August 8, 2016 — Family Food
‘Dad knows Thai flavours – and can cook up a dish pretty close to how it might taste in Thailand. So here is a recipe you must have a go at, it’s super simps’ and will only take an hour, but you’ll be on your way to understanding how Thai flavours work. You may like a glass of milk on the side… I always do :).’
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360g raw king prawns
300g rice – either long grain, basmati or jasmine
1 medium onion chopped
1 green pepper – cut in half and sliced
2 garlic cloves chopped
4 tbs chopped ginger
1 green or red chilli – to taste – chopped
4 pak choi
1 tsp Thai green curry paste (optional)
250ml chicken stock or water
400ml Thai coconut milk in a tin that has not been shaken
1 tbs nam pla or light say or dark soy – to taste
1 tbs palm or caster sugar – to taste
Small handful of fresh coriander (appox 30g.) to taste
2 lemongrass stalks – bashed
Coriander roots – washed and chopped finely
2 or 3 kaffir lime leaves
1/2 tsp shrimp paste
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World cuisines – in the comfort of your own home!
Our larder has the ingredients to make a basic rendition of many national styles of cuisine. I am naturally curious as to why something tastes of a certain region and over the years have built a larder full of ingredients from around the world.
I’ve learned that nixtamalized corn gives an immediate taste of Mexico. If you cook with white wine, tarragon and cream – you might imagine you are in a French kitchen. Smoked paprika seems to flavour just about all Spanish food. Italian flavours are easy to create with tomato and oregano or basil. Chinese food revolves around consistent use of ginger, spring onion, garlic, chilli and soy. Japanese flavours always embrace, soy, mirin, sake and sugar. Indian flavours can be built with spice mixtures including cumin, coriander, turmeric and chilli. And Thai flavours can be created with nam pla, palm sugar, coconut milk, lime and chilli.
I’m not saying I am an expert in each cuisine – I would love to be so; but that would require cooking in the regional style day after day, probing deeper and deeper into authentic techniques, methods and recipes. I do not have enough time to do this, however, I do try to learn and practise as much as I can. For instance, I know that Thai flavours especially rely on an equal balance of sweet, salt, sour and hot tastes. Get some authentic ingredients, balance the four tastes carefully and the result should resemble a fairly good Thai dish.
There are of course limits to how far you can make food taste authentic in the home. Some key ingredients will always be difficult to source, some cooking methods impossible to replicate. Also without regularly eating and tasting authentic food cooked by a cuisine’s masters, we will be always be cooking in a vacuum – guessing at how something should taste instead of knowing. This is one of the best reasons I can give for traveling, or at least getting out to a few restaurants. It’s good exercise for the palate!
This is a simple, quick and basic recipe for a Thai style meal, use red pepper and red curry paste for a red curry. Replace prawns with other fish or chicken for variations on a theme. If you want to add some more depth of flavour add some shrimp paste with the curry paste. You can also add lemon grass and coriander roots with the liquid (discard lemon grass at the end of cooking). If you have kaffir lime leaves add these at the liquid stage as well.
Traditional Thai cooking techniques require endless pounding of ingredients in a pestle and mortar – it’s time-consuming and messy. My method is rather like making an Italian pasta sauce using Thai flavours. It’s much simple and still tastes very Thai…
NB: Proprietary Thai curry pastes are strong and hot – a teaspoon is more than enough for most tastes – this means keeping the remaining paste in a jar in the fridge (it lasts indefinitely). However, if this is an issue the paste can be optional – it is essentially concentrated Thai flavours, many of which are in the ingredient list.
As per my tale above this is all about getting a good and equal balance of sweet, salt, sour and hot. Adjust to suit your taste.
A perfect winter warmer – Cassoulet!
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An excellent way to turn a popular Italian slow food standard into an easy and quicker family classic.
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