30 January 2011

Pad Thai

One of my favourite weekday meals is Pad Thai  (actually its one of my favourite meals any day of the week) - google it and you'll find a plethora of recipes. A good pad thai can be cooked in 5 minutes, and is the just the right heavenly mix of salty (from the fish sauce), sweet (from the sugar), spicy (from the chillies) and sour (from the tamarind and lime). 
Before you start to cook the pad thai, have everything chopped and ready to go. I like to keep my pad thai simple and I only ever cook one or two servings at a time, so that the wok stays really hot. I made the pad thai sauce earlier this week and popped into a big jar in the fridge, and it will keep for a few months - though never that long in my house, as I use it up fairly quickly.  I like prawns in my pad thai, but I also find it great for using up leftovers, so will pop shredded cooked chicken, and random vegetables in there (particularly for the kids). One of my biggest gripes about stirfrying is that the pan has to be so hot, the garlic and shallots can burn and become bitter, so here's a quick tip, pop the garlic and shallots into cold oil and then put the pan on to heat - as the oil heats, the garlic and onion will infuse flavour into it without burning.
Pad Thai
Serves 2 
Pad thai sauce
  • 1/2 cup tamarind concentrate (the runny stuff in a jar)
  • 1/2 cup palm sugar
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
Pop tamarind sauce, palm sugar and fish sauce into a pot and heat over medium heat, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Pop into the fridge.
  • 5 tablespoons pad thai sauce (or to taste, if you like it more saucy, pop more in)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, or 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon chile powder (or to taste)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup chopped spring onions
  • 1/2 cup beansprouts
  • 200 grams prawns, peeled and deveined
  • 200 grams rice noodles
  • chopped peanuts
  • 1 lime, halved
  • coriander to garnish (not traditional, but yum)
  • chopped chillies to garnish
  1. Soak the rice noodles in warm (not hot) water for 10 - 15 minutes. You're looking for the rice noodles to free up, but still be fairly firm. It's better to undersoak then oversoak, as you can add water to the wok to cook the noodles more if needed
  2. Put oil, garlic and shallots into a cold wok, or pan, and heat to a high heat. When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the drained noodles, pad thai sauce, chile powder and prawns
  3. Stir constantly over a high heat for a few minutes until noodles soften and prawns are cooked.
  4. Push noodles to the side and break in the eggs, scramble with the stirrer and when almost cooked, pop the noodles on top of the egg to finish off the cooking (about 1 to 2 minutes)
  5. Add beansprouts and spring onions and stir for another minute, serve with a squeeze of lime, and garnish with peanuts, coriander and chopped chillies.

21 January 2011

Time on my hands

I've had a lazy hazy week or two, lots on, but loads of time for cooking as well. I had a great morning outdoors at the lagoon teaching a group of lovely ladies how to cook some simple tapas - delicious chicken meatballs in sofrito sauce (basically a spanish tomato sauce loaded with smoked paprika) & eggplant, capsicum and sundried tomato rolls served with a rich garlicky coriander salsa.

I turned a glut of courgette into zucchini and tomato chutney which tastes divine (even if I say so myself), and will be fabulous in a few weeks when all the flavours have meshed together and the vegetables smoosh down into a jam-like consistency, and finally I remembered I had some lemon curd and christmas mince in the fridge, so threw together a bit of pastry, and made some bite size xmas mince pies and lemon meringue tarts (recipe below). Please excuse the photo, I only had my iphone, so the quality isn't fantastic, but it shows you how they looked and in case you're wondering - the pies were delish!

Lemon Meringue Tart
makes one medium size tart, or 24 mini tarts.


  • 1  1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cornflour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 180 grams cold butter, cut up
  • 1/4 cup cold water

Pop the flour, cornflour, salt and caster sugar into a food processor, add cold butter and blitz until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. With the processor running dribble in the cold water until the pastry start to comes together, tip onto the bench and squish together into a ball, cover in plastic wrap and pop in the fridge for 30 minutes

Lemon Filling
  • 1/4 cup cornflour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • grated rind from 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 eggs, separated (keep the whites for the meringue)
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Blend cornflour, sugar, eggs, lemon rind and juice together until smooth, Add water and cook in a bowl over a pot of simmering water, whisking continually until mixture thickens (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and add in butter.

  • 3 egg whites from above
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

Beat egg whites until stiff, beat in sugar 1 tablespoon at time, until thick and glossy, stir in vanilla essence.
And now comes the fun part - roll out the pastry to 5mm thick, Line a 20 cm pie plate, trim off excess pastry and bake blind (pop baking parchment on the pastry and fill with rice) at 190 degrees celsius for 20 minutes. Pour lemon filling into the pie base, and spoon meringue filling over the top. Return to oven and bake for 10 minutes until meringue is golden.
(for mini tarts, cut out circles of pastry, pop into mini muffin pans, prick all over with a fork and bake for 5 minutes, before adding filling and meringue)

5 January 2011

New Years Resolution: write a blog!!!!

It's the New Year, the kids are back to school and I don't have any cooking lessons or catering this week, so it's time to create my first blog. I'm excited and nervous at the same time.  I won't go into details about who I am as you'll find that in the 'who am I section' (seriously!). Let's get straight to the food. I cooked up such a storm of rich traditional food over Xmas that I'm craving easy light dishes rich in healthy vegetables. Last night we had a fabulously simple fried rice packed full of crunchy celery, crisp capsicum, tasty spring onions, tender chicken (from www.the-box.me/), and my one true indulgence in Qatar - fresh free range eggs (expensive but worth it).  Lightly seasoned with garlic, soy sauce and white pepper, it was delicious and made with leftover rice in the fridge, and pre-cooked chicken, it was on the table in 15 minutes. My biggest coup however was that the kids actually ate it. Now that's my idea of an easy meal, so easy I didn't take a photo, I must remember to keep my camera handy. Keep coming back to visit my blog for more tantalising recipes in the coming days, weeks and months...

Easy Fried Rice
(serves 2 adults and 2 kids)
  • 3 cups cooked rice, seperate the grains
  • 1 double chicken breast (about 400 grams), pre-cooked and shredded
  • 2 rashers of bacon, chopped
  • 3 spring onions - sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 stalk of celery, finely chopped
  • 1 red capsicum, chopped finely
  • 3 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 free range eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • chopped chillies
  1. Beat the eggs lightly, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a non stick pan over medium heat, add eggs and swirl around until eggs cover the bottom of the pan, cook for a minute until bottom is set and flip eggs over, cook for about half a minute, remove and chop with a knife
  2. Reheat pan and add remaining oil, add bacon and cook for 2 -3 minutes until bacon is cooked, add garlic and spring onions, celery and capsicum, cook for  two minutes
  3. Add rice, soy sauce, and pepper and cook until rice is piping hot, add eggs and cook another minute
  4. Serve topped with chopped chillies if you fancy it spicy