A while back you may remember me talking about how my thai yellow soup came into being. This is the very recipe where that chilli mishap occurred. You see, my beloved Elly is not a big fan of “spicy” food so I was trying to create a thai curry that she would at least like, so I could have a curry more often without feeling guilty that I was torturing her.
Honestly it had nothing to do with me wanting to slowly increase her tolerance for spicy food
On that fateful day the particular green chili I had decided to use was (unknown to me) not terribly hot and as I was cooking with Elly in mind I also removed the seeds. Since that incident I now cut a tiny amount of chilli off the end and touch my tongue with it to get an idea of heat. If I don’t feel a burn I use the seeds in the dish.
But that’s just me – I’ve known people who put lots more chilli in their cooking than I do, it’s all down to personal taste so it’s always a good idea to experiment with the strength and amount of chilli in a curry if it’s not to your liking.
1 stick of lemongrass
3 cloves of garlic
1 green chilli (seeds optional)
Half an onion
Thumb sized piece of ginger
Handful of fresh coriander (leaves and stems)
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Handful of fresh mint leaves
Half teaspoon ground coriander
Half teaspoon ground cumin
Half teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons fish sauce
Juice of half a lime (zest the lime first and save along with the remaining juice)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Roughly a quarter can of coconut milk
and the rest
1 and a half onions, finely diced
4 chicken breasts, diced
2 bell peppers, diced
Three-quarter tin of coconut milk
2 kaffir lime leaves
The Curry Paste
To make the curry paste, roughly chop the ingredients and add everything except the coconut milk to your blender. Give them a few pulses to break it down a little. You are looking for a this to become a thick but smooth paste, so add the coconut milk a little at a time and try to blend. As soon as it starts to turn into a paste stop adding coconut milk and blend to a smooth paste.
Now you have your curry paste, you can store this for a day or two in an airtight container in the fridge. Or you can use it fresh, which is always my preference. It’s nice to know that you could make this up in advance if you were going to be a little pushed for time.
and the rest
Next, you’ll want to heat a frying pan over a medium to high heat and when it is up to temperature add a little oil and then your paste. You just want to release the aromatics from it so don’t wait too long (about a minute) before adding the rest of the onions and allowing them to soften a little (about 5 minutes). Add the diced chicken and stir fry until sealed (about 5 minutes).
Now increase the heat under your pan and add the coconut milk, diced peppers and the kaffir lime leaves. As soon as the mixture begins to boil, reduce to a simmer for about 20 – 25 minutes and serve on a bed of pilaf rice.
Remember the lime zest and juice I said to save? Well, here’s a great way to use it up and add a real subtle zing and punch to this dish. When making the rice pilaf, add the lime zest and juice instead of the turmeric and cook as normal. Hey presto, zingy rice!
Hmmm a traditional Thai soup recipe? Hell to the no! This is anything but. I came up with the idea for this recipe after an experiment in making Thai chicken curry. The chilli I used for the curry was a little lacking in the heat department and as a result I ended up with a curry that had almost no heat.
It still made for a fantastic tasting dish, just not what was originally intended. The lack of heat meant that all the other herbs and spices were able to come through in full force. Which led me to thinking about what else I could use similar flavours in because they are so great together.
This is the first of those ideas to make it to the “perfected recipe” stage and it’s a butternut squash and sweet potato soup of sorts but that doesn’t really make for a snappy title so given the inspiration and appearance I’m calling it Thai Yellow Soup.
1 x onion, diced
1 x carrot, diced
2 x sticks of celery, diced
2 x cloves of garlic, finely diced
quarter of a chilli, diced
Thumb sized piece of ginger, finely diced or grated
Pinch of ground coriander
Pinch of ground cumin
1 x butternut squash, diced
2 x sweet potatoes, diced
Veg or chicken stock
1 x star anise
1 x handful of fresh coriander
1 x handful of fresh basil
1 x handful of fresh mint
Place a large saucepan over a medium high heat, once it has warmed add a little oil, just enough so that you can slow fry the onion until it is soft, then add the carrot and continue to gently fry until they start to soften.
Next you want to add the celery, garlic, chilli, ginger, ground coriander and ground cumin. stir it all together and continue to fry for about a minute this should be long enough to warm and release the fragrance of the garlic, ginger, coriander and cumin.
Add the butternut squash and the sweet potato to the pot and stir together. Add enough stock to cover all the contents. Drop in the star anise, fresh basil, coriander and mint, then stir and bring it to the boil. Simmer gently for 30 – 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the sweet potato and butternut squash start to break up as you stir remove the soup from the heat and blend until you have a smooth purée.
Return this to a low heat. Then taste and season. If you are happy with the consistency of the soup you can proceed to the eating phase, if not, you could thin it by stirring in boiling water or by adding milk or cream.
I like to serve this soup drizzled with a little truffle oil for added decadence and a crusty bread roll is a great accompaniment to any soup.
1 packet of puff pastry
5 – 6 tomatoes, as ripe as possible, diced roughly with the majority of the seeds removed
10 – 12 black olives, finely chopped
Shredded Parma ham (or other dried meat)
Mini mozzarella balls (or shredded mozz)
Handful of basil leaves, roughly torn up
Strong cheese, such as Red Leicester or vintage cheddar, finely grated
Fresh rocket (or oregano, thyme or similar)
Serves 2 as a main course, 4-6 as a snack/starter
Preheat the oven to 200 C.
Flour your worktop well and roll out the pastry to fit the size of a large baking tray. Place it carefully on the baking tray and brush all over with the vegetable oil.
Dress the pastry to 1 centimetre from the edge with your toppings, starting with the tomatoes, then moving onto the olives, basil, parma ham and mozzarella. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top and place in the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes, until the edge of the pastry is golden brown.
Remove from the oven, cut into large slices and sprinkle with the rocket before serving.
2 foot-long bread sticks
Large handful grated cheese (strong cheddar or goats cheese)
30g butter, brought to room temperature
Teaspoon dried thyme
Teaspoon dried basil
1 clove garlic, crushed to a paste (or substitute with 10 twists of dried garlic grater).
Heat your oven to 180C.
Mix the butter, thyme, basil & garlic together. Make 1-inch thick slices into the bread, but do not go all the way through, just to the bottom crust. Spread the butter mix on both sides of each “slice” and then stuff the gaps with the grated cheese.
Cook for 10-15 mins, until any cheese on top of the bread has gone crispy.
I usually fashion a cooking tray out of foil for each bread stick, as this will catch any melted cheese that drips through and also means you can scrumple it up at the end, quickly tidying away any crumbs. To make the tray, pull off a large piece of foil and fold in half for strength. Fold about 1-inch of the long side over twice to form a “wall” and repeat on other long side. Place the bread stick on the foil and crease in the short ends to the correct size, ensuring that your sides stay upright. Don’t seal in the bread stick (unless you want soft garlic bread!).
Note: Use cheese with a strong flavour, this works a lot better than mild cheddar in this recipe. You can also adjust the amount of garlic to suit your taste.
Extra virgin olive oil
3 x carrot, halved lengthways and chopped
3 x celery sticks, halved lengthways and chopped
3 x onions, finely diced
3 x garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 x anchovy
5 large tomatoes
50g sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped or blitzed in a blender
150g tomato puree
2 x large handfuls of fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of ground cumin
500g lean mince beef
2 x bay leaves
300ml Italian tomato sauce
Once you have completed all the preparation, get a large saucepan, pour in a generous lug of olive oil and get it onto a high heat until the oil just starts to smoke. Add the anchovy and fry this hard until it starts to break up and disappear. At this point add your carrots and bring the heat down to a medium heat.
Fry these for about 5 minutes, then add the onion and celery and reduce the heat to a low heat and continue to fry this until the onions begin to caramelise (usually twenty to twenty five minutes) stirring occasionally.
While this is happening you need to skin, quarter, core and de-seed the tomatoes. To skin them you will need a pan of boiling water and a bowl of ice cold water. First score an X on to the bottom of each tomato, with the water boiling hard, carefully pop the tomatoes in for about 1 minute, then remove with a slotted spoon and place them in the bowl of ice water to stop them cooking and make them easier to handle. Now you should be able to remove the skin by simply tearing from where you made the X. Next quarter the tomatoes and using a teaspoon remove the core and seeds in one go, you only want the flesh of the tomato. Remember to keep an eye on the main saucepan while you are doing this.
If the onions are starting to caramelise by now, simply remove the pan from the heat. Begin to fry the mince, with a pinch of cumin powder, in a large frying pan over a high heat. You want to brown the meat as quickly as possible, making sure that you brown all the meat.
Depending on the quality of the mince you may find that it releases some water once you start to fry it, if this happens keep the heat as high as you can and keep turning and moving the mince until all the water boils off. This can take a bit of time so don’t forget about the other pan, and remove it from the heat if the onions start to caramelise before the meat is done. You want to keep frying the mince until it is completely dry looking and starts to stick to your frying pan.
At this point your onions should have started to caramelise and you may have removed them from the heat, if you have, get them back onto a low heat for about a minute then add the meat. If the onions haven’t started to caramelise then turn the heat down on the meat and give it an occasional stir until the onions start to caramelise and then add the meat and stir the lot together.
By now there may well be some mince and fat stuck to your frying pan, this is great because that’s pure flavour. Add a good splash of your wine to the frying pan and using a wooden spoon or spatula gently stir and scrape those little bits off the pan, the heat and wine should make this very easy and in less than a minute all that flavour should have combined with the wine which you can now pour into the saucepan.
With regards to the wine: The conventional wisdom is to use red wine. If you have some available great, however the day I came up with this recipe, I looked at our collection of unfinished bottles and there were no reds, as I didn’t want to open a bottle of red just for this, I picked up a bottle of white wine, a Sauternes (very sweet wine) that had been open too long and had started to vinegar a little. A quick bit of measuring and in it went.
Now if my mum was still alive I would have gotten an earful, not only letting such a good wine start to vinegar but also for using it for cooking, that is until she tasted the end result, this gave the whole dish a different flavour than if I had used a red wine and exaggerated the caramelised flavour of the veg in a way that’s hard to describe.
Next you will need to add all the tomatoes, tomato purée, the blitzed sun-dried tomatoes, Italian tomato sauce, oregano, the rest of the wine, basil, bay leaves and stir gently.
Now bring this up to a medium heat and start to add the water, while stirring continuously. You want to add enough water so that the sauce is slightly thinner than you want the end result to be. In my case this turned out to be 500ml almost exactly but depending on the water contents of your ingredients you may require less or more. Once you’re happy with the consistency bring it to a very gentle simmer and cover the pot.
You want to simmer this for at least an hour stirring it occasionally. After an hour give it a good stir, if it’s still a little thinner than you like leave the lid off and let it simmer for a few more minutes and it should thicken up. I’ve had this Ragu simmering for up to 3 hours on occasion and if anything it just improves the flavours.
Finally, taste it and season it with salt and pepper if required and stir in 2 tablespoons of the best extra virgin olive oil you can find.
I like to serve this with fresh Tagliatelle and some Parmesan cheese, grated fresh over the top at the table.
Thankfully this recipe freezes really well and is ideal for freezing in bags as described here, 150ml is a serving so we tend to freeze it in bags of 300ml for the two of us. Alternatively, we’ve found the leftovers make great pizza. just spread some on your pizza base, add some cheese over the top (crumbled Mozzarella if you want to be really decadent) and cook as usual.