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Lerato’s taste of Thai


Taste-of-ThaiI recently taught a Thai cookery class. My amazing students comprised of a dad and his daughter, a couple celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary and a trio of friends who wanted to learn how to cook one of their favourite cuisines. The moment we grated the skins of the limes for the wonderful zest, we were transported into a sensual world of fragrant Thai cuisine.

The zesty oils filled the kitchen with its vibrant and refreshing aroma and this turned our class into a true Thai experience. These recipes below explore the sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavours which form the basis of Thai cooking. Like ‘Som Tum’ which means ‘pestle and mortar’. Thai food is full of expression. This is the power of food; such wonders you can enjoy if you give it a go. If you fancy something different, do try these.

Aromatic Thai fish parcels Serves 2 portions
Cooking time: 15 – 20 minutes
• 2 white fish fillets
• 1 small red chilli, de-seeded & chopped
• 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
• 1/2 thumb size piece of ginger, peeled and grated
• ½ bunch of coriander
• 4 spring onions,
• 2 pak choi, cut lengthways in two parts (or spinach)
• 2 tbsp. dark soy
• Zest of one lime
• Juice of one lime
• 1 tbsp. sesame oil

Cooking method
1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/Gas 6.
2. Cut foil into a square, wide enough for your fillets. Clean the fillets and make sure they are free of bones. Place the fillets in the center of the foil. Cut the chillies lengthways and take out the seed using the sharp side of the knife to scrape the seeds out of the chilli or leave seeds in if you can take the heat. Chop the peppers and place into a bowl. Using the flat side of a large knife, smash the garlic clove in order to easily peel the skins. Chop the garlic and set aside with the chilli. Peel the brown bark of the ginger and grate. Chop the coriander.

3. Pour the mixture onto the fillets and spread evenly on both sides. This can be done a day in advance or when needed. Chop spring onions and pak choi length ways and place on the fillets. Finally, dark soy, lemon zest and juice in a bowl and pour onto the fillets.

4. Bring the ends of the foil together and fold the edges to seal the steam while cooking. Place the foil parcels onto a baking tray and gently place in the oven. Steam for 15 – 20 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.

5. Once cooked gently unwrap the foil, pour a tablespoon of sesame oil. Pour your steamed fish and vegetables and all juices into a plate. Serve with sticky coconut rice.

Coconut Rice Serves 4 portions
Cooking time: 15 – 20 minutes
• 300g jasmine rice
• 200ml coconut milk
• 200ml hot water
• 1 tsp salt
• 3 lime leaves, roughly chopped

Cooking method
1. Get boiled water ready for your rice. Rinse the rice in a large bowl until the water is clear. Place the hot water, rice, coconut milk, lime leaves and salt in a medium pot and cook over medium heat. Once it starts to simmer turn the heat down and cover the pot with a tight fitting lid or aluminium foil.
2. Cook for 15 minutes. Take off the heat and leave covered to continue to steam.

Papaya Salad (Som Tum)Serves 4 portions
Preparation time: 10 minutes
• 2 cloves of garlic
• 1/2 tsp coarse salt
• 4 small chillies ( thin long chillies or scotch bonnet)
• 6 cherry tomatoes
• 1 medium green papaya/paw paw
• 1 small cucumber
• Zest of 3 small limes
• 2 tbsp. lime juice
• 1 tbsp. tamarind water or 1 tsp tamarind paste
• 2 tbsp. fish sauce
• 2 tsp light brown sugar (adjusted to taste)
• Coriander to garnish

Cooking method
1. Using a pestle and mortar crush the peeled garlic with salt, add the chopped chillies and lightly bruise. Take out of place on a large bowl. Halve the tomatoes, peel the papaya, cucumber and cut into thin matchsticks. A mandolin or julienne will help achieve this easily. Pour all into the pestle and mortar and bruise a little. Take out and add into the bowl with the crushed garlic and chillies. In the pestle and mortar mix the lime zest, juice, tamarind, fish sauce, and sugar. Mix well to dissolve the sugar. Taste your dressing to make sure you have the right balance of sweet, salty, savoury and spicy flavours. Pour into the bowl with your bruised veg and toss. Enjoy!

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