A particularly delicious example of how quick and easy it can be to make a Thai soup. Serve it in Chinese porcelain bowls if you've got them. The kaffir lime leaves and galangal (a type of ginger used in Thai cooking) are served but not eaten. The chilli may, of course, be nibbled. Prawns and shrimps can be substituted for the chicken in this recipe with equally delicious results.
900ml chicken stock 4 kaffir lime leaves 5cm piece of galangal, peeled and sliced, or a smaller piece of fresh root ginger 4 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla) 6 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice 225g free-range organic chicken breast, very finely sliced 225ml coconut milk 1-3 red Thai chillies 5 tbsp coriander leaves
Put the chicken stock into a saucepan and add the lime leaves, galangal or ginger, fish sauce and lemon juice. Bring to the boil, stirring continuously, then add the finely sliced chicken and the coconut milk. Continue to cook over a high heat for a minute or two, until the chicken is just cooked.
Crush the chillies with a knife, add to the soup along with the coriander leaves and cook for just a few seconds. Ladle into warmed Chinese rice bowls and serve immediately.
(Blanched and refreshed rice noodles are a great addition to this soup - hey presto, you have a main course. Serve in wide pasta bowls, with lots of fresh coriander scattered over the top.)
SCRUMMY CHICKEN PIE Serves six to eight
This can be prepared ahead of time - refrigerate until required and increase the cooking time by a few minutes.
850ml chicken stock or water 2 large carrots, cut into chunks 2 large unpeeled onions, quartered 2 celery sticks, cut into small chunks 6 black peppercorns 1 bouquet garni 1 large free-range organic chicken or boiling fowl 1 sprig of tarragon (optional) 16 small flat mushrooms 25g butter salt and freshly ground black pepper 16 button onions, peeled 450g streaky bacon in a piece, cooked 110g peas - frozen ones are fine 500g puff pastry egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp milk) green salad, to serve
For the sauce 150ml dry white wine 110g roux (melt 110g salted butter over a low heat, add 110g plain flour, and cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally) 250ml single cream
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. In a heavy casserole, pour chicken stock or water to a depth of 5cm and add the carrots, large onions, celery, peppercorns and bouquet garni. Lay the chicken on top. Add a sprig of tarragon if available, and cover with a tightly fitting lid. Bring to the boil and then transfer to the oven. Cook for an hour to an hour and a half, depending on the size of the bird - when it is cooked, the leg joints should feel loose and there should be no trace of pinkness. Ensure that it does not boil dry - check from time to time and add more liquid as necessary. The cooking liquid should be deliciously rich and maybe a little fatty.
Meanwhile, fry the mushrooms in a little of the butter in a hot pan and season with salt and pepper. Sweat the onions in butter in a small covered pan until soft. Cut the cooked bacon into cubes. Remove the chicken from the casserole on to a large platter, reserving the cooking liquid. Increase the oven temperature to 230°C/450°F/gas mark 8.
Carve the chicken flesh and arrange the slices in layers in a deep pie dish (or in six to eight small individual pie dishes), covering each layer with bacon, onions and mushrooms. Add the peas (no need to pre-cook).
Next make the sauce. Strain and degrease the cooking liquid. Put 600ml of it with the wine into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Whisk in the roux and cook until thick and smooth. Add the cream and bring to the boil again, then remove from the heat. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Allow to cool.
Pour the cooled sauce over the chicken and vegetables in the pie dish and cover with puff pastry. Just before cooking, brush the top of the pastry with egg wash. Bake for ten minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 and bake for a further 15 to 20 minutes, or until the pastry turns golden-brown. Serve with a green salad.
PAELLA Serves 10 to 12
Paella is a fantastic dish to make for large numbers of people. You will need a shallow pan, about 46cm in diameter.
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 225g streaky pork, cut into 2.5cm cubes 2 large onions, chopped; 8 garlic cloves, sliced 2 large peppers (1 green, 1 red), deseeded and cut into 1cm cubes 1 free-range organic chicken, jointed and cut into smallish pieces salt and freshly ground pepper 1 chorizo sausage, thickly sliced 1 tsp saffron strands 1.8-2.4 litres chicken stock 1kg paella rice 450g frozen peas 450g mussels, in their shells 12 prawns, in their shells
To garnish 4 very ripe tomatoes, chopped sprigs of flat-leaf parsley coarsely chopped chives
Warm the olive oil in the paella pan. Add the pork and cook for a few minutes, until the fat begins to run. Add the onions, garlic and peppers and cook for four to five minutes. Add the chicken and season with salt and freshly ground pepper, then add the sliced chorizo. Cook, stirring regularly, for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, soak the saffron strands in a cup of warm chicken stock.
Add the saffron and its soaking liquid to the pan, then stir in the uncooked rice. Pour in enough stock to almost cover the rice and stir to blend. Add the peas and then don't stir again unless absolutely necessary. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer very gently, uncovered, for about 20 minutes - until the meat is fully cooked through.
About five minutes from the end of cooking, add the mussels and prawns in their shells. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mussels open and the prawns are cooked; discard any mussels that do not open.
Bring the paella pan to the table and scatter with chopped tomatoes, lots of flat-leaf parsley and some chives. Serve directly from the pan.
ADORABLE BABY BANOFFEES Serves 8 to 12
Have a few tins of condensed milk ready in your larder, so that you can make this yummy pud any time you fancy.
1 x 400g tin condensed milk 8-12 digestive biscuits 3 bananas juice of 1 lemon 225ml whipped cream toasted flaked almonds chocolate curls made from about 175g chocolate
You will need a glass or bowl for each guest. To make the toffee, put the unopened tin of condensed milk into a saucepan and cover with hot water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for three hours.
Break a biscuit into each glass or bowl. Peel and slice the bananas and toss these in the lemon juice and then put some in each bowl. Top with a little toffee and put a blob of lightly whipped cream on top. Sprinkle with flaked almonds and decorate with a few chocolate curls.