Easy as pie? No, easy as Thai!
I’ve always steered clear of cooking many Thai recipes; it’s much easier to pop out to one of our great local restaurants for a fix of Thai cuisine. On that very subject by the way, I discovered a great ‘Pan Asian’ restaurant in Isleworth this week, which is relaxed, friendly and excellent value for money – the Hei Hing café and noodle bar.
But now I have been inspired to make a trip to see the very helpful Emily who runs The Food Sanctuary in York Street to stock up on just a few essentials needed to prepare some dishes from a great new book – Easy Thai Cookbook, by Sallie Morris, published next week by Nourish Books at £14.99.
Locally based Sallie has lived in Malaysia and travelled widely in the region. She’s written numerous books on South East Asian cooking, and the latest is a neat little tome that is perfect for beginners and foodies alike. She showcases the key ingredients and techniques used in Thai cookery and gives step by step instructions for all the processes involved in creating great Thai dishes.
In three parts, the first introduces you to the basics: ingredients, equipment, and cooking methods. Part two gives the recipes – easy and with minimal effort needed. Curries, stir-fries, soups, and salads as well as desserts all feature. Part three shows you how to put the recipes together to create great meals – from simple suppers to a Thai banquet.
Here are a couple of recipes from the book that I thought perfect for this summer weather. If you don’t have an ice cream machine you should be able to make it just using the freezer, but you will need to allow a bit longer and keep taking the ice cream out to stir thoroughly and break up crystals, then replace.
Thai Beef Salad (Yum Neau)
Serves 4 • Preparation time: 15–20 minutes
• Cooking time: 4–6 minutes
225g/8oz beef fillet/filet mignon
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp fish sauce
juice of 1 large lime or lemon
1 tbsp sugar
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
4 shallots or 1 small red onion, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 lemon grass stems, lower 5cm/2in finely sliced
1/3 cucumber, cut into matchsticks or coarsely grated 2 carrots, cut into matchsticks or coarsely grated
2–3 spring onions/scallions, finely shredded
1 small handful each coriander/cilantro and mint leaves
Beef fillet/filet mignon, perfectly cooked to a delicate pink, then cut into wafer-thin slices, tossed with matchsticks of carrot and cucumber, red onion, spring onions/scallions and a tangy yet fiery dressing, garnished with mint and coriander/cilantro.
1 Season the beef, then place it under a hot grill/broiler. Cook to medium-rare (about 4–6 minutes, depending on thickness), turning twice during cooking. Allow resting for 10 minutes before slicing thinly.
2 Blend the fish sauce with the lime or lemon juice, sugar, chilli and half the shallots or onion to make the dressing.
3 Toss the beef slices with the garlic, lemongrass slices, remaining shallots or onion, cucumber, carrots, some of the spring onions/scallions and some of the coriander/cilantro and torn mint leaves. Add the dressing.
4 Pile onto a deep serving dish and garnish with the remaining spring onion, coriander, and mint leaves. (If this salad is to be eaten as part of a picnic, dress with just a third of the dressing and take the remainder with you to pour over at the last minute.)
Coconut Milk ice Cream (Alsa Khrim Ka-Thi) Serves 6 • Preparation time: 12–15 minutes, plus 45 minutes freezing time
• Cooking time: 4–5 minutes
225g/8oz/1 cup caster/superfine sugar
2 cans coconut milk (800ml/28fl oz/scant 31⁄2 cups) 6 tsp toasted desiccated/dried shredded coconut (unsweetened), to decorate
This sumptuous, creamy ice cream could not be easier to make and contains very few ingredients. The taste of coconut, which is inevitably linked with Thai meals, takes centre stage here, making a suitable end to an oriental meal.
1 Heat the sugar and 125ml/4fl oz/1⁄2 cup water in a saucepan and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves. Continue cooking until the syrup starts to thicken, then remove from the heat and leave to cool for 20 minutes.
2 add the coconut milk and stir to mix well.
3 Pour into an ice cream machine and churn for about 45 minutes, or until you achieve the right consistency. Store in the freezer until the ice cream is needed.
4 Take it out of the freezer as your guests arrive and let it soften slightly in the refrigerator. (Coconut milk ice cream must be kept cold because it melts rapidly.)
5 Spoon into bowls and top with a little freshly toasted coconut.