Chicken with crispy holy basil leaves

I’m finally getting around to writing up the main course from Saturday night’s Thai dinner. I’m not quite sure why it has taken me quite so long – I’ve not been abnormally busy. Hey ho, here we go now…

It’s a tasty little dish and the crispy basil leaves add interesting texture and flavour.

Serves 4

500g of skinless chicken breast fillets, finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3-4 red bird’s eye chillies, lightly crushed
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
2 tablespoons of oyster sauce
2 tablespoons of chicken stock
½ a teaspoon of sugar
1 red pepper, de-seeded and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 red onion, cut into thin wedges
Vegetable oil for frying
A handful of holy basil leaves

Mix the chicken, garlic, chillies, fish sauce and oyster sauce in a bowl, cover with cling film and marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large wok and stir-fry the chicken for 3-4 minutes.

Add the stock and sugar to the wok, then the pepper and onion, and stir-fry for a further 3-4 minutes.

Whilst this is cooking, in a small frying pan, heat 5mm of the vegetable oil over a medium heat. When hot, drop in a handful of basil leaves and deep fry for a minute of so until crispy. (NB: The leaves will spit (a lot!!) when you drop them in the oil so you may want to have a lid to hand!

Stir the remaining fresh basil leaves into the stir fry and then serve on a bed of noodles and garnished with the crispy fried leaves.


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Thai fish cakes

The second part of Saturday night’s dinner was Thai fish cakes. I love a tasty little Thai fish cake and I’ve been meaning to try and make them again for ages. I’ve only made them once before and, as I seem to remember they came out ok, but I can’t remember which recipe I used so I used the one from the A Little Taste of Thailand cookbook that the Galloping Horses came from.

The recipe listed here is supposed to make 30 but I scaled it down quite a bit for just the two of us. I also make the cakes too big – I made four – two each – whereas I really should’ve made 6, slightly smaller, cakes. Hey ho. You live and learn! :)

450g of firm white fish fillets (I used cod loin and that seemed to work ok)
1 tablespoon of Thai red curry paste
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
1 egg
1 stalk of lemongrass, finely sliced
1 chunky spring onion, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
50g of ‘snake’ beans, finely sliced. (I couldn’t find these so I opted for fine French beans instead.)
2 lime leaves, finely shredded
½ a red pepper, finely diced
1 red birds eye chilli, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of coriander leaves, finely chopped
Vegetable oil for frying
1 beaten egg for coating

Ensure that the fish is completely free of skin and bones and roughly chop.

Place the fish, lemongrass, garlic, lime leaves, spring onion, chilli, half of the chopped red pepper and half the sliced beans into a food processor and blend until smooth.

Add the remaining red pepper and beans, red curry paste and egg and mix in well.

Divide the mixture evenly and shape into patties. (wet hands will prevent the mixture from sticking.)

Cover and chill in the fridge for an hour prior to cooking.

Heat 5mm of oil in a wide frying pan over a medium heat.

Dip each fishcake in beaten egg and slide gently into the hot oil.

Fry for 3 minutes or so, each side, until cooked through, golden and slightly puffy.

Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot with sweet chilli dipping sauce.

Delicious, although mine, pictured here, are slightly too large.


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Galloping horses

On Saturday evening I had the lovely Phil Dukes over for a spot of dinner and Doctor Who (we chose The Happiness Patrol. Happiness Will Prevail!) and I fancied cooking Thai. This was partly because I fancied doing Thai fishcakes but I ended up going a bit overboard and doing three different Thai dishes. They were all from a lovely little book called A Taste of Thailand and the recipes are all well laid out and easy to follow.

It was whilst I was flicking through for the fishcakes recipe that I saw this. It looked tasty and I happened to have some pineapple chunks in the cupboard so I went for it!

Serves 4

1½ tablespoons of vegetable oil
2-3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
225g of pork mince
1 spring onion, finely sliced
½ a tablespoon of coriander leaves, finely chopped
25g of cooked, unsalted peanuts, roughly ground
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
3 tablespoons of palm sugar (3 tablespoons seems like an awful lot but the resulting dish isn’t too sweet)
A pinch of ground white pepper
16 segments of pineapple
Coriander leaves for garnish
1 red chilli, finely sliced for garnish.

Heat the oil in a saucepan or wok, over a medium heat and stir-fry the garlic until golden brown.

Add the pork mince and cook over a medium heat, breaking up the lumps with a spoon. Cook until the meat is almost dry.

Add the spring onion, coriander leaves, soy sauce, sugar and pepper.

Stir together and cook for 4-5 minutes or so until the mixture is dry and a bit sticky.

Spoon some of the mixture on to each pineapple chunk, then garnish with chilli and a coriander leaf.

Tasty and a lovely little amuse bouche – the taste and texture of the meat mixture contrasts really nicely with the soft, sweet pineapple.


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Sausage pie with hot water crust pastry

To finish up my weekend’s worth of cooking I fancied trying hot water crust pastry, which I had never made before, and decided to use it to make a sausage pie like my Mum used to make when I was a kid. I’ll detail the pastry first and then the filling.

(This quantity makes quite a lot of pastry. I cut it down by half which gave me enough to make a 7½” pie and two sausage rolls.)

For the pastry

660g of plain flour (330g for half)
280ml of water (140ml)
215g of lard (107g)
1 teaspoon of salt

(Do not allow the pastry to go cold before it is worked into pies. Once cold it becomes unworkable.)

Sieve the flour and salt together into a bowl.

Heat the lard and water together in a saucepan. Once the lard has melted, bring to the boil. (This bubbles quite a bit, which is a touch scary!)

Pour the hot lard and water onto the flour and with a wooden spoon, bring together into a soft paste.

When cool enough to handle, turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.

The pastry is now ready to be used as required. It will feel just like warm play-dough.

For the pie filling:

250g of sausage meat
2 teaspoons of wholegrain mustard
½ a red onion, finely chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 200

Mix the mustard and onion into the sausage meat, with a spoon to start with and then with your hands to ensure that everything is well combined. (You may need to wet your hands so that the sausage meat doesn’t stick to your hands.)

Once the filling is made, line a metal pie with a thin layer of the hot water pastry and then fill with the sausage meat. Top with a lid, trim off the excess pastry, make a couple of steam holes and cook in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the pastry is golden and the sausage meat is cooked through.



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Cheese pies from Alonissos

On Sunday I decided to do a bit of cooking and throw a few things together.

First I made spicy bread:

Then honeycomb:

And then these little darlings. They’re from the Greek Islands cook book that Alberto got me for Christmas. (There’s lots of scene setting waffle about where the pies are actually from but I’m going to skip that. Also, I’m not sure that they’re really what I’d call pies, but there you go.)

I’m thinking of doing them for the Eurovision party so I thought I’d give them a try out in advance. They’re tasty little parcels and easy to make and the method of cooking them in hot oil means that the outsides are lovely and crispy and the insides are soft and creamy from the cheese. After trying them out on Alberto and Jim the general consensus is that they are tasty but might work just as well, if not better, with feta so having a little pre-Eurovision experiment was a good idea.

Makes 10

10 sheets of filo pastry
350 of soft, rindless Goat’s Cheese
1ltr of vegetable oil for frying (the recipe says half olive oil and half vegetable oil but I didn’t bother.)

Lay a sheet of pastry out on the work surface.

Scatter 35g of goat’s cheese over the pastry, avoiding the left and right edges for about 4cm on each side.

From the top of the sheet turn the pastry down to cover the cheese and half of the remaining pastry. Then turn the bottom half up so that the cheese is completely covered.

Pinch together the edges and then pull one end round to coil it into a spiral. Be gentle though, very gentle or the pastry will rip.

Pour about 5mm of oil into a frying pan, when hot reduce the heat to medium and then gently slide the pastries into the hot oil. (in batches) If it looks like they’re about to unravel, place the loose edge against the edge of the frying pan – once they start to cook this will soon seal them.

Fry for about 4 minutes until golden brown on the bottom, then very very gently flip them over and cook on the other side until golden brown all over.

Remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper. The recipe says ‘serve warm’ but they’re just as nice cold.


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Spanish pork pie with Valencian peas

I was working late last night so I had yesterday morning off and decided to make a pie for Alberto and me for the evening.

I’ve been meaning to make this recipe, from the great cookbook The Food of Spain, for a while now and so it was nice to finally get around to it. I found another recipe in the same book, this one for Valencian peas, that I though would accompany the pie rather nicely and give the whole meal a suitably Spanish flavour. (paprika and saffron being the ‘Spanish flavour’ of the day!)

The pie has what I think of (“What I call…”) as a classic Spanish feature in that contains three different kinds of cooked pork! This, of course, simply makes it even more delicious.

For the pie:

Serves 4-6 (needless to say I scaled it down to make a circular pie that served 3-4)

4 tablespoons of olive oil
2 red onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1kg boneless pork loin, diced
50g of jamón, diced (I used torn up slices, because that’s what I happened to have)
300g of chorizo, sliced
1 green pepper, de-seeded and diced
1 red pepper, de-seeded and diced
150ml of white wine
A pinch of saffron threads
3 tablespoons of flat leaf parsley, chopped
3 tablespoons of chopped oregano
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
1 bay leaf
2 hard-boiled eggs, shelled and sliced

The recipe also suggests making your own pastry with flour, cornmeal and yeast. I opted for pre-made shortcrust to save time.

For the peas:

A pinch of saffron threads
1 tablespoons of white wine
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
¼ of a teaspoon of cumin
125ml of chicken stock
1 bay leaf
310g of peas
2 tablespoons of flat leaf parsley, chopped

Heat a heavy saucepan over a medium heat, add the oil, onion and garlic, and sauté for 3-4 minutes until the onions are slightly softened.

Add the pork and jamón and cook for 4 minutes or so, until the meat is sealed and starting to brown.

Add the chorizo and diced pepper and sauté for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the pepper starts to soften.

Add the white wine, saffron, tinned tomatoes, parsley, oregano, paprika, bay leaf and stir well to combine. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Stir frequently to avoid sticking.

Once the filling has cooked, allow to cool slightly whilst you line the pie case with a thin layer of pastry.

Pre-heat the oven to 200

Place the filling in the pastry case. Top with the sliced hard-boiled eggs and then use the remaining pastry to make a lid for the pie.

Brush with egg or milk and back in the oven for 30-40 minutes until golden and cooked.

Whilst the pie is cooking cook the peas. They don’t take very long at all.

Soak the saffron in the wine for at least 10 minutes until the wine is coloured.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and sauté the onion, garlic and cumin for 2-3 minutes, until the onion starts to become translucent.

Add the saffron and wine, stock, bay leaf and peas. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring to the boil and then reduce to a steady simmer.

Cook for about 5 minutes until the peas are cooked through and the liquid almost completely evaporated. Stir in the chopped parsley and season to taste.


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Cumin lamb and aubergine stew

On Tuesday Figgy was busy, held up by the mayor, and Alberto was in London for work, so I had my friend Douglas over for dinner and a bit of televisual entertainment. (An episode of Whodunnit hosted by Jon Pertwee and featuring William Russell, and an episode of The Avengers featuring Roger Delgado and Kate O’Mara) I fancied a new recipe and so I had a flick through some of my cook books at lunchtime and found this recipe in Just One Pot by Lindsey Bareham. It looked tasty and interesting and so I thought that I’d give it a go. It was only whilst I was cooking it that it occurred to me that the last time Douglas came over I cooked a tagine involving lamb, cumin and tomatoes. I hope he doesn’t think I’m a one trick pony!

It’s a tasty recipe and certainly one that I’d do again.

380g boneless neck fillet or loin
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1 aubergine
1 large red onion, peeled, cut in halved and finely diced
1 large garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
440g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
15g of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
150g of Greek yoghurt
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cut the lamb into kebab-sized chunks and dust with the cumin.

Trim the aubergine and cut into similar sized pieces to the lamb.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes over a medium heat, until softened.

Add the aubergine and toss into the oily onion. Reduce the heat and cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly, until the pieces begin to soften and slightly colour. Increase the heat and add the lamb, browning it thoroughly and stirring the cumin through the dish.

Season with salt and pepper and add the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Half fill the empty tomato tin with water and add that to the saucepan. Stir well and then bring to the boil.

As soon as it starts to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, three-quarter cover with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.

After 20 minutes, check to see if the meat is tender. If not, cook for a further 10 minutes or so.

Once the meat is ready, stir in the mint and serve, with optional Greek yoghurt to top.

Tasty. I served it with wasabi mash and steamed spring greens.


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Duck stir-fry

My! It’s been 17 days since I last updated! Doesn’t time fly. I’ve been cooking loads, as ever, but it has, by and large, been stuff that I’ve already blogged about.

I made this for myself for dinner this evening. It is sort of cobbled together from two recipes that I found online but it’s really just a thrown together thing. It came out rather well though, if I do say so myself. Measurements are all a bit approximate though.

Serves 1

1 duck breast, cut into thin slices (I left the skin on so that it would go a little crispy with the frying. This does make the dish a little fattier though.)
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
1cm knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced
2 spring onions, trimmed and divided into white and green halves
⅓ of a red pepper, de-seeded and thickly sliced
⅓ of a green pepper, de-seeded and thickly sliced
⅓ of an orange pepper, de-seeded and thickly sliced
3-4 heads of tenderstem broccoli, stalk trimmed off just below the lowest ‘branch’
1 head of pak choi, trimmed
1½ tablespoons of soy sauce
1½ tablespoons of teriyaki sauce
A splash of mirrin
1 generous teaspoon of runny honey
A good squeeze of lime juice
A shake of dried chillies, to taste
A sprinkling of sesame seeds, to garnish

Boiled rice to serve

In a large wok heat the oil over a medium heat and add the sliced spring onions, garlic and ginger and stir fry for a couple of minutes, until fragrant and starting to colour.

Add the pepper slices and broccoli and fry for a couple of minutes, until starting to soften, but still with some bite.

Add the duck slices, increase the heat slightly and stir fry for a couple of minutes, stirring often to ensure that the slices become well browned on both sides. The skin should start to crisp, if you left it on, that is.

Add the soy, teriyaki sauce, mirrin, honey, lime juice and chillies, stir well to combine. Allow to bubble for a couple of minutes until the sauce starts to thicken. Then add the pak choi and the white and green pieces of spring onion. Stir fry briskly until the pak choi starts to wilt.

Serve garnished with sesame seeds.


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Chicken, walnut and pomegranate stew – Koresh-e-fesenjan

On Wednesday evening Alberto was caught up at work and I had nothing planned so I thought I’d cook us a spot of dinner. I thought I’d try this tasty Middle-Eastern stew from my Persiana cook book as it involved using the pomegranate molasses that I picked up at the weekend.

The end result is tasty with a rich, thick sauce. It is a little sweet though – I think that next time I might cut down on the amount of molasses.

It always pays to pay attention to the recipe too – I skim read and spotted that the chicken had to be cooked for 2 hours, but failed to spot that the walnuts had to be cooked for an hour first! Ooops In reality I was able to cook the walnuts for about 40 minutes and then the chicken for an hour and a half rather than two. Still – always read the recipe first! :) I think my confusion was partly due to the layout of the recipe in the book so I’ve switched things around here.

Serves 4

Vegetable oil
2 large onions, diced
1 tablespoon of plain flour
600g of walnuts, finely ground in a food processor (easier said that done – the kept slipping under the blades!)
8 bone-in chicken thighs
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1.2 litres of cold water
3 tablespoons of caster sugar
450ml of pomegranate molasses
Seeds from 1 pomegranate

In a large saucepan toss in the plain flour and toast, over a medium heat, until pale beige. Add the ground walnuts and cook through.

Add the water to the walnuts and stir well. Bring the mixture to a slow boil, then cover with a lid and allow to cook for an hour over a low-medium heat. Once the oil from the walnuts is released and starts to float on the surface of the water then you know that they are cooked.

Whilst the walnuts are cooking heat some oil in another large saucepan and fry the onions until translucent and lightly browned.

Season the chicken thighs on each side, then turn up the heat and add them to the pan. Brown on both sides. Once the onions are cooked and the chicken browned turn off the heat and set aside until walnuts are ready.

Once the walnuts are cooked add the caster sugar to the walnut water and then pour in the pomegranate molasses, slowly, stirring well.

Once this is done, pour the walnuts and molasses over the chicken and onions, return to the heat, cover and cook, over a medium heat, for about 2 hours, stirring regularly to prevent burning and sticking.

The resulting stew should be thick, dark and rich. Serve with steamed or boiled rice and garnished with pomegranate seeds.


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Tray-baked rose petal lamb chops with chilli and herbs

Fig wasn’t over for our usual Tuesday Who this week as he wasn’t feeling well, and as it was Alberto’s first day back at work after his holiday I decided to cook this interesting looking recipe from Persiana for the two of us. The prospect of edible rose petals was too good to pass up! In preparation I’d managed to pick up some ‘hot pink’ edible rose petals in town on Sunday afternoon. The recipe is tasty, although I can’t say I picked up much flavour from the rose petals, there are plenty of spices to make it interesting. I served it with sweet potato mash and roasted asparagus. Lovely.

Unfortunately the rose petals are almost completely invisible in the finished dish so you can’t see them in the photo. But they are there. Honest! I took a photo of the chops marinating and you can clearly see them there.

Serves 4

500g of lamb chops
6 tablespoons of olive oil
5 tablespoons of edible rose petals, finely ground in a spice grinder (My petals were ‘hot pink’! I used a pestle and mortar to grind them and it was a bit tricky as the leaves were slippery and so it was difficult to get purchase on them. I had to add a little salt to give it something to grind against.)
1 teaspoon of turmeric
3 teaspoons of ground cumin
3 teaspoons of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons of sea salt
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons of rose water

For the herb and chilli drizzle

1 large red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
20g of coriander leaves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons of dried mint
Juice of ½ a lime
8 tablespoons of olive oil (this does make quite a lot of ‘drizzle’ – more than I found we needed)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, place the 6 tablespoons of olive oil, ground rose petals, spices, sea salt, garlic and rosewater and mix well.

Put the lamb chops in a large dish and pour the oil, spice and rose petal mix over the chops, working it well into the meat.

Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge to marinate for at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to the highest possible temperature. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper. Lay the chops on the baking tray, fat side up.

Once the oven had pre-heated for 20 minutes or so pop the lamb in and roast for 20-22 minutes.

Whilst the lamb is cooking combine the ingredients for the drizzle in a small bowl and mix well.
Once the lamb is cooked dot generously with the drizzle and serve.

I served this with sweet potato mash which I made by roasting the sweet potatoes, before scraping the flesh out and mashing it.

Tasty tasty!



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