On the blackboard in my kitchen there is a list. I call it my ‘eat up’ list because it details most of the perishables in my fridge (I’m not so anal as to list butter and milk…). I use it to remind me a) what I have b) what I need to cook/can cook and c) that although I love a bit of food shopping I don’t actually need to go and spend any money…
I find it especially useful on weeks like this, when I have made something like a Thai curry which, although very simple to cook, requires a long list of ingredients that won’t last. So right now, I have a fridge full of coconut milk, coriander, lime leaves and galangal. And, since I am not in the mood to make another curry, the next best use of them is Thai soup, tom kha kai to be precise, a coconut milk-based soup that is so simple it barely needs a recipe. Like many Thai dishes the technique is very easy; the step that takes a bit of getting used to is the seasoning but since it’s your soup, and therefore your seasoning, experiment until you get a balance of sweet and salt that you like. After a couple of goes the whole process will take you about ten minutes. Perfect on a day like today when, as the rain pours down, it feels like winter has just started.
Tom kha kai
For two portions you will need:
Cupboard (or things you may already have):
chicken stock, 250ml
granulated or caster sugar, a pinch
button mushrooms, 8
cherry tomatoes, 8
spring onion, 1
bird’s eye chillies, 2
fresh galangal, a piece about an inch-long (use fresh ginger if you can’t get galangal, but in that instance grate it)
lemon grass, 1 stick
coconut milk, 250ml
lime leaves, 2
fish sauce, a splash or two
coriander leaves, a handful
lemon juice, a squeeze
1. Prep: wipe and thinly slice the mushrooms; halve the tomatoes; top and tail the spring onion and slice into small pieces; de-stalk the chillies, crush slightly with the back of a knife but leave whole; slice the galangal or peel and grate the ginger; peel the tough outer leaf from the lemon grass, bash with the back of a knife and slice into two or three large pieces.
2. Put the coconut milk and chicken stock in a saucepan over a low heat, add the chillies, lemon grass, galangal and lime leaves and cook for a minute or two.
3. Add the mushrooms and tomatoes, bring to the boil then lower the heat and cook for about another five minutes until the veg are no longer raw.
4. Add the spring onions, coriander leaves, squeeze of lemon juice and a splash or two of fish sauce and a pinch of sugar and taste. This step is very much up to you: if it needs more salt add more fish sauce, more sweet, add more sugar, more zing, then add a tad more lemon juice.