Thai Basil Chicken Stir Fry

Pad Kra Pao Gai (ผัดกระเพราไก่); this is one of the most memorable dishes we acquired for the repertoire during our stint in Australia. I’d even go as far as to say that it’s my wife’s absolute favourite – it makes a regular appearance on our table.

You’ll notice that Thai basil (bai horapha) has beautifully deep purple stalks. The wonderful aniseed flavour of this variety is so distinctive, yet rather than being overpowering, it’s delicate and fragrant.

Fresh Thai Basil

This recipe introduced us to ‘garlic shoots’ which unfortunately we’ve never seen since leaving Australia, other than chopped up and frozen in mixed vegetable bags at Waitrose. Garlic shoots are so special to us that I’ll admit to buying numerous bags and picking through! Like long, perfectly straight green beans, garlic shoots have a mild flavour and provide a slightly squeaky, crunchy texture to the dish.

You could always have a go at growing them yourself as they’re just garlic scapes with the flower bud removed. If you can’t get your hands on any, fine green beans will suffice.

Ingredients:

  • 2 Chicken breasts
  • 4 Garlic cloves
  • 3cm Galangal (or Ginger)
  • 1/2 Chilli
  • 1/2 Red Pepper
  • Small bunch of Asparagus
  • Small bunch of Spring Onions
  • Small bunch or Garlic Shoots or Green Beans
  • Bunch of Thai Basil
  • 3 tbsp Oyster Sauce
  • Splash of Fish Sauce (optional)

Ingredients

Method:

Cut the chicken breasts into thin slices.

Blend the garlic, chilli and galangal into a paste using a mortar and pestle or roughly chop it all together. Marinate the chicken in a covered dish or bag in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Slice the vegetables into roughly the same size and set aside. Do make sure that you have everything ready to go and within reach before you start cooking as it’s going to be quick quick quick.

In a wok or large frying pan, heat a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil.

Stirring as you go, first fry the marinated chicken for a couple of minutes.

Add the vegetables and fry for a further minute.

Add the oyster sauce and a splash of fish sauce (or water if it’s not your thing), cooking for another couple of minutes.

Finally, add the Thai basil for just 30 seconds so that it wilts and releases its beautiful aroma.

So in total, the stir fry should take you about five and a half minutes to cook.

Serve with white rice or cauliflower rice for a healthier option.

Thai Basil

Chilli con Jamie

Yesterday I had the absolute pleasure of cooking for a lovely group of school mums on their annual get-together in The Cotswolds.

A dear friend had asked if I’d like to cater for the event, and together we hatched a plan to use this as an opportunity to raise awareness for the Food Revolution and Elizabeth’s Footprint – [Natalia Spencer is walking the entire 6,000 mile coastline of the UK in aid of Bristol Children’s Hospital following the sudden and tragic loss of her beautiful 5-year-old daughter Elizabeth.] 

So, deep breath, what do you cook for fourteen…?

I needed something hearty, a little bit special, and above all something that wouldn’t be a logistical nightmare given Chipping Campden is a 40 minute drive from Cheltenham.

Delectable and transportable; it’s got to be a slow cooked chilli. It just so happens that I recently acquired a cast iron, 12 litre, Staub Cocotte (dutch oven)..

Let’s not reinvent the wheel here – I know a man who’s nailed this dish, so please do check out Jamie’s tried and tested recipe here: http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/beef-recipes/chilli-con-jamie/

The only tweaks I made were to scale up the quantities to make it go a bit further. I used 3kg of brisket, 5 cans of tomatoes, 750ml fresh coffee and 3 tins of kidney beans etc.

3kg beef brisket

Trimming up the beef takes a little time but once it’s all in the pot you can pretty much sit back and leave it alone for a few hours. If you’re interested, I chose to use a combination of Ancho and Pasilla chillies which were rehydrated in strong coffee.

Ancho and Pasilla chillies

I wrapped a couple of towels around my impractically heavy cast iron pot and carefully stowed my precious cargo in the passenger footwell.

Seeing a rainbow over Chipping Campden as I made my way down the quiet country lanes really made my day. I had to stop the car and take a moment to fully appreciate the world around me, basking in the horizontal early evening sunlight and cherishing every aspect of the quiet, rolling countryside. I wish I could have captured it for you Natalia.

I want to extend a huge, huge thank you to all you lovely ladies for donating a whopping £200 to Elizabeth’s Footprint – I’m so pleased you enjoyed your dinner :o)

Chilli con carne

Harissa Houmous

Love Houmous (or hummus even)?

Fancy a little twist to spice things up?

How about a super-simple Harissa Houmous for a change; my twist on Jamie Oliver’s Simple Houmous recipe

Harissa is the North African equivalent to Gochujang or Sambal Oelek chilli pastes.

Ingredients:

  • 400g tin of Chickpeas
  • 1 tbsp Tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 1 tbsp Harissa Paste
  • 1 Lemon
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

 

Method:

Rinse and drain the chickpeas in a sieve or colander, and place them in a food processor. Add the tahini and harissa with about 1 tbsp of olive oil. Squeeze in half of the lemon juice, pop the lid on, and blend away.

You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl and add a touch more oil, water or lemon juice before blending it to a smooth consistency. Always be sure to give it a little taste and adjust to your liking – you shouldn’t need to add any salt as you would with plain houmous, but you may want to adjust how much harissa you add.

Serve with vegetable crudites or sliced pitta breads.

Now, if you fancy having a go at making your own Harissa paste, here’s how.

Harissa Hummus

Superfood Cereal

Jamie Oliver recently published his ’10 recipes to save your life’ – if you can master these simple recipes, you can feed yourself and your family for the rest of your life. We’re bringing you easy twists on each of these recipes to extend your repertoire.

My twist on Jamie’s DIY Oaty Fruity Cereal is to guild it with delectable flourishes that are both stunningly beautiful, and wonderfully nutritious.

The basic cereal is ridiculously easy:

  • 100g dried fruit, such as sultanas, raisins, dried apricots
  • 50g mixed unsalted nuts, such as almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts
  • 50g mixed seeds, such as pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, poppy
  • 400g porridge oats
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

Just roughly chop the nuts and dried fruit, give it all a mix, and serve with milk or natural yoghurt.

Now here’s my list of nutrient rich tweaks that you can pick and choose from to elevate this simple breakfast bowl. The health benefits of superfoods are much debated – above anything, these little treats are both interesting and tasty:

  1. Goldenberries – these are dried Physalis (Physalis peruviana) or as they’re also known, Cape Gooseberries, Ground Cherry or Capuli. High in iron and fibre, they’re both tart and sweet.
  2. Bee Pollen – tiny little pollen pellets that have been packed by worker honeybees!
  3. White Mulberries – (Moras alba) – Delicious dried fruits and a good source of protein, fibre, iron, vitamin C and K.
  4. Blueberries – or ‘star berries’ as the Native Americans called them. Rich in antioxidants such as anthocyanins from their blue colour, they truly are a star of the fruit world.
  5. Cacao Nibs – the basis of chocolate without the dairy or sugar added, these are simply smashed up cacao beans. (Note that Cocoa has been processed further at a higher temperature).
  6. Coconut shavings – containing lauric and caprylic acids, the fruit of the ‘tree of life’ acts as a natural antibiotic.
  7. Goji Berries – also known as Wolfberries, they are dense in minerals and contain selenium, vitamin C, B2 and A, iron and polysaccharides (antioxidant). These berries have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years.

Give it a mix, add your milk or yoghurt and enjoy the variety!

Winter, my 5-year-old daughter, thoroughly enjoys creating her own “bowl of deliciousness” as she calls it, raiding all the kilner jars and balancing her breakfast just how she likes it.

superfood cereal mix

Homemade Harissa

This Tunisian chilli paste is incredibly delicious and satisfyingly versatile. Akin to Sambal Oelek (Malaysian), Gochujang (Korean) and Sriracha (Thai), it adds an incredible depth of flavour and moreish heat to dishes. Chillies, garlic, spices and olive oil – that’s it. Feel free to embellish as you see fit; lemon juice, rose water, bell pepper, tomato puree and additional spices are all fairly common.

Ingredients:

  • 100g dried chillies – whichever variety or mix you like
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 75ml olive oil

Method:

Carefully remove the stems and seeds* from your chillies and soak them in hot water until softened. Drain, reserving some of the liquid.

soaking chilli peppers

Toast the cumin, coriander and caraway seeds briefly in a dry pan (watching them like a hawk) to release their natural oils and fragrant aroma. Once cooled, grind the spices to a powder with the salt.

Toasting spices

 

Place the chillies, garlic and a splash of the chilli water in a food processor and blend. Add the spices and blend further whilst drizzling in olive oil. Add more of the chilli water to loosen if required.

 

HipstamaticPhoto-488227777.228151

Try it as a condiment or in a plethora of other dishes; it works wonderfully with meat, fish, eggs, mayonnaise, all sorts.

You can store your harissa in the fridge for a few weeks under a layer of oil or preserve it by sterilising and canning.

*If you leave the seeds in (as I have done..) it will turn out orange instead of the luxurious deep red, and all be literally hotter than the sun.