Thai Style Chicken Soup

In East Asia soups are a staple part of any diet. This soup is easy to make and requires few ingredients, none of which are difficult to obtain. The amounts shown here serve 4 generously as a main course or 6 as a starter. Serve with a rice dish as a main, a simple egg fried will suffice. Halve the amounts for 2 servings.

Ingredients:

  • 12oz to 15oz ( 330 – 420g) of chicken breast fillet, skinned
  • 14oz (800ml) Coconut milk
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
  • 1/2pt (600ml) chicken stock (see later)
  • Red chillis to taste, start with 2, finely chopped
  • 2 stems of lemon grass or 4 rounded teaspoons of lemon grass paste
  • 2″ (5cm) piece of fresh ginger or 4 rounded teaspoons ginger paste
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1oz/30g or slightly more bunch fresh coriander, chopped, stalks and all
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

If using fresh ginger and/or lemon grass, crush these to release their flavour. Add the lemon grass and ginger to the coconut milk in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer, reduce heat slightly and allow to cook just off the boil for 15 minutes or so. In the mean time, prepare the chicken by slicing into 1/2″ (1.5cm) squares about 1/8″ (3mm) thick.

Prepare the chicken stock either using stock cubes or preferably gel pots and hot water. If using home made stock, make sure that it is not too strong in flavour, warm throroughly before adding. Add the stock, peanut butter and chicken to the spiced coconut milk mixture. Bring to a gently simmer again. Cook for about 15 minutes until chicken is soft.

Add the fish sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for another 5 minutes or so. Remove the whole ginger and lemon grass if used and add the coriander but keep a few coriander leaves to sprinkle on the soup after serving.

Serve and enjoy.

This soup can also be made with de-veined fresh or pre-cooked prawns instead of chicken. These should not be added until the last 5 minutes of cooking. Check the seasoning before serving.

Bargnolino (Italian Sloe Liqueur)

Ingredients for 2 to 3 x 750ml bottles:

1kg Sloes
500g granulated sugar – although other types will work ok
1 litre of pure 90˚alcohol – cheap vodka will do if you cannot get the REAL thing
1 bottle of Gutturnio red wine (strong, heavy red. Malbec or Primitivo will do)

Wash sloes. When dry put into large jar with a lid together with the sugar. Cover with the alcohol, yes, all of it.
Leave to infuse for 50-60 days. Shake container every 2 days.
Remove berries and add wine* to jar. Leave to infuse for another 15 days.
After 15 days, filter through a cloth and bottle.
*You can add some cinnamon at this point if you like it – we do not.

A Simple Chicken Curry

Plate of Simple Chicken Curry
Simple Chicken Curry

Chicken lends itself to curry recipes as it is low cost, plentiful, cooks quickly, is nutritious and liked by most people. Many curries, particularly those from take-away shops, seem to have far to much oil or have a heavy sauce. This free recipe is for a curry with a lighter than usual sauce and includes vegetables so reducing the necessity for side dishes and keeping the calorie count as low as possible without sacrificing flavour. It can be made as hot or mild as you like by adjusting the chilli and cayenne. Serve with plain boiled rice (allow 320g for 4 servings) and if needed a side dish of carrot and cabbage curry or a spinach dish.

Ingredients for 4 servings:

Simple Chicken Curry Ingredients
Simple Chicken Curry Ingredients
  • 400 – 500g (approximately 1 lb) chicken breast meat off the bone and skinless. If using thighs that are on the bone use 600g and cook slightly longer.
  • 1 large onion, about 200g (0.5lb) medium sliced into half rounds.
  • 1 medium size red pepper, approximately 100 – 125g cut into strips 1/4″ (6mm) wide and 1″ (2.5cm) long
  • 1 medium size green pepper, approximately 100 – 125g cut into strips 1/4″ (6mm) wide and 1″ (2.5cm) long
  • 3 medium size fresh tomatoes, approximately 6oz (300g) , peeled and cut into 8 segments
  • 1 medium size (2″ or 5cm long) hot green chilli. More may be used if you prefer a hotter curry. De-seed the chilli if you want the flavour of chilli without so much heat.
  • 3 tablespoons (30ml) vegetable oil for frying
  • 2 large cloves garlic, crushed in a press
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons (10ml) ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon (3ml) ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon (3ml) cayenne powder, adjust according to strength required
  • 1 1″ (2.5cm) cube of fresh ginger, very finely chopped or grated
  • 3 (45ml) tablespoons lemon juice, fresh preferred but bottled will do
  • 1.5 (8ml) teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) water
  • Optional 3 heaped tablespoons (60ml) finely chopped fresh coriander leaves to garnish

Method:

Peel the tomatoes by putting them into a bowl and pouring over boiling water, leave for 5 – 10 minutes and the skin should start to separate from the flesh. Remove from the bowl and peel properly.
Make a paste by mixing the water with the ground spices in a small dish.
Prepare all the other ingredients.

Heat the oil over a medium high heat and add the onion when hot, stir and fry for 3 minutes or until the onion just starts to brown. Add the chopped ginger, crushed garlic and chopped green chilli. Stir and fry for a further minute. Add the chicken and continue to stir and fry until the meat has lost all its pink colour and has begun to brown.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the ground spice paste, continue stirring and frying for 3 minutes ensuring that all the chicken is well coated in spice mix. Cover and cook on a medium low heat for 5 minutes making sure that the mixture does not stick or burn.
Uncover and add the sliced peppers, continue stirring and frying until the mixture comes back to the boil.
Stir in the sliced tomatoes and salt, continue heating whilst stirring occasionally until the mixture is back to a gentle boil. Cover and cook for 20 minutes on a low to medium heat until the chicken is tender, check frequently. If the mixture shows signs of sticking, add a little water and bring back to a simmer.

Cooking the chicken curry
Cooking the chicken curry

Add the lemon juice and stir, continue cooking for 2 minutes. Add the fresh coriander, stir once and serve.

Notes:

  • Other vegetables can be added in place of some of the peppers, these include aubergines (add near the start of cooking), bean sprouts (add near the end). Always make sure that they are fresh. Try the basic recipe first.

A Light Vegetarian Christmas Pudding

The quantities for this Vegetarian Christmas Pudding will make enough for six large helpings and will stretch to eight or more if required. If you decide to add nuts, make sure none of your guests have allergies. This recipe was donated by my mother after we enjoyed this pudding at Christmas 2001 during our visit to AUS. It suits the life style there as it is is much lighter than the traditional English recipes.

Serving:

Serve in the same way as you would a traditional christmas pudding, with brandy butter, cream or icecream. You can also flambe it in the traditional way with Brandy or another spirit of your choice.

Ingredients

For a medium size christmas pudding (6, 8 or 10 helpings!):

1lb (450g) of Mixed Dried Fruit (see below)
5oz (140g) Soft brown sugar
5oz (140g) Breadcrumbs
2oz (60g) Butter
1 teaspoon (5ml) Bicarbonate of Soda
2 tablespoons (60ml) Sago
1 cup measure of Milk (Australian cup size = 250ml)

Glass or china bowl (about 2pints/1l capacity) and large pot for steaming.

Method:

The fruit can be a mixture of practically anything, currants, raisins, sultanas, glace cherries, etc. and a little candied peel adds a zing. You could try some dried apricots, dried prunes (do not use too many of these and cut them up to sultana size pieces) if you want to experiment but try the basic recipe first. You could also try adding some nuts (see the warning above) but again, not too many, perhaps 1oz of the total, cut these up small as well.

Soak the Sago in the milk overnight. Optionally, soak the dired fruit in 3 tablespoons of cooking brandy overnight as well.
Bring the butter just to the point of melting to aid mixing and add all the ingredients. Mix well together. Grease the inside of the bowl to be used for steaming well using a little more butter to help it release after cooking. When throroughly mixed put the mixture into the steaming bowl progressively, pressing down well as you go to express any excess air.

To cook:

Cover the bowl tightly with aluminium foil tied with string. Leave at least 1/2″ (1cm) above the pudding level to the top of the bowl for expansion. The aluminium foil should be creased to allow for expansion as well. You do this by making it much bigger than the top of the bowl, fold it in half, then fold a strip about 1/22 (1cm) wide back on itself at the crease. Open the foil back up but leave the centre strip folded. Get someone to hold the foil whilst it is tied. the objective is to keep all the moisture that is inside whilst keeping all the water that is outside out of the pudding.

Light Vegetarian Christmas PuddingPudding Ready to steam!

Put 2″ (5cm) of water into a large pot and put in the pudding in the bowl, spacing it at least 1″ (2cm) off the bottom. Bring the water to the boil and turn the heat down until the pudding is gently steaming. Steam for 3 hours, watching carefully that it does not dry out. A pressure cooker is ideal for this job but do not use any pressure, you could end up with a new pattern on the ceiling !

You can either serve straight away, serve it cold or reheat thoroughly and serve it hot later.

Storing:

This pudding will store well for many days in a fridge if you want to make it in advance. Just make sure that it is not left uncovered and that it is kept in a cool place (less than 16 degrees).

Enjoy with a sweet dessert wine and Merry Christmas to all!

First published 9/12/2002
Thanks to Pat, my late mother for this treasure.