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Beautiful Thai canapés

Let me begin by telling you about the thing that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time. Ocean swimming. Dropping into the sea and swimming in the cool mineral rich water as part of my daily routine. What could be better. An activity to nourish the soul and clear the mind, at the same time of course as keeping everything trim, muscles toned surrounded by the cold.  Well the past few weeks I have been lucky enough to do just this with a lovely lady that I met at the beach (there was no way I was going to do this activity alone). And that’s where these beautiful Thai canapés come in.

Sam is the lovely and very interesting lady mentioned above. Bobbing in her blue swimming cap, she patiently waits for me as I catch up to her in the sea. With no pushing and gliding at either end like in a pool and a slight sense of vertigo as my body rolls in the swell, I’m still acclimatising to open water swimming. We jump in to the sea at the end of Palm Beach ocean pool and swim parallel with the shore for 500m or so and then back again.

Let me be clear at this point. I find this activity extremely scary. Rips, swell, breaking waves, deep water. No problem. But not being able to see what’s beneath me. The thing that nightmares are made of. Conquering your fears though is kind of addictive, and every time I get out of the water after another swim, I want to get straight back in. Plus I guess being scared makes a morning swim just that little bit more exhilarating.

Sam is also a mum, and a runner, and she’s done ski seasons. I feel at home in her company. After sharing a few drinks with her and her husband’s one Sunday afternoon, Mark and I wanted to continue the conversation, so the following weekend we invited them to dinner. Cue the beautiful Thai canapés. Sweet, salty and nutty. The perfect flavour combination to enjoy with a few pre dinner drinks.

It’s funny. I’ve owned David Thompson‘s Thai compendium for years, and enjoyed glancing at its fuchsia spine on my bookshelf, but I’ve never cooked anything from it. I’m a little nervous of Asian recipes, slightly fazed by their long ingredient lists and confused about what to substitute for items that aren’t readily available. But this recipe. I felt confident about it. And now I’ve made it once, I want to make it again. A bit like diving in to the ocean I suppose. Scary at first, but definitely something to repeat.

Beautiful Thai canapés – Ma Hor – Galloping horses

Minced chicken, pork and prawn with pineapple

From David Thompson’s book Thai Food

  • 100g prawn meat, finely chopped
  • 100g chicken mince
  • 100g pork mince
  • 1 cup palm sugar, grated
  • 1/2 cup fish sauce
  • 1/2 cup fried garlic
  • 1/2 cup fried shallots
  • 4 tbsp ground toasted peanuts (unsalted)

Coriander and garlic paste

  • 4 coriander roots
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 15 white peppercorns
  • pinch salt

Fry the prawn mince with a pinch of salt in the oil of your choice. When cooked, transfer to a bowl to cool and repeat with the chicken and pork mince.

Next make the coriander and garlic paste by pounding all the ingredients together with a pestle and mortar.

Now fry the paste in a little oil and when fragrant add the palm sugar and fish sauce and then simmer for a few minutes until the mixture is thick and syrupy.

To the syrupy mixture add the prawn, chicken and pork mince and half each of the fried garlic, shallots and peanuts. Cook for a few minutes than remove from the heat and add the remaining garlic, shallots and peanuts. Taste the mixture. It should be sweet, salty and nutty. Adjust accordingly

Leave the mix to cool. It will firm up considerably. While it’s cooling cut the pineapple into bite size slices.

Moments before you are ready to eat the canapés, top the pineapple pieces with the punchy topping and enjoy.

Love canapés? Then you might like this recipe for gougers-bite size balls of cheesy choux pastry.

Gougeres-bite size balls of cheesy choux pastry

Always a sucker for a new food store, and a French one at that, I popped in to Le Petit Marche in Newport when I had a spare five minutes last week. Beautiful wooden shelves were filled with jars and canisters of imported French deliciousness. Of course the visit resulted in a purchase. I was able to talk myself out of any food, although the salted caramel spread that I was given a taste of did make me slightly weak at the knees and the ‘with the fairies’ strawberry and vanilla tea (who wouldn’t fall in love with a tea with that name) nearly had me reaching for my purse. But no. What I bought was a book. The Paris pastry club. I just can’t help myself when it comes to books, and if a cookbook can give you just one good recipe that you use again and agin, then it’s a winner in my eyes. This book’s a winner and the gougeres that I made from it on Sunday have firmly been wedged in to my repertoire.




But what are gougeres? They are moorish and delicious and far too easy to consume with very little effort. More technically, they are bite size balls of cheesy choux pastry, light and airy with a bit of crunch and a salty cheese hit. Even though the thought of making choux pastry intimidated me slightly, Fanny Zanotti’s  description of these savoury snacks won me over and I made a commitment to try the recipe out. With a side of red, as she suggested. The perfect opportunity arose when Ma and Pa came over on Sunday afternoon. Thea loooves Ma. I think it’s because she is such a calming presence and gives Thea her complete undivided attention. Ma doesn’t try to multi task like me, she’s simply in tune with Thea, and Thea knows it and relishes in it. Plus Ma always knows how to make her cackle. The biggest, heart melting, overwhelmed with love, tear in the eye type cackles you have ever heard. So when Ma and Pa took Thea out for a walk to the park, I set about making gougeres.

Having been concerned by the thought of choux pastry, my worries were unfounded. I mean, I know I have room for improvement in the technique department, but within half an hour of following some simple step I had several dozen bites of cheesy pastry in the oven. Plus taste wise, I was happy. Very happy. My main concern was that I wouldn’t be able to restrain myself from eating all the gougeres until Ma and Pa and Thea returned. For this attempt I made the gougeres with Parmesan through the choux mix and Cheddar grated over the top. Next time I think I’ll try with a gorgeous artisan French cheese from Le Petit Marche with a few poppy seeds sprinkled on top. And perhaps I’ll double the recipe. And choose my favourite wine glass. And a beautiful bottle of red. And my favourite movie… Now Im just dreaming. But sometimes that’s what one little recipe can do.







Gougeres

Adapted from a recipe by Fanny Zanotti

  • 125g whole milk
  • 50g butter
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 75g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 60g grated hard cheese, like Cheddar, Parmesan of Gruyere
  • 1 egg, beaten for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 250c.

Add the milk, butter and spices to a pot and set over a low heat until the butter melts, then increase the heat until the milk comes to a rolling boil.

Add the flour in one go and stir until completely combined. Keep stirring the mixture over heat until a crust forms on the bottom of the pan, which indicates that the mix is now dry enough for the next step.

Remove pot from the heat and transfer contents to a bowl. Add the eggs, beating well after each addition so that they are well incorporated. While the mix is still warm, fold in half of the grated cheese (30g) and then transfer the mix to a piping bag.

Pipe 3cm wide mounds of cheesy choux pastry onto a paper lined baking tray and then brush each mound with egg wash and sprinkle the remaining cheese.

Pop the tray in the oven and turn it OFF. Bake for 15 minutes and then turn the oven back on and bake for a further 10-15 minutes until the gougeres are golden.

Remove from the oven and enjoy.

NOTE. These get better and better as they cool down, so the more restraint you show will work in your favour. Promise.

Enjoy this recipe? You may also like chicken and cheese empanadas