Life's better with cake and a sprinkle of fairy dust
Too many long days (and late nights) spent in school these few weeks. I’ve had hardly any time to cook my own meals. Most days, meals are hasty affairs picked up from the neighbourhood coffeeshop. Though much of the edible greenery in my little garden is ripe for the picking, I’ve had no opportunity to use it. The Thai basil has gone rather woody. The chilli padi have nearly all ripened. The mint is so overgrown it’s trying to creep its way into the lavender. It’s high time for some massive pruning and creative culinary escapades.
I cut back all the basil plants to just above the bottom two pairs of leaves on each stem. Anything lower may kill the plant for good. Whatever grows out of the cut segments in a few weeks will likely be tender green shoots, more suited for culinary use. Ended up with huge bunches of leaves, which I stripped from their woody stems and used in my favourite Thai one-dish meal, along with a few fiery chilli padi from the garden.
During my backpacking days around Thailand, Pad Kaprow, Thai Basil Stir-fry, was a dish I could eat for EVERY meal – breakfast, lunch, dinner or supper. Served over hot steaming rice and topped with a runny sunny-side-up egg, this was one of life’s simple pleasures. It’s terribly easy to make at home, requires only a few simple ingredients and no special equipment. There are no exact measurements as well; everything is to taste. It should serve 4-6 as part of a meal, but in our home of hearty appetites and low-carb (no rice!) diets, this serves 2 as the main meal, accompanied by some steamed veggies, plus leftovers for my lunch at school the next day.
1) Mince 2-3 chilli padi and 5-6 cloves of garlic. Saute with a touch of olive oil over med-high heat for a couple of minutes.
2) Add your mince. As much or as little as you like. I used about 450g of lean ground beef. You could use chicken (traditional), pork or any other meat. Toss it around a bit until the meat colour’s almost changed, for beef. If using pork or chicken, cook for a couple more minutes, just to make sure you don’t kill someone with your cooking.
3) Add 2 very generous cups of finely diced string beans. I had to use French beans as Hubby did the marketing this week, but they turned out ok, if a tad squeaky. Give it a quick toss.
4) Add a dash each of light soy and dark soy sauce, and 2 dashes of fish sauce. What’s a dash? Erm, no idea really. Told you there were no exact measurements. Add a pinch of sugar to balance the salty and spicy flavours. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.
5) When all is stirred and well, throw in the picked and washed Thai basil leaves. Turn off the heat and give everything a good stir through.
6) Lastly, serve up with a sunny-side-up egg per diner. On the streets of Bangkok, this is usually served over hot rice with a very greasy, crispy fried egg and a very runny yolk that spills its golden goodness into the savoury gravy and makes for a sinful emulsion that is then mopped up with every last bit of rice. To make the dish healthier, we lightly cooked our eggs in a non-stick pan.
No rice? No problem. One way to trick the Asian palate accustomed to eating rice into being satiated by low-carb dishes is to cut up the ingredients into minute pieces that mimic the texture of rice grains, e.g., finely diced vegetables or ground meat. The action of chewing these tiny morsels actually tricks the mind into a state of satiation. Try it for yourself.