One of our wedding gifts from our friends was some cookery school vouchers with The Square Food Foundation, we didn’t get around to starting to use them until now.

I booked us onto the Spice Trail evening for a date night…

The kitchen is a big light space with enough cookery stations for people to pair up.

We sat with the chefs first while they talked a little about chillies and spices. Here are some points they raised… most of you will know these but I thought I would include them anyway.

Chillies;

  • The general rule of thumb is that the smaller the chilli the more potent it is; the heat is concentrated in the seeds and the veins of the chilli (simply because they are smaller)
  • Remove seeds from chillies to make them milder for cooking or leave them in to gain full effect
  • Take care when preparing chilli to avoid touching the eyes and sensitive skin; wash hands, boards and knives thoroughly after preparing chillies – wash with soap before adding water, as chillies are oily this will remove the heat.
  • Chilli powder dried chillies are used sparingly and should be added at the beginning of cooking; they will keep for 12 months in a cool, dark place
  • Cooking does not really diminish the intensity of chillies but their strength can be mitigated with cream or yoghurt

And spice;

  • Spices like cinnamon, cardamom, mustard seed, coriander, cumin, tumeric & fenugreek should be added at the early stages of cooking to release flavour
  • Salt is vital for carrying flavour and should be added at the beginning of the cooking process; check the seasoning at the end of the cooking and adjust

We made 2 dishes and ate 3, 1 Thai influenced, one Indian influenced and a dessert.

First we started our main;

A quick chicken curry with yogurt and spices

This is a really tasty alternative to the greasy take away you might have eaten if you’d had slightly less energy. I like to serve it with a little yoghurt and naan bread for an inexpensive, warming meal.

Serves 4-5

For the curry base
¾in ginger, peeled
6 fat garlic cloves, peeled
3 medium tomatoes, chopped into large chunks
1½ tbsp ground coriander
1¼ tsp garam masala
¼-½ tsp red chilli powder, or more if you like it hot
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin powder
3 good tbsp of full-fat Greek yoghurt
Salt to taste

For the curry

750g chicken thighs, skinned
7 baby potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp ghee or unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 handfuls of baby spinach
Handful of finely chopped coriander leaves and stems

 For the base, make a paste of the ginger, garlic and tomatoes. I use a hand blender, but you can chop the tomatoes and finely grate the ginger and garlic – the sauce will not be as smooth though. Stir in the spices, salt and yoghurt. Add the chicken and potatoes and leave to marinate in the fridge for 10mins. Heat the oil and butter/ghee in a medium non-stick saucepan. Add the onion and cook over a moderate flame, stirring often, until the onion is well browned on the edges, around 7-8 minutes.

Add the chicken, potatoes and curry base and cook over a moderate-high heat, tossing the chicken in the paste quite often until small oil droplets start to form on the base or edges of the pan; this takes around 10-12 minutes. If it still isn’t cooked, you can add a splash of water and cook for another 5 minutes or until the water has reduced.

Add enough water to come halfway up the chicken and bring to the boil. Cover and cook on a low flame until the chicken and potatoes are cooked through, around 12-15 minutes more (depending on the size of the joints and potatoes).

Add the spinach and, once wilted, taste and adjust the seasoning. There should be enough of the sauce for a creamy gravy; if not, add a little more water from the kettle. If you add too much, reduce over a high heat.
Stir in the coriander and serve.

For the vegetarian alternative – replace the chicken with one small cauliflower, leaves removed and broken into florets. Treat in exactly the same way as the chicken.

Pilaff Rice

 25g 1oz butter or ghee
2tbsp onion or shallot, finely chopped
400g 14oz long grain rice, preferably basmati
Scant 1 litre chicken stock
2tbsp herbs (parsley, thyme, chives), freshly chopped, optional
Salt and pepper

Melt butte or ghee in a casserole, add onion and sweat for 2-3min. Add rice and toss for 1-2min, just long enough for the grains to change colour. Season with salt and pepper, add stock, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a minimum and then simmer on top of the stove or in the oven (170°C/325°F/gas 3) for about 10min. By then the rice should just be cooked – about 10min. By then the rice should be just cooked and all the liquid absorbed. Just before serving, stir in the fresh herbs if using

This is so worth the extra effort so go for it people, best rice ever.

Sea bass or grey mullet en papillote

Serves 4

4 x 160g fillets of sea bass or grey mullet, cleaned, scaled and trimmed
Olive oil
2 red chillies, deseeded and cut into thin strips
1 stalk lemongrass, outside leaves removed, discarded and very finely slice
400g can coconut milk
1-2tbsp fish sauce
Juice and zest of 1 lime
4 lime leaves, very finely sliced

( I would also add some sugar, Thai food is supposed to hit the 4 different tastes (salt, sour, sweet and bitter) and this didn’t really. Not my favourite dish)

Preheat oven to 220C (425F) gas 7.

Season fish inside and out with salt and pepper. Brush four 12in (30cm) squares of foil with a little olive oil and put a fish diagonally across the centre of each piece. Bring sides of the foil up around the fish and crimp together tightly at each end leaving the top open.

In a bowl mix the coconut milk with the lemongrass and chilli, lime zest, juice and lime leaves. Spoon the mixture over the four fish.

Finally, pour a teaspoon of fish sauce into each parcel then seal well. Put on a large baking sheet and bake for 10min.

To serve, put the unopened parcels of fish on four warmed plates and allow each person to open up their parcel. Serve with coconut rice.

The curry was great though and this really is a good easy recipe that most people will like as you can tailor it to anyone’s heat tolerance and likes and dislikes.

My husband has already made this again.

Like I said I wasn’t hugely into this dish but I think a few tweaks and it could be good.

The dish we didn’t get to make (due to time) was the dessert but the lovely Square Food people passed on the recipe so I hope to make this soon.

Rich Chilli Chocolate Tart

For the Sweet Pastry 
 
250g flour
85g icing sugar
125 butter
1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways and seeds scraped out
1 small egg beaten

First make the sweet pastry. Sift flour and icing sugar until completely combined. Rub butter into the flour until nearly breadcrumb consistency. Make a well in the flour and add vanilla and egg yolks. Knead mixture with fingers. Refrigerate for a minimum 20 minutes

Roll out the pastry as thinly as possible and line a tart case with it. Bake blind for 15 – 20 minutes at 190°C then for a further 5 minutes with the baking beans removed, until the pastry is completely cooked.

For the Filling

700ml cream
pinch chilli flakes
350g 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate
5 eggs
2 yolks
1 tsp cocoa powder
150g sugar

To make the tart filling, bring the cream to boiling point with the chilli flakes then remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate, stirring to combine until the mixture has a smooth, glossy consistency. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, yolks and cocoa and then stir into the chocolate mixture. Pour into the sweet pastry case and bake at 150°C – 160°C for 15 minutes until the tart is just set. Remove and cool for 30 minutes before eating. Serve with crème fraiche.

 We still have more vouchers to spend and I am looking forward to picking our next course. This one was a great way to spend an evening but as we both cook with chilli and spice a lot at home we didn’t really learn much. So next time instead of sticking to what we know and like I might pick something geared towards something we don’t cook.

Check out the Square Food Foundation – they are doing really great things.

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This is the last post from Thailand…

I loved the little dessert spots in malls in Bangkok.

Marvelous Cream was one of my faves, a Japanese themed cafe with fruits teas and desserts as well as ice cream and waffles. It was in a huge airport themed mall on the Japan floor.

I loved the little quotes on the menus. So Japanese.

Waffle-marshmallow sandwich anyone?

We did visit this all a few times, mostly because it was very near to us and also to escape the heat now and again.

I ducked in here almost every time to grab a fruit tea, they were amazing.

I love the packaging.

You got instructions with this dessert.

Yes that is my flavour.

So delicious.

I wish we had these dessert bars here. I’ve said that a lot haven’t I?

One of my favourite things about Bangkok was the food, the sheer number and range of places to eat from tiny carts on the side of the street to rooftop restaurants and even mall food is good here.

A very popular spot that our friend Jack took us to was After You, I mean it was a week night at about 10pm when we went and it was rammed. It was full of young Thai’s on dates and in groups. Such a nice hang out spot.

Jack advised that it was all about the Shibuya Toast, and literally freaked when we tried to order one each. We found out why when it arrived.

They also do the normal Thai thing of bringing a sweet tea when you arrive. Love that.

The huge number of desserts had me stumped. So many to choose from, and they all were so different to what we get here. I wanted to try so many.

In the end I managed to make a decision, we also ordered iced teas.

So this is the toast. Do you see that? Coma inducing toast.

Seriously after this the boys ended up crashing hard, it was insane, the sugar sweats and then food coma.

I was more sensible and ordered a strawberry iced tea…

And a green tea layer cake. Beautiful cake. So light and can you see those tiny layer? No idea how that can be done.

YOu really MUST go to After You if you visit Bangkok, it’s really easy to find in the Thong Lor district (uber trendy lively area)

Also would love to know has anyone tried Shibuya toast?

To go with my simple starter and simple supper, I am treating you to a double post today with an incredibly simple dessert; roasted strawberries… which I served with vanilla ice cream.

So easy!

You need;
1/2 punnet per person of British strawberries
a sprinkling of sugar
a splash of balsamic vinegar

1. Pop all your strawberries (tops removed) in a roasting tray, sprinkle over the sugar and splash over the vinegar, then bake in a very low heated oven for 45 minutes to an hour, then served poured over some really good vanilla ice cream.

I am sorry for the rubbish photo we had scoffed msot of them before I remembered to take one.

So so so good! And really great when you don’t want to have anything massively fussy to make, might well be my new go-to!

Spiced Berries

July 6, 2011

For our dessert proper we served a very tidy Eton mess, with spiced berries.

There are recipes on the blog already for meringues, take a look here (right at the bottom) but served with these spiced berries instead of fresh fruit takes it to a whole new level.

You need;
110ml water
2 cloves
4 cardamom pods
½ cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 small handfuls raspberries
1 small handful blackberries
1 small handful blueberries
2 handfuls strawberries (chopped)

1. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, then turn off the heat, stir in the cloves, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and star anise, and set aside for 5-10 minutes

2. Then add the raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and strawberries to the spiced water.
Simmer over a medium heat for 5-7 minutes, or until the water has reduced by half.

Drain the fruit and reserve the spiced syrup.

3. Serve onto the plate and drizzle the syrup over the top, serve with some little meringues and whipped cream with fresh mint.

 

We got to try this as well… amazing!

Our pre-dessert was a mini pud, I love this kind of thing they are great to finish off a meal at home to give you that sweet hit, and can be made in advance.

This was a mini black forest gateaux. this should make 8 little portions.

You need;
for the cherries:
200g dark cherries, stones removed and sliced
115ml kirsch liquor
115g granulated sugar
toss together and set in fridge for an hour before using

225g bittersweet (70% cacao) chocolate, finely chopped
80 ml milk
3 tbsp granulated sugar
1/8 tsp salt
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten with a fork
4 egg whites
115ml heavy cream, cold

1. Put a medium-sized mixing bowl and a wire whisk in the freezer and get them cold, this will make whipping the cream mush easier.

2. Melt your chocolate in the microwave.

3. In a small saucepan, bring the milk and sugar to the boil and then take off heat. Whisk the yolks constantly and slowly drizzle the hot milk in and whisk until the mixture becomes thick and coats the back of a spoon. 
Make sure you add the hot milk in small amounts at first; otherwise the egg yolks will cook too quickly and the mixture will curdle.  Once you’ve addedmost of the milk this way, the temperature of the egg yolks will rise enough to allow the rest of the milk to be added at once then add the melted chocolate and whisk to combine.

4. In another mixing bowl set over a pan of simmering water, place the egg whites and whisk until hot-to-the-touch. Add the salt and whisk until stiff peaks form. Add 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and mix well. Fold in the rest gently.

5. Place the heavy cream in the chilled mixing bowl and whip with the chilled whisk until stiff peaks form. Add 1/3 of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture and mix well. Fold in the rest gently.

Then get your serving dishes, whether big or small, make a layer of the soaked cherries then the chocolate mousse and chill for at least an hour or until you want to eat them.

Serve with a little drizzle of fresh cream and a cherry on top.

This was mine…

It was good.

I would advise you to make little ones as this was more than enough for me, it’s very rich and there is a real kick to those cherries.

When we had some friends over for dinner last week I wanted to make a simple dessert, it was a weeknight, I had to hot-foot it home and make snacks and dinner so couldn’t spend lots of time on a pud.

So I decided to make one up… this is so very simple but I am still proud that I made it up myself. It is however inspired by all the dishes that the brilliant Heidi at 101 Cookbooks and also the desserts that Aran at Cannelle et Vanille whips up.

We were having strawberries in our main so I just brought an extra punnet and lots of blueberries to make a crumble.

I made 4 mini ones in 200ml ramekins, but you could probably double this recipe and make one big one.

You need:
1 large punnet strawberries, chopped
2 punnet blueberries
60g buckwheat flour
45g oats
20g ground almonds
45g soft brown sugar
50g butter cubed (you might need to adjust this I just kept adding cubed so is a bit of a guess)
small handful sliced blanched almonds to top
cracked black pepper

1. Mix the flour, oats, sugar and ground almonds, then add the butter and mix the butter into the mix using your fingers until it becomes like wet sand

2. Meanwhile chuck all your fruit into a saucepan with a large sprinkling of sugar and cook for 3-4 minutes on a medium heat.

3. Transfer all but a little of the fruit into the four ramekins and top with the crumble mix then top again with the chopped almonds, another little sprinkle of sugar and black pepper.

4. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 20-25  minutes at 180c (I browned mine under a grill for another 3 minutes)

 

Top with creme fraiche or cream or ice cream…

… and the leftover fruit. So cute and pretty!