See what I did there another terrible pun. But I remember the village fetes when I was growing up and there was always a coconut shy. You aimed a small hard wooden ball to knock down coconuts and win a prize. The only other time I encountered coconut in my childhood was the giant box of Bassett’s Liquorish Allsorts at Christmas. I ate far too many and was violently ill. It then took years to be able to stomach anything coconut flavoured. Thankfully I now like coconut in curries, desserts and love coconut sorbet. So I am not really happy to bring you this very tasty recipe for Thai Coconut Fish Soup. I still think desiccated coconut is made from Satan’s hoof clippings.
I love the contrasts and combinations in Thai cooking, salt, sweet, heat and sour. Recipes such as Thai style crab cakes and Seafood Tom Yam. Most of the aromatic ingredients are now available in a good supermarket or specialist Asian shop. You can use creamed coconut or coconut milk in the recipe and any seafood you really fancy. I have used monkfish but you can use any firm white fish. You can add prawns, squid, and mussels if you wish. This soup honours the spirit of Thai cooking rather than being wholly authentic so uses key Thai ingredients. There are chillies, galangal, coriander, and garlic flavouring the coconut base.
Thai-style Seafood Soup is a tasty favourite, poached monkfish and prawns, simmered in the spicy coconut broth flavoured with classic Thai ingredients. The kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass and crispy deep-fried shallots are all available in good Asian retailers or markets.
I have been going through some old files on my laptop and I found a picture of my shy and retiring self on the stage cooking at the first Jersey Food Festival making a delicious shellfish dish Jersey Mussels with Garlic, Chilli, Caraway, and Beer.
Preparing tomato concassé, the beer was for cooking!
The festival was a week of fantastic events culminating in a two-day market highlighting the islands best produce and some of its chefs. I was there to help promote the Liberation Brewery and produced three dishes all including ale. The following recipe for is one of them, it is unashamedly stuffed full of wonderful Jersey ingredients, including the amazing mussels, but you can of course use your own local supplies, it just might not taste quite so good.
Jersey Mussels with Garlic, Chilli, Caraway, and Beer is a full flavoured spiced version of steamed mussels. Liberation Ale replaces the more common wine normally associated with mussels. The shallots and tomato concassé add a little sweetness and the dish is finished with fresh coriander. Most people in the audience seemed to understand my measurements, a slosh or a glug, especially after a glass or so of ale so I’ve kept them in the recipe.
To make the concassé, with a sharp knife remove the eye of the tomato ( the small white area where the stem joined the tomato ) and make a small cross on the bottom. Plunge in boiling water for two minutes. Remove and refresh in ice cold water. Gently peel off the skin. Quarter the tomatoes and remove the core and seeds. Dice and put to one side.
In a very large heavy bottomed pan toast the caraway seeds for two minutes over a moderate heat. Add the butter and the olive oil. Add the shallots and garlic and sauté for around twenty-five minutes to soften them. Turn up the heat and add the ale and the chilli, coriander, and a good few turns of the pepper mill. Tip in the mussels and cover with tight-fitting lid. Steam for five minutes shaking the pan occasionally until the mussels are all open. Add the tomato concassé stir and cook for two more minutes. Finish with more black pepper, the lemon juice, and the chopped coriander.
Serve with warm Naan bread to mop up the sauce.
What to Drink? A fruity French Rosé will stand up to the spices and tomatoes as will the slightly bitter flavours of Belgium pale ales.
The popular misconception is that Marie Antoinette famously said of the starving French peasants at her gates, “Let them eat cake”. What she actually said was actually “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche. In France, the home of this delicious enriched dough, brioche is properly served as a breakfast cake. In fact, brioche is a hybrid, part bread part cake, it is made in the same way as you make bread, with the addition of eggs and butter and can also have extra sugar added for a sweeter flavour. The technical term for this pastry cum sweet, buttery dough is Viennoiserie, which includes all of those lovely, if rather naughty breakfast treats, like pain aux chocolate and croissants.
I love the stuff, brioche is amazingly versatile and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner, used as a pastry and the basis of many desserts. Golden brown, freshly baked brioche can be filled with raisins or chocolate chips, simply spread with extra butter and strawberry or apricot jam or as is increasingly popular as a wonderful bun for a burger. As a pastry brioche reaches a height of culinary naughtiness and a decadence that maybe would have shamed even the haughty Marie Antoinette. Wrapped around Cervelas de Lyon, truffle flavoured sausages to you and me, fillet steak or luxurious foie gras mousseline. The most celebrated brioche recipe, Coulibiac, is a type of Russian pie filled with sturgeon, buckwheat, hard-boiled eggs, mushrooms, onions, and dill. Brioche in history was truly fit for kings and queens even if they did not live to enjoy it.
Fresh Brioche Loaf
For my recipe, I need you to get hold of four large brioche buns and resist any temptation to toast them and spread with pate or jam. We are going a little a la Robert Carrier and all 1970’s and using them as a bowl to be filled with plump mussels and clams in a full flavoured broth. Old fashioned it may be, but it is a show stopper and terrifically tasty to boot and once you’ve done it I am sure it will become a favourite. Enjoy.
Fresh Mussel and Clam Stew in Brioche
Mussel and Clam Stew stuffed Brioche Buns serves 4
Fresh quality mussels and clams are readily available at all good fishmongers. Preparing mussels and clams is not a difficult job or something to fear. Under a slow running, tap scrape off any limpets or items stuck to the shells with a small sharp knife. Some mussels may have a small bushy beard pushed out of the shell. Grabbed between the knife blade and your thumb, a sharp tug should remove it. Wash all the prepared mussels and clams under the tap for a couple more minutes and drain. You can store them in the bottom of your fridge covered with damp kitchen paper until needed.
50 ml of Vermouth ( White Wine is a great substitute )
25 ml Olive Oil
25 gr Butter
1 fresh Egg
Juice of one fresh Lemon
Freshly ground Black Pepper
In a large, heavy-bottomed pan ( with a tight-fitting lid ), melt the butter and add the oil. Over a medium heat soften the shallots for ten minutes without colouring. Add the garlic and cook out for two or three minutes stirring continuously. Tip in the mussels and clams and add the Vermouth place on the lid add steam the shellfish for five to six minutes. Carefully holding the pan with a heatproof cloth remove from the heat. Place a colander in a large glass bowl and tip in the mussels and allow to cool. Reserve the cooking liquid to be used to make the final sauce.
Preheat the oven to 325 F / 160 C / Gas Mark 3. Very carefully using a bread knife cut the top quarter of your brioche buns off to form lids. Using a small knife cut into the bottoms of the brioche buns then scoop out the majority of the interior. This can be saved to make sweet breadcrumbs to use on desserts. Whisk the egg with a little cold water in a small bowl, then brush all over the inside, outside and lids of the buns. Place on a silicone baking tray and bake in the oven for ten to fifteen minutes.
When cool pick the majority of the mussels and clams from their shells leaving a handful for garnishing. Carefully pour the cooking liquid through a fine strainer into a small pan and place on a medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce the volume by half. Add the cream and simmer for a couple more minutes before seasoning with a generous grind of pepper. Add the mussels and clams and gently heat in the sauce. Take care not to boil or the shellfish will toughen, add the lemon juice and finely chopped dill, taste and add more pepper if required.
Place the brioche rolls onto deep lipped plates or bowls and carefully spoon in the picked mussels and clams. Fill with sauce and top with the prepared lids. Spoon around a little extra liquid and the retained shellfish in shells and sprinkle with a little extra dill to garnish.
What to Drink? This is a rich seafood dish and pairs well with the classic accompaniment for mussels, dry wines such as Muscadet or German-style Riesling wines or a cloudy Continental beer such as Hoegaarden.
I like spicy food, not hair-raising hot curries and the like, but I enjoy a nice kick and I love the layers of different flavours you can build. One of my favourite chilli-based dishes is Tom yam, a hot and sour Thai soup flavoured with fragrant spices and aromatics; a good chicken stock flavoured with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, and galangal, which is now popular around the world. It is usually made with pork or shrimp, tomatoes, onion, maybe mushrooms, fish sauce, lime juice and coriander and may have Thai chilli jam or nam phrik phao added at the finish, which gives the soup a bright orange colour and a bigger chilli kick.
The base of a good Tom yam is a paste called Nam prik pao made from roasted garlic, chillies, shallots and as with many Thai bases dried shrimp. A commercially made paste is available and perfectly acceptable but I think for the most vibrant authentic taste it is best made fresh ingredients. There are a number of varieties of Tom yam the most popular of which are;-
Tom yam nam sai –a clear Tom yam soup
Tom yam kathi – a coconut milk based Tom yam
Tom yam kung – Tom yam with prawns
Tom yam kai– Chicken Tom yam
Tom yam kha mu – A slow cooked version made with pork leg
Tom yam po taek – Mixed seafood Tom yam
Seafood Tom yum
Seafood Tom yam
Seafood Tom yam, as you may have already guessed, is my particular favourite, poached fish, plump mussels and fresh prawns, simmered in the spicy broth is a really warming crowd pleaser. You can use any firm fish and experiment with adding squid and other seafood.
For Soup Base
1 litre quality Chicken stock
4 Lemongrass stalks, bruised and cut into large pieces
Heat the oven to 375 F / 190 C / Gas mark 5. Place the shallots, galangal, garlic and chillies on a tray and drizzle with the oil, place in the oven and roast for forty-five minutes until soft and caramelised. Remove from the oven, allow to cool and place in a food processor. Blitz to form a paste. Place the paste and the remaining ingredients into a large heavy-bottomed pan and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for twenty minutes. Remove from heat, allow to cool and strain.
300 ml Soup base
100 gr Cod or Monkfish ( boned, skinned and cut into chunks )
Heat the soup base up to a gentle simmer and add the fish, prawns and mushrooms. Cook for two minutes and add the mussels and the tomatoes. Cook for four more minutes then remove the soup from the heat, the mussels should be open and the prawns poached. Add the lime juice, spring onions and fresh coriander and check if any more ( seasoning ) fish sauce is required. Ladle into a bowl and serve.
What to Drink? Spicy Tom yam soup is a great match for the classic nutty toasted flavours of traditional Brown Ale and if you want to try a wine pair the slightly sweet, acidic tropical fruit flavours of an off-dry Reisling are a perfect foil for the chilli and spices.