich, luxurious and exciting.

Time: 40 mins
Rating: Easy – requires careful handing during the frying stage
Serves:  makes 9 fishcakes


700g skinless, boneless salmon fillets
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
3 spring onions
1.5 tbsp pickled sushi ginger
1 tsp sesame oil
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste

Plenty of vegetable oil for frying

For the mayo
150 ml mayonnaise
1 tbsp pickled sushi ginger
½ tsp dark soy sauce
½ tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp wasabi paste

To serve: large bag of spinach, drizzle soy sauce and sesame oil
A shredded spring onion to garnish


  1. Very finely chop the salmon into small chunks about half a centimetre in size. You can use a food processor but I think small chunks of fish makes for a juicier fish cake than a paste.
  2. Very finely chop the ginger and add to the fish. Cut the spring onions in half lengthways and then finely slice width-ways. Add to the salmon, along with all the other fish cake ingredients. Stir well and put in the fridge while you make the mayo.
  3. For the mayo, very finely chop the pickled ginger. Place in a bowl and add the remaining mayo ingredients. Stir well, taste and adjust the flavours to your preference.
  4. Heat about half a centimetre of vegetable oil in a pan until the oil is very hot. Using two tablespoons, spoon out the mixture and drop it into the oil. Use the spoons to neaten the edges. Don’t over-crowd the pan – only do a couple at a time.
  5. After 2-3 minutes very carefully turn the cakes over and cook on the other side for 2-3 minutes. Turn again and cook for a further minute on each side.
  6. Remove from the oil and place on a plate with some kitchen roll to absorb excess oil. Cover with another piece of kitchen roll to keep warm. Cook the remaining salmon in batches.
  7. At the last minute cook the spinach. In a large wok heat a splash of water and a little soy sauce. Add the spinach and cook on a high heat, mixing constantly, until the spinach is wilted but not soggy. Remove from the heat and drizzle with sesame oil.
  8. Serve the fish cakes on a bed of spinach with a helping of the mayo and garnish with the shredded spring onion.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Mango Ginger and Coriander Cheesecake

In my quest to improve my dessert-making skills I have been following a fantastic baking blog, Sweet2EatBaking. The wonderful Lisa posts amazing sweet dishes which leave me in awe. And she very kindly allowed me to make a guest post of my newest cheesecake recipes.

It's my most creative ever dessert and I think it's the perfect ending to an Asian fusion dinner. And it's super simple to make - no baking required!

Please visit Lisa's blog for the recipe, and while you're at it, take time to check out her amazing work.

Read the full recipe on Lisa's blog right here!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Spiced Duck Breasts with Ginger and Orange Sauce

I have just returned from a weekend in Paris where I ate and ate and ate. I can still feel the red meat, cheese and wine coursing through my veins. My poor body is crying out for something green, something that crunches other than the crust of a baguette. But I’m choosing to ignore those cries for now.

On the Eurostar home I was thinking about duck. I ate some delicious duck in Paris – both a confit and smoked in a salad. It was lovely but I am more convinced than ever that no one does duck justice like the Chinese. And after less than a week in Europe, I already find myself hankering after the Asian flavours waiting for me back in Thailand. China town is the place to go for a duck fix – they are hanging everywhere, spiced and slow cooked.

Roast duck in Bangkok's China Town

In honour of my renewed conviction that this is the only style in which to cook duck, I have come up with this dish. It’s a modern day Asian-fusion twist on the eighties classic, duck a l’orange. The spices, the crispy skin, the little acidity in the sauce are a perfect marriage. This is awesome dinner party fare.

Time: 40 minutes
Rating: Easy
Serves: 2

2 plump duck breasts
2 teaspoons Chinese five spice powder

For the sauce:
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 red onion
1 clove garlic
2 cm piece of fresh ginger
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
180ml good quality orange juice
180ml glass chicken stock
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp brown sugar
2 whole star anise
½ tsp corn flour
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Egg noodles and steam vegetables to serve


  1. If you’re going to make your own Chinese five spices rub, start with this. The recipe for this is the same as I used for an earlier tofu recipe.
  2. Then prepare the ingredients for your sauce. Very finely chop the onion and mince the ginger and garlic. Stir the corn flour into a little cold water to form a smooth paste.
  3. Next prepare your duck breasts. Score the skin of the duck breasts several times with a sharp knife, making sure you don’t cut into the flesh. Sprinkle over the Chinese five spice powder, and salt, then rub into the skin.
  4. Heat a little vegetable oil in a pan over a low-medium heat – duck contains lots of fat so you won’t need much. Place the duck skin-side down in the pan slowly fry for 10-12 minutes. Cooking the duck slowly for a while in this way will produce a lovely crispy skin.
  5. While the duck is cooking, prepare the sauce. Heat the sesame oil in a small saucepan and cook the onion until softened. Add the ginger, garlic and vinegar and sugar. Cook until the vinegar has almost cooked away. Stir in the star anise, soy sauce, stock and orange juice. Bring to the boil and then reduce to simmer. Add the corn flour paste and cook for about 8-10 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. Back to the duck - turn the breasts over and cook for a further 10 minutes or so. The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the duck you’re using and how pink you like it. It should still be a little pink in the middle but not bloody.
  7. Once the duck is done, remove it to the pan and leave it to rest. This will prevent the juices from spilling out onto the plates. While the duck is resting, keep the sauce warm and prepare some egg noodles according to packet instructions and steam some vegetables (I used broccoli and mushrooms).
  8. To serve, carve the duck into thick strips and carefully place the slices on a layer of noodles, with one star anise on top. Place the vegetables around the duck and then gently pour the sauce over the plate.

Cooking ahead? You can prepare the duck breast in advance and leave them in the fridge with the spices already rubbed in. The sauce can be made the day before and reheated.