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Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

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Nestled under dark wooden canopy and lush leafy plants, sits a hidden gem in Old town, Koh Lanta.
Shine Talay, with its unassuming coffee lounge area opening into the street, welcomes you to make your way just a few short steps to a smart, relaxing sea view deck.

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The Angchuan family, with its three generations, are originally from Pinang. With Chinese descent, they decided about a year ago to open a restaurant in Old town, as their mother has a passion for cooking and wanted to share this with others, which she does so elegantly with a clean, classy mixture of modern takes on traditional regional Thai dishes, with interpretations of European dishes too.

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What comes across at first, is a strong sense of calm, teamwork and an incredibly friendly welcome. In fact, although this is the case, it is not clear from the entrance, just how beautiful an area there is to eat and drink in behind.
Polished rosewood chairs and tables line the undercover section and just past those, lays a wide sun trap decking, with low tables and sprawling thai cushions.

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The family and their staff make such an exemplary effort to look after your needs. On visiting with Bear, my baby son, they always ensure he has access to shade, a fan and a banana!

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They are happy to talk through dishes with you and make suggestions of complementary dishes and new flavours. The presentation of bar drinks and coffees is beautifully complemented with a delicate flower.

The family were kind enough to invite me to come and take some photos and to chat about a few of their popular dishes. I jumped at the opportunity, because one of my goals in our time here was to investigate the flavours and ingredients used in Thai cooking. It’s certainly something I’d tried back in the UK in restaurants, however I think I was more accustomed to the Chinese style sweet, fried type of food. The food here is clean, fresh and any spiciness whether deft and subtle or raging and firey is gentle on the palate. The flavours are never numbed with burning, although others might disagree! Each dish is made from fresh, with a keen passion and sense of pride and love I do not see so often in the UK.

I was shown three beautiful dishes, each one unique from the other, each one beautifully presented. The fish is sourced locally, from the very sea you can sit beside whilst you eat. I choose not to eat meat, but they prepared a vegan dish especially for me and I have tried other dishes available there, like the curry soups, ‘ocean’ vegetables and various thai salads – all of them generous and delicious. My friend accompanied me to the visit and tried the fish dishes for me, so that I could share a description here.

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The first dish was tiger prawns wrapped in tempura noodles. ‘Rich and crunchy, with a sweet chilli dressing and dipping sauce.’ It’s a very popular dish, which showcases the artistic nature of thai cooking and demonstrates the kind of fish available to the local people.

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The second dish, Shine Talay’s most popular dish on the menu, white snapper, steamed with chopped garlic, chilli, ginger and lemon juice. ‘The fish was soft and moist. Melt in the mouth, the flavouring subtle and not overpowering at all.’

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The last dish, one they prepared specially for me, is Lab Tofu. It’s a mix of sweet and sour and spicy salad, with crispy tofu, with hints of lime and a sprinkling of firey chilli flakes. It’s fresh and light, with such a depth of flavour. The sauce is tangy and juicy and the crunch from the crispy tofu is moreish and deep.

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Above all, I feel that this restaurant is most certainly worth a visit. Families, friends and couples alike will find the service, surroundings and variety of dishes a treat to the senses. Nothing is too much trouble and you can relax in their care, knowing you are getting a premium selection of ingredients sourced locally for your ‘pleasure’.
Getting a close look at these dishes has given me real inspiration and over the next week or so, I am going to emulate them, but raw vegan versions. It is a challenge, being that they are all cooked and two of them are fish!
I think it isn’t that I want to reproduce or replace the meat aspect of the first two, but the essence of what I was shown.
Clean, fresh, spicy, subtle, light, tangy are the words I’m going to keep in mind when making my interpretation of Shine Talay’s food.

If you are ever on Koh Lanta and would like to delve into the taste of Thailand with an added friendly atmosphere, then this is the place to try.

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This delicious pumpkin is in season here at the moment and is sold in chunks, by weight at stalls and markets.
It is so sweet and you can steam it in chunks, add it to stews, bake it or when you cook it right down, it melts so as to make a thick, bright yellow sauce.
I love to add it to curries and so today, for lunch, I made a sort of mix and match dish from the bits and pieces in the fridge and around.

400g chickpeas soaked overnight
1 potato chopped into chunks
400g Gabocha pumpkin (or any sweet squash) sliced
Spinach or spring greens
Chunks of Aubergine
6 large cloves of garlic unpeeled
2 sticks of lemongrass
2 green chillies whole
3 small red chillies whole
Teaspoon of peppercorns
Teaspoon of cumin
Chopped coriander
2cm galangal or ginger
Water to cover ingredients (2 coconuts’ water)
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Using a slow cooker, or a large crock pot, place the chickpeas in the bottom and cover with water.
2. On top of those throw in the garlic, lemongrass, lime leaves, chillies, peppercorns, coriander and galangal.
3. Place a layer of spinach or spring greens
4. Place a layer of pumpkin/squash and sprinkle with the cumin
5. Add the aubergine and potato, then pour in more water just enough to cover everything. Do not stir. Just pop a lid on, bring to the boil and the turn down to a simmer.
6. After half an hour, stir three times only. Continue to simmer for up to an hour, or until the squash has broken down.
7. Serve as a warming stew.

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Be aware that this is a properly sweet dish. To add more sweetness, if that is something you like, add sultanas and even two bananas about 15 minutes before serving.

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I just had to tell you about how much I love green veg. I always have! I adore spinach, broccoli, kale and more. I really feel them giving nutrition to my body and they give me a boost!

Now I don’t eat dairy, I’m sure a lot of people wonder where I get my calcium from.

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And this is where. I love that plants give us great quantities of our vitamins and minerals and that we don’t have to rely on using animals.

Today on our trip to the market, Bear picked out some wonderful Lemon Basil, so I thought I’d whip up a quick flavoursome salad for us to munch on.

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A Handful of Herbs Salad
Dressing
Galangal chopped into matchsticks (3cm)
Garlic sliced thinly (2)
Flaxseed oil (3tbs)
Lemon juice (1)
Young peppercorns (10)
Green chilli chopped thinly
Pink Himalayan salt (hefty pinch)
…Combine and leave to mix whilst preparing salad

Salad
Coriander (handful)
Lemon Basil (handful)
Assorted Asian greens (I used Pak Choy, Gai Lan and Choy sum)
Spring onion (handful)
Broccoli (one head)
Baby sweet corn (4)
Cherry tomatos chopped (handful)
…Combine and pour dressing over. Eat immediately or leave to absorb dressing in fridge!

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It’s a zingy salad, that you can adapt according to your own tastes. You could replace the herbs with your favourites, swap galangal for ginger, add more vegetables of your choice, maybe celery or cucumber and a sprinkling of seeds or sprouts would give you that added crunch!

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A good 10 years or so ago, I lived in a small town in West Wales. I attempted a degree, but it didn’t work out and I ended up working and eventually managing a busy little cafe there. I loved the social side of it, my friends would come and hang out there, I met so many different people, i loved shopping for the kitchen ingredients, catering and developing new dishes. The people I worked with were like my second family and most of all, I learned so much about food, especially vegan, vegetarian and how to adapt dishes for various intolerances and tastes. It was most probably one of the most influential times in my culinary journey.

Since then, in all my jobs, i have worked with food. People and food. It is my passion. I love to discover new ways of making food, particularly now I prefer not to use animal ingredients. It has been interesting and a real challenge sometimes to try and produce the equivalent vegan dish. I like doing this, because it can demonstrate that some ingredients are just not necessary, if the equivalent can be made with plant based food.

Today I thought I’d share with you my kitchen here and about some of the food I always like to have stocked up and about the new ingredients I have discovered on my stay in Koh Lanta so far.

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I love my fridge to be packed out with fresh green vegetables and herbs. The smell as I open the door is divine and it helps me keep a good mindset when I open it to find foods that I feel are healthy and contributing towards my body being its best.
Amongst other things, today I stocked up on lemongrass, spring onions, holy basil, coriander, galangal, thai aubergines, sweet potatos – about four different kinds, squash and various Asian greens, like Pak Choy, Gai Lan and Choy sum. I’m going to make little Bear a salad later for his tea. He adores any greens, especially lettuce, so I’m going to put those together with some tomato. Another of his favourites.

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We love bananas, well I love bananas. They are my favourite fruit and I eat at least 3-6 a day. Today I think I’ve had about 12, including some of the little thai kind, which are much sweeter and intense in flavour. I have banana in my smoothie for breakfast and then as a snack whenever I fancy something sweet. I really enjoy them in a curry too. They add a rich sweetness that counterbalances the spice. I also love them as a dessert and use them to make dishes like my Raw chocolate pie and Strawberry macadamia ‘cheesecake’. Stephen has a pineapple and ginger smoothie in the morning, or we just cut it up and eat chunks of it as a snack. Best served chilled from the fridge I find.
Onions are an absolute must in my kitchen. I adore them cooked and raw. I also respect their medicinal properties. They’ve helped see colds off!
The other fruit you see in the picture here is Tamarind. When we visited the herb garden last week, we were given some to try. It’s a particularly poignant discovery as Stephen is investigating natural healing and Tamarinds have medicinal properties that are extremely relevant in his research. What makes it more exciting is that we found a Tamarind tree in our garden!

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On my little spice shelves, you can see jasmine green tea, mung beans and chick peas to sprout (I will show you how to do this and why in a future post) garlic, soy sauce, salt, ground cumin and coriander, ginger, dried chillies and the bits you can’t see are young peppercorns, which I am going to stock always now, Kefir lime leaves and these teeny tiny pea aubergines. All in all a wonderful mix of flavours and textures.
Also today, I found a Pomelo! The biggest citrus fruit there is!

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I used to drink a lot of cows milk. My mum always made sure I had it available. It was the only drink that seemed to quench my thirst for so many years. There are a myriad of sweet, creamy desserts and accompaniments made of milk that I enjoyed.

I was brought with the best possible, I never went hungry and mum always cooked for us all or we could help ourselves. I was lucky. I still am. My mum really makes an effort to look after me, even with my changes.
In the last few years I have changed my diet, mainly because I had some underlying health issues, which I wanted to address and I felt that they might be linked to food, because a lot of the feelings and symptoms I seemed to get, happened when or after I ate. I’m not going to go into too much detail and I am not a health practitioner, I am just sharing with you my lifestyle choices, because they may be of interest to some. All I know, is that I cut eggs, dairy and meat from my diet and my issues stopped. I do suffer occasionally, because I give in to my habits and ‘cravings’ for comfort eating, but I always realise afterwards the damage caused. One day I will be able to eat the food exactly right for me.

I would rather show you alternatives to the cows milk, because there are plenty of sources regarding our consumption of it, from health professionals and experts to show that it might not be as good for us as all those adverts would have us believe. After I started investigating the health benefits of cutting down on these foods, I came across the ethical implications of this mass production of cows milk and other animal products.

I don’t really want to debate the mass production of animal produce and in my opinion, the unnecessary need for meat at every meal. I have just found ways to remain healthy and feel good. That is, predominantly plant based.

I was thinking about all this when I was drinking my coconut shake this morning. It’s coconut water, coconut flesh and a little ice. It turns out like a creamy milkshake like texture when blended. Similarly, another favourite of mine is banana shake, a few bananas, dates and enough water to make a good consistency.

Nut milks and seed milks are nutritious and have health benefits that in my opinion, outweigh hose that are traditionally associated with dairy.
It is difficult when surrounded by dairy products, especially when they have direct habit and comfort links to childhood comforts and when these ‘free from’ and whole products are given a higher price tag. It doesn’t seem right or fair to me that a family should have to choose what could potentially be the more unhealthy option, just because of budget. How clever and convenient for the dairy industry bosses.

We have also been told public facts in marketing about dairy, regarding its calcium content being high, yet nothing about the risks of osteoporosis, anaemia and iron deficiencies.

I’m not telling people what to eat, I’m just giving my opinion, and the suggestion that, with a little research, alternatives can be found, even if they are once or twice a week. With this much information now at our fingertips, there is no need to make uninformed choices anymore. We are free to decide, without blindly accepting every piece of information fed to us by profit hungry multi million pound industries.

The implications of us eating less animal products would of course affect them the most, so they will try whatever they can to convince us otherwise.

This isn’t just milk from a cow in our back garden, it isn’t like that anymore. A cow should not produce milk in the quantities they do it is not natural.

Here is how milk is mass produced
Here is what is in the mass produced dairymilk we drink
Here is what milk can do to our bones
Here is some nut and seed milk info
Here is a link to plant based calcium sources
Here is an opinion on eating less animal products

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During the day, we like to eat as much fruit and raw food as possible, with the occasional cooked dish in the evenings. We love curries, salads and soups and we really enjoy sampling the local foods. We have been to a few restaurants here on Koh Lanta and have tried some of the more common curries. Green, Red, Yellow and Masamam. They all have a similar base of herbs and spices, they just have slight differences that give them their signature colour or sweetness. The Green curry has green chillies and plenty of coriander, the red sometimes up to 30 red chillies, the yellow has a splash of turmeric and the Masamam pineapple, cashew nuts and potato.

This week, I’ve been experimenting with the Green. First, I tried to make it by taste, guessing which ingredients gave it flavour, but today we went to a local herb garden, in the forest, where the owner gave me a guided tour of his herbs and told me of their herbal, medicinal and culinary properties and which were good in curries and other dishes. I was in my element and really enjoyed it. So much so, that we will go back and take pictures to post sometime this week to show you. It was such a peaceful place.

Back to tonight’s curry. We came upon the market on our way for a swim this afternoon, so I picked up some vegetables and some herbs.

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Including these little Thai Aubergines πŸ™‚ yum

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I’m not very good at ingredients lists as I’m just experimenting and guessing by eye, but what you see here is enough to make a curry for two people two meals, or four at one meal.

Ingredients

Green curry paste
Handful of Fresh coriander chopped
A few aniseed leaves torn
A few kefir lime leaves (mine were dried)
3 pieces of crushed/dried lemongrass
4 cloves garlic chopped
2 -5 green chillis chopped with seeds (I added 3 and it was medium spicy)
Ginger chopped
I don’t have a food processor here, so I chopped all the above ingredients finely.

Vegetables (which you can change to your tastes)
Onion(I think onions are a must)
Squash
Sweet potato
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Carrots
Water and flesh from 2-4 coconuts (1 coconut = 3/4 pt of water/stock)
Coconut milk (depending on how creamy you would like it)
Salt and pepper to taste
Soy sauce

I used coconuts, because they are growing everywhere here and are nicer than bottled water, but I know in UK coconut water in cartons is pretty expensive. If you want the sweetness that this water brings, I would buy some, but it isn’t essential.

Fry the ‘paste’ and add the onions, fry for about 10 minutes in a deep pan. Add the rest of your vegetables chopped into bite sized pieces, then add the water. It is often served as a soup here, which calls for more liquid, but it’s up to you.

I also added rice noodles for the last ten minutes, but you could cook these separately or serve your curry with steamed rice.

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One of my favourite dishes is Pad Thai and although I love the taste of the traditional, I don’t eat it as much, because egg and fish sauce are in it, although it’s really good without those two ingredients. A while ago I made a raw Pad Thai and I wanted to recreate it now that we are in Thailand.

This morning Old Town, where we rent a little apartment, was visited by the market. As far as we can tell, aside from the stall vendors at the roadside and in the main town, Saladan, the place to buy the best vegetables, with a huge variety, is the market. Sounds great – there’s a catch. There isn’t a set day or destination for the market. I basically pops up somewhere different on various days, from 6-10am.

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Here are the ingredients I got for my raw take on Pad Thai. I would have liked peppers, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes too, but alas I couldn’t find any. The herb, is aniseed which is used a lot here in curries.

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I chopped the garlic, ginger, chilli and the aniseed, then I put them in a tablespoon of oil (I used flaxseed) and soy sauce (couldn’t find raw) and some lemon juice. I left this to one side.

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Like I said the other day, I don’t have my spiraliser here, so I used a peeler to create ‘noodles’ and julienned some of the vegetables. The squash was quite tricky, so I did half and half with that.

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I popped all of the ‘noodles’ together and then stirred the dressing in. I left the flavours to be absorbed for about half an hour (you could leave it over night stirring every now an then if you’d like them a little softer)

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Pad Thai is served with lime, cucumber, crushed peanuts, chilli soy and sugar…I didn’t have all these so I improvised and ours was served with lemon, cucumber, crushed pistachio, chilli soy and pineapple.

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It was yummy! Except by the end of the dish it got a bit too oniony, so I would use spring onion next time, also we both added more soy sauce to taste! Let me know if you try it!

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