We’ve been back from our trip to Phuket for nearly two weeks now and already it feels like it was a dream. A gorgeous dream though … relaxed, chilled and involving no schedule and no driving. Perfect. To be honest we barely left the hotel and that suited us all just fine. You might remember that we were trying out a different hotel this time – The Banyan Tree – and very lovely it was too.
It’s not unusual for food to play a large part in our holidays and this one was no exception. The children had been desperately looking forward to the buffet breakfast and thankfully it ticked all the boxes. We are creatures of habit and after a day or two most of us had slipped into our breakfast of choice – for Joe, plenty of carbs to fuel his swim training (yes, that doesn’t stop for holidays) accompanied by sushi(?!) and for Hella, pancakes with chocolate sauce and maple syrup. Finn was our wild card, choosing something different every day. I especially liked the morning he thought he may be getting a cold and cleared the buffet of all their orange segments … seemed to work too.
When we weren’t eating, there was some yoga, pootling around on the hotel bikes, a bit of gym action, some swimming and plenty of reading – I wish I’d captured a photo of all five of us reading our Kindles in a row by the pool. Rock and roll we are …
We had enough rain storms to remind us desert dwellers of what a downpour is like and just as we had ordered, they were short and warm.
No visit to Thailand is complete without learning more about how to create some genuine Thai dishes in the hotel kitchen. We decided to do this en famille, so there was slicing and chopping; heating and stirring, before we could finally do the tasting.
And what did we learn? Well, we learned how to make three delicious dishes – a prawn salad, a hot and sour soup and a green chicken curry. But the biggest thing we learned was that we have a laughable tolerance for spice! – especially ‘Double Spice’ Joe who was rather free and easy with the curry paste. The lovely waitress in the restaurant area where we dined on our creations was very sympathetic, bringing us plenty of water, cold towels, cooling milkshakes and directing all of the fans in the room to blast us with chilled air – but I bet she had a giggle behind closed doors!
Come to think of it, the other thing that our cookery course reminded me, was that with a little preparation beforehand, Thai food is so very quick and easy to throw together … it truly is gorgeous food – no fuss. And this is one of my favourites, Thai Chicken Satay Rice Bowl and it’s –
- tasty enough to lift your spirits on a cold and miserable evening
- light enough to be perfect on a summer’s day
- perfect for preparing earlier in the day and throwing together at the last moment (see below)
- easy enough for the most inexperienced of cooks
- quick enough for the most impatient of cooks
- ‘wam bam impact’ enough for a dinner party dish
Flippin’ marvellous, in summary.
It does use a ready-made paste, and you know my thoughts on that, but here, there are so many other things going on that it works.
You could of course, do everything just before you serve it – but for me, even relatively simple things like cooking rice, are much more likely to come out perfectly if I can sort them out when the kitchen is quieter and I don’t have loads of other distractions. I tend to do it like this –
Step 1 – Cook the rice. Drain and cool.
Step 2 – Make the sauce and leave it in the saucepan.
Step 3 – Prepare the ‘salady’ toppings.
Step 4 – Cook the chicken and slice it up.
Step 5 – Store everything in the fridge until I’m ready to use it later in the day.
Step 6 – Warm the sauce on the hob.
Step 7 – Use some flat, shallow bowls and divide the rice between them. Share the chicken between the bowls and arrange on top of the rice. I warm each dish of food in the microwave at this stage – choose a MEDIUM setting and nobody will ever know.
Step 8 – Ladle the sauce over the warmed rice and chicken.
Step 9 – Pile on the toppings and enjoy.
Sometimes, I use chicken breasts instead of thighs and poach them before shredding the meat. Personally, I prefer thighs, but if you don’t want to do the frying (or clean up the mess afterwards) breasts are a good alternative.
This is the sort of food I could eat everyday … and as it took me a few attempts to get the photos right, that’s not too far from the reality of this week! Life is good …
Of course, on our last day, there was the inevitable debate – Indigo Pearl or The Banyan Tree? And it was unanimous. We’d had a wonderful holiday at The Banyan Tree, but our hearts, they were still in Indigo Pearl.
- 6 chicken thighs, skin on, bone removed OR 500g chicken breasts
- 2 tsp curry powder
- a drizzle of olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 30g Thai yellow curry paste - or to taste
- 600ml coconut milk
- 600ml chicken stock
- 3 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
- 3 tbsp light soft brown sugar (or palm sugar if you have it to hand)
- 3 tbsp fish sauce
- 12 lime leaves
- 400g white rice
- a small cucumber, cut into matchsticks
- 6 spring onions, cut into matchsticks
- 2 large handfuls of bean sprouts
- a handful of sugar snaps, cut into matchsticks
- 2 tbsp salted peanuts
- a small handful each of fresh coriander and basil leaves
- To make the sauce, drizzle a little oil into the bottom of a pan over a moderate heat. Add the curry paste and fry for 2 minutes. Pour over the coconut milk and chicken stock and add the peanut butter, sugar, fish sauce and lime leaves. Stir well to ensure that everything is well combined. Bring to the boil, then turn down and leave to simmer for 5 minutes. Keep warm if you are planning to use it straight away.
- If you are using chicken thighs - rub the chicken thighs with the curry powder and season lightly. Heat a frying pan until smoking, and cook the thighs skin-side down until the skin is crispy and lightly charred - this will take 4-5 minutes. Then turn over and cook for a further 4-5 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from the pan and set aside. Once rested, cut the meat into thick slices, pouring any excess cooking juices into the curry sauce.
- If you are using chicken breasts - bring a pan of water to the boil and add the curry powder. Use the water to poach the chicken for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from the water, allow the chicken to cool and shred the meat with your fingers.
- Cook the rice and divide it between bowls. Top each with the chicken, sauce, cucumber, spring onions, bean sprouts, sugar snaps and peanuts. Scatter over the peanuts and serve.