Eid Mubarak!

Eid Mubarak!

Eid Mubarak to all celebrating! Here’s a small dedication to all who fasted – recipes for the rice and main are from Nigella Lawson’s “FEAST” book. She just covers everything in that book for me!

– Lamb Maharaja

– Sweet saffron rice

– Dates

– Rose Syrup milk

My lovely friend Yaqub told me about the dates and rose syrup milk he has at home when breaking his fast. He’s actually going to give me a recipe for the REAL rose syrup milkshake he has which includes almonds and jelly… sounds amazing (!) and I’ll post as soon as I receive it!

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Make your own Red Thai Curry Paste!

I want to tell you of the huge inspirations that Thailand has given to me, including a cookery school I attended in the food capital, Chiang Mai.  Since visiting Thailand a couple of times and having spent up to 2months in total there, I’ve a great love for not just their food (which really is one of the most incredible cuisines I’ve ever had in my life), but also a love for their culture, people, temples, peaceful scenery and creative ideas by artists all over who decorate cafes, restaurants and bars in really funky ways.  Of course this is coming from having visited a few of the tourist areas from Bangkok, some of the islands and my favourite being Chiangmai (for obvious reasons now I’ve mentioned the food part)...   I feel that I hold Thailand close to my heart as I’ve felt right at home both times I visited and it’s easy to feel like returning, as they’ve so much to offer as a country and for us in the west, it’s extremely cheap and we can really make the most of that.  The fact that I visit so many temples and appreciate the Buddhist religion (I’ve read a bit in my spare time on the teachings and can really relate to wanting to be more compassionate and giving to others), gives me more meaning when I do visit and hope very much that there will be more trips to come... So, with such a huge love for their cuisine - and I can truly say I ate my way through Thailand, with most of my travel pictures consisting of food from each place I visited (!), I want to share a simple red Thai curry paste which I actually got the recipe from a booklet given in the cookery school I attended for a day – Ban Thai Cookery School; a MUST visit for anybody who wants to learn some original Thai dishes.  The day starts with a gathering of everyone who are also there for either half the day or the full day, having a chat and some Thai snacks including dragon fruit, a poppadum type of crisp, a gorgeous rice cake with a drizzle of syrup of some sort and fried sesame peanuts.  Then the two teachers who run the school giving a small introduction of what the day will include. You are then given a small piece of paper consisting of different dishes that you need to pick from – these will then be the dishes you learn to prepare.  With this in mind, you are the able to learn to buy these ingredients from the market and are also shown some of their interesting ingredients such as elephant ears and rats shit  (the elephant ear being a mushroom and the rats shit being a small green chilli!).  This visit really helps you get in to the mood and the walk back is when everyone starts to engage with each other because you’ve been given access to learning something together, leading to excitement for the day of cooking ahead!

I want to tell you of the huge inspirations that Thailand has given to me, including a cookery school I attended in the food capital, Chiang Mai. Since visiting Thailand a couple of times and having spent up to 2months in total there, I’ve a great love for not just their food (which really is one of the most incredible cuisines I’ve ever had in my life), but also a love for their culture, people, temples, peaceful scenery and creative ideas by artists all over who decorate cafes, restaurants and bars in really funky ways. Of course this is coming from having visited a few of the tourist areas from Bangkok, some of the islands and my favourite being Chiangmai (for obvious reasons now I’ve mentioned the food part)…
I feel that I hold Thailand close to my heart as I’ve felt right at home both times I visited and it’s easy to feel like returning, as they’ve so much to offer as a country and for us in the west, it’s extremely cheap and we can really make the most of that. The fact that I visit so many temples and appreciate the Buddhist religion (I’ve read a bit in my spare time on the teachings and can really relate to wanting to be more compassionate and giving to others), gives me more meaning when I do visit and hope very much that there will be more trips to come…
So, with such a huge love for their cuisine – and I can truly say I ate my way through Thailand, with most of my travel pictures consisting of food from each place I visited (!), I want to share a simple red Thai curry paste which I actually got the recipe from a booklet given in the cookery school I attended for a day – Ban Thai Cookery School; a MUST visit for anybody who wants to learn some original Thai dishes. The day starts with a gathering of everyone who are also there for either half the day or the full day, having a chat and some Thai snacks including dragon fruit, a poppadum type of crisp, a gorgeous rice cake with a drizzle of syrup of some sort and fried sesame peanuts. Then the two teachers who run the school giving a small introduction of what the day will include.
You are then given a small piece of paper consisting of different dishes that you need to pick from – these will then be the dishes you learn to prepare. With this in mind, you are the able to learn to buy these ingredients from the market and are also shown some of their interesting ingredients such as elephant ears and rats shit  (the elephant ear being a mushroom and the rats shit being a small green chilli!). This visit really helps you get in to the mood and the walk back is when everyone starts to engage with each other because you’ve been given access to learning something together, leading to excitement for the day of cooking ahead!

You then separate into groups who have chosen one particular dish to be in one room together, then the same for others choosing the same dish as each other; which is fab because you are made to interact with everyone and not settle into only talking to a few people, which is natural to do sometimes isn’t it?  So once the first dish is made, all groups normally finish at the same time since most Thai food is straight forward and fast, just more preparing!  You then all get to sit together, seeing what each other made and eat – also trying each other’s depending on how comfortable you are by this point!  The same happens for the second and third dish, which by then you can pretty much have a little lie down whilst hanging out together because it does becoming increasingly filling!  But then when you’ve chosen mango and sticky coconut rice for dessert, you surely pick up the appetite again (the process of making coconut milk is amaziiinnng by the way!). The heat outside and then with the atmosphere you’re all relaxing in, and getting to know the different people  in a group, was like building a small community in a day.  They also weren’t all backpackers themselves either; some on their honeymoon, some retired in Thailand and some on a small vacation; all with the same love of Thai food and passion to learn... It’ a wonderful way to spend the day out for sure...

You then separate into groups who have chosen one particular dish to be in one room together, then the same for others choosing the same dish as each other; which is fab because you are made to interact with everyone and not settle into only talking to a few people, which is natural to do sometimes isn’t it? So once the first dish is made, all groups normally finish at the same time since most Thai food is straight forward and fast, just more preparing! You then all get to sit together, seeing what each other made and eat – also trying each other’s depending on how comfortable you are by this point! The same happens for the second and third dish, which by then you can pretty much have a little lie down whilst hanging out together because it does becoming increasingly filling! But then when you’ve chosen mango and sticky coconut rice for dessert, you surely pick up the appetite again (the process of making coconut milk is amaziiinnng by the way!).
The heat outside and then with the atmosphere you’re all relaxing in, and getting to know the different people in a group, was like building a small community in a day. They also weren’t all backpackers themselves either; some on their honeymoon, some retired in Thailand and some on a small vacation; all with the same love of Thai food and passion to learn… It’ a wonderful way to spend the day out for sure…

The ingredients for the paste: 10 red dry chillies (soaked in water for 15mins first), 6tbsp chopped shallots, 2tbsp chopped garlic, 1/2tsp turmeric, 1 chopped piece of galangal, 2tbsp chopped lemongrass, 1tsp shrimp paste, 1tsp chopped coriander root, squeeze lime juice.  Note: These came in a pack from Asda except the red chilies which I already had.

The ingredients for the paste: 10 red dry chillies (soaked in water for 15mins first), 6tbsp chopped shallots, 2tbsp chopped garlic, 1/2tsp turmeric, 1 chopped piece of galangal, 2tbsp chopped lemongrass, 1tsp shrimp paste, 1tsp chopped coriander root, squeeze lime juice.
Note: These came in a pack from Asda except the red chilies which I already had.

Bash all the ingredients together using the dry ingredients first and working your way to the wet ingredients - watch out for any squirts of paste in the air and your eyes! All good fun...

Bash all the ingredients together using the dry ingredients first and working your way to the wet ingredients – watch out for any squirts of paste in the air and your eyes! All good fun…

Store in a glass jar with a tight lid - this should store for up to 4 months :D

Store in a glass jar with a tight lid – this should store for up to 4 months 😀

Review of KOYA – Japanese restaurant in London, Soho

Sat at the perfect table in front of the kitchen (Greg, my partner in the middle)

Sat at the perfect table in front of the kitchen (Greg, my partner in the middle)

The kitchen on-goings.  Perfect view of the chefs at work in the kitchen.  It's known in Japan for cooks to work in small spaces, making the most of every part of the kitchen possible.  I like this concept since here in the west, there's an emphasis on having big, luxurious kitchens.  But even Jamie Oliver once said on a show that the smallest of kitchens can be just as useful in getting a meal prepared... I remember using a tiny kitchen in a caravan in Norfolk a couple of summers ago; made roast dinner and everything!  Think of Rachel Khoo in "Little kitchen in Paris" for crying out loud!

The kitchen on-goings. Perfect view of the chefs at work in the kitchen. It’s known in Japan for cooks to work in small spaces, making the most of every part of the kitchen possible. I like this concept since here in the west, there’s an emphasis on having big, luxurious kitchens. But even Jamie Oliver once said on a show that the smallest of kitchens can be just as useful in getting a meal prepared… I remember using a tiny kitchen in a caravan in Norfolk a couple of summers ago; made roast dinner and everything! Think of Rachel Khoo in “Little kitchen in Paris” for crying out loud!

Kakuni (braised pork belly with cider) - My second visit and my second time ordering this dish :) I never tried pork belly whilst in Japan but this was fantastic!  In fact, I hope to re-create it myself sometime as it was just right - Soft and tender meat with silky fats from being braised, a sweetness in flavour yet balanced with other flavours of rich, salty and a tangy kick from the wasabi.  It's not even fiddly to eat with chopsticks as I thought when it came, it comes apart perfectly... Oh I'd return now just for this!

Kakuni (braised pork belly with cider) – My second visit and my second time ordering this dish 🙂
I never tried pork belly whilst in Japan but this was fantastic! In fact, I hope to re-create it myself sometime as it was just right – Soft and tender meat with silky fats from being braised, a sweetness in flavour yet balanced with other flavours of rich, salty and a tangy kick from the wasabi. It’s not even fiddly to eat with chopsticks as I thought when it came, it comes apart perfectly… Oh I’d return now just for this!

Teriyaki salmon with sliced turnip and elderflower salad. This was Greg's dish, what a treat.  A salmon that was perfectly cooked into a flaked and tender fish, crispy skin and in perfect sweet and salty teriyaki marinade.  The salad very much represented the seasons too with turnip nicely sliced and pickled, then a touch of elderflower with a few small petals - gorgeously presented and totally Japanese - just perfect.

Sea trout in miso marinade with sliced white turnip and elderflower salad.
This was Greg’s dish, what a treat. A sea trout that was perfectly cooked into a flaked and tender fish, crispy skin and in perfect sweet, salty and tangy marinade. The salad very much represented the seasons too with turnip nicely sliced and pickled, then a touch of elderflower with a few small petals – gorgeously presented and totally Japanese – just perfect.

Saba Atsu-Atsu - Smoked mackerel and green leaves in hot broth with hot udon.  This was Joe's dish (on the left to Greg).   It was a perfect balance again with the slightly strong taste in the mackerel but not overwhelming, in a clear, sweet and refreshing dashi stock, then some greens to bring out more colour and radiance in the dish.  I loved it when Joe said, "It's amazing how much flavour there is here when there is a broth that seems so clear" - makes me realise how wonderful these small details are in appreciating a good meal...

Saba Atsu-Atsu – Smoked mackerel and green leaves in hot broth with hot udon. This was Joe’s dish (on the left to Greg).
It was a perfect balance again with the slightly strong taste in the mackerel but not overwhelming, in a clear, sweet and refreshing dashi stock, then some greens to bring out more colour and radiance in the dish. I loved it when Joe said, “It’s amazing how much flavour there is here when there is a broth that seems so clear” – makes me realise how wonderful these small details are in appreciating a good meal…

Known as the "Big-Mac" of KOYA: Tendon Donburi which is 2 prawns and vegetable tempura on a bowl of rice, served with miso soup. So of course this is my dish :)  I really knew I wanted some donburi which is basically "topped on rice" kind of a dish.  And I knew I fancied tempura so... this was perfect!  The lovely waitress bought it over and told me it was the most popular dish in the restaurant and by the ooo's and aahh's from my friends, it was definitely one pretty dish to look at, and even better to eat. It had a fantastic set of tempura with vegetables: broccoli, sweet potato and courgette (which I'll SO make soon myself) and big juicy prawns!  Then the rice had a sort of sweet and mild sauce like mirin, then nori seaweed cut on top which just bought it all together with it's hint of salty flavour.  I thoroughly enjoyed this.  Not being the biggest of fans of miso soup (I want to change this!),  Greg happily drank that away for me...

Known as the “Big-Mac” of KOYA: Tendon Donburi which is 2 prawns and vegetable tempura on a bowl of rice, served with miso soup.
So of course this is my dish 🙂 I really knew I wanted some donburi which is basically “topped on rice” kind of a dish. And I knew I fancied tempura so… this was perfect! The lovely waitress bought it over and told me it was the most popular dish in the restaurant and by the ooo’s and aahh’s from my friends, it was definitely one pretty dish to look at, and even better to eat.
It had a fantastic set of tempura with vegetables: broccoli, sweet potato and courgette (which I’ll SO make soon myself) and big juicy prawns! Then the rice had a sort of sweet and mild sauce like mirin, then nori seaweed cut on top which just bought it all together with it’s hint of salty flavour. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Not being the biggest of fans of miso soup (I want to change this!), Greg happily drank that away for me…