Thai Chicken Soup

When we go to Europe to visit friends and family we usually spend a week in Thailand on the way home. All that galloping around seeing people and having a good time, not to mention all that eating, is exhausting. Breaking the journey allows us to adjust to most of the time difference and arrive feeling refreshed. We love the Thai people, the food and the wonderfully therapeutic massages.

This soup is quite filling, so it’s a main-course or lunch time kind of soup rather than a starter. On the table in less than half an hour, it’s full of delicious contrasting flavours and textures.

Thai Chicken Soup1 large onion, finely chopped
2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 Tbs curry paste (preferably Thai Green or Red, but any will do)
About 400g raw chicken meat (breasts or thighs) finely sliced
1 tin coconut milk (400ml)
1 litre water and 1 chicken stock cube (or use homemade chicken stock)
2-3 heaped tsp grated ginger
2 stalks lemon grass, finely sliced (optional)
1 small red chilli, seeded and finely chopped
1 Tbs palm sugar or brown sugar
2 Tbs Fish Sauce
Juice one lime or ½ large lemon
200g quick cooking Chinese noodles (see note)
2-3 thinly sliced spring onions – white and some of the green part
1 cup beansprouts
½ cup fresh, roughly chopped, coriander
Salt to taste

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan and cook onion until soft but not brown, stirring often. Add curry paste and chicken and cook, stirring for 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients down as far as the lime or lemon juice. Simmer for a few minutes until chicken is cooked. Add salt to taste, then turn off the heat and add the noodles and spring onions. Cover and leave to stand 2-3 minutes. Place a small handful of beansprouts in 4 large soup bowls. Ladle soup on top and garnish with coriander.

Serves 4

Note: any quick-cook noodles will do, including individual packs of instant noodles.

Thai Pumpkin Soup

I borrowed a cook book from the library last week called Five of the Best by Valli Little.  It was printed to celebrate five years of the Australian food magazine Delicious.  I read cookbooks the way some people read novels and by the time I had finished going through the recipes I had decided to buy a copy so I ordered one from the ABC bookshop.  So far I’ve made several dishes including Tuna Stuffed Capsicum, Cauliflower Cheese Soup, Baked Eggplant with Goat Cheese and Cream and Thai Pumpkin Soup – all very good.  We’re not vegetarians, but sometimes I think it makes a nice change to skip meat for a few days.  Here’s the Pumpkin Soup recipe.

Thai Pumpkin Soup with Coriander Pesto

2 bunches fresh coriander, roots trimmed
(a few leaves reserved for garnish)
zest and juice of 1 lemon
2 garlic cloves
4 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp grated ginger (I used a bit more)
1 Tbs Thai red curry paste
1 kg pumpkin, peeled and cut into small pieces
2 cups (500ml) vegetable or chicken stock
400ml can light coconut milk
thinly sliced red onion and thinly sliced red
chilli, to garnish

To make the pesto place coriander, lemon zest, lemon juice and garlic in food processor.  Process adding 3 Tbs oil to make a sauce consistency, season to taste.

Heat remaining tablespoon oil in a large pan over medium head.  Add onion and stir for a minute.  Add ginger and curry paste and stir for a minute.  Add pumpkin and stock, bring to the boil, then simmer 15 minutes or until pumpkin is cooked.  Cool a bit then blend until smooth.  Return to the pan, add coconut milk and season, then warm through.

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with a swirl of pesto, some onion, chilli and reserved coriander leaves.

Serves 6

Note: to make a more substantial meal, serve with croutons or toast.