Continuing on our culinary journey, let us take another quick look at the cuisine of Thailand.
You can not be challenged for suggesting Thai food is a masterpiece of fusion. Their flavour and techniques are familiar with those of China, India and Japan.
These have been skilfully combined and refined offering evocative aromas, contrasting textures and subtle blends of herbs and spices, all coming together for the presentation of exciting dishes that are light, fresh and full of character.
In brief, the flavours that characterise Thai food are limes, fresh coriander, coconut milk, garlic and chillies along with tamarind and palm sugar. Mild fish sauce provides the essential savoury flavouring and salt to most dishes.
Rice is an important part of the Thai diet.
As well as being the foundation of many one-course dishes, rice plays a vital supporting role for other dishes and dilutes a highly spiced one.
A point to note when enjoying Thai food is that most dishes are created specifically to be mixed or blended with rice when eaten. Meat is considered more of a luxury and is often stretched by combining with wonderful fresh vegetables, rice noodles or at times fish or shellfish along with a coconut based sauce.
Duck is also popular, particularly for special occasions.
Thai food will often start with a paste as we will this week by creating a green curry paste, which we will then utilise in the meat dish as well as the vegetable dish to go with it.
GREEN CURRY PASTE
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
6 fresh green chillies seeded and chopped
4 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
4 coriander roots, chopped
thumb-size piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
2 stalks of lemongrass, chopped
2 kaffir lime leaves, chopped
2 tsp shrimp paste
3 tsp chopped coriander leaves
Method: Heat a wok adding the coriander and cumin seed and allow them to roast until you get the pleasure of the aroma. Place them in a small blender (or using a pestle and mortar) and crush them along with the peppercorns.
Add the remaining ingredients and pound to mix to a smooth paste.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four weeks.
Note: This will make about 7-8 tablespoons of paste.
SPICED BROCCOLI AND CABBAGE
3 Tbsp peanut oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 good-sized head of broccoli, trimmed
1/2 small white cabbage, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp coconut milk
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1/2 tsp crushed palm sugar
Method: In a wok heat the oil, adding the garlic and fry until it just begins to colour.
Quickly add the broccoli and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes. Reduce the heat and cover the wok and cook for a further 3-4 minutes or until the broccoli is still crisp but almost cooked.
Add the white cabbage and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
Add the coconut milk and the fish sauce along with the crushed palm sugar and toss for a further 30 seconds.
BARBECUED SPARE RIBS THAI STYLE
2 Tbsp chopped coriander stalks
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 tsp black peppercorns, cracked
1 tsp grated lime zest
1 tbsp green curry paste
2 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp crushed palm sugar
1 cup coconut milk
1 kg pork spare ribs, all trimmed
Method: Using a pestle and mortar (or blender) pound or mix together the coriander, garlic, peppercorns, lime zest, curry paste, fish sauce and sugar.
Once well blended stir in the coconut milk.
Place the spare ribs in a shallow dish and pour over the spiced coconut mixture, cover and leave in a cool place to marinate for three hours basting occasionally.
To cook the spare ribsPreheat a barbecue or heavy based pan and cook the ribs for about 5 minutes on each side until nicely browned, basting occasionally with the coconut mixture.
Continue cooking until they are cooked through.
Serve the spare ribs along with the spiced broccoli and cabbage.
Graham Hawkes operates Paddington Arms at the Queens Dr/Bainfield Rd roundabout
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