Ah sunshine. That most elusive of luxuries at this time of year here in Blighty. The buds on the trees, the snowdrops in bloom, the lighter nights are but a tantalising reminder of that long forgotten thing called Summer.
Well the g&g household could stand it no longer. So this week we shut up the greenhouse, packed the kitchen sink and travelled to Thailand for a week of sunshine. And, as it happened, some allotmenting and cooking too.
Def. Busman’s holiday (noun): a vacation or day off from work spent in an activity closely resembling one’s work.
The resort we visited (Aleenta Hua Hin) not only had its own kitchen garden, but also offered the opportunity to spend a day perusing the food markets with the chef and then cooking up some lunch in the restaurant kitchen. Predictably, I jumped at the chance.
First stop: the market and an array of fruit and veg I’ve never even imagined before: a million varieties of aubergine; grapes the size of plums; mysterious little mango-apricot creatures, fresh green peppercorns; live eels, dried squid… you name it. We taste everything. Apart from the eels.
Next up: the Aleenta allotment. The large scale stuff (peanuts, bananas, pineapples and other Thai kitchen garden staples) are grown on another part of the farm but we’re more than content with the picking garden. We pull up fresh lemongrass; chew kaffir limes from the bush and inspect the tamarind tree which is beginning to fruit. I leave with visions of planing a lemongrass bush in the greenhouse….
Last stop is the kitchen where we set about making our feast. The menu reads thus:
Tod Man Pla
Tom Kha Gai
Pad Thai Goong
Kow Neow Mar Mueng
Well I’m glad that’s clear, then. Turns out we’re making fish cakes, chicken soup, prawn noodles and mango rice.
When we get cooking, it’s all a bit of whirlwind of lemongrass here, palm sugar there, deep fat fry this, finely chop that and I struggle to keep up with what goes where, despite the expert guidance of our Thai lady chef whose diminutive stature belies her ruthless efficiency and skill. So, rather than attempt to poorly relay every dish, I’ll just show you the finished results instead:
The fish cakes didn’t make it to the table to be photographed. They were so heavenly that we ate them before got them to the plate. Sorry. You’ll have to imagine them. Or pop over to Aleenta and they’ll show you how to make them, it’s only 3 hours from Bangkok…