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James Street South Cookery School: Spice it up

Thai Green Curry chicken skewers
Niall McKenna

WE ALL like a bit of spice in our lives and I, like most people, indulge in the occasional Indian or Chinese takeaway from time to time. But, for me, cooking Thai food at home can be incredibly simple and rewarding as it will give you that taste of spice that we often want without the calorie intake.

At our cookery school, the curry classes are probably the most popular. As a classically trained chef, spices didnt really enter my world until I met Arun Kapil of Co Cork spice company Green Saffron, who taught me how to make pastes and the different ways to use spices in cooking.

Once you take the plunge in buying spices you generally use the same ones for making a variety of dishes, so if you have a cupboard stocked full of spices, now is the time to use them. The key thing I have learnt from Arun is to buy little and often as the flavour depletes. For all home cooks who use pre-made jars of sauce, maybe, just once, try making your own pastes. The difference in taste is amazing.

Thai crab and mussel soup

1kg mussels, cleaned and debearded

1 bottle white wine

rapeseed oil

1 medium crab, cooked, meat removed

4 tins coconut milk

2 tbsp thai fish sauce

2 tbsp palm sugar

2 limes juiced

1 bunch spring onions, finely chopped

coriander leaves to serve, picked and chopped

1 shallot, finely chopped

pinch sesame seeds

For the Thai paste:

50g ginger, peeled and grated

50g galangal, peeled and chopped

2 sticks lemongrass, chopped

2 red chillis, deseeded & chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 lime leaves

Clean the mussels and discard any that are open and do not close after tapping them on the kitchen counter. Place the mussels in a pot with a lid with the white wine over a high heat and cook until all are open. Strain the mussels from the wine liquor. With the mussels keep some in the shells, remove the rest from the shells and discard any shells which have not opened. Reserve liquor.

The ingredients for the paste should be blended until they form a smooth mix. This mix will keep for several days if stored correctly.

To make the soup, open your tinned coconut milk; do not shake as you want the ingredients to have separated in the tin with the cream on top and water below. Take all the cream from the tins and place in a wok on a medium heat. Once melted, add in the paste and mix thoroughly.

Add in the wine liquor and then the rest of the ingredients. Keep this on the heat until the mix is infused, approx. 5 minutes. Add in the palm sugar and Thai fish sauce and cook for a further 5 minutes. At this point you need to taste the mix to ensure that you have the right flavour combination. You may need a little more fish sauce or palm sugar.

You are now ready to serve, so add the crab meat and mussels and finish with spring onions and serve in bowls with a squeeze of lime juice, the chopped shallot, a pinch of coriander leaves and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

Thai Green Curry chicken skewers

2 tbsp of Thai green curry paste

4 tbsp coconut cream

1 x 150g breast of chicken, diced into cubes

You will need wooden skewers for the chicken

Salt and pepper

Mix the curry paste and coconut cream in a bowl until combined. Thread the chicken on to the skewers and place on a tinfoil-lined baking tray. Pour over the paste  you can use a pastry brush, ensuring that all the meat is coated.

Turn the grill to its hottest setting and place the chicken under the heat for 5-7 minutes until cooked through, turning midway.

Serve with a quinoa salad  cook 300g quinoa in 500ml chicken or vegetable stock and bring to the boil, reduce to simmer for 14 minutes until all stock absorbed. Remove from heat and stand for 5 minutes. Stir with a fork and add 1 pinch grated fresh ginger, handful chopped coriander leaves and 2 finely diced spring onions. Serve with a sprinkling of natural yoghurt, mint leaves and juice of half a lime.


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