Coconut Chicken Stew with Basil & Lime

IMG_9606There is something incredibly satisfying about stews, regardless of their country of origin. Pieces of vegetables nestled in a rich sauce, sometimes with meat, sometimes without. Once I discovered the wonderful aspects of Thai red & green curry pastes, I started playing with different versions of stews using coconut milk as a base. I remember a surprise visit of a large family, and making enough vegetable stew to feed us all easily, using a mixture of just the vegetables I had on hand, along with coconut milk and some curry paste. We served it over mounds of rice in large bowls while we got caught up on each other’s lives.

However, a day came when I didn’t have any curry paste in the pantry, so needed to go it alone. Often now, I tend to make this coconut based stew without the curry paste, and have sorted the ingredients out to make a wonderfully flavoured stew.   I’ve shown it here with chicken, but as the option that follows shows, it is completely wonderful as a meatless stew (although it does use fish sauce, so not completely vegetarian). Continue reading

Shallots with Sherry Reduction

IMG_5691Back in the day, I used to make pickles, lots of pickles of every sort.  One fall I made many pints of pickled onions, and thought it would be a good idea to top each jar with a small chili.  Unfortunately I used Bird’s Eye Chilies.  There they sat, for several months, infusing my cheerful little onions with their heat.

We opened a jar one night, to sample these wonderful treats, so carefully preserved earlier in the fall.  One bite, and our eyes were streaming, and our throats were on fire.  So much work to create an inedible pickle!  Fortunately for us, we had a friend who’d grown up in Indonesia eating foods far spicier than our palates are used to, and she happily tucked into them.  She graciously accepted the remaining pints.  I’ve never made pickled onions since.

However, I do enjoy the sweet & sour of pickled onions, and this recipe is a worthy substitute.  I love the colour of shallots, from their raw bright purple to their delicate pink when cooked.  Their flavour is sweet and oniony, and when cooked this way, makes an excellent addition to a buffet dinner, or as a garnish on a plated meal, and there’s no unintentional heat. Continue reading

Coconut Rice with Fragrant Onion Sauce

Image In my early 20’s my younger sister and I shared an apartment.  We had two cats, two bedrooms, and groups of friends five years apart.  Somehow it all worked.  I was big sister to many of her friends, and my responsibility for her kept me with my feet firmly on the ground.  We started off in a two bedroom ground floor suite that we could hop over the hedge and come in through the sliding doors, in a complex that had a pool that we never used.  Next step up was a one bedroom in a more amenable area, in an older building with bigger rooms, with a creepy guy across the way that used to exercise in his briefs (we called him Jock Strap).

Finally we moved into a huge two bedroom third floor suite.  It had been left in disrepair, so we made a quick agreement with the manager to paint the whole of it in exchange for the damage deposit.   There was even a horrible mustard yellow “feature” wall that had a large dark stain dribbled down it.  With a group of friends over one weekend (and a can of marine grade paint to cover the yellow wall), we got the whole of it done and moved into our first home-like suite.

There was a green grocer up the street who would sell us a stalk of celery or half a head of lettuce.  The butcher was across the street, with a grocery store across the laneway.  We ate well.  Not a lot, but well.

One of our mainstay dinners was a couple of pieces of chicken seasoned and baked for ½ an hour or so, while we cooked some rice and a veg.  Very plain, but it worked.  I think the format of the supper allowed me to get some nutrition in fairly quickly after a day’s work before I’d head down to the stables to train for a couple of hours.

Rice has always been an easy way to round out a meal.  I know we’re supposed to only eat brown rice, but it just takes too long!  I use it, but more usually Basmati or Japanese.  I’ll get my whole grains elsewhere.

When a large bowl of rice gets plunked down on a table family style, it quickly conforms to the shape of the bowl, and becomes less appealing.  This recipe builds in a bit of sauce, so it stays moist and tempting far longer. Tuck a couple of flowers in the side and your family will think you’ve gone all “gourmet” on them.       Continue reading