Number 5 – Learn to cook Thai

Today I stocked up on the basics. Having gone through my recipe books last night, I made a list of all the ingredients I need to make any or all of the sauces, dressings, pastes and stocks within. What I failed to note were the main ingredients (meat, vegetables and rice/noodles). Thus, when it came time to cook, I found I had nothing but herbs, spices, leaves, roots and an assortment of other strange ingredients no more substantial than a herbal tea. At 9:30 we sat down to eat – two stuffed baby capsicums each (not particularly Thai I know, but for want of other ingredients…) supplemented by a single cob of corn and an individual-sized serve of pumpkin soup.

I  have, however, made a cumin-coriander crema  and a bastardised version of fish stock (a.k.a. chicken) for Tom Yum Goong which, I am assured, will taste better tomorrow.


It didn’t. Or perhaps it did but it was still bloody awful.

Tonight’s recipe comes from Cafe Pasqual’s, Spirited Recipes from Santa Fe, which is actually more Thai-inspired than it sounds.

Pan-seared salmon with roasted cumin-coriander crema and chipotle salsa, sans the chipotle salsa (and substituting chicken for salmon).

Having spent way too much on the basics, I was reluctant to fork out any more money on ingredients that had no further use past one dish. In a serendipitous turn of events, my father, who is dating a woman originally from Mexico, had a can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce sitting on his kitchen table – exactly what I need for the salsa. Never before have I heard of this until last night, and then today…

So tonight I will cook pan-seared chicken with roasted cumin-coriander crema and chipotle salsa.


After spending many, many precious hours in the kitchen with little to show for the effort except a few strange-tasting concoctions which inevitably end up down the drain or in the bin, depending on consistency (because even the dog won’t touch them),  and discovering that I am unable to follow someone else’s recipe with any degree of success, I am returning to the original idea of creating my own signature dish. This, I imagine, must be one’s own concoction, and ideally created using ingredients that one would commonly find in one’s own kitchen.

I take a brief inventory of what is in my own.

Flour – usually (and only) enough to thicken a sauce
Black olives —  three or four swimming in a jar of vinegar
Vinegar – with a few stray olives swimming around
Grapes clearly on their way to becomming raisins
Garlic that has begun to sprout
Sprinkles (from several almost-empty packets that spill out and decorate my cupboard shelf)
Mint jelly – who bought that anyway and how long ago (and perhaps, more importantly, why can’t I bring myself to throw it out)?
Frozen peas that double as an ice-pack
Capers – how long do they last?
The remainder of the wholemeal pasta I tried once and thought I would attempt again when the original memory has faded
A dented can of tomatoes

I can now add to that:

Fish Sauce
Tamarind Paste
Two dried stalks of lemon grass
Sambal oelic
1/4 lime
A shrivelled knob of ginger
Palm Sugar
Chipotle chillies in adobo sauce
Dried galangal
Once-fresh Kaffir lime leaves
A variety of ground seeds

None of which I know how to throw together to produce anything other than the colour brown.

Perhaps I’ll just try baking a loaf of bread.


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