Easy Thai Style Laksa and Proscuitto and Rocket Pizza

Easy Thai Style Laksa

Procuitto and Rocket Pizza

Notes from diary, early September 2008, back in Orange. The grass is about 2 ft tall, the kangaroos have trampled some the orchard trees that I spent hours nurturing, and the hares have ring barked almost all of the remainder (probably the farm trees too but I won’t look, I’m depressed enough). Still no raised beds.

The local residents. These two Grey Kangaroos are part of a mob of about thirty that like to sun themselves not twenty metres from our cottage in the early morning. When we’re not here, they become even bolder and “nibble” on and ocassionally knock over our precious fruit trees. I guess they were here first.

We spend several days doing more hard labour – smoothing out the builders rubble, spreading gravel for a car parking area and bark over bare sections of earth that will otherwise get covered with a weed aptly named Patersons Curse. I call the garden centre and ask them to replace what’s been destroyed and put cages around the base of the fruit trees and all the larger farm trees. Those blinking kangaroos.

I need to console myself. My husband suggests that when the going gets tough the tough go shopping. I'm not going to argue with that one. And am I glad I didn't - I find a new kitchen gadget (I rather like kitchen gadgets) an electric pizza oven. It’s not much bigger than one of those health grills, with electric elements in the base and lid that get very hot and a stone turntable that cooks and crisps the pizza on the underside. It was invented by a woman! How brilliant is that?

I'm impatient to try my new pizza maker. Piping hot, straight from the oven home cooked pizza for lunch. It was deeelicious!

Proscuitto and Rocket Pizza
Pizza this good is hard to come by and it’s so simple and quick, particularly with my little pizza oven. If you have the dough already made in the fridge (I generally keep some aside when making bread with my bread maker), it’s quicker and easier than making a couple of sandwiches. The dough actually improves if made 2 – 3 days ahead. I love the prosciutto and rocket topping but you can use whatever topping you like.

Makes 2 large pizza bases

200ml l warm water2 tsp instant yeast1 tbsp olive oil1 ½ cups bread or plain flour (plus extra for dusting)1 level tsp salt

Topping for 1 large pizza:
3 tsp tomato paste (puree double concentrate)3 tbsp grated mozzarella4 slices prosciutto1 bunch rocket leaves1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil:

  • Place all dough ingredients in the recommended order in the pan of your bread machine. Switch on and let the machine knead only until you have a smooth dough, about 3 minutes once all the ingredients have come together. (Dough that is well kneaded for bread making is too elastic to roll out). Keep an eye on it and add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky or a little more water if it looks too dry. The dough should be soft but not sticky.
  • Leave the dough in the pan to rise until it is about double in volume, about 45 minutes to an hour.
  • If you don’t have a bread making machine, mix the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and knead until smooth. Cover with a damp tea towel and place in a draught free place for about an hour until it is doubled in size.
  • Refrigerate the dough until required. Punch it down regularly until it is cold when it will stop rising.

When you’re ready to make pizza:

  • Heat the pizza oven to maximum or a pizza stone in a conventional oven at maximum temperature for 15 minutes or until very hot. Roll out the dough to the desired thickness, dusting with flour to stop it sticking.
  • Slap the dough onto the pizza stone, working quickly spread the tomato paste over the top, sprinkle over the cheese and close the lid or place stone back in oven.
  • Cook for 4-5 minutes in the pizza oven, and about 10-12 minutes in a conventional oven.
  • Transfer pizza to a large plate, slice into 4 sections. Top each section with a prosciutto slice and some rocket.
  • Drizzle with some good extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately with sea salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper

Having a change from Indian

When I reminisce about the heart warming Indian foods that my mum made for me, or savour the best that a good Indian restaurant has to offer, or try new dishes during my own cook ups, I am convinced that Indian food with its delicious spicy and complex flavours has to be the best in the world. But when I experience the intense, mouth-watering flavours and fresh herb aromas of Thai cuisine, I have to acknowledge that this must be a close second. Second only because it is difficult to relinquish the comfort one gets from eating the foods of one’s childhood.

Thai cuisine doesn’t have too many influences of eastern Asia, and apart from a handful of dishes that have an Indian influence, its cuisine is quite unique. Unlike Indian food that relies on a variety of spices and a range of dry spice mixes, Thai cuisine is more about fresh herbs like galangal (Thai ginger), lemon grass, kaffir limes, basils, mints and chillies and condiments such as dried shrimp, fish sauce, soy sauce and chilli pastes for its fantastic flavours and enticing aromas.

The secret of a great Thai dish is in the quality and freshness of the ingredients and the balance of the four main flavours – hot, sour, sweet and salty. It’s not always possible to source some of the ingredients so you can substitute. Lemon grass for example can be substituted with lemon juice, kaffir lime, with lime zest and juice and fish sauce with soy sauce or salt, but by using as many of the authentic ingredients that you can, you will ensure that your Thai dishes are bursting with flavour and fragrance.

Thai cuisine is also fabulously healthy. Galangal, ginger, garlic, lemon grass, chilli and herbs all supply health promoting substances. What about the coconut milk I hear you say? That’s healthy too. The fat in coconut milk is the same as found in mother’s milk and does not contribute to weight gain, unless consumed in excess of course. So go ahead, and cook some Thai food today.

Easy Thai Style Laksa

This is one of my favourite Thai dishes, mainly because it is simple to make but also because it’s so delicious it gives you a feeling of well-being as a multitude of wonderful, complex flavours explode on your taste buds. I generally make it when I have some left over free-range chicken from the previous night’s roast dinner. Using a ready-made paste and some fresh vegetables and herbs from my newly created organic garden it’s quick and easy. If I have some home made paste it’s even better, otherwise I use one from Aldi. It’s called simply “Asia – Red Curry Paste”. The lemon grass in the recipe makes quite a difference so do try and use it but if you don’t have it, don’t fret.

Do all the preparation first. Take the chicken out of the fridge so that it’s at room temperature. Mix all the sauce ingredients in a cup so that you’re not reaching out for a bottle of this or a jar of that. Prepare the herbs and vegetables and put them in individual piles on a tray or platter so that you can add them when you need to. Warm some bowls, set the table, pour a cool glass of crisp white wine, and dinner will be ready in 10 minutes.

Serves 2

Preparation time: 20 minutes. Cooking time: 10 minutes

Sauce: In a small bowl or cup combine 1 tbsp fish sauce, 2 tsp soy sauce, 1 tbsp soft brown sugar, 1 tsp finely chopped lime rind, 2 tbsp lime juice.

400ml chicken stock (or water and half a stock cube)
1 stalk lemon grass, pale part only, crushed and coarsely chopped
3-4 slices galangal or ginger
100g thin rice noodles or noodles of choice
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 large clove garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1 hot red chilli, finely sliced
1 x 400ml can coconut milk
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 head bok choy, leaves separated, large ones sliced lengthways
4 baby sweet corn, halved lengthways (optional)
12 snow pea pods (mange touts), topped and tailed, halved cross ways
1 cup cooked chicken, sliced into bite sized pieces
1 cup bean sprouts
1 spring onion, sliced into 2.5cm lengths and white part julienned
½ cup mint leaves
½ cup coriander leaves
1 large red chilli, sliced

To Serve; lime wedges and hot chilli sauce

  • Bring the stock to the boil and add the lemon grass and galangal or ginger slices. Turn off the heat and let it stand.
  • Soak the noodles in hot water for about 10 minutes (or prepare according to packet instructions if using other type of noodle) and set aside while preparing vegetables.
    Heat a saucepan on medium heat and fry the curry paste, garlic and chilli for about 30 seconds until fragrant.
  • Strain in the stock (discarding lemon grass and galangal) and add the coconut milk. Bring to the boil.
  • Add the carrot and bok choy and bring back to the boil. Simmer for a minute. Add the baby corn and simmer for another minute.
  • Add the prepared sauce and snow peas. Bring to the boil stirring, and turn off the heat. Do a taste test. Add more fish sauce, sugar or lime juice if desired.
  • Drain the noodles well and divide equally among warm bowls (you will find this easier if you cut them into two portions using kitchen scissors and transfer them to the bowls using tongs).
  • Top each bowl of noodles with chicken, bean sprouts, spring onion, mint and coriander leaves.
  • Ladle on the piping hot coconut mixture, dividing the vegetables more-or-less evenly. Garnish with red chilli slices. Enjoy with lime wedges and hot chilli sauce.

Well the beds finally arrive - the day before we are due to go back to Sydney.