Tag Archives: ginger


i have to find a more appropriate name for this meal. something more authentic, perhaps with the words ‘nam pla’ in it. as it is, its a bit of a mix of things, and isn’t really any one thing or another. the ladyboy curry then. or maybe i should just call it recipe number two. anyway, it came from another regular hankering for that fresh fusion of thai tastes, the hot and the sour. and also from a jolt of inspiration from undomestikated’s moqueca – brazilian fish stew. the hankering had been there for a while, and i’d already stocked up on fresh lemongrass and all that hot asian jazz. but i’d been rehearsing all day and felt tired enough not to want to make a green curry from scratch, but felt enough inspiration to try something out. at its heart its a version of a thai green curry – but without the paste-base and some ingredients, and with tomatoes. and it was good. you know how tv chefs say ‘mmm, just smell that, that is going to be SO good’, and then they call over some bemused local sous-chef and hold out a wooden spoon and say ‘what do you make of that, consuela?’ and consuela sips from the spoon and goes ‘mmmm’? well that’s what thai cooking does in its sleep. the ingredients just naturally do that and you just know its going to be SO good and the consuela in you is going mmmm the whole time.

i did it with chicken, but i suspect it would suit fish as much if not more so. there’s a fish-free august drive now, to give the oceans a break and raise awareness of over-fishing, so chicken felt right for now. a vegetarian version would be good too, in which case i’d use more green beans and add mushrooms and pak choi. i left out dried lime leaves as i wasn’t making a paste and they can stay fairly hard if not soaked (or removed); and i left out shrimp paste, or kapi, mostly because after much fumbling and reflection i realised i didn’t have any. but i don’t feel either of these were hugely missed. also i’d forgotten to buy chillies and was out, so i used a few extra dashes of my increasingly powerful homemade chilli oil.

time: about 30 mins

feeds: 3 quite hungry people

chicken breasts – 4, (ideally) free-range, chopped

oil – exactly 4 dashes of strong chilli oil (or 2 good dashes of regular oil, or similar amount of ghee, and then 1-3 chopped green chillies, according to taste and tolerance)

onion – i only used 3 little shallots as helen is still breast-feeding and is trying to avoid lots of onion, but normally i would use at least 1 large onion

fresh ginger – 1 large thumb-size root. like a handyman’s thumb. or a very big hitchhiker. obviously you could also use the more traditional galangal, soaked and chopped.

lemongrass – 2 sticks (outer leaves peeled off and discarded), lightly pounded with a mallet, then finely chopped

lime – 1, zested, and halved

tomatoes – 3, chopped

thai fish sauce, or NAM PLA – 2 dashes, a little more than a tablespoon. too much nam pla, and too much chilli are about the only ways to ruin a thai meal, so start with less and increase to taste

coconut milk – 1 tin

green peppercorns – 1 teaspoon

green beans – a handful, chopped. could use peas or mange-tout or courgettes

fresh basil – about 3 tablespoons, chopped

fresh coriander – 2 handfuls. like boxer’s hands. including stalks. chopped

rice – to serve. i used brown rice, with a handful of red rice – takes an extra 10 mins to cook, but is just a little healthier than white rice.

heat the oil in a wok and add the chicken and onion. after about 6 or 7 minutes add the ginger and lemongrass. just as the chicken begins to brown add the lime zest and tomatoes and cook for another 3 minutes.

(if using fish instead of chicken, start with only onion, then add ginger and lemongrass, cook for another 3 minutes and only add the fish with the tomato and lime zest. if using fresh chillies, add with the tomato and lime zest).

squeeze the juice of the zested, halved limes into the wok, and then toss the squeezed limes in too. add the top third of the tin of coconut milk – the thicker, creamier part – and the fish sauce, the green beans and the peppercorns and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. add the remaining coconut milk, the basil and half the coriander, especially the stalky parts, and cook for a further 4 or 5 minutes. finally, remove the limes.

serve on rice, topped with remaining coriander. go ‘mmmm’ a lot.

for an added flourish to impress the boss, top with a few seeded and very thinly sliced red chillies. i didn’t do this as i don’t have any red chillies. or a boss. or a regular job.



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harira was the first meal i cooked that really got me excited about cooking. after my first kid was born i found myself doing a lot more cooking than i used to. i found myself doing a lot more of many things than i used to. like shopping for bum cream. and yawning. but cooking was one of the more enjoyable new adventures that fatherhood brought. my wife helen is english and one quarter egyptian and eats mediterranean food like she drinks tea. often and with a romantic enthusiasm. so harira was an attempt at a north african treat for her. harira is known as a morrocan soup dish – almost the national dish of morroco – but it is found all over the arab world, mostly during the holy month of ramadan which encourages patience and humility, to break the fasting day. its substantial range of ingredients with meat, vegetables and sometimes 4 starches, make it an especially filling meal in itself. of course, like any traditional dish, there are a gazillion versions of harira, depending on the particular country, village or mother-in-law. some have rice, some have pasta or beans, some have all three or none of those. the israeli bistro down the road from us, zahava’s in norwood, does an especially good one, which is coarsely blended and heavy on the lemon to counter the greasiness of the lamb. as a north african meal, it is traditionally made with lamb meat, but i’ve seen – and tried – versions using diced beef or whole chicken pieces, as well as vegetarian versions – which i’ve started favouring, and here is one. right here. although this version is more of a thick hearty stew than a soup. and has no meat. and i don’t fast. still. its always very good. insha’allah.


Time: About 2 hours

Feeds: About 4 medium-sized adults

olive oil – exactly 2 dashes

whole cumin – 3 teaspoons

whole coriander – 3 teaspoons

onions – 2, fairly finely chopped

garlic – 3 cloves, chopped or crushed

fresh ginger – about 3 teaspoons, chopped

2 carrots – quartered then sliced

2 or 3 sticks of celery, depending on your fondness for that stuff, with its leaves – sliced

4 fresh tomatoes – chopped (obviously fresh is ideal, but a tin will do. obviously)

about a tablespoon of tomato paste

stock – veg stock (or chicken or lamb stock if doing a meat version), about 3 cups.

chick peas  – 1 and half cups of soaked chickpeas (or 1 tin)

lentils – a brave handful of rinsed lentils (i usually use the brown lentils for this)

rice – a slightly more cowardly handful of brown rice

chilli – 1 whole, dried or fresh chilli. not traditional, completely optional.

turmeric – 2 teaspoons

cinnamon – 1 teaspoon

salt – a few pinches

black pepper  – a few cracks

fresh parsley  – big handful,including stalks, chopped

fresh coriander – 2 big handfuls, including stalks, chopped

greens beans – half a cup, chopped

2 lemons – 1 halved, 1 in 4 wedges

mediterranean bread – to serve. i usually use pita bread, lightly warmed in a toaster, but not crisp

(for a meat version, its simple enough to add about 400 grams of browned, chopped lamb steak, or beef, and to make the veg stock a meat one)

in a frying pan, drizzle a few drops of olive oil and place on a medium heat. add the cumin and coriander and roast til they are lightly browned. remove and set aside. if you have a pestle and mortar its good to grind them up a little. in the pan, add the rest of the olive oil and when its hot, add the onion. cook for about 3 or 4 minutes and then add the garlic and ginger and cook for another 3 or 4 minutes. add the carrots and celery and cook for another 4 minutes. transfer everything into a large pot.

add the roasted cumin and coriander, the tomato paste and the tomatoes and cook for about 15 mins. add the stock, the chick peas, the lentils, the parsley, half the fresh coriander, the turmeric, the cinnamon, the juice of 1 lemon, the chilli, salt and pepper, and simmer for about 45 mins. add the rice and cook for another 30 mins, adding more water if necessary. add the green beans and cook for another 10 mins. discard the chilli. serve in a bowl, topped with the rest of the fresh coriander. serve with the lemon wedges and bread.

eat with patience, humility and a belly-dancer.


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