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Vietnamese Spring Rolls

imageI make these bad boys a lot! They are great to pack as lunches or snacks as they don’t require refrigeration, and they aren’t too messy when traveling.

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My favourite!

 

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I didn’t have any peanuts, so I used cashews instead

You will need:

  • Rice paper wrappers
  • 1-2 carrots
  • small head of cabbage
  • bunch of holy basil
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • bunch of spring onions, only green part
  • 1/4 cup peanuts, crushed

For the dipping sauce:

  • fish sauce
  • tamarind paste
  • palm sugar
  • chili powder

How to do it:

  1. Start off by washing and prepping your veg. Rip the leaves of basil from the stems, rinse the beansprouts and green onions. Remember, you only want the green part of the onion.
  2. Shred your cabbage and carrot, then mix together in a bowl.
  3. Crush your nuts with a sharp knife, mortar and pestle or food processor.

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    This recipe is all about preparation!

  4. Bowl some water and lay out a large plate for the rice paper wrappers.
  5. Now you need to prep the rice paper wrappers. Lay one flat on a plate, and then pour the hot water over it. Be careful! You need to turn the wrapper over so that both sides are wet. You don’t want the wrapper to be too sticky or too soft.

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    Have some cool water nearby

  6. Once the wrapper has become soft and pliable, shake or squeeze the excess water off.
  7. Lay it flat on a cutting board, and then start to add in your ingredients.

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    While you’re filling the first one, put another wrapper in the water

  8. Follow the instructions on the back of the packet – you want to roll the wrapper once, then tuck in the two ends, then continue wrapping it.

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    It takes a bit of practise, I admit!

  9. In a small mixing bowl, add in some fish sauce, tamarind paste, and palm sugar. Just keep adding the ingredients until you get a sweet and sour flavour. Add in some chili powder, if desired, then serve with your Vietnamese Spring rolls!
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The Spa Koh Chang Resort

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Karang Bay, southeast part of the island

I was thinking about holiday escapes, when a colleague recommended Koh Chang to me. The largest island in Thailand, Koh Chang is 60% untouched jungle forest and a national park. This did not surprise me as we drove south east from the pier at Dan Khao and headed towards The Spa Koh Chang Resort; the looming mountains were on the right as the coast stretched out towards the sea on my left.image

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Green Curry

green-curryBack before I moved to Thailand, I would go to my local Thai restaurant in Gravesend and always order the Green Curry! I loved the mix of sweetness with spice, especially combined with an order of coconut rice.

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Using the old fashioned technology!

I discovered how to make this at the cooking school in Chiangmai, from scratch! It was hard work pounding out the ingredients for the curry paste, but my instructor said I was very good at it!

Serves two. Be sure to serve with fragrant jasmine rice!

This is what you’ll need for the curry paste:

  • 3 large fresh chili peppers
  • tbsp galangal
  • tbsp lemon grass
  • 1 coriander root
  • 1/4 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1/2 tsp chopped kaffir lime peel
  • 4 peel garlic clovevs
  • 2 peeled shallots
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste

Pound these together in a mortar. You could also use a food processor or blender.

1383332_10100622451375466_1372164849_nIngredients:

  • 100 grams hard tofu (or chicken or fish) sliced
  • 2 small green eggplants (soak in water to prevent discolouring)
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce or 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp palm sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 keffir lime leaves
  • 10 sweet basil leaves

Method:

  1. Once you have your curry paste, add it into a wok over low heat with a little cooking oil. You want to paste to smell fragrant. Be sure to keep stirring it. Add in half of the water and coconut milk.
  2. If you’re cooking with meat, add it in. Let this cook for a few minutes.
  3. Add in the rest of the water and coconut milk, plus the eggplant and seasonings.
  4. Just before the curry is finished, add in the keffir lime and sweet basil leaves.
  5. Garnish with a spoonful of coconut milk and chopped chilies on top.

 

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Guide to Thai Spices

thai_spicesThai Cuisine is popular around the world for its rich use of spices and unique flavours. Here’s a list of common spices you will find in popular dishes. Many of them are similar to other spices you may know, but if you don’t use the Thai version in your cooking, your dishes will taste very different (as I found out with basil when I first moved here!)

thai parsley

Thai Parsley

Thai Parsley (pak chee farang) – Used for tom yam and salad. It looks like very skinny romaine lettuce and has a very strong smell.

Sweet Basil (horapaa) – Similar to the kind used in Italian cooking. Is used in green and red curries. It’s often available on street food stalls.

Basil flowers in the garden

Holy Basil

Holy Basil (kaprao) – Looks similar to regular basil, but the leaves are flat, not curved like sweet basil. It has a slightly licorice smell/taste. They are used in stir-fries and vegetable spring rolls.

Coriander (pak chee) – The seeds are often roasted and used in many curry pastes. Leaves are used to add flavour to salads and soups.

bird's eye chilies

Use sparingly until you’re used to the spice!

Bird’s Eye Chilies (prik kae noo) – This is the smallest variety of chili and they are very hot!

Galangal (khaa) – This is also known as Siamese Ginger, and in fact, the two plants are closely related. Its roots are longer than ginger. This is used in curry pastes, Tom Yam and Tom Kha.

Lemongrass (ta krai) – A grey/green grass with the most fantastic aroma! You will find this used in soups, curries, teas and as a fragrance.

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Lemongrass

 

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Keffir Lime

Keffir Lime (mo krut) – This looks like a Thai lemon but it has a rough knobby skin. The flesh is bitter and contains very little juice. The rind and leaves are used in curry or soup. You’ll often see these limes at spas.

Resources:

 

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Grandma’s Super Banana Bread

imageMy Grandma is a super lady – and a great baker. This recipe comes from her arsenal of goodies. I apologise in advance for the amount of butter!image

You will need:

  • 2 cups gluten free flour (I use the Yes You Can stuff because it’s lighter and fluffier than Bob’s Red Mill)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 1/3 cups ripe banana, mashed

imageHow to do it:

  1. Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 175 degrees Celsius. Gather together your ingredients.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and lightly whisk – flour, baking soda and salt.
  3. In another bowl, add brown sugar to the butter. Make sure the butter is room temperature. With a whisk, turn this into a thick cream.
  4. Then add the eggs to the wet ingredients, following with the bananas.
  5. Now you’re going to add the wet ingredients to the dry ones. Try not to mix it too much – you don’t want to overwork the flour.
  6. Grease your muffin tin or bread pan, before pouring in the batter.
  7. Bake for approximately 60 minutes. I’m not sure how long it would take for muffins. I tend to watch for the tops to turn a dark brown. Use a sharp pointed knife, or a toothpick to determine if they’re done. You want the knife to come out clean, not sticky.image
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Well & Good Gluten Free Bread

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Bread. We have a love / hate relationship. When I crave it most, I screw it up. When I don’t want it, there’s an abundance of it. We can never find a happy balance.image

And I’m sorry to say, but I wasn’t impressed by this bread mix. I followed the instructions, which were easy, but time-consuming. The bread smelled great, and then lost that smell and squishy texture very quickly.image

I also sliced my finger and nail open while trying to slice this bread. The outside was tougher than a piece of jerky!

It didn’t improve when I toasted it either. It just got very difficult to chew! image

It didn’t last long either and I suppose it’s because there are no preservatives like store-baked breads from Canada and the UK. I was hoping that this would be good, but it was just ok.

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Decadent Chocolate Cake – Orgran’s (from a box)

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I like sweets and they like me. ‘Nuff said. Sometimes, you just crave sugar, in the form of a moist, chocolately cake. Well my friends, this happened to me recently and as I stood staring down the baking aisle, I decide to take a plunge. I have made the ‘Yes You Can’ chocolate mud cake before and it was pretty damn good. I needed to test out what Orgran had to offer.imageYou will need:

  • a bowl
  • cake pan
  • eggs
  • water
  • oil
  • someone to taste-test it

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It was super easy to make and I was even lucky enough to spy some Betty Crocker icing. Love Betty Crocker – she’s gluten free and easily available in most supermarkets in Thailand.

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Unlike the Yes You Can, this was much lighter and acted more like a regular cake. I approve of this for birthday celebrations.

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I am also happy to report that it tastes good even after you freeze it.

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Easy Pie Crust

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The last pie crust I made was great, but I didn’t have any cashews or walnuts sitting in my pantry. I figured I could use almond and coconut flour. And guess what? I was right!image

For this, you will need:

  • 6″ pie tin
  • 1 1/2 cup ground almonds / flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp coconut flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp coconut oil (or rice bran oil, since it doesn’t have a taste)
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt

I combined all the ingredients in a bowl. It didn’t take long for it to get quite sticky.

imageI recommend you put it into your pie tin, and then either oil your finger tips to move it around, or cover it with plastic wrap until you get the dough in place.

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I filled my pie crust with pumpkin filling and cooked for 15 mins at 200 degrees Celsius, then another 10 mins at 170. The crust easily turned gold – just had to wait for my pumpkin to settle!image

Next week I will try to use this crust for a quiche. Will keep you posted!