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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!

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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.

‘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!

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

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.

Notes > Thai Ingredients Part 2 > Addition 1 March 2006

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

Sticky or glutinous rice can be bought in small and large quantities at most Chinese supermarkets, and comes in black and white varieties.

  • Black sticky rice is mainly used to make a sweet coconut rice pudding desert.
  • White sticky rice is used steamed for salads and also mixed with coconut and sugar to accompany deserts, such as mango and sticky rice.

White Sticky Rice

White Sticky Rice

 

Black Sticky Rice

Black Sticky Rice


Thai shallots or purple onions are very small onions with a purple skin, they are available in some Chinese supermarkets and some Asian grocers shops. European shallots, red onion or other onions can be used as a substitute.

Purple Shallots

 

Peeled Shallots

purple shallots 

Notes > Thai Ingredients Part 2 24 February 2006

Posted by cath in general info, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, shopping notes, Thai food.
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InformationDescription of Ingredients and Substitution Ideas

Ginza (or Galangal) is a sweet ginger, pale in colour (yellow and pinkish) and can be bought either fresh in season or dried in slices (which need to be re-hydrated) or in jars. You can also buy frozen ginza, or freeze chunks of fresh ginza to keep for another day.

Ginza or Galangal

Ginger can be used as a substitute – but it has a much sharper flavour

Chillies – several types of chillies are used in Thai cooking.
Mildly spicy dishes will usually be made with the large red and green chillies. Thai birds-eye chillies are used in many of the spicier dishes. Used whole (or pierced with a knife) they produce a mildly spicy flavour and can be easily removed from the dish. Chopped finely they will produce a tasty, very spicy dish.
Traditionally (I’m told) Thai chefs will use as many birds-eye chillies as they are years old – so the older chefs make much spicier food. A small handful will usually suffice for each dish.

Red Birds Eye Chillies

Green Birds Eye Chillies

Any type of chilli can be used as a substitute.

Notes about Chillies:

  • Green chillies (young) are usually hotter than red (ripened)
  • Small chillies usually have many more seeds and are therefore hotter than the larger, plumper chillies.
  • Large Dried chillies are usually soaked before use and chopped
  • Dried Birds-eye chillies can be crushed into a dish like chilli powder
  • Chilli powder is often used as well as fresh chillies, this typically adds more heat to the dish whilst fresh chillies give a clean chilli flavour.
  • You can remove the seeds from chillies to reduce the heat.

Mushrooms – Thais often use straw mushrooms in their cooking. These can be bought in tins – however they are usually soaked in salt water so need to be washed to remove the excess salt and cut. Any type of fresh mushroom can be used instead – try brown-cap mushrooms, oyster or shitake mushrooms, wild mushrooms. Large Flat and Portabella mushrooms have great flavour – but be careful of adding these to coconut milk soup for example, as they turn the soup base very brown and slightly unappealing (although the tastes is still great!).

Beans – Snake beans are very long, fairly thin green beans, they should be cut into bite-sized pieces.

Snake Beans

You can substitute any green bean (i.e. fine beans or dwarf beans) although remember that you’ll need to buy about 3 times more!

Kaffir lime leaves are an essential Thai ingredient. They can be bought fresh, frozen or dried. They are particularly good frozen as they keep their flavour better and can be stored for months. If you buy fresh leaves, pop the rest in the freezer for use in many Thai-style dishes.

Kaffir Lime Leaves

There is no real substitute for Kaffir Lime Leaves, but if you’re stuck you could try adding some lime zest instead.
Kaffir limes have a small amount of juice, but are mainly used for their zest, which has a strong lime flavour.

Kaffir Limes

Thai sweet basil has a purple stem and darker, thicker leaves than European varieties; it has a strong aniseed flavour and smell. It is best bought fresh. Other varieties of basil can be used instead, but will not produce the same flavour of dish.

Thai Sweet Basil

Some supermarkets sell frozen Thai basil which is a good substitute for adding to curries.

Notes > Thai Ingredients Part 1 24 February 2006

Posted by cath in general info, shopping notes, Thai food.
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InformationWhere to Buy Thai Ingredients

Thai supermarkets have a wide selection of imported herbs, spices and speciality vegetables from Thailand. Also look in your local Chinese supermarket or Asian greengrocers for similar items or substitutions.

Shops In Edinburgh:

  • Nittiya Thai Market, Dalry Road
  • Aihua, West Crosscauseway
  • Hing Sing, Leith Walk
  • Pat’s Chung Ying Chinese Supermarket , Leith Walk
  • Global Fruit & Vegetables, Gillespie Place
  • Oriental Supermarket, Lauriston Place
  • Orient Thai Market, Bruntsfield Place

There are also several good shops along Argyle Place in Marchmont.