Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Spicy Thai chicken kebabs


My friend J recently went to spend a few months in the Thai islands looking forward to a bit of chill time during a break in her frenetic career. What she didn’t bargain for was to be robbed three times (the latter time at knifepoint) of ALL her possessions in the space of about a month – bar the clothes she stood up in. And on one of the occasions to be bullied by local police who accused her of lying about the thefts – apparently it was going to give Thailand a ‘bad name’. Bah! But the silver lining in all of this is that J, currently on Koh Samui, is being helped by a great group of locals and fellow travellers to get herself back on track. She is simply grateful that she was unharmed and that the robberies weren’t more serious. Who needs possessions eh? (Well maybe a sturdy pair of pants, a cravat and a pipe, but apart from that?)

I dedicate the following recipe to her – ‘cause if we were hanging out, I’d make this, and we’d drink a few Singha beers. These barbecue beauties are my attempt to infuse all the flavours of Thai cooking into one handy chicken kebab, and are loosely based on various barbecued street snacks I’ve eaten in Thailand. They’re fiery and they kick ass, much like J who remains optimistic about her travels and is determined to stay longer in Thailand and enjoy herself.  Way to go, J!

Serves 4 (makes approx 8 kebabs)

You will need:

500 – 600g chicken thigh meat, cut into chunks, about an inch squared (don’t be tempted to use chicken breast meat, as this will dry out on the barbecue)
2 thumbs fresh ginger root, grated
4 lemongrass sticks, young part minced until fine
6 medium lime leaves, central vein removed and minced until fine (buy in frozen packs from Asian supermarkets)
2 fat cloves garlic, minced
2 birdseye chillies, minced
1 medium bunch fresh coriander - roots, stems and leaves, minced until fine
Juice of 1/2 lime
2 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp runny honey or agave nectar
2 tbsp sunflower (or other neutral tasting) oil

Pre-soak some bamboo skewers in cold water. Chop the herbs, chillies, ginger and garlic until finely minced, then combine with the fish sauce, soy, honey, lime juice and oil.
Put the chicken thigh pieces in a bowl, stir through the marinade ingredients and leave to infuse in the fridge for a minimum of three hours, at best leave overnight if you have time.


When the meat is ready, remove from the fridge, thread onto your bamboo skewers:


Grill for about 5 – 8 minutes on your barbecue, turning frequently, until well cooked through and caramelising on the outside.

You can also cook these under a conventional home grill – allow about 10 minutes, turning frequently.


Thursday, 24 May 2012

Two summer salads


Ah finally! The sun is shining again after weeks of depressing deluges, the heat has rocketed up, and I want to eat salad. So here are a couple that you might like. They’re very easy to knock up, and contain lots of different mouth-popping flavours -  my favourite current obsession is to put fresh pieces of orange in everything, which contrasts nicely with salty or strong ingredients.

My standard vinaigrette recipe will work well with both salads – I use a ratio of 3 parts extra virgin olive oil to 1 part vinegar (a mix of half balsamic vinegar and half red wine vinegar), a teaspoon of Dijon or grainy mustard, a few grinds of black pepper and a little squeeze of lemon juice. Just mix everything together in a cup and whisk with a fork until emulsified.

1. Roquefort, chicory and orange – serves 2 and takes literally about five minutes


You will need:

100g Roquefort cheese (The brand Societe is great, but if you know of anywhere that sells the Papillon brand, jump on it, as it’s like the Rolls Royce of blue cheese and well worth the extra expense)
1 orange
1 large head of chicory
3 handfuls of mixed salad leaves (eg lamb’s lettuce, baby spinach etc)
20 radishes, sliced into discs
1/4 cup of vinaigrette (see above)

Peel the orange then cut the whole orange in quarters. Slice up each quarter into segments, removing excessive pith. Slice the chicory into rounds, then place in a bowl with the orange, sliced radishes, mixed salad leaves. Crumble the Roquefort over the top, then drizzle with the vinaigrette. C’est pret!

2. Carrot, orange, watercress and mint – serves 2, takes about five minutes


You will need:

1 orange
Half a bag of watercress, roughly chopped
4 generous stems of fresh mint, stems removed and leaves roughly chopped
3 carrots, grated
3 handfuls mixed salad leaves (eg lamb’s lettuce, baby spinach)
1/4 cup vinaigrette (see above)

Peel the orange then cut the whole orange in quarters. Slice up each quarter into segments, removing excessive pith. Throw all the ingredients into a bowl and pour the vinaigrette over the top and toss. That’s it. If you can wait before eating, it’s nice chilled in the fridge beforehand, but only on the hottest of days.