Mussels in Thai Broth

An easy, healthy and delicious main courses or starter – can be served with crispy bread rolls or jasmine rice. Make sure you use fresh mussels. It’s all the better made using homemade Thai prawn stock(see recipe below) but bought fish or chicken stock will do if you are short on time.

Prep time: 10 minutes  Cooking time: 10 minutes
Ingredients:
1 kg of mussels, beards removed (do not use any broken mussels)
1 small brown onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 pieces ginger/fresh galangal finely chopped
1-2 hot red chillies chopped
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
6 coriander stalks and roots cleaned and chopped, leaves reserved for garnish
thai basil for garnish
750 ml prawn or fish stock
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Method:
Heat oil in large pot that has a tight fitting lid
Add onions, garlic, ginger and chillies and sautéed over medium heat until onions are translucent
Add coriander, stock, fish sauce and sugar
Add mussels, fit on lid and bring stock to boil.
Shake pan and check after 3-4 minutes, once mussels are open, garnish with coriander and basil leaves, and serve in deep bowls with soupy stock. (Throw out any mussels that don’t open)

Homemade Thai Prawn Stock
Ingredients
Heads and shells of 12 prawns
4-5 small pieces of galangal
2 pieces about 1 finger length of ginger
1 stalk lemongrass chopped
1 brown onion cut into quarters
4-5 coriander roots cleaned of any soil
3 cloves garlic
3 litres water

Method
Put all ingredients into stock pot and bring to a rolling boil
Simmer for an hour-1.5 hours
Strain to remove solids
freeze unused portions for use as a base in Thai soups and Curries

2015 in review

Here’s the completed “Year in Review” post!

Happy New Year!! As we start the new year I thought I’d reflect on the first six months of my Free Spirit Food blog. It’s certainly been very interesting starting this blogging journey and I was amazed to receive my “annual report” from WordPress telling me that there had been almost 5,000 views since June 2015 – apparently almost the equivalent of four full New York subway trains!

My aim when I started was to get to 100 followers by the end of the year and as we enter the new year I would like to say thank you to the 105 people who find my recipes and reviews of interest. Some of you are friends and family, but the majority of you are from around Australia and the world with very informative, interesting and beautiful blogs of your own.

I wanted to say a special thank you to my most loyal supporters and give their great blogs a plug:

From the family table
What’s Bec Cooking
My little space in the sun
Delights of the Algarve
Arpita’s Travelogue

I also thought you might be interested in the top 5 most popular posts from Free Spirit Food in 2015.

  1. Roasted eggplant with cummin and yoghurt
Roasted eggplant
Roasted eggplant with cummin and yoghurt

2. Pulled pork with garlic, thyme and chilli

Pulled pork

3. Lamb and potato curry

Lamb and potato curry with rice and red lentil dhal

4.Durban style mince and pea samosas with spring roll pastry

Durban-style mince and pea Samosas
Durban-style mince and pea samosas with spring roll pastry

5.Review: Pau Sat: Satay Street in Singapore

Lau pa Sat Market Building
Beautiful colonial architecture of Lau Pa Sat hawker centre, originally a wet market

And that’s the wrap of 2015!

Looking forward to another year of great foodie and travel adventures which began with an amazing seven course meal at Mozaic restaurant in Ubud last night.

Snapper in Indian “Crazy Water” Broth

This dish is based on the Italian inspired recipes by Marcella Hazan and Neil Perry for “fish in crazy water”. Having previously made and enjoyed Neil Perry’s recipe, I had found the original light broth reminiscent of the texture of the South Indian soup known as Rasam that often accompanies meals. This version is of my own creation and includes the distinct aniseed flavour of star anise and the fruity sweet-sour flavour of tamarind. You can also easily play around with the combination of herbs and spices to suit your palette. This dish is perfect to serve with blanched spinach for a light and healthy dinner.

Prep time: 15 minutes  Cooking time: 55 minutes

Ingredients:
2 large snapper fillets with skin on
3 large, very ripe tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
3 red chillies
1/2 tspn sea salt
small handful coriander leaves
small handful mint leaves
1.5 tsp tamarind concentrate or 2 tspns tamarind juice
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 star anise
60ml olive oil
900ml water

Method
Place tomatoes in bowl of boiling water, then peel off skin, remove seeds and chop

 Soaking tomatoes in hot water makes it easier to peel the skin off
Soaking tomatoes in hot water makes it easier to peel the skin off

Finely chop coriander and mint (save half for garnish)
Finely slice garlic cloves

Sliced garlic, coriander and mint for crazy water
Sliced garlic, coriander and mint for crazy water

Deseed chillies and dice finely
Put all ingredients, except the fish fillets, into large heavy based saucepan and bring to a boil.

All the ingredients except the fish go into making the crazy water
All the ingredients except the fish go into making the crazy water

Lower heat and simmer for 45 minutes with lid on
Remove lid, return mixture to a boil and reduce sauce to half again, but ensuring some of the light broth remains
Add snapper fillets skin side down for 2 minutes, simmering over medium heat
Carefully turn fillets over and cook for a further 5-8 minutes until fish is just cooked through
Serve with finely chopped and blanched spinach or bok choy

Snapper in Indian Crazy Water served with blanched spinach
Snapper in Indian Crazy Water served with blanched spinach

Spice Temple Cooking Class – Sydney Seafood School

On a cold and drizzly Monday night in Sydney I ventured down to the Sydney Fish Markets for a cooking class at their Seafood Cooking School. They offer a big variety of courses often featuring well known Chefs and I’d booked in to the class by Head Chef Andy Evans from the Neil Perry restaurant, Spice Temple. Both Andy Evans and Neil Perry have travelled extensively in regional China, and Spice Temple features their especially created recipes featuring regional Chinese cooking with a  spicy kick!

The amphitheatre at the Seafood School was full of enthusiastic foodies and the class started with Andy outlining the order of proceedings and the menu. We were each given a booklet with the 3 recipes we would be making: Tuna with Blackened Chilli Dressing, Prawn and Peanut Relish and Spanner Crab Omelette with Oyster Sauce.

The high tech set-up in the amphitheatre which has video screens displaying what is happening on the kitchen bench and stove makes it easy to watch the cooking demonstrations. It’s almost like watching a cooking show on TV live, with the knowledge in the back of your mind that it will be your turn soon.

Chef Andy Evans demonstrating recipes T Sydney Seafood School
Chef Andy Evans demonstrating recipes at Sydney Seafood School

During the demonstration, Andy gave us handy tips and hints which were helpful. For example he told us you should always use a wet knife when slicing raw fish like the tuna for the sashimi, how to properly clean coriander root and the circular motion to use when pounding the peanuts to crush them without making them too oily….

Another great technique he showed us was how to “crack” coconut cream split the oil from the “cream” and use that to fry the onion and spices for the Prawn and Peanut relish recipe.

The omelette that he made is a real show stopper and is absolutely delicious whilst being quick and easy to make. It does require frying in a large amount of hot oil and then discarding the oil before rolling the omelette and ingredients into a log shape. The resulting makes for a stunning buffet addition or shared main course dish. With only a few ingredients like egg, crabmeat, garlic chives, bean sprouts, oyster sauce and vegetable oil needed it is also relatively affordable dinner party menu item, whilst being REALLY impressive.

At the end of the demonstration Andy laid out the finished dishes for us students to file past and understand the benchmark for our attempts!

Tuna Sashimi with blackened chilli dressing
Tuna Sashimi with blackened chilli dressing
Prawn and peanut relish seved with cos lettuce "cups"
Prawn and peanut relish seved with cos lettuce “cups”
Stunning spanner crab omelette with oyster sauce
Stunning spanner crab omelette with oyster sauce

We split up into groups of five or six and moved into the cooking school’s first class kitchen set up. Each group had our own kitchen bench, gas stove, fridge fully stocked with all the ingredients we needed. My group was exemplary at team work and we quickly split up the responsibilities amongst us, helping each other as needed to keep a cracking pace as we went. You can actually reserve a bench you have a group of five or six when you book in to the class if you are going with a bunch of friends.

I was allocated the omelette to make and I can tell you I was nervous about what the outcome of the omelette rolling would be! Would mine end up as a mess of broken egg and crab instead of the beautiful log created by Andy. But with some the help of some timely tips while I was making the recipe from Cooking School assistant chefs I managed to turn out a result that was pretty damn close to the original! As you can see below, I do need to brush up on my oyster sauce pouring technique though – not quite as symmetrical as Andy’s!  (I have made the omelette one already at home but didn’t have oyster sauce so replaced it with kecap manis which was just as delicious)

My attempt at the Spanner crab omelette.
My attempt at the Spanner crab omelette.

After our cooking antics, we all moved to the dining area where we got to enjoy the results of our efforts and swop foodie stories with a bottle of complimentary wine.

The entire experience was fun and educational. The course was very professionally run and Andy Evans was an excellent instructor. He also stayed throughout the class visiting each bench in the kitchen and giving more hands on tips and assistance. I was given the course as a birthday present and would highly recommend it as a great gift for your foodie friends and an excellent way to learn about Australian seafood cooking in the great atmosphere of the Sydney Fish Markets if you are visiting Sydney.

Cooking fun at Sydney Seafood School
Cooking fun at Sydney Seafood School

Lamb and spinach curry with lime

This is my version of lamb and spinach curry which is fresh and zesty through the addition of mint, coriander and lime to the traditional lamb and spinach combination. It goes really well served with rice or naan/flatbreads, and a side salad of tomato and cucumber.

Prep time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 50 minutes
Ingredients:

750g diced lamb
1 bunch fresh English spinach, cleaned, washed and chopped finely
250g packet of frozen spinach defrosted
1/2 bunch mint – leaves only
1/2 bunch coriander – chopped
2 tablespoons ginger and garlic crushed paste
1/2 lime cut into thirds, other half reserved
2-3 red chillies, left whole
1 onion finely diced
1.5 tomato chopped
1 tspn salt
1 tspn cummin powder
1/2 tspn chilli powder
1/2 tspn turmeric
2 pieces cinnamon
4 cardamom pods
1 tspn cummin seeds
Handful curry leaves
3 tbspns vegetable oil

Fresh spinach adds extra texture to the silkiness of the frozen spinach.
Fresh spinach adds extra texture to the silkiness of the frozen spinach.

Method
Heat oil in large heavy based casserole pot
Add cinnamon, cummin seeds, curry leaves and cardamom pods and cook until fragrant, taking care not to burn the spices
Add onions and cook on medium heat until translucent
Add ginger and garlic paste and heat through
Add tomato, red chillies, then salt and ground spices – cummin, chilli and turmeric powders
Let the mixture heat through, then add diced lamb and stir-fry until meat is coated in onion spice mixture and sealed.

Add spinach, mint, coriander and lime to lamb mixture
Add spinach, mint, coriander and lime to lamb mixture

Add fresh and frozen spinach, mint and coriander, 1/2 a lime cut into thirds and a cup of water
Bring to a simmer and cook on medium heat with lid on for 40-50 minutes until lamb is tender, stir from time to time to ensure it’s not sticking, add more water if needed. Taste to check if lamb is tender and add more salt if required
Remove lime pieces, garnish with extra coriander and serve with quarters of fresh lime to squeeze over.

Simmer lamb and spinach mixture over medium heat until lamb is tender
Simmer lamb and spinach mixture over medium heat until lamb is tender