Monday, 11 February 2013

Thai Spice of Life - Tom Kah Gai Soup Recipe

I love cooking and eating and I love to take pictures of food. In fact, I love everything about food. Back in November, I visited Thailand with my boyfriend and one of the top things on our to do list was to take part in a Thai cooking course. We stayed on Koh Lanta and were lucky enough to find an amazing cooking school Time For Lime. It came highly recommended by the guest house we were staying at and we were drawn in by great reviews and this description.

“Meet other food enthusiasts from around the world and share the fun of Thai cooking. While wining and dining, listening to good music in a relaxed and clean environment. Since the cooking school is on the beachfront you will also see, hear and feel the harmony of the sea. Enjoy your time – you’re on holiday!”
It was such a fantastic experience! We learnt a great deal about Thai ingredients before entering the kitchen and then got the chance to cook 4 dishes. We were taught about the kind of ingredients we could use as substitutes in our own countries. We also learned how to make curry pastes from scratch and the difference between fresh and shop bought is spectacular. It was a great social experience in a beautiful setting and I got the chance to create a huge flame in a wok which I could definitely not do at home due to a very sensitive fire alarm.
 Since returning to the UK, the one thing we have cooked a few times is Thai Soup. We have adapted the original recipe that we learned but I thought it would be good to share the recipe as it is very easy to make, relatively healthy and simple to adapt to your taste. The hot and sour flavours are perfect for cold wintery days such as today.
Thai cooking consists of the 3 S’s (sweet, sour and salty) plus spice.  The balance of these flavours is not the same in every dish. This recipe contains all three and certainly packs a punch. The first s you should taste is sour, the second sweet and then the third salty.  The recipe can be adapted and made without coconut milk, using more stock instead for a lighter soup (Like Tom Yum) and chicken can be substituted for prawns or seafood.  Of course, you can also adapt the level of spice in your soup. Quick and easy, it is great for a quick meal after work. I live in London and we are lucky as we have several Thai Supermarkets local to us but many of the ingredients are available now in regular supermarkets and you are also able to buy specific  ingredients online.
Tom Kha Gai - Tangy Coconut Soup with Fresh Thai Herbs and Chicken  (Serves 4)
3 cups coconut milk
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
12 slices galangal (This is not ginger)
3 stems lemongrass (‘Leave me’ way)
8 kaffir lime leaves
3 chicken breasts thinly sliced
4 Thai red onions or 1 medium red onion finely sliced
3 birds eye chillies (‘Leave me’ way)
1 medium onion cut into 4 wedges and then halved
4 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 teaspoon salt
3 tomatoes ( cut into 4 wedges and deseeded)
2 spring onions cut into 5cm pieces
4 tablespoons lime juice
Coriander leaves for garnish
How to make the soup
1.     Firstly prepare your ingredients as the cooking time is actually very short. Vegetables and herbs in Thai recipes are prepared and chopped in such a way so that you can distinguish which you should eat and which you should leave as they have just been included for flavour. The ingredients on the left below are ‘leave me’ ( From the top, galangal, birds eye chilli, lemon grass and kaffir lime leaf) and the ones on the right are ‘eat me ( ginger, birds eye chilli, Thai onion and Kaffir lime leaf).
2.     Pour coconut cream/milk and stock into a pot. Add galangal, lemongrass, chill, kaffir lime leaves and Thai Red onion in ‘leave me style’. This normally means that you would leave them bigger and bash to release the flavour. Cover, bring to the boil and leave to simmer for 6 minutes.
3.      Add chicken, onions, fish sauce, sugar and salt and let simmer for 3 minutes.
4.      Add tomatoes and simmer for 30 seconds. Adding the tomatoes before will have the effect of a red t-shirt in a white wash so always add near the end to keep your soup looking white.
5.      Add the spring onions and then the final step is to add the lime juice once you have turned off the heat. Adding lime before this point can make it taste bitter. This is where the name ‘Time for lime’ came from.
6.   Garnish with coriander before serving and then enjoy!
I served the soup with Pad kaprow goong ( Shrimp with holy basil) and I will share this recipe  another day. This is my dinner from tonight, a Tom Yum style Thai seafood soup that is based on the recipe above but without coconut milk.

 I'd love to see and hear about your recipes too so post me comments or show me your pics on Instagram. I never get bored of food pictures!



Sunday, 3 February 2013

Positive February

For the last two years I have felt really motivated in January embarking on Janathon as a way to kickstart my fitness journey. For those of you who have never heard of Janathon, you are encouraged to exercise and then blog about it daily for the whole month and if January is too cold then you can also give it a go in June too. This year I am afraid to admit that I have been lazier and greedier than I have been in a very long time and I have done absolutely no exercise. Janathon is a great way to get you moving but I decided that it wasn’t the way I wanted to approach things this year. Exercise is important but I have learned that it is also important to give your body adequate rest too. I can be a woman of extremes and I’ve most definitely taken the rest days to a different level in the last month. Don’t get me wrong, I have been busy with other things such as work and eating it seems, but this is where it stops!

In my experience I have found that February can be pretty miserable. No more gloss of the fresh start of a new year, resolutions well and truly forgotten and cold miserable weather that is no longer a novelty. Yes snow, I’m talking about you! You were fun when you first arrived, we all built snowmen, went for family walks and bored everybody on every social media channel with as many photos as we could possibly take.  So please, no more until next year because the frozen grey sludge just makes everything that little bit harder.

I’m not big on New Year resolutions. I’m a lady who likes to work towards goals and I continually stop to check in on my progress. I feel strongly that every day is a new day so why wait until Monday, next month or next year to make changes! I’m very, very aware that I can’t go on the way I have been in January. I’m not beating myself up about it. I’ve enjoyed slowing down a little, eating naughty food and being a little lazy but I’ve got things I want to do and goals I want to achieve.

The first challenge on my radar is the Paris Half Marathon. It was my very first big running challenge nearly two years ago and I am excited about going back. If you want to read about the first time round check out this post. I’ve neglected my training recently but I am confident that I can pick it back up. Training is very important but in my experience positive attitude is just as important as I found out when I ran my first marathon last year.  I will be running regularly and I am going to start back on the Spartanfam homework videos every morning and evening. Me and my Lycra are going to become very familar with my lounge floor. When training for the Berlin half last year, I really noticed an improved fitness level by doing these regularly. I am going to try and document my training to help motivate me and maybe I will motivate others in the process. The pressure to blog when doing Janathon makes it harder to not exercise.  

For those of you who follow me on Twitter or Instagram you will know I’m a bit of a foodie when I flood your timelines with dinner pics. Sorry if it’s not your thing but it is mine. I like good, healthy food with colour. No anaemic beige food for this girl! I am going to share some of my favourite recipes in the next few months and I’m also going to try and cook as many new things as possible. I love to experiment and try new foods.  I don’t have lots of spare time but there are definitely ways to eat healthily if you get yourself organised.  Diet is so important when you are training. I realised this when I was training for my marathon. Once you start running for more than a couple of hours, you notice that your body really needs the right fuel.

I’m also going to be doing a sponsored walk with my family in March to raise funds for the Royal Marsden.  TheMarsden March will take place on 17th March and the route will take us 14 miles from the Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea to the Royal Marsden in Sutton. This is a really big deal for my family, especially for those who didn’t even own a pair of trainers until we signed up. My 4 year old niece Ciana has been very poorly as some of you know and we want to acknowledge her amazing bravery and courage as well as show our thanks for the fantastic care she has received. She is out of hospital at the moment but still has a way to go. I think it’s really important to stick together with friends and family and show support and thanks.  If you’d like to make a donation, no matter how small, you can go to ( Apologies that the page isn’t prettied up yet but there seems to be some kind of glitch with the system and it won’t allow me to update it to include her story or photo).

My next focus is my beauty routine. I am a beauty junkie and love nothing more than a new product, as anybody that has visited my home will know.   I have a regular routine when it comes to my face but I tend to neglect my body so I am going to make an effort to do more at home pampering. I have the products, I just need to make the time. I work, live and breathe beauty and I am going to try and share some of my experiences. Because I’ve always had an interest, I forget that some people are really out of their depth when it comes to shopping for beauty products. I’ve always had problem skin and I don’t want to speak too soon but it’s better now than it has been in a long time. I’m no expert but it may be useful to some people and I love the chance to talk about beauty in any capacity. Up until now I’ve tended to avoid it on here as the running took over but it’s time to get some glamour back in my life. I’m not just about trainers and lycra!  

In the last two years I’ve experienced a lot emotionally. It has made me realise that life is short, life is precious and things can chance in a second so appreciate everything that you have. February can be miserable but life is what you make if it. Starting from now I am going to make a conscious effort to be more positive in all aspects of my life. I will be using the hashtag #positivefeb to remind me this month but I don’t plan on turning into a glass half empty grump in March. Feel free to join me and let me know what you’ve been up to and any positive changes that you make.