And so the new year has started and along with that, a particularly stressful time for me which leaves me feeling as if I’m in a giant hole with no idea how to crawl out and no strength to do so when I figure it out. We sold our farm and now we have to find a place to live by the end of the month but since it’s January down here in the Cape, nobody’s interested in doing much until the holidays are officially over. Really not the best time in to find a new home. All in all, a pretty grim state of affairs.
Anyway, since there’s nothing I can do about it, I just have to calm down and suck it up and since nothing calms me down more than cooking, so I thought I’d start the year with something light and exciting and what’s lighter and more exciting than Thai food? These are perfect beginning-of-the-year recipes that require almost no work but a decently stocked fridge and spice cupboard.
One of my favourite Thai munchies a relatively simple relish that’s great to eat with watermelon or crunchy veggies – try it.
COCONUT & CHILLI RELISH
- 500 ml shredded coconut
- 10 dried chillies (the Thai use bird’s eye chillies but you may want to use something less hot)
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 tbsp palm sugar
- Dry the coconut in a slow oven (150 C) for an hour or so and then roast in a pan until it’s golden.
- Pound the chillies into a very fine paste with the salt and then add the coconut and keep pounding until you have a coarse paste; now add the palm sugar and put into a small airtight container.
- This is a really nice starter and this recipe is my interpretation of one I ate in a restaurant – I loved it and it’s a really different way to entertain guests when you have them over for drinks to celebrate the new year.
We’ve done Christmas and we’ve done New Year and we’ve eaten a huge variety of Christmas food and New Year food and I know that I simply couldn’t face another gammon, turkey or salmon so this little starter is huge fun when it’s hot and sultry outside and you can’t bear the thought of eating the same old, same old.
MIANG OF GRAPEFRUIT WITH PRAWNS
- 2 tbsp grated coconut, roasted
- 1 tsp finely diced lime
- 1 tbsp diced ginger
- 2 tbsp diced red shallots
- 1 generous handful fresh coriander leaves
- 3 birds eye chillies, finely sliced
- 4 large prawns, blanced, deveined and sliced
- few peanuts, toasted to golden
- 250 grapefruit flesh
- 16 small spinach leaves
- 4 slices galangal, roasted (if you can’t find it, use fresh ginger)
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 fresh bird’s eye chillies
- 1 generous pinch shrimp paste (it’s called gapi in delis)
- 1 tbsp dried prawns
- 3 tbsp grated coconut – roasted until golden
- 1 tbsp peanuts, also roasted
- 250 ml palm sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 4 tbsp fish sauce
- 3 tbsp tamarind water
- First make the paste: gradually pound the ingredients together use a pestle and mortar, adding each ingredient, one by one, until everything is smooth.
- Make the sauce by heating the sugar with the water & then simmering for a good few minutes until it has a syrupy consistency (it must be quite thick); to this you add the fish sauce & then stir in the paste and continue to simmer for a few more minutes; at this point add the galangal & finally add the tamarind & then cook just a few seconds – don’t reduce it too much otherwise your sauce will become hard when it cools down; remove from the heat, allow to cool and then check and correct the seasoning which must be sweet, rich, sour and salty.
- Combine all the rest of the ingredients and put on the spinach leaves, dress with the sauce and & serve the rest with the leaves.
Down here in the South African Cape, the weather is turning into the usual perfect summer weather and after work drinks are very much part of life; this part of the world has never been the country’s most industrious centre. So, when sundowners are turning into a party and your guests are becoming a little rowdy, it may be a good idea to haul out something to eat and there’s nothing easier than grilling a little chicken, so here’s a recipe worth trying. I always have a good variety of pastes and spices in the fridge so it takes no time to whip up something like this – why not do the same. The paste keeps a good week in the fridge.
GRILLED CHICKEN, THAI STYLE
- 500 g chicken drumsticks or thighs
- 1 generous tbsp fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 12 white peppercorns
- 3 tbsp fish Thai fish sauce
- 1 tbsp palm sugar
- Salt to taste
- 2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
- 4 large garlic cloves, peeled
- 250 ml red chillies, finely chopped
- 800 ml white vinegar
- 600 ml caster sugar
- 800 ml water
- Salt to taste
- Use a pestle and mortar & pound the coriande,r salt, garlic and peppercorns into a fine paste.
- See to it that the chicken is clean and dry and then combine the paste, the fish sauce and the sugar and massage into the chicken, leaving it to marinate for 6 hours or overnight.
- To make the sauce: pound the coriander, the salt, garlic and chillies into a paste; the combine the vinegar, the sugar, the water and the salt in a pot and bring this to the boil; add the paste and allow it to dissolve.
- Simmer the sauce until it has reduced by half, skimming off impurities as necessary and then set it aside to cool down.
- Chargrill the chicken for about 15 – 20 minutes, turning regularly and then serve with a bowl of the sauce.
If snacks don’t help and you need to feed with some urgency, there’s nothing like a pile of noodles to calm them all down. This is one of my all time favourites – if you don’t have all the ingredients, use what you have and be inventive! Enjoy.
- 150 grams thin rice noodle vermicelli
- 75 g finely chopped pork
- 75 g finely chopped fresh shrimp
- 1 tbsp chopped shallots
- 1 tbsp fermented soybeans
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 4 tbsp palm sugar
- 1 tsp hot red chillies, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- 1 good piece tofu , cut into julienne sticks and crisply fried
- 2 cloves garlic, finely slice
- 1 fresh green chilli, thinly sliced
- 3 Chinese chives
- 50 grams fresh bean sprouts
- 750 ml sunflower oil
- 1 tbsp thinly sliced kaffir lime rind
- If the noodles are very fine, fry them in oil until they’re crispy & golden, then drain them; if they’re thick, first drain them and then fry a few at a time.
- Heat a little oil in a wok, then fry the garlic and the shallots until they’re fragrant and then add the pork and the shrimps, seasoning with the fermented soybeans, the fish sauce, some vinegar, the sugar and the dried chillies.
- When this is nice and thick, add the lime juice and check and correct the seasoning so that you have a sweet, sour & salty taste.
- Reduce the heat, add the noodles & continue turning in the sauce until they just stick together; now add the tofu and then spoon into plates.
- Sprinkle each plate with chillies, fresh coriander leaves and, if you used it,, thinly sliced kaffir lime rind.
- Put the bean sprouts and Chinese chives on the sides of the plates