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Archive for the ‘Thai Style’ Category

Chinese cuisine, as a rule, is not known for having an extensive dessert repertoire.  I remember one of my first visits to a Chinese restaurant where there was a choice of pineapple or banana fritters, sticky stem ginger with vanilla ice cream or ‘chow chow’, a mixture of candied fruits in ginger syrup.  It is a long time since I have seen any of those on the menu.  Whatever happened to chow chow – can anyone shed any light?  (I mean the dessert of candied fruits in ginger syrup that used to be part of the dessert menu in UK Chinese restaurants 30 or so years ago – not the mixed pickled vegetable or the Chinese dog!)  It was one of my favourites but it has completely disappeared with just one reference to it on the web, also by a puzzled enquirer.  These days mostly there is a selection of ice creams and sorbets that have been bought in ready made: my favourites are the hollowed half coconut shell filled with coconut ice cream or the similar pineapple version.  One other dessert I remember from days gone by is a simple bowl of lychees, probably ready stoned and tinned in syrup. Light and fragrant, lychees are a perfect fruit to end a chinese meal so when I came across this recipe it seemed to fit the bill very well.  This sorbet would also be refreshing served after a spicy curry.

The original recipe for lychee sorbet came from food writer Nigel Slater, published in the food and drink pages of the Guardian Newspaper online.  I used fresh lychees from our market, which are readily available in the Autumn and around Christmas.  Tinned lychees are available as well and Nigel Slater suggests substituting a 400g tin, using both fruit syrup.  The result will be good but the flavour less delicate than if you use fresh lychees.  On the plus side, you will avoid having to peel the fruit, but it is not much of a hardship.   This is a delicious and simple recipe with the lime juice a necessary addition as it cuts through the extreme sweetness of the lychees.  Be sure to liquidise the lychees thoroughly.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Lychee Sorbet
(Serves 4)

500g/1lb 1oz lychees (unpeeled & unstoned weight – see note on using tinned fruit)
100g/30zs sugar, granulated or caster
400ml/14fl ozs water
2 tbsp lime juice
To serve:
250g/8ozs lychees, peeled & stoned

1.  Peel the lychees and count them.  Without removing the stones put them in a pan with the sugar and water.

2.  Add the sugar and water.  Bring to the boil.  Once the liquid is boiling and the sugar has all dissolved, turn off the heat and leave to cool.

3.  When it is cool enough remove the stones from of the fruit and discard them.  Reserve the syrup.

4.  Return the lychee flesh to the syrup and add the lime juice. Chill thoroughly in the refrigerator.

5.  Liquidise in a blender or food processor until smooth.

6.  Pour the mixture into an ice-cream machine and process until it starts to freeze.  Transfer to a box and place in the freezer.  (Alternatively the mixture can be placed straight into the freezer, removed once or twice and stirred well as it starts to freeze, until it has set properly.)

7.  Peel and stone some of the reserved lychees.  Serve alongside scoops of the soft-frozen sorbet.

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Back in the 1970’s I watched Ken Hom cooking Sesame Prawn Toast on TV in his classic TV show Chinese Cookery and although he said they were simple to make, it still took me years to get round to having a go.  Whatever else I order in a Chinese restaurant I always feel I have somehow missed out if I don’t have at least one piece of Sesame Prawn Toast – I have also eaten them in a Thai restaurant where they tasted much the same.  In one really good local restaurant they are just one element of a mixed starter dish so I don’t even have to choose!  It is some time since I have cooked a multi dish Chinese meal so earlier this year I took my opportunity.  It was mum’s birthday.  I know that I can take a bit more risk with something I have not made before – my family and parents are very forgiving guinea pigs – so our starter was, of course, sesame prawn toast.  As I had thought it was a straightforwad recipe and it and the meal a resounding success.

The recipe is a fairly standard one, as far as I can see, and comes from the BBC book that accompanied the TV series: Ken Hom’s Chinese Cookery.  The mixture and the finished uncooked toasts can be made in advance (always an advantage) chilled and then cooked just prior to serving.  Although the original recipe was deep fried I found that the toasts could also be shallow fried.  After draining on kitchen paper I popped them into the oven, which had been on to cook the duck breast for the Duck with Chinese Style Plum Sauce I was also serving.  This kept the toasts warm and crisped them even more.  A version of the recipe can also be found at This Morning Recipes but includes water chestnuts and pork, which are not in the original recipe.  It also specifies just the white of the egg which I have kept as I think it an improvement on my recipe.

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Sesame Prawn Toast
(Makes about 30 pieces)
For the base
10 slices bread, very thinly sliced (a square loaf looks neater when cut up)
3 tablespoons white sesame seeds (or more as required)
450ml (15 fl oz) sunflower oil (original suggests groundnut/peanut
For the prawn paste mixture
450g/1lb uncooked prawns, peeled & finely chopped
1tsp salt
½tsp freshly ground white pepper
1 egg white
2tbsp finely chopped spring onions, white part only
2tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
1tbsp of light soy sauce
1tsp of sesame oil

1.  Chop the prawns finely until they are a paste and place in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients.  Mix well until it is a smooth consistency that will be easy to spread. (If available, use a food processor.)

2.  Remove the crusts from the bread and cut each slice into about three ‘fingers’ – rectangles of around 7.5 x 2.5cm  (3 x 1 inch).  Alternatively cut into triangles: 2 large or 4 small.

3.  Spread the prawn paste over the pieces of bread.  Each should be about 3 mm (⅛inch) deep, although it can be spread more thinly if preferred.

4.  Sprinkle the toasts generously with sesame seeds and press well in.

5. Heat the oil in a deep-fat fryer, frying pan or a wok to medium heat.  Fry the toasts paste side downwards, several at the same time, for 2 to 3 minutes.  Turn them over and fry for a further 2 minutes or until golden brown.

6.  Remove with a slotted spoon, place on kitchen paper to drain and place in the oven or under a gentle grill to keep warm. (The toasts will have to be cooked in several batches.)

7.  It is recommended that the toasts are served at once.  However, they can be kept for a short while (say 5-10 minutes at most) and even finished in a warm oven, in which case it is helpful if they are slightly less browned in the fryer or wok.  Beware leaving them too long as they will harden and could quickly burn.

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The most complicated and time consuming part of this recipe was preparing the pumpkin.  I am sure there must be an easier method but I have to say I found it hard work.  I got stuck in with a very sharp knife and my potato peeler and finally managed to remove all the tough outer skin.  So be warned: sharp implements are essential and leave yourself enough time! … but I would definitely do it again.  I love pumpkin seeds and was pleased to hear that I could roast the pumpkin seeds in a little oil and salt for a tasty treat.  However, I was less than pleased with the result which was very rough and not particularly pleasant.  Not sure what I did wrong but unless I get different instructions I won’t be trying it again.

This recipe came from the Channel 4 series 4 Ingredients, with Kim McCosker and Rachael Bermingham and published on food page of the magazine which comes with the Daily Mirror each weekend.  I have adapted it very slightly, with an onion for added flavour (suppose that makes it 5 Ingredients: never mind!)  The original recipe is available on the UKTV Food site, called Thai Pumpkin Soup.  My pumpkin was 3lb, so larger than the 2lb recommended, but I used the same amount of red thai paste. I was glad I did not increase the amount pro rata as it was plenty hot enough. I also used part of a creamed coconut block dissolved in water, probably less than the original making it less rich.  (I assume the original used a can of creamed coconut.)  I have halved the original amount of paste in the method below, but if you like it hotter then add more.  I also added chopped coriander to the soup as well as using to garnish.  This can, of course, be made in advance, but add the coriander just before you serve. 

'Meanderings through my Cookbook' http://www.hopeeternalcookbook.wordpress.com

Thai Style Pumpkin Soup
(Serves 4)

1 medium sized onion
1kg/2lb Pumpkin or Butternut Squash
1 tbsp Thai Red Curry Paste
50g creamed coconut (sold in 200g blocks)
Fresh coriander
Salt & pepper

1.  Peel and chop the onion.  Using a very sharp knife and potato peeler if necessary, completely remove all the peel from the pumpkin or squash.  Quarter, scoop out the seeds and cut into chunks. 

2.  Gently cook the onion and pumpkin with the red curry paste until it starts to brown and stick to the saucepan.

3.  Grate the creamed coconut, dissolve it in a little boiling water (it may not dissolve completely but that does not matter) and immediately add it to the pan.  Stir well removing all the browned mixture from the bottom of the pan.  Add more water until the mixture is completely covered and bring to boil.

4.  Turn down the heat and simmer until the pumpkin is soft.

4. Transfer the mixture to a liquidiser and puree until smooth and return to the saucepan.  Reheat and check seasoning.  Reserving a little to garnish, stir in the chopped coriander just prior to serving.

6.   Add a little more fresh coriander to garnish. Serve with crisp toast or crusty bread.

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