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Thai hot and sour soup

I've always had love affair with Thai food, simple fresh, tasty, what more could you want. The great thing about Thai food is its simplicity, but the trick is getting the flavours right. Where the recipes may require quite a few ingredients and the method isn't difficult, the complexity lies within getting the right mix of hot, sour, salty and sweet.

I was lucky enough after my year at Leiths School of Food and Wine to travel to Thailand and experience the food first hand. It was one of the countries that I'd always wanted to visit just for the food and I wasn't disappointed. I also spent a day at the Chiang Mai cookery school and got to meet Sompon Nambian who runs the school and whose TV program I used to follow religiously on a UK TV food channel.

I don't think I can convey enough how much I love Thai food. I'm quite happy to spend a fortune on ingredients to make the paste from scratch (and yes it makes all the difference). I like to make the pastes in a mortar and pestle. A little tip when dealing with fibrous ingredients such as ginger, galangal and lemongrass is to grate them using a fine grater as it means you don't have as many fibres in your paste or curry.
As well as Thai green or red curry I love to make Hot and Sour soup and also a variation with coconut milk. I love this soup and its my go-to when I don't don't feel like strenuous cooking. It is a case of throwing the ingredients in a pot of water and giving it a bit of time and minimal effort to come out with something tasty and rewarding. I usually make the broth the day before and leave all the aromatics in overnight, it makes for a more flavoursome soup.

To make the broth
2 sticks lemongrass, crushed
15g ginger unpeeled
2 cloves garlic crushed
30g coriander stems or roots
2 shallots, quartered
1 tomato quartered
5 Lime leaves
4 mushrooms quartered
2 chillies (red or green)
1 litre of water, chicken stock or fish stock

Place all ingredients into a pan
Add the water or (flavoured if using stock) and bring to the boil and then simmer for an hour on a low heat
Let the broth sit for a few hours with a lid on, or even better overnight, before straining


For the soup
4 Lime leaves
20g coriander chopped
1 Tomato cut into eighths
5 mushrooms thinly sliced
Juice of one lime
10ml Fish sauce
1 red chilli finely chopped
5ml soy sauce
5g palm sugar
Mange tout julienned
1 medium carrot julienned
100ml coconut milk (optional)

You can then add the following dependent on if you are going to make a fish or meat soup

10 uncooked prawns 
Leftover roast chicken breast or thigh (chopped)


Bring the stock to a simmer
Add the tomato, mushrooms, chilli and lime leaves and simmer for 5 mins
Season with the soy, fish sauce, sugar and lime juice (you are looking for hot, sour, salty and sweet so add more of any of the seasoning to get the flavour you want)
Add the prawns or chicken and cook for another 5 mins
If adding coconut milk, then pour it in now and stir through, adjust the seasoning if necessary
Garnish with the coriander











Leftover lamb with curried rice

I love to do a slow cooked leg of lamb on my barbecue, because of the size you have to buy and with there only being two people in our house, there's always leftovers. I do enjoy slow cooking and love the results it yields. Especially with something like lamb, as it will normally come right off the bone with no effort needed to carve. Now I could have gone for the leftover staple of Shepherds pie, but I like my curries and have plenty of spices to play with in my ingredients drawer. Monday's dinner became an improvised "Biryani" with the leftover lamb, the leftover spuds and some rice.


Leftover lamb meat and whatever leftover spuds you may have and chop into chunks
1 onion finely chopped
1 red chilli finely chopped
100g cooked basmati rice
15g garam masala 
Heaped teaspoon cumin seeds
Heaped teaspoon black mustard seeds
Juice half a lemon
Coriander leaves for garnish
oil for frying 
Salt and pepper to season

Sauté the onion and chilli until they are soft and glossy, 
Add the mustard and cumin seeds and cook for one minute
Add the garam masala and about 30ml of water to help cook out the spices and prevent the spices from burning, cook for about 5 minutes
Next add the lamb and cook for about 2 minutes
Then add the potatoes and rice and cook for a further 5 minutes (you could also add some frozen peas at this stage too)
Finally switch off the heat and add the lemon juice, salt and pepper and stir through
Garnish with the coriander





Absinthe mustard grilled chicken thighs

I used to make a lemon and tarragon marinade for chicken when I first started barbecuing many years ago. It was one dish that was always popular with my friends. I decided to visit that recipe again, but wanted to take it a stage further.  While I'm not the biggest fan of absinthe per se, I do like the combination of aniseed flavours with chicken. I came across the absinthe mustard in a local French traiteur and thought it would be interesting to try. There's a lot going on flavour wise with these chicken thighs but they do work well together. The mustard, honey and tarragon provide a great background flavour while the lemon zest just lifts it further. Add some wonderful smoky flavour from the barbecue and you're set!

4 chicken thighs flattened to ensure even cooking (you can use a rolling pin to do this)

Marinade
10g Absinthe mustard or 10g dijon mustard mixed with 5ml absinthe or pastis
10ml olive oil
2g dried oregano
2 cloves garlic grated
5ml honey
Zest from half a lemon
2g dried tarragon
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together bar the salt and pepper
Place the chicken thighs in a dish and pour over the marinade, ensure they are well covered on both sides
Place in the fridge for 6 hours 
Set your barbecue up for direct cooking at 220c
Cook the thighs for 2 minutes each side
Allow to rest in a warm place before serving, season to taste

Slow roast tomato and red pepper soup

Another one of my oldie but a goodie recipes. I first made this for a picnic years ago. This wasn't just any old picnic but one at Glyndebourne, so the picnic was during the interval of an opera in the grounds of a stately home. It was a formal back tie affair and I was kinda nervous as I was cooking for my other half's family for the first time, so no pressure then! So if you want something that works well both as a warm or chilled soup, then this will earn you brownie points. This recipe works well being prepped on the BBQ as the coals give the tomatoes that smoky edge and a little extra sweetness. 



12 tomatoes
2 red peppers
1 red onion
4 cloves of garlic
10 sprigs of thyme
1.5l vegetable stock
Olive oil
2 tablespoons tomato purée
100ml crème fraiche
Juice half a lemon
Salt, pepper and sugar to taste

For those of you who like their soup a tad spicier, you can add a red chilli (or 3) to the roasting pan with the veg.

Half the tomatoes, quarter the pepper and onion and place in a roasting tin along with the peeled cloves of garlic
Lightly drizzle with oil and sprinkle the thyme over
Roast in a low oven or BBQ (indirect) for 2 hours at 120c
Remove the thyme sprigs before placing the contents in a pan
Add the vegetable stock and tomato purée and stir
Bring the soup to the boil, and then simmer for 10 minutes
Once cool, blend the soup until smooth
At this stage you can sieve it to give a smoother soup, or leave as is for a rustic soup
Add the crème fraiche and whisk in
Stir through the lemon juice and sugar and season to taste with the salt and pepper

Kamado Joe - Joe Junior review

Many of you may have been wondering about the sudden change last year that happened in my outdoor kitchen. The change from a certain green brand of Kamado style barbecue to Kamado Joe was not a snap decision, but one that had been weighing on my mind for a few years. I attended a hospitality trade event a few years back here in the Netherlands and I spotted the Kamado Joe stand. Here in the Netherlands you don't see them in many of the outdoor outlets or kitchen shops sadly, so it was an opportunity to have a closer look at the kit. I walked away from that stand very impressed and with feelings of regret that I hadn't bought a Kamado Joe all those years ago when I first made my foray into Kamado cooking.

So it's been a year now with both my classic III and Junior and I've been putting them though their paces on a thrice weekly basis (at least). I thought It would be a good idea to share my experiences and thoughts on the kit for those of you who might be considering investing in a new barbecue. Please note this is not a sponsored post in any way as I bought my KJs myself. In this article I will review the Joe Junior as it turned up first when I ordered them. The Classic III will be reviewed in another article at a later date. 

I bought this model for smaller cooks for myself and my other half. It's a lot taller than some of the smaller kamado models from other brands, The height gives it the advantage that it has better airflow underneath and therefore enables better temperature control. The 34cm diameter width will quite happily hold about 6 burgers, 2 sheets of ribs a 2kg chicken or roasting joint. So you can quite happily cook for a small group of people for simple barbecue. It comes with a cast iron stand, a stainless steel griddle, a deflector plate for indirect cooking, an ash tool and a grill gripper as standard so unlike other brands you do not have to purchase other accessories to begin with. It's a complete starter package from the get-go and comes in at a lower price than other similar models.

It weighs in at just over 30kg, so a little heavier than other brands. It also comes in at half the price of other brands that are the same diameter, so is a great bargain. Its a well put together study piece of equipment, the ceramic interior is very high quality as are the vent and daisy wheel. After a year of outdoor use in all weathers, there is no sign of rust on any parts. 
Dimensions for the Junior are as follows: Width - 50cm, Height - 69cm, Depth -  53cm this includes the stand which comes as standard. 

So what is it like to cook with?
The temp control with any smaller Kamado model will take some time to get used to. It's very quick to get up to temperature and will hold well, it does take some time to figure out what your daisy wheel and lower vent settings should be for the various temps. You do need to watch for temperature drops when putting in ingredients but it comes back up to temp relatively quickly. I tend to use the Junior for simple cooks that don't require long slow cooking or complicated temperature changes. Unlike the other brand I used to use, it doesn't get stuck at certain temps and then not budge for quite some time, the temperature adjustment is easy. Cooking direct it's a great little number. 

Cooking indirect I have found you need to keep an eye on the underneath of whatever you are cooking, because it's so close to the deflector plate it gets a little more radiated heat if cooking for a lengthy period of time. The only accessory that I bought for my junior was the kick ash basket, which makes it easier to clean out and empty ash. If I was to buy other accessories it would probably be a cast iron griddle for steaks, kebabs and burgers, but you still get a nice char with the stainless steel griddle. 

So all in all I'm very happy with my "Wee Beastie" as he has come to be called. 

Mango and coconut baked cheese cake

I'm a huge fan of mango, coconut and baked cheesecakes, so it was only a matter of time before I combined them all together. This is my summer tropical style dessert, quick and easy to make and tastes fantastic (it has been taste tested thoroughly). The biscuit base holds the coconut component and the cheese cake topping has the mango component. I've added lime juice which heightens both the flavours. 

Base
10 digestive biscuits
50g desiccated coconut
90g butter
50g brown sugar

Whizz the digestives, sugar and the coconut together in a food processor until they resemble a sandy crumble
Melt the butter in a pan, add the rest of the ingredients and stir to incorporate
Place the mix into a lined cake tin and pat down well
Place in an oven at 190c (fan) 200c (normal) for 15 minutes
Allow to cool fully before adding the topping


Topping
300g fresh or tinned mango, roughly chopped
Juice of one lime
600g cream cheese (room temp)
125ml crème fraiche (room temp)
2 eggs
90g caster sugar
80g plain flour
Pinch of salt

Place all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until well combined
Pour the cheese filling into the baking tin with the base mixture
Bake at 190c (fan) 200c (normal) for an initial 15 minutes and then at 120c (fan), 130c (normal) for a further 45 minutes until just set
Turn off the oven and leave in the residual heat for a further 30 minutes, with the oven door slightly ajar
Remove from the oven and allow to cool before serving

Tabbouleh

This is one of my summer favourites a great side dish or sometimes I'm quite happy to eat it by itself. It's such a great fresh dish. I came across this dish many years ago at a Turkish restaurant called Haz in the city in London. It was always on the menu as a starter (and having just checked their menu it still is) and was one of my favourites to order. It always evokes memories of walking past the restaurant on the way to work and smelling the charcoal grills firing up before service, the food there was simple but very tasty indeed. It is one of the many places I miss in London. Another great thing about this recipe is the simplicity, tomatoes, onions, bulgur wheat and herbs with lemon juice and olive oil. No cooking involved at all. When tomatoes are in season I cannot make this enough and it makes a great barbecue side dish especially for Mediterranean style grilled meat dishes. This is my take on that dish I enjoyed all those years ago. This serves four people as a side dish.

70g bulgur wheat
3 tomatoes finely chopped
15g red onion finely chopped
10g flat leaf parsley finely chopped
10 mint leaves finely chopped (optional)
10g coriander finely chopped (optional)
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
10ml extra virgin olive oil

Place the bulgur in a pyrex bowl, add the olive oil, salt and pepper and stir to combine
Pour over just boiled water until it is covered
Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to one side for 30 minutes, the bulgur will soak up all the water
Allow to cool before adding the rest of the ingredients
Once cool, mix all the ingredients together and add the lemon juice
I like to serve this with koftes or grilled meats as a side