Ok, I have a confession to make. I’m no dietician. However once a year I haplessly join the gormless brigade of detoxing numpties, to ritualistically starve my already lean body, merely to add fuel to the fire of gloating that burns within my belly. Adopting a posture akin to a Regency dandy, haughty and high, nose in the air as I regale those poor tubby souls with tales of slenderness, purity and restraint, riding the high horse to the top of the hill, demonstratively spurning the doughnut, the cheese toastie, the succulent roast beef and the steaming sticky toffee pudding with custard OH MY GOD I’M SO HUNGRY I COULD DIE!!!!
It’s day eleven or twelve or whatever, I don’t know I’ve given up counting; all I can think about is indulgence. The first few days weren’t too difficult. Every radish or stick of celery was loaded with meaning, each crunchy bite of wholesome superfood (it has negative calories you know – well whoopie-doo, so does air but you don’t order an oxygen burger!) seemed to spell dietary success. It genuinely does give one a feeling of achievement to omit so many pleasures – alcohol, sugary foods, fatty and fried foods, red meat, wheat, dairy and anything else that represents happiness. Cut to shot of man sobbing into watermelon slice.
The regime consists of fresh fish, fruit and vegetables and a little poultry. Grains are permitted so long as it’s not wheat. Potatoes are a no-no (starch, bad, nice, bad starch, naughty starch) but a small portion of rice once a day is allowed, like in Prisoner of War camps, you know? I eat rice crackers like I’m a size zero model chick. With brazen Metro-sexual macho liberal tweedy twottiness I munch those poxy rice puffs like my lowly subjugate life depends on it. Cucumber, ooh yes please no I mustn’t, not another baton I’ll explode (please God). It doesn’t come easily. Could you tell?
Naturally this exaggeration is for comic effect, and the porpoise of this post, man, is to deliver letters. Sorry, foodless fog of the noggin. This recipe is not only delicious but very healthy and figures in my detox plan.
On the west side of Ko Pan Yang island, alongside the long sands of Ban Kai sits a pretty nest of red shuttered beach hut bungalows, each with their own porch. The west side is far more peaceful than the neighbouring village of Haad Rin where vast droves of ravers frequently descend for full moon parties. Noy was our host at Rainbow bungalows and she can cook. I mean really. Proper, unadulterated homely Thai cookery, using totally fresh ingredients. Her Father even shinned up a tree to fetch coconuts for us the first time she made this outstanding soup. It makes a great hangover cure, especially when accompanied by a hair of the dog in the form of a rum-laced coconut milkshake. This recipe serves two people as a generous starter.
6 King prawns
1 chicken breast
Mange tout / sugar snap peas
A blade of lemongrass
Fresh galangal (Thumb sized piece)
1 clove of garlic
1 red chilli
Small handful of Thai sweet basil
3 lime leaves
1 tin of coconut milk / cream or fresh coconut if you can get it.
Slice the garlic, ginger, galangal and chilli in to long wafer thin slices. This allows the flavours to be absorbed more easily during cooking. Slice the chicken in to half-inch strips.
In a heavy bottomed pan, fry off the chicken and prawns in a teaspoon of sunflower oil over a medium heat until the chicken is white all over. Then add the garlic, shallots, ginger, lime leaves and galangal and stir again for a further two minutes.
Add the coconut milk and the same quantity of cold water. Smash the bulb of the lemongrass blade and split in half lengthways. Add this to the soup along with the mange-tout and sugar snap peas and bring to the boil, then simmer for three minutes.
Finally add the basil, squeeze a quarter wedge of lime, stir through and serve. You may wish to remove the lemongrass blade. Should you wish to boost this you can add rice noodles for the final two minutes and it will serve as a substantial main course. I’d advise removing the galangal and lemongrass before adding the noodles.