Nigel Slater’s mushroom and spinach korma

mushroom and spinachh korma.jpg

Believe me this tastes better than it looks.

I’m rather enjoying being a temporary vegetarian and am not really missing meat and fish at all. I did waver slightly when my son was pushing the battered fish from his takeaway around his plate – my ‘just’ chips hadn’t really hit the spot and I was tempted to eat it all up for him. There was also a stab of jealousy over my husband’s sausages, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. I can just about put up with veggie sausages but vegetarian gravy just doesn’t compare with the meat version.

The hardest thing is eating out. Vegetarians get a rough deal here unless they dine at specifically vegetarian restaurants which is tricky to do when you are mainly friends with meat eaters.

All too often restaurants offer very limited options for vegetarians and the lack of originality is astounding. If you don’t like goats cheese (like me) then you’re pretty much stuffed – goat’s cheese tart being an almost permanent fixture on menus. You must like risotto or you’re in serious trouble. Soup is also popular as restaurants try to kill two birds with one stone by making the obligatory soup option also the vegetarian one. My sister (who lives in a family of vegetarians) jokes about the ubiquitous and bland ‘Mushroom Stroganoff’. She will not eat anywhere unless she can order a bowl of chips if the vegetarian option fails her.

I bought some mushrooms for dinner in the week without a plan. A google recipe search placed the before mentioned ‘Mushroom Stroganoff’ in pole position and I nearly made it for a laugh. But then my head was turned by this Nigel Slater korma from his fabulous ‘Real Food’ book.

It doesn’t sound very exciting (probably the fault of the word ‘korma’) and I wasn’t expecting much (except a disappointed, meat deprived husband). But  it was actually very delicious. The addition of roasted hazelnuts and sultanas is genius  (so do not be tempted to leave these out). Ben ate it very, very happily.

This is not a difficult dish to make once you have prepped and lined up all the ingredients (there are quite a few and they are all important, I’m learning this about vegetarian cookery – vegetables need a lot more help to make them taste ‘special’).

Unfortunately my permanently(?) vegetarian daughter does not like mushrooms. Eating out with her is going to be a nightmare!

Nigel Slater’s mushroom and spinach korma

Serves 2-4 (depending on appetite and how much rice you serve with it)

  • 50g of butter (I used ghee)
  • 2 medium onions, peeled, cut in half and finely sliced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • A thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 15 cardamom pods, husks removed and seeds crushed
  • ½ a teaspoon of turmeric
  • ½ a teaspoon of chilli powder (I used flakes)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 650g of assorted mushrooms, roughly chopped (I only had 500g which were a mixture of chestnut and some dried Chinese mushrooms which I found in the back of the cupboard and rehydrated in water first)
  • 50g of hazelnuts, toasted and shelled (I toasted mine in a 180oC oven for 10 minutes and then removed the shells by rolling between some kitchen roll)
  • 350g of leaf spinach (I used 6 cubes of frozen spinach as this was all I had)
  • 50g of sultanas (Nigel uses ‘golden’ ones but then he would)
  • 150g of thick natural yoghurt
  • 150g of crème fraiche
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped, fresh coriander leaves
  • Salt

Melt the butter (or ghee) in a deep pan (over a medium heat) and add the onions, garlic and ginger. Fry for about 5 minutes until golden (turn the heat down if the butter starts to burn).

Then add the spices and bay leaves and cooked for another 2-3 minutes until fragrant.

Add the mushrooms to the pot and cook for a few minutes until they soften.

Then add 225ml of water and the hazelnuts (I also added my frozen spinach here which I hadn’t bothered to defrost first and used slightly less water – because of the excess in the frozen spinach). Bring the water to a boil turn the heat down low and cook for 15 minutes with a lid on.

If you are using fresh spinach, wash the leaves and cook them (still wet) in a saucepan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes with a lid on (they will cook in their own steam). Drain, squeeze out the water and add to the mushrooms after they have finished simmering for 15 minutes.

Then add the sultanas and simmer for a couple of minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and add in the yoghurt and crème fraiche. Heat gently but don’t boil or the mixture will curdle.

Finally stir in the chopped coriander and season well with salt (I needed two large pinches).

I served the curry with rice but it would be amazing with homemade naan.



Mr Hallam’s tamarind chicken curry

tamarind chicken curry large

The curries I cook tend to fall into two categories – ones that you slow cook for hours and hours (which tend to use cheaper cuts of meat), and super quick ones that you cook just long enough for the meat to be done.

This curry falls into the second group, but whilst it’s quick to cook there are a truly staggering number of ingredients so it’s the shopping that takes a while. This did put me off at first but I assure you that it’s worth it, and once the spices are bought and stored snugly away in your spice rack you can conjure up this meal in just 20 minutes.

This recipe came from my friend Ben who was given it by his father who has become a granddad this week. I think this fragrant, luxurious curry is the perfect dish to celebrate the birth of a new baby.

Tamarind chicken curry

  • 4 chicken breasts chopped into pieces about 1 inch square

For the marinade

  • 4 tablespoons of tomato ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon of tamarind paste
  • A thumb sized piece of ginger, crushed
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 tablespoons of water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of chilli powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of ground coriander
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of desiccated coconut
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of poppy seeds

To cook

  • 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil (or other flavourless oil)
  • 8 curry leaves
  • ½ a teaspoon of nigella (onion) seeds
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • ½ teaspoon of fenugreek seeds (or powder)
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved (or half a tin of chopped, tinned tomatoes)
  • A handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 fresh green chillies, chopped (optional if you like a lot of heat)

Put all the marinade ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir well to blend everything together.

Add the chicken pieces to the mix and stir until they are well coated with the spice mixture.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok and when hot add the curry leaves, nigella seeds, dried red chillies and fenugreek seeds and fry for about 30 seconds. Lower the heat to medium and add the chicken pieces along with the sauce.

If you are using tinned tomatoes then add them at this stage and simmer gently for about 12-15 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through.

If you are using fresh cherry tomatoes then add these once the chicken is done along with the coriander and green chillies.

Serve with rice (if you need a recipe for cooking rice then see my post ‘Nice Rice’.)

Jamaican lamb curry with rice and peas

lamb curry

My ex-boyfriend Sasha taught me to cook this curry. His biological dad had showed him how in an effort to bring him closer to his Jamaican roots (he had been adopted by a white family from Wilsden and had apparently grown up eating too much Yorkshire pudding).

The original recipe was made with goat but Sasha and I used lamb as it was easier to get hold of (well in our Southwark branch of Tesco at least). Back in those days this was our Sunday dinner of choice which we ate in preference to a traditional English roast – the wonderful aromatic smells of this curry cooking could rival any roast beef dinner.

I haven’t cooked this dish in very long time (in fact my husband Ben couldn’t remember me ever cooking it for him) but my bumper chilli crop bought it to mind. The flavours are so deep and delicious that I realise now why we used to eat it every week. I also realise why I was a stone and a half heavier in those days – with all that lovely lamb fat melting into the sauce and the coconut milk seeped rice it’s seriously delicious but not one for the faint hearted.

Jamaican lamb curry

  • Half a lamb shoulder, approximately 1.3kg (about 630g prepared weight)

For the marinade

  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh (or dried) thyme, stalks removed
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of Dunn’s River ‘All purpose’ or ‘Caribbean everyday seasoning’ (or similar Caribbean seasoning)
  • 2 fresh chillies, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon of ground mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon of sugar
  • A pinch of salt and 3 or 4 twists of the pepper mill

For the sauce

  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • A Knorr beef stock pot
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato puree
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • Water to cover

First you need to prepare the lamb. I like to buy mine with the shoulder bone still in and butcher it myself. I’m not that skilled but this way I can trim off as much of the fat as possible and keep the bones for the sauce. If you don’t have time for this (or if you’re not a fan of handling meat) then ask your butcher to do this for you or buy it ready diced from the supermarket.

Remove all the meat from the bone, chop into good size chunks (about 3 cm square if you can, although if you’re not skilled at butchery you may have some smaller pieces and this is absolutely fine).

Put the meat and the bones in a mixing bowl and add all the marinade ingredients. Give everything a good massage with your hands then cover with cling film and place in the fridge for the flavours to mingle. Leave this for anywhere between 6 and 24 hours but the longer the better really.

lamb curry marinade

When you’re ready to start cooking remove the meat from the fridge and let it come back to room temperature. Then heat a little oil in a frying pan and brown the meat in batches until it’s a lovely dark brown colour on both sides (see photo below, the pieces on the right hand side are the colour you want). Don’t overcrowd the pan and take your time here as this step is essential for the deep meaty flavour. The lamb does not need to cook through at this stage. Once browned put the lamb pieces in a large casserole dish with a lid. I also brown off the bones and add these to the pot to improve the flavour of the sauce.

lamb curry browning

Once all the lamb is browned use the same pan to fry the onions until brown. Then add the tomatoes, tomato puree and stock pot to the pan and bring to a simmer. Pour this mixture into the casserole dish, then add enough water to just cover all the meat.

Put on the lid and cook in an oven preheated to 180oC for two hours. After this time turn the oven down to 140oC and cook for a further 2-3 hours (or until the meat is very tender). You will need to check the curry from time to time during this period and add a little more water if the sauce is too dry. After a couple of hours you should also check the seasoning and add a little more salt and/or chilli if necessary according to your own personal taste.

Before serving remove the lamb bones. Serve with rice and peas.

Rice and peas

This is not Sasha’s recipe but my very own. It’s basically the brilliant Delia method of cooking rice (which has appeared on this blog before) with the addition of coconut milk, thyme, seasoning and kidney beans.

It’s important to note that ‘peas’ actually means ‘kidney beans’ here (a Jamaican lingo thing). I love this so much that I could easily eat it as a dish all by itself.

Serves 2-4 depending on appetite

  • Half a pint of basmati rice
  • A little butter or oil
  • A tin of coconut milk and enough water to make up to 1 pint
  • A Knorr chicken stock pot (or similar concentrated stock)
  • ½ a teaspoon of Dunn’s River ‘All purpose’ or ‘Caribbean everyday seasoning’ (or similar)
  • A few sprigs of fresh thyme (or use 1/2 teaspoon of dried)
  • A tin of kidney beans

Put a small dollop of butter or a dash of oil into a small saucepan and put it on a low heat on the hob. Add the sprigs of thyme, the ½ teaspoon of seasoning and the kidney beans.

In a measuring jug tip in half a pint of basmati rice. Pour the rice into the saucepan with the butter/oil and seasoning and give it a good stir.

Tip the coconut milk into a measuring jug then add the stock pot and enough water to make up 1 pint. Then tip this into a saucepan (separate from the one the rice is in) and bring to the boil.

Tip the heated coconut mixture into the saucepan with the rice and bring back up to the boil. Then put on a tight fitting lid and turn the heat down low. Cook for 15 minutes. Do not be tempted to open the lid.

After 15 minutes fluff up the rice with a fork. If it’s not quite done then put the lid back on, remove from the heat and leave it to steam for a further five minutes.

Super quick prawn curry

prawn curry 2
When we go for a curry my favourite dish is prawn puri and (being very stuck in my ways) this is what I always order. As a special treat my husband recreated the dish for me at home, cobbling together several recipes he found on the internet. He did such a great job that I kept the recipes and whilst I don’t bother with the puris (deep frying them is a bit of a faff) I love the prawn curry filling so much that I’m happy to have it with just rice.

This is super quick and ideal for a mid-week dinner when you don’t have much time. You can make it in less than 15 minutes – which is the time it takes to cook the rice. If you keep a bag of frozen prawns in the freezer then it makes a great standby.

Prawn curry

Serves 2

  • About 15 large prawns (cooked or raw), if you’re using frozen prawns then defrost them first
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of ghee, or oil
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, crushed
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes, depending on how hot you like it, or you can use fresh chillies
  • ½ tin of chopped tomatoes
  • A good pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of malt vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of single cream
  • A tablespoon of chopped coriander (or thereabouts)

First dust the prawns in turmeric and set aside.

Fry the onions in ghee or oil over a medium heat until softened and golden brown (about 3-4 minutes).

Add the crushed garlic, ginger, garam masala, ground coriander, cumin and chilli and fry for one minute.

Then add the tomatoes and cook for another 3-4 minutes until the mixture reduces and thickens slightly (if it thickens too much then you just need to add a little water). Add a good pinch of salt at this stage.

Stir in the prawns, cover the pan with a lid and cook until the prawns are cooked through. This will only be a couple of minutes if you are using cooked prawns and a little longer 3-4 minutes if you’re using raw ones.

Finally, add the malt vinegar and cream and stir.

Serve with rice and garnished with fresh coriander.

NOTE: If you need a recipe for cooking rice see my previous post ‘Nice Rice’ and follow the instructions for cooking rice to accompany Indian food.

Elizabeth’s chicken curry

chicken curry with Elizabeth

My daughter Elizabeth is a good eater at home but she doesn’t really like school dinners. I think they’re a rite of passage so I make her have them. It may also be because I just can’t be bothered to make sandwiches every morning and, if I’m totally honest, I think I take some vain pleasure in the fact that she talks about how they just don’t compare with mummy’s cooking.

There is one school dinner however that she raves about – chicken curry. And I have to say that this really got under my skin because she would never eat my curries. So in a mindless attempt to compete with Nottinghamshire County Council’s catering department I set about trying to emulate the school dinner curry from her vague description. I knew that it must be very mild so I had to really hold back with the amount of spice I would usually use. I waited with baited breath for Elizabeth’s verdict. She wolfed it down and then declared that my version was even nicer that school’s…but only because it had coriander on top.

As a curry loving adult this recipe is still very nice, especially if you’re in the mood for something mild and creamy. It would be a good dish to cook for the type of people who say they like curry but only eat Kormas.

Elizabeth’s chicken curry

Serve 4

  • 3 large chicken breasts, cut into largish chunks
  • 100ml of lentils, cooked in 400ml of water. Bring to the boil then simmer until soft (about 30 minutes). The lentils will absorb the water so there is no need to drain them. You can do this part well in advance if you like.
  • ½ tin of coconut milk


  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon of mild or medium curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon of ground coriander
  • The inside of 4 cardamom pods crushed with a pestle and mortar
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tiny onion, grated
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of tamarind paste

To serve

  • A good handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Put the chicken in a bowl with all of the ingredients for the marinade. Give it a good mix, cover with cling film and leave for at least two hours I usually do this in the morning ready to cook for dinner.

Heat a little oil in a frying pan and add the chicken. Cook over a high heat until the chicken is brown making sure to turn each piece over so that it is nicely brown on both sides. It doesn’t need to cook completely through at this stage.

Add the lentils and coconut milk and simmer for about 5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.

Serve with a handful of fresh coriander and lots of rice (to cook rice see my post Nice Rice).

Chicken browning in the pan - you want to get a nice golden colour.

Chicken browning in the pan – you want to get a nice golden colour.

A close up of the finished dish.

A close up of the finished dish in an adult’s bowl.

Chicken and rosewater biryani

rosewater chicken rice

I’ve never felt so hungry for the food on a cookery programme than when watching Rick Stein’s India. The curries and other dishes looked so delicious that I was desperate to eat my way around India on my next holiday. But then I saw Rick, sweating so profusely that it reminded me why I’ve not been there yet – it’s just too bloody hot.

I’ve had this recipe in my ‘to do’ folder ever since I saw it on the India programme but until recently every time I looked at it I got scared and found something else to cook – it just sounded far too complicated. So many ingredients, too many steps, and (like many BBC food recipes on the web) not quite enough detail (a bit like that bit in the Bake Off technical bake where Mary or Paul give some instructions but miss out bits to test the contestant’s intuition).

Sometimes though it is nice to try something a bit challenging and when it’s miserable outside it’s rather pleasant to spend a whole Saturday afternoon in the kitchen with the radio on and the children snapping at my heals trying to be helpful. This recipe did work out remarkably well and was worth all the nervousness and effort.

I’ve changed a couple of things, the main one being to bake the assembled dish in the oven rather than cooking it on the hob (I’d seen this in another recipe and liked the idea that the rice would go a bit crispy around the edges of the pan).

Rick Stein’s chicken and rosewater biryani (slightly altered by me)

Serves 2 heartily with left overs for the children

To marinade the chicken

  • 300g chicken legs, boned, skinned and cut into quarters (this is roughly two large chicken legs)
  • 125ml natural yogurt
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely crushed
  • 3 cm piece ginger, finely grated
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped, with seeds
  • ½ teaspoon of chilli powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric

For the crisp fried onions

  • 150ml vegetable oil
  • 2 small onions, thinly sliced

For the sauce

  • 5 whole cloves
  • 3 cm piece cinnamon stick
  • 3 green cardamom pods, bruised with a rolling pin
  • 1 Indian bay leaves (I used a normal bayleaf)
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon salt

For the rice

  • 300g basmati rice, soaked in cold water for an hour
  • 1 teaspoon salt per 1 litre of cooking water

To assemble

  • 50g ghee
  • A pinch of saffron soaked in 2 tablespoons warm milk for 15 minutes
  • 1 teaspoon rosewater

To garnish

  • 10g cashew nuts and 10g shelled pistachios, dry-roasted in a hot pan until golden-brown

In a bowl combine all the marinade ingredients and the chicken. Mix until all the chicken is coated and then set aside to marinate for an hour.

For the crisp fried onions, heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over a medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the onions and fry for 10–15 minutes until deep golden-brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper. Set aside.

Pour off all but about 1 ½ tablespoons of the oil from the frying pan, set to a medium heat and add the whole spices. Fry for about a minute and then add the chicken and its marinade. Bring to a simmer and stir in the tomatoes and salt. Simmer over a medium heat for 20-30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is clinging to the chicken. Break some of the chicken pieces in half to form smaller pieces – if you can do this easily with the side of a wooden spoon then you know that the chicken is cooked through and tender. The final sauce should be quite dry. This chicken mixture is so delicious that I would happily just eat this as it is with some plain white rice or naan bread. Turn off the heat, put a lid on the pan to keep warm and set aside whilst you prepare the rice.

For the rice, drain the soaked rice and tip into a large pan of boiling, salted water for about 5 minutes, or until the rice is just tender but still firm. Drain well. Test that the rice is cooked by squeezing a grain between your fingers – it should be soft and break up at the edges, but stay firm in the middle.

Preheat your oven to 200oC fan.

Assemble straight away while the rice is still hot. There will be five layers: rice, chicken, rice, chicken, rice.

To assemble you will need a small oven proof pan with a lid. I used one 10cm deep with a 16cm diameter.

Make sure you have all the elements to hand – chicken, rice, onions, and that you have measured out the ghee and rosewater.

First pour about 1 ½ tablespoons of water and half of the ghee into the pan, then spoon in a third of the rice. Sprinkle over about a third of the saffron milk and rosewater, then spread with half of the chicken mixture and a third of the fried onions.

Add another third of the rice and repeat as above, using the rest of the chicken.

Top with the remaining rice and splash with the remaining saffron milk and rosewater. Drizzle the remaining ghee around the edges of the rice so that it drips down the inside of the pan and cover with a well-fitting lid (if you don’t have a lid you could use two layers of tin foil crimped around the pan to form a tight seal).

Put over a high heat on the hob to get the ghee hot and some steam going. Then put in the oven for 30 minutes. To serve, spoon out onto a large serving platter and scatter with the rest of the crisp onions and toasted cashews and pistachios.

Serve with a raita (which is a sauce made from chopped cucumber, natural yoghurt, mint and a seasoning of salt and pepper).

The assembled biryani before it enters the oven.

The assembled biryani before it enters the oven.

Curry flavoured pies – so wrong they’re right

curried fish pie

I have to admit to having a very guilty food pleasure. At some point in the football season, usually when there’s a lunchtime kick off at the City Ground, I like to indulge in a Chicken Balti Pukka-Pie. It just sounds wrong doesn’t it – a cross cultural food mix that surely shouldn’t work? The strange thing is that it does, they are really, really tasty, even if penetrating the stiff, rather anaemic pastry balanced on your knee with a plastic fork is a bit of a challenge.

So it was with this in mind that we first tried Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ‘Curried fish pie’ from his ‘River Cottage everyday’ cookbook. Again, it sounds wrong but with the knowledge that curry and pastry really can work we gave it a go and I would urge you to too.

We had some people over one Saturday and cooked a selection of pies. There were the usual suspects (beef and ale, chicken and mushroom) and we included this to liven things up a bit. At first everyone was dubious, ‘fish…curry…pastry…really!!!’ However, once we persuaded a few doubters to give it a try and word got around that it was nicer than it sounded it ended up being the most popular. Several people asked me for the recipe – so here it is (albeit about a year later).

Hugh FW’s curried fish pie

Meant to serve 4-6 but we seem to polish off most of it between the two of us with a tiny bit of filling left over for the children

  • 2 fillets (600g) of firm white fish. Sustainable fish advocate Hugh suggests pollack or coley but I’m afraid I find this hard to get in our local fishmongers so I tend to use (although I do hate to say it) cod
  • 200g smoked pollack or kippers. I use smoked haddock (I’m sure this is wrong too)
  • 750ml whole milk
  • 1 onion, 1 carrot and 1 celery stalk, roughly chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • A few pepper corns
  • 75g butter
  • 75g plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of curry powder, or curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped coriander
  • Salt and pepper
  • 250g of ready-made puff pastry
  • A little beaten egg or milk for glazing

First cook the fish. Put the fillets in a pan and add the milk, onion, carrot, celery, peppercorns and bay leaf. Place over a low heat and as soon as the milk comes to a simmer remove from the heat and cover the pan with a lid.

The fish will continue to cook in the milk and should be ready after 5 minutes. After this time drain the fish with a sieve placed over a bowl as you need to reserve the milk to make the sauce. Lift out the fish and put to one side but discard the vegetables, peppercorns and bay leaf.

Now you need to make a white (béchamel) sauce with the flavoured milk. Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and stir well. Cook gentle for a couple of minutes to cook out the flour then gradually add the milk stirring continuously until you have a smooth and creamy sauce. You probably won’t need the whole amount of milk, you’re looking for a consistency like that of thick double cream. For the pie in the picture 650ml was used and it was still a little on the sloppy side. Season well with salt and pepper and then cook on a low heat for another couple of minutes.

Remove the skin and bones from the fish and break it up into large chunks.

Now for the curry flavour. Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and cook gently for 5 minutes until soft. Sir in the curry powder and cook for another few minutes. Add this curry mixture to the white sauce and then stir in the flaked fish and coriander (being careful not to break it up too much). Check the seasoning and add more salt and pepper if you think it needs it. Put the filling into a pie dish.

Preheat the oven to 200oC fan.

Roll out the pastry with a rolling pin using a little flour to stop it sticking. Then cut it to fit your dish. Dampen the rim of the dish with a little milk and lay the pastry over the top pressing down at the edges to seal. You can decorate the top if you like with fish cut outs or a criss cross pattern. Brush lightly with beaten egg or milk and place in the oven for about 30 minutes until the pasty is golden and puffed up.

Serve with some sort of green vegetable.

Note: You can also add cooked prawns to the mix just before adding to the pie dish. I also think chopped boiled egg would be good.

Mmmm curry

thai pork curry

This is one of several recipes from my little pink Chiang Mai Cookery School recipe book that I use all the time. When I was on my world trip (a long time ago now) I did what every sweaty English tourist seems to do in Thailand and spent a day learning to cook Thai food. Oh my goodness it was the hottest  I’ve ever been in my whole life, and standing up all day over a steaming wok meant that I did actually pass out at one stage (very, very embarrassing). Worse than that, it was a pregnant lady who came to help me out my offering me her chair. Despite this, the course was excellent and the free recipe book that came home with me has proved to be invaluable.

I’ve just looked on line and the cookery school is still in existence although it is 9 years now since I was there so I can’t vouch for whether it is still good or not. You do still get a free recipe book though.

This recipe is great when you’re cooking for guests or when you need something really quick and easy as it takes less than 15 minutes to cook. I cooked this in a holiday cottage for my friends at the weekend and it went down very well indeed.

Red curry with pork from the Chiang Mai Cookery School

Serves 4

  • 3 large pork fillets
  • 1 x 400 ml tin of coconut milk
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of Mae Ploy red curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon lime juice
  • A good handful of Thai basil leaves
  • 3 small yellow courgettes cut into 1 ½ cm cubes

Since you don’t cook the pork for very long or brown it to crisp up the fat you need to make sure it is as lean as possible for this dish. Take your time and remove all the fat and silver skin from the pork fillets and chop into medallions about half a cm thick. Then add the red curry paste and rub it into the pork with your hands until it is evenly coated. Set aside.

Put the coconut milk into a wok and fry for 3-5 minutes on a medium high heat, stirring continuously, the milk will bubble and start to thicken a little. Then add the pork and cook until the outside of the meat is cooked. Add the courgettes and simmer until the pork and courgette are cooked through. I put a lid on at this point and find that it usually takes about 5-7 minutes. I keep an eagle eye on things and keep testing the pork so as not to overcook it.

Combine the sugar, fish sauce and lime juice in a small bowl and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Then add to the wok with half the basil leaves and stir to combine.

Serve with the remaining basil leaves sprinkled over the top and a good pile of rice (see my post ‘Nice Rice’).


Don’t be tempted to use other pork cuts for this dish however lean. I tried pork steaks and it tasted fine but the meat was ever so tough. The dish does work well with chicken breast however.

I add courgettes because they are in season but the original recipe doesn’t include any veg. I think they work well in this dish but would leave them out if they weren’t in season.

I’ve tried making my own curry paste but the Mae Ploy one is so good that I really don’t think it is worth the bother. Whatever you do though don’t buy what they call red curry ‘sauce’ which they sell in jars.

thai cookery school

Back in the day at the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School.
Spot a sweaty me inspecting potatoes at the market.