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Cookalicious gets organised 30 March 2006

Posted by cath in general info.
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InformationThis is the new home of cookalicious, the website devoted to knowledge of ingredients, recipes and techniques. Many of these recipes have Thai or Oriental origins, with chillies and spiciness quite a priority, but you'll also find cakes, snacks, quick and easy dinners and various other ideas here.

The main emphasis of cookalicious is to get cooking, eating and enjoying delicious food, frequenting local shops and considering the origins of the food we buy.

Cookalicious had to move as it expanded – I am now using a more organised blogging tool called Word Press where I can sort the recipes into categories. Hopefully this will create a resource that is much easier to use, something that is important to me, and hopefully you'll appreciate the enhanced usability too!

Notes > Thai Ingredients Part 4 > Staples 29 March 2006

Posted by cath in general info, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, shopping notes, Thai food.
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InformationAsian Supermarket Staples
Buying Thai Rice:

Buying large bags of rice from the Thai or Chinese Supermarket is great value, here is my favourite brand, but others are also good. Look out for AAA quality and the words “New Crop”. Also it is worth double checking that you are not buying “broken rice” which although cheaper is long grains that have been broken or crushed, so it won’t make the best fluffy steamed rice.

I actually prefer Thai rice to Basmati (although many people still consider this to be the finest rice you can buy), by all means use Basmati if you prefer it, but think about trying Thai Fragrant Rice with your Thai food.

thai fragrant rice

Cooking Thai Rice:
I am lucky enough to have a fantastic National (aka Panasonic) Rice Cooker (5-portion) from Thailand which I have been using for years to cook ‘easy and right every time’ steamed rice. If you have the space, and cook a lot of rice, then investing in one of these is really worthwhile. You simply measure the rice in the provided cup, give it a little rinse, then add cold water up to the appropriate mark in the pan and switch on. 10 to 20 minutes later (depending on the amount of rice being cooked) your rice is perfectly cooked – magic!

However, if you don’t have a rice cooker – try the following options:

  • Microwave steamed rice. Using a very large glass bowl or dish, with a lid, place 1 small (i.e. coffee) cup of rice per person in the base and fill up with twice as much water (or make sure there is a bout 2cm of water covering the surface of the rice). Steam in the microwave on high for 12 minutes with the lid on. Then check the rice to see if it’s cooked. It should be soft with a small bite to it, not chalky. Put back for a few minutes if it needs more cooking.
  • You can also buy special rice cookers for the microwave which include measures similar to a stand-alone rice cooker – look out for these, they are really good and especially good for doing 1 or 2 portions quickly. The one I have is Japanese, so I can’t tell you where to find them, but I have seen microwave steamers in the UK, so have a look in your local cook shop.
  • You can cook rice on the stove top – again using the reduction method, i.e. measureing the amount of water added carefully (1 part rice to 2 parts water) and letting the rice absorb the water with the lid on – don’t lift the lid early as the steam will escape and your rice will not cook as well. It should take around 10-15 minutes again, depending on the amount of rice. The benefit of the absorption method is that there is no draining and your rice will be fluffy rather than soggy.

Other Staples from the Asian Supermarket
Fish Sauce

thai fish sauce

A thin, brown, salty liquid used instead of salt, similarly to soy sauce in Thai recipes. Darker sauces are higher in quality and have a strong fishy taste rather than being just salty.
I like Squid brand and try not to think about what is in there or how it’s made :)
Seriously though, soy sauce can be used as a substitute, especially for vegetarians, but nothing compares to the classic taste of fish sauce in your Thai dishes, try it!

Coconut Milk

coconut milk

Although fresh coconut is far superior, it is not something that is easy to get hold of here in the UK. If you fancy making it yourself I’ll post a recipe for that in the future. For now, to get started, tins of coconut milk make an excellent substitute.
Here are my two favourite brands. Aroy-D (‘Aroy dee’ meaning yummy in Thai) and Chao Koh. Be careful of buying cheap brands as they have too much liquid and not enough coconut in the can. Also watch out for sweetened versions of tinned coconut milk – make sure you are buying unsweetened milk for your curries, even desserts as you can add your own sweeteners (i.e. palm sugar) and have more control of the final flavour.

Shrimp Paste

shrimp paste

A strong smelling paste made from dried shrimps (so I’m told!), dark in colour and is used sparingly in soups, pastes and dips. These pots of paste last well in the fridge or larder. Anchovy paste can be used as a substitute, or anchovies and water blended is another option. Shrimp paste adds an intense fishy and salty flavour to dishes.

Thai Recipes > Curry > Panaeng Moo 29 March 2006

Posted by cath in freeze-friendly, Recipes, thai curry, Thai food, very spicy.
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SpicyPanaeng Moo
freeze-friendly

(Panaeng Curry Pork)

Serves 4

I must admit to being a bit of a cheater on this one…I have a great recipe for Panaeng curry paste, but I've got into the habit of buying it from the Thai or Chinese supermarket as, unlike some bought pastes, this one has a really authentic flavour…its Mae Ploy Brand, the variety they call "Panang Curry Paste" has a blue strip at the top of the label. They do a whole selection of curry pastes, but the Panaeng is exceptionally good.

Panaeng Paste

Keep your tub of Panaeng paste in the fridge, it will last for ages.

Ingredients:

500g Pork fillet or Tenderloin – thinly sliced
2 tins coconut milk – separated into a saucepan of the thin milk, retaining the thick milk (creamy, solid) for later
1 tin cold water (measure with the empty coconut milk tin)
3 tablespoons groundnut or similar oil
2 tablespoons Panaeng curry paste
2 tablespoons fish sauce
5 kaffir lime leaves – torn into pieces, discarding the stem
2 tablespoons palm sugar (or brown sugar)
2 big red chillies (optional)
Sweet basil leaves
Juice of 1 lime

Method:

  1. Put the pork into the saucepan with the thin coconut milk and water. Make sure the pork is covered by the liquid, then bring to the boil and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  2. Put the oil in a wok or large saucepan and fry the Panaeng curry paste for about 4 minutes until cooked. Be careful at this stage not to burn the paste. Frying the paste produces a strong, spicy smell so you might want to close the kitchen door, turn on the extractor fan or open a window! For best results just keep moving the paste around the wok and keep the heat fairly gentle.
  3. Once the paste has been frying for a few minutes add most of the thick coconut milk and bring to the boil.
  4. Add the cooked pork and all the remaining thin coconut milk from the saucepan and incorporate it into the curry base, bring back to the boil.
  5. Add the palm sugar and stir to melt and combine, then add the fish sauce and lime leaves. Stir to combine.
  6. Turn off the heat and garnish with basil leaves, chillies and a swirl of thick coconut milk. Serve with steamed Thai fragrant rice.

Variations on the Traditional Ingredients:
Although traditional Panaeng Moo doesn't often include vegetables, I've found that quartered chestnut/brown cap mushrooms and courgette pieces work really well with this curry. Just add the mushrooms to the curry base, or add both mushrooms and courgette chunks when you add the cooked pork and cook for 5-10 minutes depending how crunchy you like your courgette. Alternatively try adding your own favourite vegetables to the curry and leave a comment if you come up with a good combination!

Cooks Note:
Putting the tins of coconut in the fridge for a few hours makes them much easier to separate into thin and thick coconut milk.
Take the can from the fridge and open (being careful not to shake it). Using a knife or spoon handle, push a hole down the side of the tin through the cream to the bottom of the can. Repeat on the opposite side so you have two holes. Then, using the knife/handle to hold open the lower hole, pour the thin milk through it from the bottom of the can straight into a saucepan. Don't worry if some of the thicker milk or cream also gets into the pan, as long as you have some thick milk left to use for making the curry base. Repeat with the second tin.

The Finished Dish:

Panang Moo

‘Ready-meals’ the cookalicious way 29 March 2006

Posted by cath in freeze-friendly, general info, help, Info and Cooks Notes.
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freeze-friendlySo the world has gone 'ready-meal' crazy, how can you resist the temptation of the microwave and rows and rows of well-photographed gourmet dinners at the touch of a button (no washing up!)? If all the disposable packaging itself isn't enough to put you off, then how about knowing that corporations are controlling the quality and purity of the food you eat? Well, in case you wondering, I am not a fan.

There is a solution which works well if you put in a little effort. The simple rule is: whenever you're cooking something, ask yourself if it would freeze well, or refrigerate for another day and if so, make more than you need.

So, when I'm making a Chicken curry, I'll make it a large one. Then I'll also put on a Lamb curry too, often this involves many of the same ingredients, throw in some different veg with each pot and cook them up for slightly different times (Lamb benefits from a long stew in the curry broth). Two different curries make for a more interesting meal to put on the table. Crucially, I can also portion them up into containers to freeze or refrigerate for another day – instant 'ready-meals', only made to my own (high!) specifications, no funny stuff!

Obviously some dishes are ideal for freezing and reheating, others not. I wouldn't recommend making extra stir-fry vegetables, such delicate food is best cooked up fresh every time. Meals that freeze well include: meat and vegetable curries and stews, meat sauces (such as bolognese, chilli con carne), home made beef-burgers and big dishes such as cauliflower cheese, fish pie and lasagne.

I'll be putting an icon by meals I think are worth making on an 'eat one, freeze one' basis, so 'freeze-friendly' is now a cookalicious category.

At last, you don't have to cook every night!

Vegetables > Beetroot 20 March 2006

Posted by cath in Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, Recipes, variations, vegetables.
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VegetablesDo more with Beetroot

I’ve been buying fresh beetroots from the market for a while now. But just what to do with them? – I wasn’t too sure except for cold cooked beetroot in salads and Austrailian-influenced sarnies.

Well, good news! At the weekend, peeled, chunky pieces of beetroot were added to an experimental venison stew. I had no particular recipe for the stew, but starting with good stewing principles and lovely fresh ingredients it’s pretty easy to make something that tastes good. (I recommend the The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for in-depth discussions about stewing).

Anyhow, I’m pleased to say that 2-3 hours later the stew plus beetroot was a great sucess – particularly the beetroot addition. Perfectly cooked, quite stewy tasting in the first bite, but really beetrooty towards the middle – an amazing find and something I’ll be doing again – particularly with dark meats in rich porter, ale or wine based stews. One to remember!

Venison Stew with Beetroot

Venison Stew with Beetroot served with homemade crusty bread.

Other beetroot experiments
Beetroot in stew was not the first experiment actually, roasting beetroot was the first real break from tradition for me. Again, roast beetroot was a real surprise, very tasty, and so easy to do! Just peel and chunk, then coat in (hot) goose fat (oil for veggies) and cooked in a hot oven for 1-2 hours, turning once or twice (depends how big you’ve cut them and how well done you want your beets).

No picture of roasted beetroot – I was too slow and they were all gobbled up!

Check out these beetroot from Thisselcockrig Fruit & Veg (at the Farmers Market in Edinburgh):

Fresh Beetroot

Fresh Beetroot

Note: you will get very purple hands washing, peeling and handling fresh beetroot. Don’t worry – it doesn’t last long!

Notes > Thai Ingredients Part 3 > Thai Aubergines 12 March 2006

Posted by cath in general info, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, shopping notes, Thai food.
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Another few notes on Thai Ingredients Information

Pea Aubergines are small, fairly bitter versions of an aubergine. They have a fairly tough skin, and burst satisfyingly in the mouth. They are are usually added to curries, especially Thai Green Curry (Gaeng Kiaw Wan). They cook quickly, and are usually added to curry for about 5 minutes to soften slightly.

pea aubergines

Pea Aubergines

 

Green or Apple Aubergines are larger, round varieties of aubergine, about the size of a plum. They are green and white, and are usually quartered and added to curries, especially Thai Green Curry (Gaeng Kiaw Wan). They discolour quickly, so are chopped and added immediately to the curry, and cook in 5-10 minutes when they have softened slightly.

thai aubergines

Apple Aubergines

Pictures of Thai Ingredients 12 March 2006

Posted by cath in general info, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, Thai food.
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InformationIngredients for Pomelo Salad

What is a pomelo?

A pomelo is a member of the citrus family – it is much larger than a grapefruit, the Thai variety is usually green, like limes.
To get a sense of scale, here is a pomelo with 2 white grapefruits and 2 limes.

citrus and pomelo


Ready to make pomelo salad?

Pomelo salad is a spicy, fruity, sweet, sour and salty Thai classic…highly recommended. Here are the ingredients laid out…

ingredients

On the table (from top-left): Pomelo, lime juice, limes, tomatoes, fish sauce.
On the plate (clockwise from top): cashew nuts, bird’s eye chillies, lemongrass, beans, garlic, corriander.

And the finished dish:

finished dish - pomelo salad

Thai Recipes > Salads > Pomelo 12 March 2006

Posted by cath in Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, preparing thai ingredients, Recipes, Thai food, thai salad, very spicy.
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SpicySpicy Pomelo Salad
(Dtam Somoh)

Serves 4 as a lunch with sticky rice or as a dish in a main meal
Ingredients:
1 pomelo – prepared into shreds (see instructions below)
2 cloves garlic -– finely chopped
1 stalk lemongrass -– thinly sliced
3-10 bird’s eye chillies
a generous bunch of coriander -– split into stalk (finely chop) and leaves (roughly chopped)
a handful of cashew nuts (plain) or peanuts -– roughly chopped
4 tomatoes -– quartered
2 snake beans (or several fine beans) -– cut into 2cm lengths
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lime juice (roughly the juice of 1 lime)
A selection of fresh vegetables e.g. white cabbage or Chinese leaf, green beans (or snake beans), cucumber, celery

Preparation:
1. Take the washed pomelo and cut a slice off the top. The peel and pith is quite thick and can be cut off in fairly thick slices. Quarter the pomelo as shown below and begin cutting off the peel and pith.

prepare pomelo 1

prepare pomelo 2

prepare pomelo 3

2. Now peel away the rest of the tough pith around the pomelo segments and shred them roughly into smaller segments, as shown below.

prepare pomelo 4

prepare pomelo 5

prepare pomelo 6

prepare pomelo 7

Finishing the Dish:

  1. In a large bowl, pound the garlic, lemongrass, coriander stalks and bird’s eye chillies together with the end of a rolling pin, aiming to bruise them slightly but not crush them.
  2. Add the chopped cashew nuts, tomatoes and beans and mix thoroughly, again bruising slightly but being careful not to crush the tomatoes.
  3. Add the shredded pomelo and mix well with a spoon, be careful not to crush the pomelo segments. Then add the chopped coriander leaves and stir through.
  4. Mix the fish sauce and lime juice and pour over the salad, mix again and serve immediately.

Serve with the cabbage leaves and other raw vegetables and with steamed white Sticky Rice.

Notes:
Thai fruit salads are typically served very spicy, with lots of fresh herbs and crunchy vegetables on the side.

What it looks like…

pomelo salad

Easy Dinners > Chicken in the Oven 6 March 2006

Posted by cath in easy, mildly spicy, Recipes, Thai food, variations.
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Mildly SpicyThai Chicken in the Oven
(and some other variants)

A really easy way of cooking joints of chicken on the bone. The flavours can be adapted to almost anything from Thai (shown here) to Indian, Mexican, Italian by adding different herbs, spices, oils and liquids.

Follow the instructions and you will get both tender, succulent chicken and a golden, crispy skin – yum!

Serves 4 as a snack or starter on it’s own or as a main meal served with steamed rice, stir-fried vegetables and a tomato and mint sauce.

Ingredients:
8 Chicken Thighs, Legs or similar, on the bone (leave the skin on)
5 cloves of Garlic, crushed slightly and roughly chopped
1 small red onion or shallot, halved and thinly sliced
2 stalks Lemongrass, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1-2 inches of Ginza (Galangal) or Ginger, shredded or grated
Kaffir lime leaves, shredded
4 crushed dried birds-eye chillies, or finely chopped fresh chillies – to taste
Handful of coriander – stalk, finely chopped; leaves, roughly chopped and set aside
1 teaspoon palm sugar (or dark brown sugar)
2-3 tbsp Fish Sauce
1-2 limes or lemons, halved and juiced, then chopped into chunks
A splash of groundnut oil
Salt, freshly ground pepper, coriander seed and/or cumin seed

Method:

  1. Using a large roasting dish, place a large piece of tin foil inside and brush with a bit of oil. Make sure you have enough foil to create a closed pocket around the chicken for the first stage of cooking.
  2. Place the chicken into the foil-covered dish. Then add chopped ingredients except the coriander leaves (reserve for later).
  3. Add the liquids, oil and sugar. Mix well, ensuring each chicken joint is well covered and the lime chunks are spread out in the tin.
  4. You are aiming for a moist, chunky marinade, do not add too much liquid at this stage.
  5. Fold the tin foil into a loose fitting parcel and twist the edges together to form a tight seal.
  6. The mixture can be left to marinate for a short period (30 mins) or a few hours as desired.
  7. When you are ready to cook, heat the oven to 180 degees C, then add the chicken parcel and bake for 30 mins. During this stage, the chicken is steaming, rather than roasting in the oven.
  8. If you’ve left the skin on the chicken, you’ll definitely want to brown the dish before serving. Remove from the oven, turn the oven up to 190 or 200 degrees C and open up the top of the parcel. The chicken should be cooked, so you just need to place it back in the oven uncovered to brown, this may take up to 15 minutes, this also reduces the juices down to a delicious spicy sauce.
  9. Serve hot from the oven, drizzled with the sauce and garnished with coriander leaves. Alternatively, serve cold with salad or in sandwiches.

Spicy Chicken

Here’s what it looks like after marinating, just seal up the foil and its ready to cook.

Notes:
Serving this as a main meal it goes well with rice or noodles and with stir-fried vegetables such as broccoli with sesame seeds on the side. For those who like it spicy, a mint and tomato sauce can be made as a cooling accompaniment. Simply add some chopped tin tomatoes or peeled and chopped fresh tomatoes to a small pan or frying pan, add some finely chopped mint and a sprinkling of sugar and heat through.

Mexican flavours: lime, garlic, fresh/ground coriander, spring onion, chillies, dark chocolate, lots of crushed cumin seeds, peppers, etc.

Italian flavours: aromatic herbs (i.e. thyme, rosemary), lemon, peppers, tomatoes, bay leaf, chillies etc.

Indian flavours: coriander seeds, cumin seeds, tumeric, cloves, cinnamon, fresh coriander, chillies lemon, peppercorns etc.

Other ideas: Simply use your favorite flavours, herbs and spices to create your own version.

Cooking Notes > Mince 3 March 2006

Posted by cath in general info, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, shopping notes, variations.
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InformationWhat's your Mince?

Pork mince is great! Do you want a change from the usual beef mince in your dinner? Try some Pork mince instead. It works really well in Bolognese and similar pasta sauces, also is fantastic in the Laab recipe.

I buy my pork mince from Piperfield Pork, it's available at the Farmers Market in Castle Terrace, Edinburgh. They do really great sausages, bacon, ham and chorizo too.