Thursday, August 30, 2012

Slow Cooked Massaman Chicken Curry



I am trying to embrace a slower pace of life. I put it down to my German upbringing that I am always set to ‘high efficiency’ mode. Even when I am having a Thai massage, I find myself going through a mental checklist of all the things I’ll do when I’m done. When I cook, I am simmering, chopping, searing, seasoning several different dishes or components at once. But I know that life as a high-speed muliti-tasker will eventually take its toll on my body and soul. So I am trying to learn from the saffron-robed monks that I often see near my office, serenely going about their day with a gentle pace and smile.

I still have a way to go before I find myself spending hours in the lotus position, or address my unhealthy relationship with my outlook calendar. But I’m making small changes, including experimenting with slow cooking. Slow cooking is a great metaphor and advert for the slower life. The depth of flavour and the gentleness of texture that you get from cooking something over a low heat for a long time cannot be achieved through a fiery flash in the pan. And Massaman (an under-celebrated hero of Thai cuisine in my opinion), with its unusual combination of herbs and spices, lends itself to the method perfectly.  I don’t own a slow cooker because I like to keep my kitchen appliances to a bare minimum. Instead I use a good heavy casserole dish and a conventional oven on a low heat.

I served this at my last supper club and ever scrap was eaten. It’s a great dinner party dish. All the work is done hours before your guests arrive, leaving you to enjoy the company and relax.

Ingredients:

4 chicken legs and 4 thighs

3 tbsp massaman curry paste (you can buy this from good supermarkets, or make your own using the recipe here)
2 large cinnamon sticks
6 cardamom pods
400ml coconut milk
200ml good quality chicken stock
4 small potatoes
1 onion
2 inch knob ginger
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar (or palm sugar if you have it)
2 tbsp tamarind paste (if you can’t find this, mix together lime juice and a little tomato ketchup)
1 tsp salt
100g salted peanuts

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 120°C.
  2. Finely shred the ginger. Chop the onion into small chunks. Set both aside.
  3. In a pan, dry roast the cinnamon and cardamom a until you can start to smell them toasting. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  4. In the same pan dry roast the peanuts also for about 2 minutes until they are slightly browned and smell roasted. Remove from the heat, allow to cool and then coarsely chop or grind.
  5. In a casserole dish, heat a little vegetable oil and add the chicken. Gently brown for about 2-3 minutes on each side and then remove from the heat. In the same pan, add the curry paste and fry for about 2 mins in the oil left in the pan, stirring constantly.
  6. Add the stock, coconut milk, dry spices, tamarind, fish sauce, salt, sugar, onion and ¾ of the peanuts. Stir well and continue cooking over a medium heat for about 3-4 mins, stirring often.
  7. Remove from the heat, and return the chicken to the pot. Add the potatoes and make sure everything is submerged in the sauce. Put the lid on and put in the oven.
  8. Cook for about 4-5 hours, or until the potatoes are soft and the chicken is cooked all the way through.
  9. Serve with cardamom rice and garnish with the remaining peanuts.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Supper Club 3 - August 2012

August's supper club will be taking place on Thursday 16th August at 7:30pm. Eight lucky diners will be treated to the best home-cooked Asian Fusion food that Mango Ginger has to offer. A Supper club is a social even that combines eating great food with making new friends in Bangkok. Here's where you can learn more about supper clubs.

And things just got even more exciting. This month I will be teaming up with fellow Bangkok-based food blogger (and former Supper Club guest), Ramya aka the Mistress of Spices. She is a lot of fun, her food is amazing and I'm addicted to her blog. I couldn't pick a better partner in crime.

Here's the menu for the evening:

To welcome:
Thai Sangria

To start:

Green mango, mint and seafood salad
Chilli paneer spring rolls
Spiced roasted eggplant dip and pita chips

Main event:
Slow-cooked Massaman chicken curry
Mirchi Ka Salan (bell peppers in a peanut-sesame-tamarind sauce)
Pomegranate jewelled chucumber salad
Cardamom rice

Sweet ending:
Mango ginger and coriander cheese cake

Bring your own alcoholic or soft drinks to enjoy with dinner. No corkage charge.
All for a bargain 400 THB per person.


If you would like to join us please email Ramya or I via our blogs or facebook pages. There are only eight seats at the table so book your place quickly! We look forward to supper clubbing with you :-)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Salmon Tom Yum Soup



Holidays, good food and friends are, in my humble opinion, the key to happiness. The second I am on a beach with a belly full of seafood, I instantly relax and all my troubles drift of to sea.

Last week I got back from another long trip to Bangladesh and needed urgently to recharge the batteries. For me, when I feel this way, I autopilot down to Railay – the most wonderful of Thailand’s beaches in Krabi province. It’s my happy place. I lived there, I learned to rock climb there, I got married there and have many good friends there. At the risk of turning this blog into a Railay tourism promotion piece, I strongly advise anyone holidaying on the Andaman coast to visit.

And it just got a little bit better because my favourite restaurant which closed last year has returned with a vengeance. A lady called Sao serves up some of the best Thai food I have eaten in Thailand from her shack marked simply, ‘Local Thai Food’. There is no fancy d├ęcor – just wooden tables and plastic crockery. The key to her success is simple. It’s all about quality ingredients (the biggest prawns, freshest vegetables, wholesome brown rice), big portions and low prices. Even in low season, there is often a queue.

Behind the scenes in the kitchen

Her tom yum soup is the most flavoursome I’ve tasted so I just had to get the recipe. This is a classic Thai dish, a hot and sour soup packed with tasty herbs. Sao makes hers with prawns, which is the classic way the dish is served.

Tom Yum cooking in the wok

I was very privileged to be allowed behind the scenes and learn some of Sao’s secrets – she cooked, I watched, learned and took notes.

Learning from the master!

When I got back to Bangkok I recreated the dish using salmon which was so tasty. This is easily my favourite soup ever.

  
Time: 30 mins
Rating: super easy
Serves: 2 as a main course or 4 as a starter

Ingredients:
2 salmon fillets
2 lemongrass sticks
2 inch knob of galangal or ginger
8 kaffir lime leaves
Handful of mushrooms (I used black fungus - any variety will do)
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
8 spring onions
2 tomatoes
Bunch coriander
2 tbsp chilli paste
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
8 tbsp lime juice (about 4 limes)
8 tbsp coconut milk
2 small red chillies (optional)
800ml water

Method

  1. Remove the skin from the salmon and cut into large chunks.
  2. Then prepare the herbs. Slice the lemongrass diagonally about half a centimetre in thickness. Slice the galangal or ginger into thick slices – no need to peel it. Thickly slice the garlic.
  3. Cut the onion into chunks about 1cm in size. Trim the spring onions and cut into pieces about 3-4cm in length. Cut the mushrooms into quarters. Cut the tomatoes into quarters and coarsely chop the coriander.
  4. Bring the water to the boil. Add the chilli paste, sugar and salt and stir well. Add the lemongrass, galangal/ginger, kaffir lime leaves, mushrooms, onion and garlic and cook for about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the lime juice and stir well. Then add the spring onion, tomato, coriander and coconut milk and stir well. Cook for another 2-3 minutes. If you would like the dish spicy, bruise the small red chillies and add these to the pot now. Taste the liquid – the flavours are yours to adjust. Add more salt, sugar, lime or chilli according to your tastes. Then add the salmon and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, stirring gently until the salmon is cooked.
  6. Remove from the heat and serve in large bowls either on its own or with steamed rice. The lemongrass, galangal and lime leaves are only for flavour – don’t eat these as they’re very tough!