Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Thai Squid Fettuccini

I hate admin. It’s boring, I’m rubbish at it, and it always seems to take at least three times longer than I expect it to. I am heading back to London for three weeks on Thursday. What started off as a holiday seems to have mutated into an epic voyage of personal admin, during which I must sleigh the evil Inland Revenue dragon, battle with a three-headed re-mortgaging monster, pick up a golden marriage certificate at the Castle Registry Office, cross an old man’s hand with silver (a lot of silver) for a new passport, and more boring stuff which is too tiresome to even think about.

The upshot is that in preparing for my mission I have not had much time to cook. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to listen to the wicked little voice that says “just order pizza” (incidentally, that voice is my husband, not my own alter ego – I’d never say a thing so outrageous). So this week dinner is about things which are delicious yet quick.

This pasta dish is amazing. I love the colours – the flecks of green Thai basil, red chilli and white squid look so striking on the ebony pasta backdrop. And it tastes every bit as good as it looks. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some forms to fill in.


200g dried squid ink fettuccini
200g fresh squid
1 lemongrass stick
2 cloves garlic
I slice ginger
1 large mild red chilli
Small bunch Thai basil
Good quality salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Clean the squid and cut into rings about 5mm thick
  2. Prepare the other ingredients. Finely slice the garlic. Cut the chilli in half lengthways. Remove the seeds and cut into thin slices. Mince the ginger and lemongrass as finely as possible. Coarsely tear the Thai basil leaves.
  3. Heat a large pan of water. Add the pasta and cook according to packet instructions.
  4. When the pasta is almost done, heat a generous slug of olive oil in a wok or frying pan. Add the garlic, lemongrass and chilli and stir for about a minute. Add the squid and cook on a high heat until done (about 2-3 minutes).
  5. Drain the pasta thoroughly. Pour the contents of the pan over the pasta and season generously with salt and pepper.
  6. Combine well and serve.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cool Cucumber Asian Gazpacho Shots

At the coolest party I ever went to (London, opening of some new club, many stories up, full of bright young things, depressingly long ago), we were greeted by a smiling Eastern European model with a tray of pear flavoured vodka shots. What a way to welcome your guests, I thought. It set the tone for the night – decadence, incredible hospitality, and the makings for the mother of all hangovers.

Having crossed the Rubicon of thirty, I find myself at fewer such glamorous occasions, and when I do, wondering whether I should really be there. But I refuse to get depressed about getting older. Partly because it is one of the few things in life which is entirely out of my hands so complaining is futile. And partly because there are advantages to not being in your twenties anymore: I have a much cooler home than I did back then. I am much better cook. And I have a really nice husband who does my washing up for me, rather than some punk who never calls.

When I launched my supper club (in said cool home, with good cooking and nice husband washing up afterwards), I wanted to keep the sentiment of those pear vodka shots, even if in a more sedate form. Offering people a welcoming treat is, in my opinion, critical to kick-start a good dinner party or supper club.

This is my Asian version of a gazpacho, a Spanish vegetable soup which is served cold. I served these in small Thai tea cups, but you could use ordinary shot glasses. They are garnished with a tiny tasty, pretty, fruity skewer. It’s the perfect way to welcome your guests on a hot summer’s evening (or a steamy Bangkok hot season evening) and introduces the palate to some of the Asian flavours to follow. 

Time: 20 mins (plus a few hours’ pickling time for the ginger)
Rating: Easy, just whiz it up in a blender
Serves: Makes 10 shots


1 inch knob ginger
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1.5 tsp sugar
1.5 tsp salt
½ large cucumber
½ apple
1 clove garlic
1 kaffir lime leaf
1 small red chilli
1 stick lemongrass
Juice 1 lime
Small bunch/10g mint
Small bunch/10g coriander
Small bunch/10g Thai basil
200ml coconut milk
4 tbsp apple juice
1 tbsp sesame oil
50ml water

To garnish:
½ cucumber
Chunks of melon
Thai basil leaves
Cocktail sticks


  1. First make some pickled ginger. Try to do this the night before, or at least several hours in advance. Combine the salt, sugar and vinegar in a jar. Add a little water if necessary until the salt and sugar dissolve. Slice the ginger as thinly as possible with a sharp knife. Add it to the vinegar mixture, close the jar tightly and leave in the fridge to pickle.
  2. When the ginger has pickled, prepare the other ingredients. Peel and chop the cucumber and apple. Very finely chop the kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass, garlic, chilli. Coarsely chop the mint, coriander and Thai basil. Put them all in a blender with half of the pickled ginger and add the coconut milk, lime juice, apple juice, sesame oil and water. Blend until smooth, add a little more water if needed.
  3. Pass through a coarse sieve and chill in the fridge.
  4. While the gazpacho is chilling, make the garnish. Peel and deseed the remaining cucumber. Chop the cucumber and melon into evenly-sized cubes. Thread one piece of cucumber onto a cocktail stick. Next take a piece of pickled ginger, roll it up finely and thread it on. Then thread on a piece of melon, followed by a Thai basil leaf and finally another piece of cucumber.
  5. Serve the gazpacho in small cups or shot glasses with the garnish skewer placed on the top.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Tangy Tamarind Tiger Prawns

Thai people have got it right when it comes to eating. Meals are considered a communal affair - rather than everyone ordering and eating their own dish, everything goes in the middle of the table for general consumption. Everyone gets to taste and talk about each dish so there are no agonising menu decisions, nobody is left hungry if the food doesn’t come out all at once, and there’s no complication when the bill arrives. The more I think about it, the more this makes sense for a supper club setting. What better way than this family-style dining to get people talking and sharing?  All it needs is a little planning to ensure a careful balance of flavours and textures across the table.
This dish is crying out to be part of such a smorgasbord. The lack of spice and the simplicity make it a perfect contrast for more firey, complex Asian dishes.

Asian cooking often demands that I spend a lot of time chopping, pounding, and grinding my ingredients - and quite a lot of ingredients at that. But every now and then a dish comes along which is so simple, capturing a delicious taste of Asia with barely a flick of the wok. This is one such dish.

Tamarind is one of my favourite ingredients and it crops up in food from right across Asia. Its distinctive sour flavour provides a great contrast in dishes which are very sweet, spicy or fatty. In this case, it blends with the sugar to coat the prawns in a delicious sticky, sour, sweet sauce. If you think you haven’t encountered it, you probably have – it’s the basis for Worcestershire and HP sauces. Here’s what it looks like before it reaches the bottle:

Raw tamarind pods

Time: 20 mins
Rating: Easy
Serves: 2 (with rice)

8 large tiger prawns
½ red onion
2 cloves garlic
1.5 tbsp light soy sauce
1.5 tbsp tamarind paste
3 tbsp water
1.5 tbsp brown sugar
Pinch salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil for frying

  1. Peel and de-vein the prawns, leaving the tail on.
  2. Very finely slice the onion and the garlic
  3. Mix together the soy sauce, tamarind paste, water and sugar. Tamarind pastes may differ in concentration so make sure you taste it and adjust the flavours if necessary. It should be a nice balance of sweet, salt and sour.
  4. Heat the oil in a wok over a high flame until it is smoking
  5. Add the prawns and toss continuously for about 30 seconds. Add the salt.
  6. Pour over the liquid mixture and keep stirring the prawns to make sure they are evenly cooked and coated in the sauce. Cook for about 4 minutes until the prawns are pink and cooked all the way through and there is only a little liquid left in the pan.
  7. Serve with rice and enjoy!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mina’s Coconut Aubergine Salad with Thai Herbs

This is the second dish which Mina taught me on my heavenly island cooking course on Koh Yao Noi. Mina is a local lady who runs the island’s only cooking school. Her food is elegant, healthy, home-made and downright gorgeous.

Mina's selection of herbs and veggies for the cooking class

This dish was so tasty that I showcased it at my first supper club and it went down a treat.

I always get so excited when I unearth a new ingredient. This dish gave me a chance to use wing beans, my new discovery. They’re an eccentric relative of the green bean – tasty, crunchy and make an X-shape when you slice them.

My new friends - wing beans!

This dish encapsulates what I love about Thai cooking – strong, delicious, clean flavours and healthy nutritious food.  As the lovely Mina cooked this for me, she explained that herbs in Thailand are as much about their medicinal properties as they are about flavour. Galangal, lemongrass and coriander all believed to be good for the heart and the digestive system. So you’re actually doing your body a favour by eating this. Don’t mind if I do!


1 aubergine
Small handful green beans (or wing beans)
4 small shallots or ½ small red onion
1 Thai aubergine (if you can find it)
6 tbsp desiccated/grated dried coconut
2 sticks lemongrass
2 small red chillies
3 slices ginger or galangal
Small bunch coriander
2 shallots or ¼ red onion to garnish (deep fried)

For the dressing:
Juice 1 lime
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp brown sugar


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Pierce the aubergine several times with a fork. Place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 30mins or until soft all the way through. Allow to cool and dice into chunks about 1 inch in thickness.
  2. Spread the coconut out on a baking tray and roast in the oven for about 2 mins until lightly toasted. Keep an eye on it as it can burn easily.
  3. Very finely slice the garnish shallot/red onion. Heat a few tbsp oil in a small pan. When it is very hot add the shallot/onion and deep fry til golden brown and crispy. Remove and place on a piece of kitchen roll to soak up excess oil. Allow to cool and set aside.
  4. Next prepare the other salad ingredients. Remove the coarse outer layer of the lemongrass. Very finely slice the lemongrass sticks horizontally. Finely chop/mince the ginger, chilli and shallots. Leave the seeds in the chilli and chop them up too if you want it hot, remove otherwise. Finely slice the beans width-ways about 5mm thick. Coarsely chop the coriander. Finely slice the Thai aubergine if you are using it.
  5. Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl.
  6. Mix together the dressing ingredients and pour over the salad. Toss well and serve with the fried shallot as a garnish.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mango Ginger Supper Club 1

Thank you to the wonderful 9 guests who helped kick off the first Mango Ginger Supper Club with me. And a big thanks to Dwight who captured the evening for us on his blog. Watch this space for the next supper club evening soon!

Tasting the food and making new friends

One thing has led to another and I am about to turn my home into a restaurant, serving Mango Ginger's best. Welcome one and all to the inaugural Mango Ginger supper club to be held on Thursday 17th May. I have invited a special group of Bangkok-based foodies and friends to my first ever supper club: a restaurateur, an organic farmer, a chef, a food blogger and their plus ones. This is what I will be serving:

To Welcome
Cool Cucumber Asian Gazpacho

To Start
Asian fusion mezze of Bangladeshi hummus,
aubergine coconut and Thai herb salad,
and Mina’s Thai Island fish cakes

Main Event
Indian spiced spinach and mushroom chicken breast
with tikka masala sauce
served with cardamom rice and mint raita

For vegetarians: Chinese mushroom risotto balls
with pumpkin ginger puree,
served with cucumber relish and soy-dressed green salad

Sweet Ending
Creamy mango mousse
with soft pistachio cookies

Drinks: BYO – no corkage charge

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lamb Chops with Pistachio and Mint Pesto

Two weeks of hard work, respectable clothing and no alcohol in Bangladesh left me extremely excited to get back to Bangkok this weekend. All the more so because my friends had bought me a ticket to a boat party that would cruise us up and down the Chao Phraya river all night.

And as well as all the cocktails, I also managed to take in some of the sites by night, like this one.

Wat Arun, even more beautiful by night

It was so much fun and we partied until it docked at 3am.

Boat party fun

On Sunday morning however, I didn't feel quite so awesome. There are two ways to deal with a hangover. Option one is to lie down and succumb to its almighty power, feeding it greasy, salty food. The other is to stare it bravely in the face and say “No. I will not eat bad food. And you will not take my Sunday”. I was brave and went for the latter. I forced myself into the bright sunlight for a swim, during which I came up with this recipe. I set the table and served this up with a nice glass of merlot.

Mint and pistachio are a match made in heaven. The pesto is so rich and creamy. I served it with spiced roast potatoes and coriander and lime aubergines. The lime in aubergines gives some acidity and the roast potatoes seem so happy in amongst it all. I also served up a little yoghurt with mint on the side.

Serves: 2 hungry people
Rating: A little effort
Time: 1hr 30 mins


6 lamb chops (3 per person. Remove any excess fat and trim the meat from the ends of the bones)

For the pistachio and mint pesto:
100g shelled pistachios (about 180g with shells on)
1 bunch mint (about 20 g), leaves only
½ teaspoon ground cumin
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the aubergines:

1 large aubergine (300g)
2tbsp olive oil for cooking
Salt & pepper
Juice 1 limes
Small bunch (10g) fresh coriander
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp salt

For the potatoes:
500g potatoes
Generous slug of olive oil
½ tsp ground tumeric
1 tsp chilli flakes

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Peel the potatoes with cut them so they’re all an even-size. Rinse them 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.
  3. While they are boiling, dice the aubergine into small, evenly-sized cubes. Put in a baking dish with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Stir well and put in the hot oven to cook for about 20mins or until soft, taking out to stir occasionally.
  4. Back to the potatoes. Once parboiled, drain and leave them to steam dry for 3 minutes. Put them 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 to a baking tray and add the olive oil, a good pinch of salt and pepper, and the turmeric and chilli flakes. Make sure they are all evenly coated with oil and seasoning. Put your potatoes in the hot oven and cook for 30 minutes until lightly golden and three quarters cooked.  
  5. Remove the aubergines from the oven when done and transfer to a small dish and allow to cool.
  6. Now for the pesto. In a blender or mortar and pestle, grind the pistachios until they are very fine. Then add the mint leaves, cumin, salt and pepper and olive oil. Add 2-3 tbsp water and blend/grind until you have a fine paste. Add a little more water if needed so that you have a paste that mixes well.
  7. Cover the lamb chops with a generous coating of the pesto on both sides.
  8. Next make the dressing for the aubergines. Finely chop the coriander leaves. Add the olive oil, lime juice, sugar and salt. Pour all over the aubergines and leave to marinate.
  9. Back to the potatoes. When they have roasted for 30 minutes, gently squash each potato with a potato masher to once again increase the surface area. Return them to the oven to cook for a further 30 minutes until really crispy.
  10. When the potatoes are almost done, set the grill to a high temperature. Place the lamb chops under the grill and cook for about 5-6 minutes on either side (for medium – cook for another minute or two on each side for well-done). They should be nicely browned but still a little pink in the middle.
  11. When the chops are done, remove from the heat and allow to rest for a minute. Serve up with the potatoes and aubergines.

Cooking ahead? You can make the aubergines several hours or even the night before and leave in the fridge to marinate. The pesto can also be prepared the day before and kept in an air-tight container in the fridge.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Creamy Mango Mousse with Soft Pistachio Cookies

Late last night I returned to Bangkok after two weeks of working in Bangladesh. This morning I had a tearful reunion with my kitchen and got straight to work. No rest for a food obsessive, least of all one who is going to turn her home into a restaurant for the first time next week (more on that later).

It is still mango season in Thailand. And I am still trying to get my head around desserts. So I am taking the plunge into the unchartered (by me) territory of mousse. This is a mango adaptation of a very simple mousse recipe. I have accompanied it with a delicious, light pistachio cookie for texture. Either serve the mousse in big glasses for a large dessert or in shot glasses as a canape or as part of a selection of sweet dishes:

Mousse shots

The cookies are so light and airy that the batch didn’t last long at all.

Tempting cookies on the cooling rack

Time: 30 minutes prep (plus 10 mins cooking time and several hours chilling time)
Rating: Easy
Serves: Makes 12 mousse shots or 3 large servings and 12 cookies


For the mousse:
200g mango puree (about 2 medium sized mangoes)
Juice 1 lime
250ml double cream
25g icing sugar
2 leaves gelatine
A few coursely chopped pistachios to garnish

For the cookies:
75g pistachios
85g caster sugar 
25g plain flour 
2 egg whites


  1. Start with the mousse. Place the gelatine leaves into a bowl of cold water to soften.
  2. Whip the cream with the sugar until soft peaks form.
  3. Peel the mangoes and puree the flesh in a blender until smooth. Heat the mango purée in a small pan. Squeeze out any excess water from the gelatine and add to the mango purée, stirring until dissolved. Add the lime juice and continue heating for another couple of minutes to firm up the puree and remove excess moisture.
  4. Allow the mango mixture to cool and then fold into the whipped cream mixture. Transfer into serving glasses and refrigerate until set. Garnish with a few coarsely chopped pistachios. You can do this several hours in advance, even the night before.
  5. Now for the cookies. Preheat the oven to 180°C  and grease a large baking sheet.
  6. Finely grind three-quarters of the pistachios in a food processor or mortar and pestle. Coarsely chop the remaining nuts and set aside
  7. Transfer the finely ground nuts to a bowl and stir in 45g caster sugar and flour.
  8. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form, and then add remaining sugar. Then fold in the pistachio mixture.
  9. Place heaped teaspoons of the mixture onto the  baking sheet, using a second table spoon to round them. Leave space between them as they will rise and expand.
  10. Sprinkle with remaining chopped nuts.
  11. Bake for 10minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. If you want perfect rounds, use a small cookie cutter to cut out the middle section of each cookie and discard the rest.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

May Day Mule

This week finds me back in Dhaka, Bangladesh for work. I am kitchenless (alas) and once again am grateful to the wonderful Mixologist, Buk from Seven Spoons restaurant in Bangkok for coming to my rescue. His creation this month is spectacular because you can make almost all of it from scratch. And with all these public holidays in May, there is plenty of time to do so.

It has a fine balance of earthy and spicy flavours that make you want to just keep drinking. And it has such a fun, vibrant colour to brighten up even the rainiest of May days.

Incidentally, it feels a little punishing for me to be posting this cocktail right now. Firstly, because in Dhaka it’s about as easy to get a cocktail as it is to get a bacon sandwich in a mosque. And secondly because rather than making delicious cocktails during the public holidays, I will be working. And did I mention I’m kitchenless? Sighhhhhh…Please enjoy Buk’s marvellous work on my behalf!


60ml beetroot and lemongrass infusion vodka
30ml sourmix
Top up with homemade peppery ginger ale
Lemon wheel and mint spring to garnish


1. How to make your own beetroot & lemongrass infused vodka:
Add 4 slices of beetroot and 3 lemongrass stalks (sliced lengthways) to a 1 L bottle of vodka and allow to soak for several days.

2. How to make your own homemade peppery ginger ale:15 slices ginger
1 litre water
240ml simple syrup
3tsp mixed peppercorns (white, red, green)

Put all of the ingredients in a large pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 mins. Allow to cool and then strain. If you have a soda-maker, pour the liquid into the soda bottle and add fizz. If not, pour into a cocktail shaker and shake well.  

3. How to make your own sourmix:
Sour mix can be bought almost anywhere cocktail mixers are sold, but it is super easy to make. Dissolve 1 part sugar in 1 part water, and mix in 1 part fresh lime juice and 1 part lemon fresh juice.

4. Place some ice cubes into a short glass. Mix together your vodka and sourmix. Shake well and pour over the ice. Top up with home made ginger ale. Garnish with lemon and mint.