Thai Take 2 – A Thai Green Curry from scratch!

I’m advancing in leaps and bounds! Although not to get too carried away, this time it was a joint effort with my wonderful friend D. She was the bride of the wedding I went to in Thailand and she loves Thai just as much as me! We decided to have a go at making a Thai green curry or Geang Kiew Wan Gai but completely from scratch!

The unmistakeable Thai green curry is characterised by its colour and desired sweetness, something that distinguishes it from its culinary cousin, the red curry. Most commonly found in the south because of its coconut cream base, the green curry is often served spicy and, like so many Thai dishes is usually eaten with rice as part of a wide range of shared dishes. The main ingredients for the sauce consist of coconut milk, green curry paste, eggplant, sugar, fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves, Thai basil leaves and chicken breast. The consistency of its sauce varies with the amount of coconut milk used.

UntitledSo after another trip to the Markets and combining our home collection of spices we were ready to go! D is a vegetarian so we replaced the fish sauce with soy sauce, omitted the shrimp paste and swapped the chicken with tofu and added lots of extra veggies. The recipe below is non-vegetarian and makes one serve. We doubled the amounts for two people.

First Step: Making the green curry Paste! *Mortar and Pestle time!

Curry Paste Ingredients:

10g green chilli

5g Coriander root (or powder)

10g Galangal

10g Lemongrass

20g Shallots

10g Garlic

5g Bird’s Eye chilli

Zest of 1 Kaffir lime

5g Shrimp paste

2g Salt

2g White Pepper

 

1. In a mortar make a fresh curry paste with the green chilli, coriander, galangal, lemongrass, shallots, garlic, bird’s eye chilli, lime zest, shrimp paste, white pepper and salt.

 

Second Step: Making the Curry!

Curry Ingredients:

Oil (anything BUT olive oil)

2 Kaffir lime leaves

5g Coriander powder

4g Cumin powder

2 cups Chicken stock (or vegetable)

1.5 cups Coconut milk

50mls Thai fish sauce

40g Palm Sugar (Coconut sugar/brown sugar can also be used)

180g Chicken breast (thinly sliced)

30g Round eggplants (or other veggies – normal aubergine is fine and mushrooms are good too!)

20g Small pea eggplants  (or other veggies)

1 sprig of Sweet basil

1 large Red chilli

Coconut cream (garnish)

 

1. Over a medium temperature, heat the oil and add green curry paste, kaffir lime leaves and all the spices, continuing stirring for two minutes until aromas have developed.

2. Slowly add the coconut milk while continuing to stir for at least five minutes.

3. Season with the fish sauce and palm sugar.

4. Add the sliced chicken and the vegetables (eggplant, etc), continuing to stir for three minutes.

5. To control the texture of the curry sauces continuously and gradually add chicken stock while cooking.

6. When the chicken is fully cooked, taste, add chillies as required and sweet basil then transfer to a serving bowl.

8. Garnish with coconut cream, basil leaves and sliced red chilli.

 

Have your tissues and milk nearby for emergency spice reaction!

 

Enjoy!

B x

 

 

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Stiff Bonk Spook Gulp and Packing For Mars

If you understand the above sentence I am so excited to have found a kindred spirit! If you do understand and don’t care, meh each to their own. If you have absolutely NO IDEA what I am on about, well my friend, let me introduce you to the absolutely fabulously funny American author…Mary Roach! (The woman has a gif of a cockroach on the homepage of her website. Enough said).

Its interesting how your taste in reading can change so much as you get older, well mine has anyway! I used to only read fiction but now I am very much on the biography/non-fiction bandwagon. I stumbled upon Mary’s books by chance (thanks Pinterest!) and haven’t looked back. Not only are they fascinatingly interesting, but the way she writes about science is so engaging that you don’t even notice you are learning all kinds of weird and bizarre facts (brilliant for use at your next quiz night or dinner party!). Her books that I have read so far are Stiff, Bonk, Spook, Gulp and Packing For Mars.

STIFF – The curious lives of human cadavers

Stiff by Mary Roach

For 2,000 years, cadavers — some willingly, some unwittingly — have been involved in science’s boldest strides and weirdest undertakings. Stiff is an oddly compelling, often hilarious exploration of the strange lives of our bodies postmortem.

This was not necessarily a topic I was interested in to begin with, to be honest I’d never really thought about it. After the first chapter I was hooked. Mary not only looks at how science has progressed over time (early grave robbing stories and illegal dissections!) but what happens to cadavers today and possibilities for the future. Cadavers have been vitally important to science’s knowledge of the human body, we owe those who donated their bodies big time. As interesting as this book is, I suggest not trying to explain it to a friend over the phone on public transport in rush hour…

BONK – the curious coupling of sex and science

The study of sexual physiology—what happens, and why, and how to make it happen better—has been a paying career or a diverting sideline for scientists as far-ranging as Leonardo da Vinci and James Watson. The research has taken place behind the closed doors of laboratories, brothels, MRI centers, pig farms, sex-toy R&D labs, and Alfred Kinsey’s attic.

Again, another one not to explain loudly in public! But wow! The things people go through or “do” for science! When you think about it though, someone has to do the research! These folks have done just that but its always ten times harder (if you’ll excuse the unintended pun! honest!) for them to get funding and to prove their research is actually scientific!

 

SPOOK – Science Tackles the Afterlife

Spook by Mary Roach

Spook is about all manner of enterprising, brave, occasionally peculiar people — from doctors to sheep ranchers — who have tried to use science to pin down that most floaty question, What happens when we die?  Can we prove there’s a soul or an afterlife?

Another interesting one, I don’t necessarily believe in anything after death but this was a very in-depth look at the way people have tried and are still trying to scientifically prove that something is out there!

 

GULP – adventures of the alimentary canal

Gulp by Mary Roach

The alimentary canal — the much-maligned tube from mouth to rear — is as taboo, in its way, as the cadavers in Stiff, and as surreal as the universe of zero gravity explored in Packing for Mars. In Gulp we meet the scientists who tackle the questions no one else thinks —or has the courage —to ask. How much can you eat before your stomach bursts? Why doesn’t the stomach digest itself? Can wine tasters really tell a $10 bottle from a $100 bottle? Why is crunchy food so appealing? Can constipation kill you? Did it kill Elvis? We go on location to a pet food taste-test lab, a fecal transplant, and into a live stomach to observe the fate of a meal. Like all of Roach’s books, Gulp is as much about human beings as it is about human bodies.

I don’t suggest reading this while eating! Sometimes it is a bit too detailed! However, it is absolutely amazing just what the body can do, ingest and sustain over time!

 

PACKING FOR MARS – the curious science of life in the void

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

Space is a world devoid of the things we need to live and thrive: air, gravity, hot showers, fresh produce, privacy, beer. How much can a person give up? How much weirdness can they take? What happens to you when you can’t walk for a year? What happens if you vomit in your helmet during a space walk? Is it possible for the human body to survive a bailout at 4,000 miles per hour? To answer these questions, space agencies set up all manner of quizzical and startlingly bizarre space simulations — making it possible to preview space without ever leaving Earth. From the space shuttle training toilet to a crash test of NASA’s new space capsule (cadaver filling in for astronaut), Packing for Mars takes us on a surreally entertaining trip into the science of life in space and space on Earth.

I’m only halfway through this one but I love it! When I was a small kid I wanted to be an astronaut and even now I think that it would be amazing to see the world from space (and now I hear it won’t be long before Space Tourism kicks off at affordable prices! I’m hanging out for that one!). However, reading this book makes me realise that it is TOUGH being an astronaut – in space AND on the ground.

 

I highly recommend picking a copy and checking these books out – absolutely awesome!

Check out her official website here and for those of you in the U.S. it also has her events/tour schedule!

Enjoy!

B x

Culinary Trail Blazing!

Stand aside Australian ‘meat-and-three-veg’! I am blazing a trail into the great unknown (well for me) land of Thai Cooking!!!

Ok, I have trail blazed slighty before, but never from scratch! Let me explain the lovely set of circumstances that resulted in my wandering around an Asian supermarket searching for galangal and kaffir lime leaves…

I have recently returned from an absolutely fabulous short vacation in Koh Samui, Thailand. I was asked to be a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding and of course accepted immediately! The result was a beautiful wedding in a tropical paradise (and it all went off without a hitch I am glad to report!).

The Beach Bar at the Bandara Resort, Bo Phut where we stayed – highly recommend!!! (Do yourselves a favour – go to the spa!! AMAZING!)

As a bridesmaid, of course one of my duties was to help arrange the hens day activities! The bride wanted to do something fun during the day the family members could be a part of and then party at the clubs later that night. So we arranged a cooking class at the Anantara Resort in Bo Phut (highly recommend both the resort, staff members and the cooking class: all divine and well priced!). We made two different dishes: a Tom Kha Gai (chicken/coconut soup) and a Thai Chicken Green Curry. After a tour around the resort’s herb and vegetable garden (I have no idea about spices/herbs so I learned a lot. AND! did you know there is more than one type of eggplant??? It blew my tiny culinary mind) we got on with the cooking. I think they were two of the best meals I had during my time there and I tried A LOT of awesome Thai food.

So on arrival back in Australia (where it was and still is cold, wet and windy) I decided I had become rather partial to eating my food with a lot of chilli in it and was craving good Thai. As part of the cooking class package we received an apron, wooden chopping board, class photo, official certificate and all of the recipes! So naturally, as it had been so easy to cook it there, I thought “I’m going to have a crack at the soup! Piece of cake!”

Hence how I wound up tramping around our city market looking for exotic (to me!) vegetables and spices I had never cooked with before, let alone bought or even looked at in their raw state! I felt very adventurous and was determined to bring back a pile of yummy spoils I could then turn into something even yummier!! Luckily some friendly advice from a co-worker pointed me in the direction of Coco’s Fruit and Veg stall. I met two very lovely Asian sellers who were obviously curious and confused when confronted with the girl asking them for a variety of ingredients one at a time and only in single portions. Turns out they had nearly every single item I needed! I was triumphant! I thought about venturing further into the Asian supermarket nearby but that was a little overwhelming, maybe next time!

So that night I gave it a go! I prepped, cut the vegetables the way I remembered the Thai chef showing us, added a bit of extra chilli (I was feeling a bit daring) and cooked it all up! And it was very nearly the same! Perhaps a little sweeter than I remembered, I didn’t have palm sugar so I used brown sugar as a substitute.

DSC_2738 So its not the best photo and it doesn’t have quiet as much colour (I used a green chilli instead of red) but ta dah!! Tom Kha Gai. The recipe I used is below.

Tom Kha Gai (Chicken Coconut Soup – Thai style)

This makes a generous portion for 1-2 people. Reduce or double ingredients to make more.

Ingredients

80g Chicken breast

100mls Chicken stock

150mls Coconut milk

10g Galangal (similar to ginger – its a root vegetable. Peel and sliced thinly)

30g Angel mushrooms (or any others, I just used up the button mushies in my fridge)

2-3 Birds eye chillies (The chef told us to thinly slice them diagonally)

10g Lemongrass (make sure you peel off the outer layer first)

3 Kaffir lime leaves (pull the leaves apart to remove the stem)

10mls Fish sauce

1-2 Limes (juice)

30mls Tamarind juice (This is the ‘Palm Sugar’ part. Brown sugar can be substituted instead, just dissolve in hot water)

1 sprig Coriander (Cilantro) leaves

2mls Chilli oil

 

Method

1) Prepare the chicken by removing the skin and cut the meat into diagonal bite-size pieces (thinner the better).

2) Bring the chicken stock to the boil over a medium heat then add the sliced galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves, when it becomes fragrant add coconut milk and continue to boil for a few minutes.

3) Add the chicken angel mushrooms and simmer until the chicken is cooked.

4) Finally, add the chillies (to your level of spice threshold!), fish sauce, tamarind and lime juice then stir till combined completely.

5) Place the soup in a bowl (or coconut shell if you are feeling fancy!) and garnish with coriander leaves and chilli oil.

 

*A recommended drink for this soup is a Chablis Premier Cru with a touch of oak flavour from Burgundy – that’s what it says on the recipe card!!*

 

Who else has blazed their own culinary trail? I’d love to hear about it!

Bon Appetit!

B x

 

 

“Look Up” – A You Tube Tale

How often do you actually click on any of those links your friends put up on Facebook? Once? Twice? Every time? (Cos let’s face it, your friends are hilarious!)

I don’t even remember which one of my friends shared this You Tube video and I don’t usually explore any links from Facebook, but I am certainly glad I made an exception for this one.

Look Up: http://youtu.be/Z7dLU6fk9QY

Posted by Gary Turk, a guy from the UK, it has become a world-wide viewed and reviewed video. It’s a spoken poem about how we have isolated ourselves from each other by choosing technology over personal interaction. We are all guiltily of it in some form or another (I am blogging this on my phone on the tram ride to work…very guilty!). He has copped a lot of critism for the video from some people, but personally I think we all need to be reminded about it every day.

I am looking up at people around me on the tram and probably 60% are using their phones. A couple are reading books (nice to see they still exist on public transport!) and most have ear phones in, signalling loud and clear “do not talk to me”.

It’s pretty frightening when you think about how much technology takes over our lives. The things just our phones can now do are mind boggling. I confess I am an addict. While eating breakfast I check facebook, instagram and emails (actually I check emails far more than necessary during the day and way more than is probably healthy). My phone is my calculator, diary, note taker, bank (internet and phone banking is the best thing ever though!), street directory, news reel, camera and encyclopaedia. Probably the one thing I don’t use it for which is a bit unusual is using it to listen to music (I know! I’m not using it to its full potential!!)

So I now pledge to put down my phone and interact. I will train myself to break the habit and resist the urge to check my social media accounts so often. I am definitely going to stop browsing pinterest before bed!!

Gary’s video was another inspiration for this blog. After I got off the tram, I put my phone away for the walk to work and made sure to glance up as much as possible to take in my surroundings. And you know what? It worked. I smiled at passers by and felt liberated!! I also came across this (which then meant I had to retrieve my phone to take a photo, but it went straight back into my bag afterwards):

image

Anything with googly eyes cracks me up! It made my morning!

Here’s hoping I discover a few more on the way home!

B x

The Paris Letters

Ah Bonjour!

Sweet, beautiful, amazing Paris! I have only ever spent just over 24 hours in the City of Lights but it was everything I had dreamed it would be!

I’m not sure if I just got lucky (the weather was good, not too many crowds, saw the big landmarks, visited the catacombs, had the most incredible nutella and strawberry crepe under the Eiffel Tower…) but wow, what an impression! I’m a bit scared that if I and when I go back the same shine wont be there. Pfft! Yeah right! It will always be stupendous!

It has always been a dream of mine to go to France, visit Paris and climb the Eiffel Tower. In May 2013, I went on a tiny (but awesome) trip of Spain with a couple of days in London and a day in Paris with a close girlfriend who was living and working in London. I had finally made that dream come true and it was surreal! This blog isn’t about that trip, its about a book I recently read that magnified my urge to go back (as well as inspired me to start blogging!)

Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod

Paris Letter Front Cover Advance Copy

How much money does it take to quit your job?

Exhausted and on the verge of burnout, Janice poses this question to herself as she doodles on a notepad at her desk. Surprisingly, the answer isn’t as daunting as she expected. With a little math and a lot of determination, Janice cuts back, saves up and buys herself two years of freedom in Europe.

A few days into her stop in Paris, Janice meets Christophe, the cute butcher down the street—who doesn’t speak English. Through a combination of sign language and franglais, they embark on a whirlwind Paris romance. She soon realizes that she can’t ever return to the world of twelve-hour workdays and greasy corporate lingo. But her dwindling savings force her to find a way to fund her dreams again. So Janice turns to her three loves—words, art, and Christophe—to figure out a way to make her happily-ever-after in Paris last forever.

It was funny, honest and inspiring! Such a fantastic idea as well! Who doesn’t love getting snail mail, especially something with a French postmark! Do yourself a favour and read this book, read her blog and sign up for a Paris Letter! I am definitely signing up for one ASAP!

This is the link to her Paris Letters Etsy site: https://www.etsy.com/shop/janiceartship

Au Revoir!

B x

Glancing up

Researchers have found out that when people gaze into space, the direction they look can indicate what they are thinking about. Looking up and to the left for example can be a person recalling memories, people or names. I have found however, that when I glance up, that’s when I begin to daydream, plan and think all sorts of wonderful things. Combined with the physical act of looking up when I am walking outside, this was the trigger and the name behind this blog.

I sometimes have trouble sticking to a project – I can get really involved for a short period of time, then life takes over or I get bored and then it gets left behind. A little while ago I went to a ‘Happiness’ Workshop at the fantastic stationary store Kikki K (www.kikki-k.com) and picked up this cute little book ‘A Sentence A Day’.

A SENTENCE A DAY JOURNAL

The idea is for people that would like to journal or keep a diary but don’t feel they have time. With 365 little questions on every page, you can literally write a sentence a day and chronicle your life for three years. I purchased this last October and I am excited to say that so far I have been able to keep up with it by jotting something down just before I go to bed every night.

I want to use this blog to do something similar, by writing this I can hold myself accountable for a few things I want to work on in my life and hopefully learn something along the way.

So in summary, this blog will be about me, my life, my inspirations, random thoughts, things I love, things I struggle with and everything in between. And you know what? I can’t wait to get started.

B x