27 June 2012

Curry Laksa

I had a fabulous time last Sunday showing 14 ladies how to cook curries from different parts of the world. We cooked an Indian chicken curry, a Sri Lankan lamb curry, a green prawn curry from Thailand and finally a Curry Laksa from Malaysia.


No surprise to me because I love Malay food...the winner on the day was the Curry Laksa. Malaysian food is a lovely blend of the different cultures who live there, Indians, Chinese and native Malay and a curry laksa showcases all the amazing flavours typical in Malaysian cuisine. The flavours hot, sour, salty and sweet are similar to other South Eastern Asian cuisines; the difference is the depth!

Malaysian curries for example benefit from a chile paste that can take an hour or two of simmering for the flavours to amalgamate into something stunning.

The laksa gets it's depth of flavour from a rich chile paste, laden with shrimp paste, dried shrimp, ginger and lemongrass. The sweetness comes from the coconut milk and palm sugar, the salty - from the shrimp paste and the sour from the lemongrass and lime leaves that expertly cut across the richness of the creamy coconut broth.

This Laksa isn't a 30 minute dinner, but it can be if you prepare the chile paste in advance and freeze.

Curry Laksa (Curry Mee)

Chilli paste
  • 200 grams red onions
  • 200 grams red chillies1
  • 100 grams lemongrass (inside white pieces only)
  • 50 grams galangal
  • 50 grams dried shrimp
  • 50 gram shrimp paste – cooked in dry pan for 1 min to release flavours
  • oil

Blend with oil into a fine paste, saute slowly 1 – 2 hours until until colour changes and oil comes out of mixture, add 3 lime leaves, chopped finely
The secret to the chile paste is to saute it until the oils are released and the colour darkens considerably. It will take anything from an hour to 2 hours.
 from this...

to this...

Laksa Paste
  • 100g shallots chopped 
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 inch piece of galangal (or ginger if no galangal)
  • 3 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 4 tablespoons chilli paste
  • 2 tablespoons sliced lemon grass
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 3 candlenuts (or macadamias)
  • 1 teaspoon shrimp paste 

Grind all to a fine paste in a food processor or mortar and pestle.

  • 200 grams prawns, peeled and deveined
  • 200 grams fried tofu cubes or tofu steak, cut into pieces
  • 300 grams shredded, cooked chicken meat
  • 300 grams blanched bean sprouts
  • 600 grams blanched yellow noodles
  • 300 grams blanched rice noodles
  • 4 eggs, hard boiled and cut in half
  • 3 cups coconut milk
  • 2 cups chicken or fish stock
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons palm sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt, or to taste
  • shredded lime leaves
  • fish sauce to taste

  1. Heat 3 tablespoons oil and saute laksa paste until fragrant (3 minutes)
  2. Add coconut milk, stock, sugar and fish sauce and salt (to taste) and bring to a low boil
  3. Add chicken and prawns and boil slowly until prawns are cooked (about 3 minutes)
  4. Add tofu and cook a further minute
  5. Place noodles in bowls and pop beansprouts, tofu, eggs, prawns and chicken on top of noodles and ladle soup on top. Garnish with coriander leaves and chopped spring onions.  Serve with roti bread or paratha, and extra chili paste.

23 June 2012

Watermelon and Pomegranate Granita

It's hot! really really hot! this week the temperature has been in the high 40's. Summer is most definately here. Friends who aren't in Doha often ask me what 50 degrees feels like - I say turn the oven on to 50 degrees, let it heat up and open the door. That's what it feels like when you head out of the door in Doha. The thing is, you get used to it and learn to spend more time indoors or at the pool. It's also a great excuse to make some cooling summer concoctions. So this week I made a tasty, vitamin and anti-oxidant rich granita with two of my favourite fruits; watermelon and pomegranate.

Granita is similar to sorbet, it's chunkier and has lots of lovely crunchy ice crystals to munch on (with sorbet you blend the frozen mixture halfway through freezing). This recipe uses Pomegranate juice which is readily available, but I prefer to make my own especially when I only need a small amount. To make 3 tablespoons of juice, pop 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds into a mesh sieve, over a bowl (to collect the juice) and smash with the back of the spoon, stirring the mushy mixture to release the juice.

The recipe is very kid friendly, but I have in the past made it for a dinner party with a splash of tequila and cointreau in it.

I have some friends who follow a mostly raw diet so if they see this , I suggest they replace the water and sugar in the recipe with 1/3 cup agave nectar, which then means it won't need heating (let me know how it turns out).

Watermelon and Pomegranate Granita
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons pomegranate juice
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 5 cups of watermelon, de-seeded and chopped into rough chunks
  • juice of a lime

  1. Bring the sugar, pomegranate juice and water to boil stirring to dissolve the sugar, set aside to cool down.
  2. Process the watermelon and lime juice in a blender until smooth (you'll need to do this in two batches).
  3. Return all of the watermelon mixture to the blender, add the pomegranate/sugar mixture and blend well. Pass through a fine mesh sieve to remove any lumps, and pour into a 20cm by 30cm oblong glass or ceramic dish.
  4. Put into the freezer and every 30 minutes, stir and scrap the mixture with a fork. After about 3 hours you will have a crumbly, crunchy granita. This will be ok covered in the freezer for 2 to 3 days. Serve garnished with some extra pomegranate seeds.

1 June 2012


I love waking up on Friday mornings (the start of the weekend in Qatar) and knowing there's not much to do but hang with the little chefs. The most energetic we get is to pop over to the pool for an hour or so. Lately, I've been baking a lot on Fridays, so today I'm boiling and baking bagels. I'll prepare the dough and let it rise while we're swimming and an hour or so after we get home we'll be sitting down to the heavenly smell and delicious taste of New York style bagels.

The beauty of bagels is that you can play around with the flavours depending on what kind of mood you're in. I like to top my bagels with sesame seeds or sunflower seeds. I quite often make them with chapati flour, which is an indian unrefined flour for a healthier version. And if I'm in a sweet mood I'll make them with mixed spice, cinnamon and some raisins (they're delicious topped with cream cheese).
Try these, you'll be amazed how easy they are to make.

New York Style Bagels

  • 2 teaspoons of dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups of warm water, you may need a little more
  • 3 ½ cups (500g) of bread flour, you can use plain flour, but they won't be quite as chewy
  • 1 teaspoon of salt


Mix the water, sugar and yeast together and let it sit for a few minutes until frothy.

Put the flour and salt in a mixer with a dough hook (if you're lucky enough to have one), or into a bowl, add the yeast mixture and bring together, add more water if the mixture seems too dry. Knead, with the dough hook, or on a floured surface for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.

Put into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap, leave for an hour to rise (the dough should double in size). Punch the dough down and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Divide the dough into 12 balls. To make smooth even balls, cup the ball of dough in your hand and roll it around the work surface, gently pulling the dough into itself as you roll.

Poke a whole in the middle of each ball and while stretching the hole shape the bagel into a 'bagel shape'. Put onto an oiled baking tray, cover with a damp tea towel and rest for 15 minutes.

Heat the oven to 210 degrees celcius (425 degrees fahrenheit)

Bring a large pot of water to the boil and put the bagels in 3 or 4 at at time and boil for 2 minutes on each side. Remove and drain. If you want to top the bagels with toppings, brush with beaten egg yolk and water (1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon water) and dip into your topping of choice. Today I'm using sesame seeds for us and leaving them plain for the little chefs.

Place the bagels onto a greased baking tray and bake for 20 minutes until golden and cooked through.

My advice...slice one of them open, smother in butter and scoff. There is nothing quite so tasty as a freshly baked bagel, hot out of the oven.