Category Archives: Cookbook

Writing Goals: 5 for Winter

Here I will set my writing goals for the next few months as a way of creating an intention, only in this way will I follow through and prevent my inherent laziness!  As we approach winter and all that entails it seems to me a good time to write, to express fully what is burning inside and to make plans for the future while remaining firmly in the present. Setting these writing goals will help me to tap into that creativity.

Writing Goals -  bring back this creativity

Writing Goals – bring back this creativity

I’ve been a lax blogger in the last few months and while I can blame work and domestic issues the fact is I haven’t prioritised writing in any meaningful way, I haven’t taken the hints to write every day, to make time and focus, turn off the internet and lose myself in the written word for a while.

This is going to change. I feel it has to for my general sanity, so here I set my writing goals:

 

First of all I am going to take part in NaNoWriMo – the National Novel Writing Month – otherwise known as November.

The challenge here is to write a novel, from scratch, in the 30 days of the month. The target is 50,000 words, which is a lot considering the pace of London life and the social opportunities that always crop up.

I don’t even have an idea for a plot yet, although I’m thinking it might involve India.

So the first writing goal is to plan for, and then write a novel. Easy.

 

Number two on the list is to blog more regularly. Writing a journal is a good start but putting stuff out there makes me much less likely to become self-indulgent or lazy.

I’ve got several posts I could catch up on, although a lot of them are rather out of date now so it becomes a bit less easy to remember details. Still, I will set the writing goal of 1 blog post a week – minimum.

 

The third writing goal is to use my time more effectively. Get up earlier, stop wasting time on trivialities and spend it on writing, planning and doing practice that energises me.

My daily yoga practice for example has become something of myth and legend. I did practice this morning, and it was great, but I want to do that every morning and face the day rejuvenated.

So the goal is to rise at least an hour earlier than I need to for work. Practice and write before leaving the house. This in itself is what will give me the opportunity to reach the other writing goals in this list since carving out the time to write is the thing that I find hardest.

 

Four is to grasp new opportunities, and follow them through.

It seems simple but I don’t do it often enough. I have a nature that is calm, relaxed and perhaps to the outside seems unflappable but equally unlikely to get over-enthusiastic about things. Positivity is the key and pushing forward with projects that are important to me while only giving the time I absolutely need to for those that aren’t is crucial.

So being open to new things and experiencing whatever comes my way but also to set the time aside to NOT be distracted by messages, tweets and phone calls to actually do what I need to in the first place.

 

Finally, I want to make sure that the things I have going on already come to some fruition.

So, I will write more for the wonderful bods at Le Cool London, I will try to chase the Thai Cookbook that I spent quite a lot of time on last year, and I will continue to write for Weekend Notes, Recipe Yum and the like.

Stir Fried Fresh Beans and Red Curry Paste... Writing goals - publish the cookbook

Writing goals – publish the cookbook

I might never have mentioned I wrote a random e-book about Prince Philip last year and have a couple of others that I started work on, so they need to come to completion.

These are primarily my writing goals for the next few months. Write a novel. Do a minimum of one blog post a week. Keep writing on my existing platforms. Find new platforms. Write some ebooks.

I have other goals too. Learn to drive, speak Spanish, speak more confidently in public and create a lifestyle that allows me to do the things I love more regularly.

 

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Raw Food Masterclass Yuuga Kemistri

Click Here! ” target=”_blank”>meditationAsa Maria Bjornsdottir led this Raw Food workshop at Anna’s Kitchen in Tooting where we learnt how to make three dishes and a lot more besides…

Anything cooked over 48c will affect the enzymes so the benefit of raw food is that the good stuff remains intact. Eating an ideal balance of 75-80% raw food will improve skin and digestion.

The recipes we learnt were: Raw Creamy Spinach and Avocado Soup, Raw Spaghetti Marinara and Raw Yummy Apple Tart.

We started with the Apple Tart. Asa had already prepared the crust ingredients into an oily ball containing:
Almond flour (ground almonds), Medjool dates and a pinch of Pink Himalaya Salt.

We pressed this mixture into a tart base covered in cling film as tight as possible before adding the filling.
The blended mixture was made from apples, orange and lemon juice, vanilla powder, grated ginger and cinnamon.
On top of this we placed some thinly sliced apple which was cut using a rather fancy machine called a spiralizer.

You just push the apple through and out the other side comes a cored and very finely sliced swirl of apple flesh. This was marinated in agave syrup, vanilla, lemon juice and cinnamon before being placed on top of the filled tart.

Raw food desserts have a good reputation and this one didn’t disappoint. The “pastry” was delicious and more flavoursome than your average tart and the filling contrasted nicely, sweet, but not too sweet.

The soup was made in a blender and there was some discussion about the necessity for a super powered machine in order to break down the veg. I can understand this after my one attempt at making a green smoothie ended up with a drink that was not as smooth as I would have liked. The Kitchenaid Artisan was mentioned as a good one and although you could use a hand blender (called a magic stick in Iceland) it would be hard work.

The ingredients were as follows
Water
Spinach
Avocado
Celery
Garlic
Pinch of Pink Himalaya salt
Red pepper powder
Cumin
Cayenne Pepper

For a lighter soup you can add more spinach and for a creamier more filling dish increase the amount of avocado.

The finished Raw Food soup was topped with pumpkin seeds and a bit more red pepper powder and served cold (obviously).

It had a lot of flavour and tasted extremely healthy, so much so that each mouthful felt like it was cleansing my whole digestive tract. I wasn’t sure if I entirely liked it! Haha.

You could serve this with crackers or bread and Asa suggested an olive tapenade would go well with it as well.

The main course of Raw Spaghetti Marinara was delicious as well.
The marinara sauce was already partly blended and we made the courgette “spaghetti” using the spiralizer.

The Marinara sauce is made by whizzing together the following in a blender:

Red Bell Pepper
Celery
Soaked dried tomatoes (perfect to use lemon and olive oil)
Cherry Tomatoes
Garlic
Fresh Basil leaves
Fresh Rosemary
Fresh Parsley
Spring Onions
Celtic Sea Salt
Olive Oil
Date (optional)

Asa is an interesting and quite inspiring character. She doesn’t preach about raw food, lifestyle or any particular diet. She isn’t claiming that raw food is necessarily the way for everyone and pointed to around 80% raw being a realistic aim. She told us that she practices yoga and meditation and you can tell from her non-judgemental approach to diet that her spiritual practice and way of life lead to a balanced outlook.

Perhaps unsurprisingly I was the only man amongst a group of women who ranged from Raw food-curious to health food provocateurs. There were a lot of interesting questions and discussions about the benefits of various diets and supplements. Asa had a selection of products such as Raw Cacao, schzandra berries and purple corn flour.

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Chiang Mai: The Northern antidote. Guest Blog on TikiChris.com

I recently wrote a guest blog for Chris Osburn about my time in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Tiki Chris

Tiki Chris

I met Tiki Chris at a Qype Mini Golf event he organised way back when. (The mini golf alas is no longer there, and Qype is barely standing but it is good to see that Chris is still blogging away and living the dream.)

He is a freelance writer and making it work as a living so I thought it would be a good idea to have a chat with him about how he makes that happen and see if he could give me some tips.

We caught up at the London Bloggers Meet up and I told him about my time in Chiang Mai and my thoughts about making writing into a living rather than a hobby. It’s a long slog and you won’t make a fortune but it can give you freedom and an interesting lifestyle were the key points I took from it.

Anyway, he’s a cool guy and we met for coffee to discuss possibilities and I ended up writing a guest post for him about my time in Chiang Mai working with Duang and the healthy side of the city.

I’ll hopefully contribute a few more short pieces for him about Chiang Mai as well in the coming weeks. It’s always good to get your work out to a wider audience and although this was more of an introductory bit I’m quite happy with how it turned out.

You can read my piece about Chiang Mai on Tiki Chris‘s blog here:

http://tikichris.com/2013/02/05/guest-post-chiang-mai-thailands-northern-antidote/

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Brown Rice Organic Bistro in City Life Magazine

I’m now ensconced in Bangkok and enjoying the amazing street food, food courts at posh malls and white linen dining at a great Italian place… of course..

Meanwhile the cookbook comes along and Brown Rice Organic Bistro gets a couple of mentions in the latest edition of Chiang Mai’s City Life Magazine.

Firstly appearing in the City Buzz section, marking the place as one of the up and coming locations for dining in Chiang Mai and then Duang providing one of the recipes from the book for the End of The World Party – Mixed Fruit Spicy Salad..

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Last “Special” dishes and party at Brown Rice/Organic Bistro

It was our last day of cooking, Wednesday, the day Duang closes the restaurant so he proposed that we cook all of the 10 remaining dishes. We didn’t quite achieve that but we certainly made enough to feed the friends that I invited along…

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Next step is to tidy up the manuscript and then approach publishers (Duang has worked with one before).

Exciting times, although I couldn’t rest on my laurels too much since I had to dash over to Laos to renew my visa.

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Brown Rice/Organic Bistro – cookbook nearing completion…

Things are getting up a head of steam at the Brown Rice/Organic Bistro as we near completion of the Recipe Gathering stage of Operation Cookbook.

I’ve put a gallery below of some of our latest dishes and today we will be cooking up a lot of specials and having a small party to finish up the job… then it’s just a matter of writing it up and all the rest..!

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More Progress at Brown Rice/Organic Bistro

Big progress is being made at Brown Rice – both in terms of the book and the restaurant.
There are pictures above of some of the dishes we have been cooking and some of the new additions at the restaurant such as the Citron Honey Soda which is made from special lime-like fruit that has been delivered from Bangkok – not available anywhere else in Chiang Mai right now…

We made Pumpkin stuffed with Thai custard – appropriate for halloween along with a number of other Pumpkin dishes – Fries with Red Curry Sauce and Stir Fried Pumpkin with egg and sweet basil.

Other favourites were the Gluai Khaek – or Deep Fried Banana and the “Son-In-Law Egg” Boiled and deep fried eggs topped with fried shallots and dried chili and drizzled with Tamarind sauce. So called because cooking an egg in Thailand, as most places in the world is considered the bottom line in cooking ability and this variation on a simple dish represents the Son-in-Law trying to impress by doing something a bit different. It’s very popular amongst children in Thailand.

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Chinese Vegetarian Festival at Brown Rice/Organic Bistro

Every year in October Thais celebrate a Chinese festival of vegetarianism known as the Nine Emperor Gods Festival. It is celebrated all over Southeast Asia but with particular zeal in Thailand where stalls fly the yellow and red flag to signify that they are serving pure vegetarian food for the period. Phuket is where festivities hit their zenith with the 35% Chinese population also indulging in various other religious rites.
In Chiang Mai, Duang is happily celebrating the festival at Brown Rice Organic bistro since it perfectly fits in with the Vegetarian food that he already serves. Expecting more custom during this period as normally meat-eating customers forgo their normal dishes, Duang is serving a set menu each day along with just a couple of a La Carte options so that he can keep up with the demand.

The cookbook has been on the back-burner a little bit in the last week due to the move, this festival and a couple of trips I’ve taken with Sophie before she heads to India to facilitate a Tantra workshop. We had a great couple of weekends in Chiang Rai and Pai.

I have managed to get a few more recipes down though, notably deep fried Mushrooms with garlic, Herb Fried Rice, Deep Fried Tofu, cabbage with shitake soup and Pa Loh (Chinese 5 Spice Stew). I also learnt Duang’s technique for preparing Ready Cooked and Seasoned Shitake Mushrooms which he keeps and uses when necessary, a restaurant secret to make things quicker but also giving a better taste and smell than using fresh!

Today he served Deep Fried Tofu and Mushroom with Sweet and Sour Chilli Sauce, Stir Fried vegetables with Oyster Sauce and a three mushroom soup with Goji Berries.

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Behind the scenes – Gac Fruit juice for Compass magazine

Duang writes a monthly column for Compass magazine where he introduces various vegetarian dishes and new ideas to the Chiang Mai city audience in both Thai and English. With his new restaurant under renovation he invited me over to see his photoshoot for the new issue and see him making some delicious juice from one of the most nutritious fruits available.

I had never heard of the Gac fruit but it is quite popular in Vietnam in particular where it is often eaten as part of festivities such as the Tet New Year celebrations. When I looked into the facts Gac contains some pretty impressive health benefits, over 70 times the amount of Lycopene found in tomatoes and around 10 times the amount of Beta Carotene in carrots.

It is kind of flavourless though and Duang suggested that drinking it unmixed would not be very tasty so we were going to try juice with Orange, pineapple and starfruit.
First the photographers and I prodded and poked the strange looking fruit, showing that this is even uncommon for Thai people, and then slicing one in half the photoshoot commenced.

After some nice shots had been taken Duang scooped out the fleshy insides of the fruit which contain a lot of large seeds. These seeds are black and white, male and female, but it is the pulp around the seeds that we needed to make the juice and it needs to be concentrated. First using a strainer Duang pours water onto the seeds and using his hands scrapes the flesh off into a bowl, this process is repeated 4 or 5 times until the seeds are clean and there is a bowl full of watery Gac fruit flesh. He used around 1 litre of water for 3 Gac fruit.

This liquid is then brought to the boil with a pinch of salt and the resulting concentrate will keep for a long time in the fridge.
We then freshly juiced some oranges and used his “Champion” juicer to juice 2 pineapples and several starfruit. It’s a pretty cool juicer, the juice comes out the bottom and the pulp out of the end… simple.

The Gac fruit may not have a strong taste but it does have a strong colouration and so because of this it would be difficult to distinguish which juice was which. The solution is obvious, as Duang’s food stylist nature comes out and a beautiful garnish is applied to each glass.

After another photoshoot with the finished juices we got to try the pineapple and starfruit (which turned out to be the sour variety so Duang added some honey). Generally these will be served without any added sugar or water though. The Pineapple was especially delicious as was the mix of all three that we had at the end, hopefully this will be a successful seller at the new restaurant.

Speaking of which, it is coming along nicely. I helped with some moving the other day, riding around the city on the back of an overloaded pickup truck, which was fun. The guys had the really hard work though, sawing the edge off a table which we really struggled to get into the kitchen..

It’s coming together now though, Duang has a new sign up and the plan is to open for the soft launch next week..

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I’m writing a cookbook…!

I stumbled across Brown Rice/Organic Bistro while wandering the streets of Chiang Mai and was drawn in by the picture of the Tom Yum drink that advertised the establishment. I went to have a look at the menu which was led by such an unusual idea and was impressed to see an array of delicious looking and fabulously presented dishes.

We went back and had a feast of Banana Blossom Curry Cakes, Thai Herb Salad and Spicy Tofu with Basil leaves (a vegetarian take on Thai standard Pad Krapow)

The food was amazing although the setting was incongruous being in the front of the Green Oasis guesthouse. Its a nice enough place with some fun people but not really the right setting for chef Duang’s excellent food when Tony, the dreadlocked manager comes out dressed only in a towel.

We chatted with Duang about his story as the author of several Thai cookbooks and his work as a “food stylist” for various magazines and restaurants.  Impressed by his love of food and his enthusiasm for new and innovative vegetarian dishes we decided to sign up for a one day private cooking class the following week.


Here he taught us his take on the classic Pad Thai fried noodle dish – with the addition of a very beautiful “egg net” and how to make Tamarind Sauce, which he uses in many of his dishes.  We learnt his take on satay, using tofu and mushrooms and the traditional soups Tom Yum and Tom Kha which are very similar.  Tom Kha has the addition of coconut milk rather than the spicy and sour taste of clear Tom Yum.

During our cooking class we got talking about the prospect of an English cookbook and he seemed interested in working with me after I mentioned my food blogging past. We actually went back several times in the next week because one of his assistants didn’t turn up and he appreciated our help in the kitchen. It was during this time that the cookbook plan came into fruition.

I spent some time on Ko Phangan, which I’ll write about soon, and then came back to meet Duang just before he moves to his new restaurant near the beautiful Wat Phra Singh.

We have been working together for the last week and have already accumulated 7 recipes for the book starting with Mee Gati, thin rice noodles with coconut cream sauce.

I then learnt Curry Soy Cakes which is a variation on his Banana Blossom recipe but with tofu since that is more accessible for a western audience. These are just like Thai fish cakes but suitable for vegetarians and served with quickly deep fried crispy Thai Basil leaves for an aromatic crunch.

Pineapple Fried Rice is a fruity dish in its own right and his crispy tofu with spicy green Mango salad is just unbelievably good.  Yesterday we took part in a free cooking class he gives on the last Saturday of every month as part of a Government initiative to help small businesses. We learnt his take on potato samosas and Salad Khaek or Indian salad, a Thai “fusion” dish which is unlike any salad I have had in India or elsewhere but with a delicious dressing.

I’ll be in Chiang Mai for the next month or so working with Duang and compiling a set of recipes for us to include while learning some fantastic Thai cooking and I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on my progress.

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