In East Asia soups are a staple part of any diet. This Thai style chicken 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. prawns can also be used as the main ingredient.
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
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 as a garnish 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. If frozen prawns are used, ensure that they are thoroughly de-frosted before use. Un-cooked prawns should not be added until the last 5 minutes of cooking, cooked prawns 3 minutes before. Check the seasoning before serving.
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:
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
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.
Add the lemon juice and stir, continue cooking for 2 minutes. Add the fresh coriander, stir once and serve.
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.
BEETROOT Curry At this time of year, if you are as fortunate as we are, you have a surfeit of vegetable crops. Here is an idea how to use one of these. It’s simplicity belies the smooth, sweet flavour that results. Do not eat too much of it, beetroot is just as good boiled or roasted, save some for another good day. What ever you do, make sure that the beet are fresh and not bitter or woody. Take them from the ground and store them in a clamp rather than leave them in the ground too long, particularly in winter.
Ingredients as an accompaniment for 4 to 5 servings:
12 oz (375g) raw, peeled beetroot cut into 1/4″ (6.35mm) thick slices about 1/2″ (12mm) wide (wear gloves, they stain!).
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, I sometimes use a little sesame oil as a substitute
1 large, fat, clove of garlic chopped as small as you can
1 heaped teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of corn flour to thicken, ordinary flour will do
Cayenne pepper – I use 1/4 teaspoon, this makes it subtly hot
1/2 lb (250g) chopped tomatoes, tinned will do but fresh are better
1 teaspoon salt
Some water, about 1/4 pint is usually enough but be prepared to add more if things get sticky.
Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan. When hot, add the cumin seeds and garlic. Stir and fry for a minute or so. Add the onion, continue stirring and frying. When the onions are just starting to brown, turn down the heat and add the cayenne, stir twice and add the corn flour or flour, keep stirring. The objective is to get the flour to absorb some of the oil. Do not get things too hot at this point. Add the tomatoes and salt. Stir and bring to the boil, add a little more than half of the water, you should have a fairly moderately thick red sauce at this point. Add the beetroot. Bring back to the boil, cover and allow to simmer for about 40 minutes or until the beetroot is tender.
If at any point the sauce is too thick, remove cover, add a little more water, take up the heat, and reheat whilst stirring.