I'm sorry if I've been a bit quiet of late. You see, I've been busy with my head down doing the final edit on my new book and battling the flu. And I know what you might be thinking - it seems like it has been a long time coming and it has! Unfortunately my book won't come out in April as there was a delay internally at Penguin so I'm now frantically editing it and then we will get a new publishing date. I'm so sorry to the people that pre ordered it for the April release date but I promise you as soon as we get the release date once it goes to "pages" then I will pass it on. I just want it to come out! :)
I can't say that I'm particularly good with long spells editing and staring at pages of text. One day, after five solid hours of editing I left the house. Everything looked weird. The trees looked unfamiliar and it was all I could do, not to high tail it back to the comfort of home and sit in front of my glowing computer monitor bug eyed, watching the black words dance across the white screen.
Another day I did a few hours of editing and perhaps it was too much when combined with being ill. I even started to feel a bit tipsy. I rang Mr NQN at work. He sits in an open plan office and he is always very serious on the phone.
"Why helllooo sailor!" I said to him.
"Er hello, what is it?" he asked before whispering "Are you ok?"
"I'm fine, happy as a cat. Can you meow like a cat?"
"No" he replied, quite rightly I suppose, " but thank you" he added as if I were a telemarketer that was trying to sell him something. No matter how I begged, he wouldn't meow like a cat. He's soberingly adult that way.
To give myself a break and to make my way back into the world of the sober I thought I would prepare dinner a bit earlier. It was an easy dish and one that I have made a few times. The key to a stir fry, and indeed much of Asian food is to have all of the ingredients ready before you begin i.e. your mise en place. Stir fries are fast and cooked on high heat ideally in a wok which gives even heat on all sides and the food is moved around quickly around the wok to cook it quickly and seal in the flavour. So there is no time to chop or prepare while furiously frying so you're best to do it all beforehand.
This is one of Mr NQN's favourite dishes which are fabulously easy and he says is like what you could get in a Thai restaurant. He is perhaps being polite but everyone that I've served this to has eaten up every single piece and there is never any leftovers. Even better is when I serve it with coconut rice, which is very easy and just requires coconut cream and desiccated coconut mixed in with rice instead of water.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go back to meowing like a cat.
So tell me Dear Reader, are you good at concentrating on things for periods of time or do you like variety in your tasks? And would you consider yourself patient or impatient?
Thai Basil, Chicken & Cashew Stir Fry With Coconut Rice
2 tablespoons kecap manis sweet soy sauce (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon palm sugar, chopped finely to help it dissolve (you can use regular white or brown sugar)
3-4 tablespoons oil
2 golden eschallots, sliced (or one brown onion)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup green onions, sliced
2 large red chillies, chopped into rounds
500g/1 pound chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces
3/4 cup raw cashews
1 small red capsicum pepper, sliced into strips
150g/5 ozs green beans, topped and tailed and cut in half
1 whole bunch of Thai sweet basil or holy basil
1 cup Thai jasmine rice
1 1/4 cups coconut cream
3 tablespoons desiccated coconut
pinch of salt
Buyer's tip: Kecap manis or Indonesian sweet soy sauce can be found in the Asian section of supermarkets. It is a thick, viscous version of soy sauce. Thai basil or holy basil has a delicious aniseed aroma to it and regular green basil cannot be substituted for it. You can find it at Asian grocery stores and greengrocers.
Chopped palm sugar
Step 1 - Firstly, if you are making the coconut rice to go with this dish, start that before the stir fry as it takes up to 30 minutes (see recipe below). For the stir fry, make the sauce at the beginning as you want the palm sugar to dissolve as much as possible. Mix the sweet soy sauce, fish sauce, oyster sauce and palm sugar in a small bowl. Stir to combine and set aside.
Step 2 - Like most Asian food, once you have everything sliced up and ready to cook (your mise en place) everything is a breeze. The key to a wok is to have it on a high heat and keep the ingredients moving in the pan so having everything prepared beforehand in important as you'll be busy frying things. Heat a wok onto high heat and add 1-2 tablespoons of oil. Fry the eschallots, garlic, green onions and chilli for 1-2 minutes until the eschallots soften. Remove from wok and place in a large bowl or container.
Step 3 - Add another tablespoon of oil and then, in two batches, fry the chicken until browned on the outside. Remove from wok and place in the bowl with the onions, garlic and chilli. Scrape off any residue from the bottom of the wok that may remain from the chicken and then fry the cashews until golden and then add the capsicum pepper and the beans and stir fry these for a minute. Then add the chicken and onion mix back into the frypan along with the Thai basil. Drizzle over the sauce and keep frying until chicken is cooked through. Serve with coconut rice.
To make coconut rice:
Step 4 - Wash and drain the rice well. Stir through the desiccated coconut and coconut cream as well as a pinch of salt and bring to the boil and then turn down to a slow simmer (I use setting 1 on my cooktop which is the lowest it goes) for about 25-30 minutes. I find I get the best results with stovetop rice is when I do it low and slow and keep the lid on and just give it time to evaporate the water away. The rice will have tiny flecks of lightly toasted coconut which go beautifully with the stir fry.