DIY : Thai yellow curry paste

There are precisely 2 things that make cooking Thai food from scratch hard for me. One, you don’t get the necessary ingredients very easily here; lemon grass, whenever I get my hands on I bulk buy and freeze, and kaffir lime leaves are almost never available (replacing it with lime rind I’ve found to be a good alternative).

Also I think because of the first hurdle, I used to end up picking up the pre-made pastes from the grocery store. Which now in retrospect, really makes me wonder why I’d even bother. That stuff is so bland and flavourless, leave alone loaded with preservatives and vile food-colouring agents, that I stopped cooking anything Thai-related after that realization entered my mind.

Now..what if I told you that it takes less than 20 minutes to make your own Thai curry paste from scratch, the authentic way? Yeah, hand pounded in a mortar and pestle. OK, you’re passing up that option at the mere sound of ‘hand pounded’. Don’t worry, but that only gets easier for you now – 7 minutes in a blender. Including prep time. Are we ready? Let’s go!

As I’ve mentioned in my earlier posts, using a mortar and pestle helps determine the consistency of the paste at every stage, and the flavour you get is more nuanced. Although I don’t really understand the science behind it, I can vouch that it makes a big difference. The blender method is obviously easier, and comes a close second in terms of flavour. Follow your own adventure!

This paste is endlessly versatile and can be used to make curries (I have a recipe with prawns coming up shortly), soups, and even in a salad dressing(?) That was off the top of my head, but hey, it could work!


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Cinnamon French toast with stewed apples

I think this is my first breakfast dish on here. Which when I think about, doesn’t make any sense since I’m that person that loves to eat breakfast foods at any time of the day. No strict time restrictions in my head. A full English breakfast for lunch? Oh yes, please. Dosa for dinner? Hell yeah!

My mum has a recipe for stewed plums with cinnamon that I absolutely adore. Her version doesn’t have maple syrup, just caramelized sugar and the plums tossed in it. I decided to do mine with apples since, um, I didn’t have any plums on hand.

We usually end up eating (read binge-ing) out on the weekends, so all the week’s supply of groceries are exhausted by then, and all that’s left are some scraggly bits of odds and ends that get tossed into the juicer come Monday morning. So when I announced to my husband on Friday night that I’d be making something ‘different’ for breakfast the next day, I honestly didn’t have a plan in mind. Remember I told you that I’m the lady with a never-ending supply of eggs? (I realize how that sounds). Yeah, so I wasn’t too worried.

Apples and cinnamon are a match made in heaven. The French toast, golden on the outside with a slight squidge in the centre makes it so worth waking up to. And it’s easy on the maker too, with no more than 15 minutes for all the elements combined. The ultimate breakfast of champions. We did follow through on the rest of our weekend theme though, and lounged in our pyjamas all day watching mindless TV. No frills, and just perfect!

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Lime & Basil Iced tea

I have an affinity for iced teas. Living in a city with soaring temperatures and oppressive humidity all year round, that doesn’t come as much of a surprise. My favourite would have to be the plain lemon iced tea closely followed by this peach version, but of late I’ve been trying a few other variations as well.

This lime and basil tea might sound a bit ordinary, but the basil is steeped in the brewing tea which gives it a bit of a Moroccan – albeit with basil instead of mint – twist. Which contrarily makes me feel all tropical too, and I like that feeling. I’m sitting here right now by the bay window that overlooks our lawn, sipping on a glass of this as I’s the closest I can get to lying in a hammock.

I bought some basil last week for this bruschetta, but ended up using only a few sprigs for it. Herbs never last when refrigerated, so I had to come up with a plan to use them up before they started to dry up and wilt. Seeing that I had had some good luck with propagating mint from cuttings (new post coming up on that soon – watch this space), I decided to give basil a shot as well.

A week in a glass jar with the only task of changing up the water on a daily basis and making sure they got ample sunlight (not direct), they have now started to develop roots! I almost yelped with joy! Superstitious or not, I’m going to take that as a good sign for our new home. In fact, the basil flowers that I’ve used here are from the mother plant, which is getting accustomed to its new environment quite nicely.

Even though this iced tea of basil and lime lacks in quintessential authenticity, it definitely makes up every bit of it in flavour. The essence of comfort and summer in every sip.

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FULLY LOADED BEEF TACOS (with re-fried beans, purple cabbage yogurt-slaw, guacamole, and salsa)

Sitting amidst the chaos that is moving houses is not the perfect setting I’d envisioned to share this recipe with you. But if you think about it, it is fitting in a way : all the separate components coming together in the end in perfect harmony (which will hopefully be the case with the home situation!)

Who doesn’t like tacos, like seriously? This recipe has a few different elements, which are all super simple to rustle up and put together (fun too!) and can all be made in advance, which is always a bonus.

As you can tell from the recipe, this is a relatively low fat option – no cheese, low fat yogurt for the purple cabbage slaw, and no butter. The truth is, you really don’t need it. The yogurt offers a slight tanginess which counters the richness of the beans and beef, and I actually prefer it to dousing it in heavy mayonnaise, to be honest.

I shall leave you with that, and will keep you updated with the move and such. I mean frankly, I can’t be talking about these tacos all day.

Oh wait, actually I think I can. Continue reading

BRUSCHETTA PLATTER (with tomato & basil, mushroom & thyme, olive-caper tapenade, and oven-dried tomatoes)

I never realized this until now, but food blogging brings together a few of my favourite (of course), food styling & food photography (which have been a more recent discovery) and my penchant for mindless writing. Don’t get me wrong, I make sure that the recipes that I post on here are my absolute favourites, be it old family classics passed down from my grandmother, or new eclectic combinations that have been stumbled upon through trial and error (or a complete fluke). I treat this blog like a database for my favourite recipes so if it’s on here, you know that it’s something I want to hang on to for dear life.

Bru-shet-ah? Or bru-sket-ah? That is the million-dollar question now. It’s actually the latter, since the Italians pronounce the sound “ch” as a “c”. Pronouncing it “bru-shet-ah” is their equivalent to scraping your fingernails on a chalkboard. I know, quite dramatic that.

These little canapés can be treated as rustic or chic as is your style, and can be topped with an assortment of ingredients ranging from basic to completely extravagant. Anything goes! You may want to experiment with different ingredients, and by all means, please do, but I do try to remember that when it really comes down to it, the simpler the better. A simple bruschetta proves that there indeed is elegance in restraint.

I came across a great idea recently – you can set up a cute little bruschetta bar for a party! Plan and make the toppings for your bruschetta and get your guests to build them up with whatever they’d like – it’s more fun, half the work, and you can even ask your guests to bring over a few ingredients for it without feeling the guilt of over-burdening them. Totally do-able!

I’ve made four very simple toppings here..tomato and basil, mushroom and thyme, olive-caper tapenade, and oven-dried tomatoes. I make my own oven-dried tomatoes that I preserve in Olive oil (recipe coming up soon), but a jar of shop bought sun-dried tomatoes will suffice nicely too. I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet though.. all of this took me less than 20 minutes to put together, start to finish! And an hour to photograph and edit the pictures before I could stuff my face. I did NOT sign up for this. Continue reading

Apple tarte tatin & an anniversary

I know I’m treading on the territory of culinary arrogance when I say this, but I don’t understand why the Tarte Tatin has been regarded as an insurmountable feat for an amateur cook. Sure, the caramel is a blink-and-it’s burnt kind of ordeal but other than that, it’s literally just some minor pastry action (shop-bought one at that), apple slicing, baking (which the oven does for you) and finally flipping onto your serving dish. One of the lesser evils of French pâtisserie, if you ask me. Having said that though, this is probably the farthest I’d venture into that world, precision in cooking not being my biggest virtue.

The apples and sugar together feel like we’re going down the apple pie route and although I wouldn’t dismiss that idea, this sure does feel different. In a hoity toity chef-y kind of way. With a rustic more-ish charm to it. It’s all encompassing and completely undeniable.

Quickly want to point out the changes that I made to the original recipe : I added a vanilla pod to the caramel as it was cooking down (because that just seemed like the right thing to do). The cooking times have also been altered, and my guess is that yours will be different from mine too).

In other news, today marks the first anniversary of this tiny little part of my world here. Truth be told, when I first started, I had no idea what I was doing and literally dove into it blind (which is obvious with the pictures from the first few posts) and unprepared. But looking back, I can definitely say that it’s been a lot of fun and a great way of connecting with you guys. Thank you for all the love and support!

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Chicken laksa

I’m so excited to tell you about this recipe. I’ve made this laksa a few times now, tweaking it here and there and adding/omitting ingredients along the way, and I think what I’ve landed up with now pretty much hits the spot, if I do say so myself.

If you’ve already taken a quick glance at the list of ingredients, you will have noticed that it does in fact use 10 dried red chillies – it is a hot fiery soup, but one that is tempered down delicately by coconut milk. Even though laksa is technically more Malay/Singaporean and not Thai, maybe because the ingredients of these cuisines lie in a pretty similar ballpark, it takes me right back to the amazing street food stalls of Bangkok!

Laksa is usually served with some variation of seafood added to it. Prawn and mussels are my favourite and I would’ve gladly used them here if it wasn’t for the fact that my husband is allergic to any and all types of crustaceans. So, I improvised with chicken (merely pointing out that you could consider that option as well).

If you have some extra time to spare and in need of an upper-body workout, it really helps to use a mortar and pestle to pound the spice paste. I’ve tried it both ways and this really does make a difference – you get to control the exact texture of the mixture and what you end up with is an aromatic full-bodied paste that beats the blender method hands down.

I hope you enjoy this bowl of goodness as much as we did!

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