Monday, April 30, 2012

Mina's Best Ever Thai Fish Cakes

Getting off the very well-trodden tourist trail in Thailand is difficult. But a few weeks ago I managed it on Koh Yao Noi (‘small long island’), off the Andaman coast. Don’t get me wrong, many tourists before me have been there. But not as many as they have Phi Phi, Lanta, Samui and all the other usual destinations. And the number of tourists and tourist attractions are massively outnumbered by the Thai people and signs of normal Thai life. The people are so very welcoming of tourists, but they haven’t changed their lives or their island to suit us.

The highlight of my trip was meeting Mina. Mina runs the island’s only cooking school and it is without a doubt the best cooking course I’ve ever done. She welcomed me into her beautiful home, surrounded by a lush garden which produces many of the herbs she uses. This is where she showed me her secrets.

The beautiful kitchen where Mina teaches

She goes way beyond the standard Thai dishes and taught me things I’ve never before seen on a Thai menu. She cooks with passion and imagination and from the heart. I left elated and hope this will be the first of many visits to cook with her.

The lovely Mina in action

This is Mina’s version of Thai fishcakes and it’s heavenly. I have made it twice since, and it has been spot on each time. I’m used to fishcakes being bulked out with potato, breadcrumbs or flour. But these are pure, sweet, delicate morsels of fish, flavoured with a wonderful yellow curry paste (the easiest of the thai curry pastes) and bound only with coconut milk and egg. They are deep fried but when something tastes this good, it’s worth the calories. They make a perfect starter or canapĂ© with a sweet chilli sauce dip.

Time: 40 mins
Rating: Much easier than you’d think!
Serves: Makes 12 balls – Serves 3-4 as a starter or snack


For the curry paste:
3 large dried chillies (soaked in water for at least 30 mins), or if you can’t get these 3 large fresh mild chillies
2 cloves garlic
2 small Thai shallots or ¼ red onion
10 black peppercorns
2tsp turmeric powder (or 3cm fresh turmeric if you can find it)
1 stick lemongrass

1 tbsp yellow curry paste (as above)
300g white fish (barracuda, dory, cod, haddock…up to you)
1 egg
1 pinch salt
½ tsp sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 kaffir lime leaves
5 tbsp coconut milk (preferably the creamy part at the top of the tin)
Plenty of vegetable oil for frying


1. First make the curry paste. Finely chop the fresh ingredients for the curry paste and combine with the other paste ingredients. Pound/grind into a smooth paste either in a mortar and pestle or food processor.

Yellow curry paste

2. Make sure there all the bones have been removed from the fish. Mince finely, either in a food processor or by chopping finely by hand.

3. Prepare the kaffir lime leaves. Cut out the tough stalk from the middle leaving two long halves. With a sharp knife, shred as finely as possible width-ways.

Shredded lime leaves
4. Combine all the ingredients for the fish cakes and stir well. You should be left with a moist paste.

5. Fill a wok with oil until it is about 5-6cm deep from the bottom. Heat until it is very hot and a tiny amount of the paste sizzles when dropped in. Spoon out a tablespoon of the mixture and using a second tablespoon, smooth it over to make a neater ball. They don't need to be perfect though, the rustic look suits them. Drop the ball into the oil.

The mixture ready to cook

6 .Repeat and cook the fish in batches of 5-6 depending on the size of your wok. Turn them gently while they are cooking. Fry for about 4-5mins until they are nicely browned on the outside.

7. Remove with a slotted spoon and leave to rest on kitchen roll to absorb excess oil.

Fresh out of the pan

8. Serve hot with some sweet chilli sauce.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Dinner for Jo (Part 2): Indian spiced chicken thighs with roasted pumpkin & garlic mash

This is the second dinner cooked especially for Jo Bryant. In case you missed part one here’s a quick recap: Jo is a 29 year old British woman who is currently battling the rarest form of cancer out there, Cardiac Sarcoma, and though the doctors have, as she puts it, given up on her she is sticking to one unwavering mantra: Never, never, never give up. Jo’s blog, Tales from the Heart documents her fight – I highly recommend reading it. Jo’s strict diet rules out red meat, lactose, yeast, sugar and acids so these recipes are to help her stick to the rules without compromising on flavour.

The last dish, a Thai super food salad, was among the most flavoursome salads I’ve ever made. But it was still a salad and therefore by definition a worthy, goody two-shoes plate of food. From time to time Jo has to battle with the little demon insider her, begging her to call Dominos Pizza.  These are the days when a salad, however tasty, just won’t cut it and nothing but warm, stodgy comfort food will do. Especially during the current soggy April in the UK.

So this is comfort food that plays by the rules. Chicken thighs easily give the illusion of red meat. The pumpkin mash, especially with its garlicky kick, is rich and sweet. And the roasted veg soak up all those lovely chicken juices to pack them with flavour. You can serve it with any veg - I used courgettes and peppers because I had these left over from the previous dish.

When I tasted this, I felt as though I’d cheated the system. Take that, Cardiac Sarcoma, you can take our red meat and carbs and our cheese, but we are keeping comfort food on the menu! This dish will leave you full, happy and satisfied. Dominos Who?
Time: 45 mins
Rating: A little effort (but only a little)
Serves: 2


For the chicken:
2 large chicken thighs (boneless if possible)
2 cloves Garlic
2cm knob ginger
1 tbsp veg oil (or any oil of your choice)
½ tsp Chilli powder
½ tsp paprika
1 ½ tsp garam masala
Generous pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the mash:
1 small pumpkin (or butternut squash if you can’t find one)
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp vegetable oil
5g fresh coriander (small bunch)
Generous pinch salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the veg:
1 red pepper
1 courgette
½ red onion


1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
2. Start by preparing the spice paste for the chicken. Finely grate the garlic and ginger and then chop them up a bit more til they finely minced.

Finely chopped/minced garlic and ginger
3. Put in a small dish and add the dry spices and oil. Mix well to form your paste.

The finished paste

4. Prepare the chicken: If the thighs still have bones, remove these (if you can be bothered, it’s fine if you can’t). Score the underside a little to let the spices in. Cover both sides with the paste using your fingers. Keep back about 1 tsp of the paste which you’ll use for the veg later. Put the chicken in the fridge to marinate for about 30 mins.

Marinating chicken breasts
5. Prepare the pumpkin: Remove the seeds and skin. Cut into large pieces and place in a baking dish with the garlic. Coat with 1 tbsp oil, and sprinkle with the salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast, stirring from time to time, for about 30 minutes or until soft all the way through.

Pumpkin about to go in the oven

6. Then prepare the vegetables, cutting them into bite-sized chunks. Put in a bowl and add the remaining paste, stirring well to coat.

7. When the pumpkin is almost done, take the chicken out of the fridge. Heat a pan and sear it, skin-side down for about 3-4 minutes until the skin is nice and brown– no need to add any oil, there’s some in the paste already. Turn the chicken over and cook for a further 3-4 mins and remove from the heat onto a plate. Put the veg into the pan that the chicken was cooking in and cook for 1-2 minutes just to coat in the juices.

8. Take the pumpkin out of the oven and transfer it to a saucepan. Put the veg into the dish you just had the pumpkin in (thus minimising on washing up) and place the chicken on top. Place in the oven and cook for a further 10-15 minutes til the chicken is cooked through and the skin nicely browned. Gently stir the veg from time to time during cooking.

The seared chicken and almost raw veg about to go in the oven
in the dish the pumpkin was in a moment ago

9. Back to the pumpkin: While the chicken is cooking, squeeze the inside of the garlic cloves out, discarding the skins.

Cooked pumpkin about to be mashed

10. With a potato masher, get to work on the pumpkin and garlic til you have a smooth mash. Put the pan over a gentle heat and stir regularly for about 3-4 mins. This is partly to reheat and partly to get rid of any excess moisture, leaving the mash nice and firm. Finely chop the fresh coriander and stir this into the mash.

11. When the chicken is done remove from the oven and dish up with the veg and mash.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Dinner for Jo (Part 1): Grilled Mackerel with Thai Super Food Salad

Before I get to the all important food part, let me explain who Jo is and why I am cooking for her. If you are going to read one blog this week, I recommend you read that by Jo Bryant, Tales from the Heart. She is a 29 year old British woman currently battling the rarest form of cancer out there, Cardiac Sarcoma. Although the doctors have, as she puts it, given up on her she is sticking to one unwavering mantra: Never, never, never give up. She isn’t taking no for an answer.

Why do I encourage you to read Jo’s blog? Because I struggle to think of anything that you could find more inspirational than her courage, dignity and wit in the face of adversity. And to raise awareness of this little-known disease. And because she’s a great writer. And because she has a growing team of celebrities all rooting for her with "Go JB!" messages, including some very dashing sporting heroes of both sexes!

Let me explain what all this has to do with an Asian Fusion food blog. Jo is on a special diet which rules out a lot of the thing she’d normally like to eat. As a food obsessive, I know that not being able to eat nice food can put you in a really foul mood. So I am coming up with a couple of special dishes that taste great but don’t break her diet rules. Here’s the brief she gave me:

Off the menu: Yeast (which includes soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce), lactose, red meat, sugars (all forms), acidic foods, cheeses and dairy, MSG, coconut milk/water is ok but a bit of a compromise. On the menu: Vegetables, nuts and nut oils, herbs, spices and chillies, lemon juice. Jo is only recently begun finding her way around the kitchen so I am adding step by step pics to help a novice cook along.

This first dish for Jo is possibly the healthiest I’ve ever cooked. Each ingredient has been chosen because of its nutritional or medicinal properties. Here in Thailand people are big believers in the power of herbs not only to flavour but to heal. I did my research and have detailed below all the good stuff that this dish can do for the body. The salad is packed with flavour from all those herbs and spices (important because Jo tells me that chemo dulls the taste buds) and it’s full of crunch from the nuts and raw veg. It really doesn’t feel like health food.

Oh and as for the fish, yes, the mackerel in this photo is huuuuge. That’s Thailand for you – tiny limes, whopping great fish. I’m not sure British mackerel grow this big but it doesn’t matter, you can use smaller fillets. And just one last thing before we get cooking – a message for Jo with love from Mango Ginger:

Time: 40 mins
Rating: Easy, just a bit of patience needed for the chopping
Serves: 2


2-4 mackerel fillets (depending on their size)
1 lemongrass stalk
20g mint leaves (a large handful)
20g coriander leaves (a large handful)
20g roasted almonds (salted, roasted, skin still on)
40g green beans
40g sugar snap peas
1 courgette
1 yellow pepper
Handful lettuce leaves

For the dressing/marinade:
2cm knob ginger
Juice 1 ½ limes (replace with 1 lemon juice if you prefer)
1 red chilli
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp olive oil (or an alternative unrefined vegetable oil)
½ tsp honey
Generous pinch salt and course black pepper


1. First prepare the dressing/marinade. Chop or mince the ginger and chilli as finely as possible. I didn’t deseed the chilli but made sure the seeds were very finely chopped. If you don’t want too much fire, discard the seeds. Combine with the other dressing ingredients and mix well.

Your prepped ingredients ready to go into the dressing

2. Then prepare the mackerel: make a few shallow diagonal slits on the skin side. This will allow the fish to absorb the flavour of the marinade and stop it from curling during cooking. Lay the fish in a small dish and cover with 2 tbsp of the marinade, coating all over. Cover and leave in the fish for about half an hour – you have a lot of chopping to do in the meantime

Your scored fish marinating

3. While the fish is marinating prepare your salad ingredients. Slice the lemongrass stick horizontally as thinly as possible – take your time, large chunks won’t be pleasant. Cut the green beans and sugar snap peas horizontally about 5mm in thickness. Cut the courgette into quarters lengthways and slice as thinly as possible horizontally. Finely dice the yellow pepper. Coarsely chop the almonds. Coarsely chop or tear the mint and coriander leaves.

    Your chopped veg and  nuts

4. Combine all of these ingredients in a bowl and pour the remaining dressing over the top. Mix well.
5. When the mackerel fillets have marinated, brush a baking tray with a little olive oil and place the fillets on top, skin-sides facing upwards. Place under a hot grill and cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the skin is browned and the flesh is cooked through.
6. Lay some lettuce leaves out on a plate. Spoon the salad on top and then carefully place the mackerel fillets on top.
7. Sit back, eat, and feel smug for producing such a beautiful, colourful, tasty and healthy plate of food.

Why these foods are so super

S       Mackerel: This is the super fish! Packed with Omega 3 and 6 fish oils, lots of protein and an array of vitamins which are good for the heart.
S       Lemongrass: Therapeutic properties are as a diuretic, antiflu and antimicrobial agent – generally know for its anti oxidant and heeling properties.
S       Mint: Volatile oil contents give the plant several therapeutic uses, including carminative, mild antiseptic, local anaesthetic, and digestant properties.
S       Coriander: commonly used to treat digestive disorders.
S       Ginger: It helps break down proteins to rid the stomach and intestines of gas. It also aids in the digestion of fatty foods and is used to treat nausea.
S       Chillies: There have been claims that red chillies contain cancer-fighting properties. Even if that bold claim isn’t true, they are packed with vitamin C.
S        Lime juice: full of vitamin C which helps boost your immune system.
S       Green beans and sugar snap peas: full of dietary fibre to which help to protect the inside of the colon. Also high in vitamins A, B-1, C and iron
S       Yellow pepper: Plenty of vitamin C and dietary fibre to aid digestion.
S       Almonds: They are packed with protein, vitamin E, magnesium, dietary fibre, and are low in cholesterol – all good news for the heart.
S       Courgette: Lots of Vitamin A, Iron, zinc and potassium, all good for the heart.
S       Sesame oil: Full of fatty acids which can reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol in the blood.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mellow Thai Fried Rice

Oh the joys of living in the tropics during the hot season: perfect sunsets, mangoes in abundance,…and the risk of food poisoning. As soon as we came back from our last island jaunt (I know, I still haven’t posted those recipes yet), my fella felt a bit off colour. I hasten to add I hadn’t cooked for the best part of a week so this wasn’t my doing! I’ll spare you the gruesome details but by Friday night it was like a scene from The Exorcist – I wasn’t sure whether I should call a doctor or an old priest and a young priest.

Anyway, he’s all better now but has been told to lay off rich food, dairy and spices for a while. So I cooked him the most mellow of Thai dishes I could think of; chicken fried rice (or khao pad gai). It’s also very quick and easy and a great way to use leftover rice from the night before, if like me you always make too much.

This dish is mellow Thai cooking. The flavours are delicious but without the usual fire from chillies. The addition of pineapple gives the rice a little sweetness and the cashews add a little texture. The additional core flavours in Thai cooking are in the garnishes and sauce: spicy (chilli), salt (soy and fish sauces), and sour (lime) which you can add as sparsely or liberally as you choose

Will he be laying off the street food from now on? No chance! Just hoping that the exposure to the bugs has increased his immunity.

Time: 30 mins
Rating: Very easy
Serves: 2

300g cooked rice (weight when cooked)
1 large chicken breast (replace with prawns or tofu if you prefer)
1 small red chilli
2 cloves garlic
2cm knob ginger
¼ onion
½ red pepper
30g cashew nuts
1 egg
40g sugar snap peas
40g mushrooms
1 small carrot
1 slice/a few chunks fresh pineapple
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce

Spicy sauce:
1 small red chilli
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
Juice 1 lime
1 tsp sugar

Garnish :
1 Lime
2 spring onions
A few slices of cucumber


  1. Prepare your sauce and garnishes: Very finely chop the chilli, including seeds and combine with the other sauce ingredients. Set aside. Cut a couple of spring onions in half length-ways, cut a few slices of cucumber and quarter a lime.
  2. Next prepare your chicken and vegetables. Chop the chicken into small bite-sized chunks. Very finely chop the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli and dice all the other vegetables and the pineapple.
  3. Next cook your egg. Heat a little oil in a wok. Beat the egg and pour into the wok once it’s hot, spreading it out thinly to make a thin omelette. Cook until done. Remove and cool.
  4. Heat a little more oil in the same wok and fry the chilli, ginger, onions and garlic. Fry for 1 minute until soft. Add the chicken breast and cook for 2 mins on high heat til lightly browned, stirring regularly. Add the vegetables, fish sauce and 1 tbsp soy sauce and keep stirring. Cook for about 4-5 mins until the vegetables have softened.
  5. Add the rice and stir thoroughly. Add the remaining tbsp soy sauce and combine well. Roll the omelette up like a cigar and cut into thin strips width-ways. Add this to the wok along with the pineapple and cashews and keep stirring.
  6. Cook for a further 4-5 mins until the rice is piping hot.
  7. Serve along with the garnishes and sauce.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Chocolate Pear and Cardamom Tart

Last week was Thai New Year – a week of nation-wide water fights and nearly a whole week off work! The prospect of another island mini-break (more on that in later blogs...I picked up some fantastic recipes), coupled with the non-arrival of the threatened tsunami, put me in a really good mood in the run up to New Year. So much so that I decided to bake, yes bake, a chocolaty treat for my colleagues.

Baking. My nemesis, my Achilles heel, the wasteland beyond my comfort zone. The time has come for me to grease up my tins, dust my surfaces and bravely face the unknown. I know that it’s not acceptable as a self-professed foodie to serve stellar savouries but settle for shop-bought cakes or a half-hearted fruit salad.  So I did some research to find the least screw-upable desserts and opted for a chocolate tart which requires no baking other than the pastry. The addition of spiced poached pears and cardamom gives the tart some complexity and welcomes it into Asian Fusion territory.

Unfortunately I can’t find ready-made pastry in Bangkok, otherwise I would definitely have cheated. I made my own using the basic recipe below and was quite satisfied with the results – it didn’t fall apart or taste horrible as I’d feared.

The tart overlooking the view of Bangkok from my office

The proof as they say, was in the pudding and my colleagues loved it and ate every scrap. They have even asked me to bake another! Thai people are generally very polite but food is serious business here – so I think they actually meant it. Look:



For the pastry:

200g plain flour
1 tbsp icing sugar
1 teaspoon salt
100g Unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
4 tablespoons ice cold water
A little plain flour for dusting
(or 350g readymade shortcrust pastry)

For the chocolate filling:

200g dark chocolate
200ml double cream
6 cardamom pods

For the pears:

250ml water
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
1teaspoon whole cardamom seeds

1 stick cinnamon
2 large firm pears


  1. Preheat the oven to 200C
  3. First make your pastry. Take the butter out of the fridge to soften. Sift the flour, icing sugar and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and rub into the flour with your fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Make a well in the middle and add the egg yolk and the water, a little at a time. Mix with your hands until it comes together as a ball. Stop as soon as the dough is nice and firm; avoid over-kneading.
  4. Wrap the dough in parchment paper and leave in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  5. While the pastry is chilling, poach your pears. Peel the pears and put them in a pot with the other ingredients for the pears. Simmer on a low heat for about 30 minutes or until they feel soft all the way through when pricked with a fork. Turn the pears once or twice during cooking to make sure they are evenly poached on all sides. 
  6. Remove the pears from the water and set aside to cool. Cut the cooled pears into quarters lengthways and remove the core. Slice them evenly lengthways, about half a centimetre in thickness. Lay them out on pieces of kitchen roll to absorb excess moisture.
  7. Take your pastry out of the fridge and dust your work surface with a little plain flour. Roll the dough out thinly and use it to line a 25cm tart ring.
  8. Line the pastry case with baking parchment and fill with baking beans or uncooked rice and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the baking beans and paper and cook for a further 10 minutes or until the base of the tart is golden-brown and cooked through. Remove the tart from the oven and leave to cool.
  9. While the pastry is cooking and cooling, get to work on your chocolate filling. Firstly split open the cardamom pods, remove the small black seeds inside and grind to a fine powder either in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle.
  10. Next heat the chocolate in a saucepan set over a medium heat, stirring continuously until the chocolate melts. Add the cream and continue stirring until the mixture is smooth and thick. Then add the ground cardamom and stir thoroughly. Remove the mixture from the heat.
  11. When the pastry has cooled spread a very thin layer of chocolate along the bottom of the tart case. Lay the pears out neatly on top and then pour over the remainder of the chocolate evenly.
  12. Chill in the fridge for at least 45 minutes or until the chocolate has fully set.

Cooking ahead? The whole tart will keep in the fridge a day in advance. You can also prepare the pastry case and poach the pears in advance.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Spicy Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Tikka Masala Sauce and Cardamom Rice

Following my recent spice-rub related epiphany, I decided to dig out the little bundle of spices I was given during my last work trip to Pakistan. My trip mostly involved zipping around various markets in Punjab, talking to traders about what they sell and how much for. They were a hospitable bunch, these market traders and most of them gave me a cup of tea and a freebie of some sort. I ended each day with bananas, oranges, pistachios and other random goodies in my handbag. One of my gifts came from the market stall below where I could have quite happily sat for hours:

Cuppa and a chat in the grocery shop

I sat amongst huge sacks of spices which smelled like a cross between the inside of Hansel and Gretel’s gingerbread house and my favourite Indian restaurant in London. Here’s the little bundle which he gave me to take away:

My Pakistani garam masala : cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, cloves, pepper corns, coriander seeds.

This was months ago. I’d tucked the bundle into my spice box forgotten about it. But now that I know the joys of grinding my own spices, I decided to dig it out to make my own garam masala, though for this recipe you can just as easily use the ready mixed stuff.

This recipe is a modern twist on the classic tikka masala. Stuffing the breasts with spices and vegetables adds colour and texture and transforms it from a humble curry into elegant dinner party fare. The sauce is so rich and packed with flavour. You can blend it if you want it completely smooth, but I like my curries a little rough round the edges.

Time: 1 hour 15 mins
Rating: A bit tricky – the stuffing is a little fiddly and the sauce requires a little love but it’s so worth it!
Serves: 2

For the chicken:
2 large chicken breasts
50g spinach
100g mushrooms (use a variety if you can, otherwise choose a variety like chestnut mushrooms)
2cm knob ginger (about 2 tsp when chopped)
2 cloves garlic
1 medium sized hot green chilli
1.5 tsp garam masala
Small bunch fresh coriander

For the tikka masala sauce:
1cm piece ginger
1 clove garlic
30g ground almonds
½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp paprika
1 tsp garam masala
¼ tsp cinnamon
200g chopped tomatoes (half a tin)
¼ onion
1 tbsp butter
Small bunch fresh coriander
3 tbsp water
2 tbsp single cream

For the rice:
4 cardamom pods
1 cup basmati rice
1 knob butter
1 cup water

    1. Pre-heat your oven to 180°C.
    2. Firstly prepare the stuffing for the chicken breasts. Very finely chop the garlic, ginger and chilli (seeds as well, but make sure you chop these up too) and set aside. Cook the spinach in a small pan over a medium heat. Allow to cool, squeeze out the moisture and coarsely chop. Chop the mushrooms very finely (removing the stalks first).
    3. Heat a little oil in a pan and add the ginger, garlic and chilli and fry for a minute. Add the garam masala and cook for another minute. Add the mushrooms and spinach and cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly. until the mushrooms are cooked. Take the mixture off the heat and allow to cool.
    4. Next prepare the ingredients for your sauce. Very finely grate or pound in a mortar and pestle the garlic and ginger. Add the ground almonds, paprika, chilli powder, garam masala and cinnamon. Set aside until later. Very finely chop the onion and set this aside separately.
    5. Next prepare the chicken. On a chopping board slit each chicken breast in half horizontally, keeping it attached along one length. Open it up like a book and cover with a piece of cling film or parchment paper. Beat with a rolling pin, flattening the breasts evenly. 
    6. Lay the stuffing out length-ways in the middle of one half of each chicken breast and fold the other half over the top. Use cocktail sticks or wooden skewers to seal the chicken and keep the stuffing in place.
    7. Sear the stuffed chicken breast in a hot pan with a little vegetable oil, turning regularly but very gently to ensure that all sides of the breast are browned but the stuffing is still intact.
    8. Transfer the chicken to a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 15 minutes.
    9. As soon as the chicken goes into the oven, get the rice on:  heat a large knob of butter a saucepan. Add the cardamom pods and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Pour in the rice, add a large pinch of salt and cook for another minute, still stirring. Add 2 cups of water using the same cup to measure as for the rice. Bring to the boil, turn down to a gentle simmer and put on the lid. Cook for 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed.
    10. Once the rice is simmering, prepare the sauce. Melt the butter, add the onions and fry for about 1 minute. Then add the prepared sauce ingredients and fry with the onions, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Pour in the tomatoes with the water and stir well. Reduce the heat and cover with a lid. After five minutes, remove the lid, stir well and add the fresh coriander (coarsely chopped). Return the lid and continue to cook for another five minutes. Add the cream and stir well. Turn the heat down very low to keep the sauce warm until you’re ready to serve.
    11. After 15 minutes of cooking, remove the chicken from the oven, transfer it to a chopping board and allow it to rest for a couple of minutes.
    12. Using a fork, fluff up the rice and place a portion on each plate.
    13. Spoon out a generous serving of the sauce alongside the rice
    14. Remove the cocktail sticks from the chicken and slice the breasts horizontally into evenly sized pieces. Lay these out carefully over the sauce and serve. Don’t pour the sauce over the chicken because you’ll drown the nice colours in the centre.
    Cooking ahead? You can prepare the stuffing up to a day in advance and kept in the fridge, as well as the sauce which can be reheated. The chicken breasts can also be stuffed several hours in advance.