Blog - Curry Twist

Noodles In Ayutthaya, Thailand

The ancient, historic town of Ayutthaya, situated about 85 km north of Bangkok, was once the magnificent capital of the great Thai empire that ruled over large areas of south-east Asia from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century. Named after the legendary city of Ayodhya in India, it reflects the seamless blending of Hindu and Buddhist cultures that is still found in Thailand.

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At the height of its powers, Ayutthaya ranked among the world’s greatest cities, with exquisite buildings and an elaborate grid of canals and roads. Visitors from China, India, Japan, Persia, the Arab world and Europe all came to marvel at the wonders of the city, to trade, or to study and worship in one of its many Buddhist monasteries.

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Ayutthaya was destroyed by a Burmese army that invaded in 1767 and burned to the ground. The survivors of the attack abandoned the city, and when they rebuilt their capital it was at the present site of Bangkok, whose official title still includes the name of Ayutthaya. The old palaces and temples were left to crumble neglected for over a century while the jungle grew back over them.

Today Ayutthaya is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand. The Ayutthaya Historical Park, located in the middle of the town, includes some of the most spectacular temples that have been carefully and painstakingly restored. Remains of other temples and monasteries are scattered all around the region and you can easily spend several days trying to visit all of them. Even if you do not have the time to do that, you must spend at least a day here to grasp the glory of the the ancient kingdom of Ayutthaya .

On your way to Ayutthaya you will pass by a touristy, bustling floating market which will provide you with a completely novel shopping experience! If you’re based in Bangkok, there are several authentic floating markets such as Damnoen Saduak, that are within easy traveling distance. It is real fun to cruise along the narrow canals, absorbing the sights, stopping occasionally to sample the wares on offer. Here you will find sellers in boats peddling everything from trinkets and souvenirs to fresh fruit, made to order hot food and even coconut ice cream with all the fixings!

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Stir fried noodles are my favourite and I made sure to have some wherever we went. By far, the most fascinating noodles were the ones that were being cooked on boats in the floating markets. To watch these amazing cooks deftly prepare food in the tiny confines of a rocking boat was an experience in itself, but to savour it while gently floating by in our own boat made it that much more memorable.

You can skip the shrimp, eggs and fish sauce and make these noodles vegetarian if desired, and also add other vegetables such as thinly sliced cabbage or green beans. If you can find smoked tofu, use that for the wonderful smoky flavour it adds. These noodles are best eaten fresh out of the pan, so have all the ingredients prepped (as they do on the boats!) and stir fry them just before serving. For more easy and delicious Thai recipes, check out Thai Green Curry Chicken, Red Curry Fish or Mussaman Potato Curry.

Stir Fried Rice Noodles With Vegetables And Shrimp

1/2 lb (225g) dried flat rice noodles (half of a 450g package)

2 tbsp each: light soy sauce, prepared sweetened tamarind sauce or tamarind chutney, tomato ketchup, lime juice

1 tsp each: Thai chili sauce or any hot sauce, fish sauce

1/2 lb large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 10-12)

Salt to taste

4 tbsp vegetable oil, divided

2 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1/2 sweet red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

1/2 cup small cubes of extra firm tofu

1 cup fresh bean sprouts

6 scallions (green onions), cut into 1 inch pieces

1/4 cup crushed roasted peanuts

Lime wedges for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add noodles and switch off the heat. Soak noodles in boiling water until softened, stirring now and then to loosen them, about 3-4 min. Drain and set aside.

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, tamarind sauce or chutney, tomato ketchup, lime juice, hot sauce and fish sauce. Set aside.

Pat shrimp dry and lightly dust with salt.

Warm 1 tbsp oil in small frying pan over medium high heat. Pour eggs in, make omelet. Shred omelet roughly with spatula. Set aside.

Warm 1 tbsp oil in same frying pan over medium high heat and gently saute the shrimp for 2 min until they are lightly pink and almost cooked. Transfer to a plate and reserve for later use in the recipe.

Wipe down skillet and warm remaining 2 tbsp oil in it over medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic and red pepper. Sauté 4-5 min until lightly browned.

Add tofu cubes, reserved noodles and reserved soy sauce mixture. Mix well, cook 2 min.
Note: Just before adding noodles to skillet, loosen them under running water if they are sticking to each other.

Add reserved shredded omelette, shrimp, bean sprouts, green onions and 2 tbsp of the roasted crushed peanuts (reserve remainder for garnish).

Stir fry gently, tossing with 2 forks until everything is well mixed, about 2-3 min. Transfer to a platter and garnish with peanuts and lime wedges if desired.

Serves four

Roast Potatoes In Düsseldorf, Germany

A visit to Düsseldorf never disappoints. This city has so much to offer with it's charm, elegance, high fashion, good food and local beer. Add museums, historic churches, a vibrant waterfront  and you've got enough to keep you busy for days!

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Düsseldorf's delightful Altstadt or old town nestles by the waterfront, overlooking the Rhine river that is the lifeblood of the city. Stroll along narrow, cobbled streets as you explore shops, restaurants and bars. Nearby is the broad expanse of the waterfront with a tree lined promenade for walks along the river. The riverfront is also lined with more bars, creating an especially lively, boisterous scene on summer weekend evenings! 

Düsseldorf is Germany's fashion capital and its main shopping street, the Königsallee or Kö for short, is where you find it. Here you can window shop or wander inside for some high end designer shopping. With a lovely, huge park at one end and a beautifully landscaped canal running through its centre, the Kö is a great place to fritter away an afternoon.

And if all this exploring tires you out, step into one of Düsseldorf's beer halls to revive yourself. Often dating back several centuries, these legendary establishments are brimming with beer and bonhomie. Some of the historic, well known ones have been brewing from their own secret recipe for generations and are very atmospheric inside.

It is impressive to see servers balancing huge trays of beer glasses in one hand, held high over diner's heads as they weave their way through the crowd. Empty glasses are plucked up as soon as they are set down, replaced unasked with a full one, with a running tally pencilled on the paper coaster beneath. Ask for a glass of wine like I did, and you're going to get a very disgusted look!
Beer hall food is all about sausages, meats and potatoes, served in hearty proportions. Better not eat here if you're looking for healthier vegetarian fare! Potatoes in roasted or mashed form are usually a delectable part of every meal.

These are not your everyday roast potatoes (although we did eat them almost every day in Germany!). They have so much flavour to them thanks to the mustard, bacon, vinegar and herbs, that they would go well with practically anything. 
Try more easy, delicious German style recipes such as Roasted smashed garlic potatoes or Currywurst  

German Style Roast Potatoes

1 lb small potatoes (in assorted colours if possible)

3 tbsp oil, divided

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)

2 slices bacon, chopped

1 tsp grainy Dijon mustard

1 tbsp white wine vinegar

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Heat oven to 420F. Line a baking tray with parchment.

Wash, scrub and halve potatoes, leaving the peel on. Toss with 2 tbsp oil, salt and pepper. Spread on tray. Bake for 30 min or until soft and lightly browned. Switch off oven and let potatoes continue to roast in it's fading heat for another 10 min.

Warm remaining 1 tbsp oil in skillet over medium heat. Add onion and bacon. Cook 7-8 min until onions are softened and bacon is rendering it's fat.

Add roasted potatoes and continue cooking for another 10 min until potatoes are lightly crispy in the bacon fat.

Add mustard, vinegar and parsley. Cook for 2 min, then transfer to a serving bowl.

Serves four

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Goulash Soup In Cologne, Germany

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One of the greatest attractions of visiting Cologne is its magnificent Gothic cathedral. Its soaring spires can be seen from a great distance, long before you enter the city. Take the train in as we did, and you will be overwhelmed by the sheer size of this imposing cathedral as it towers right above the station!

We marvelled at the beautiful filigree designs, intricate carvings and impressive main doors of the building as we made our way inside. Started in 1248, this cathedral is a World Heritage site and one of Germany's most visited places. Inside, amongst its many treasures, is the reliquary of the Three Kings which is believed to hold the remains of the three wise men who bore gifts for the infant Jesus. These holy relics made Cologne one of the  greatest pilgrimage sites in medieval Europe and spread the fame of the cathedral across the continent. 

Cologne's magnificent cathedral is only one of the reasons people flock to this vibrant city. With museums to explore, a lively nightlife and lots of restaurants, bars and cafes, there is never a dull moment here! We loved exploring the Altstadt or old town, with it's atmospheric medieval streets, historic buildings and boisterous beer halls. Try and visit on a weekend when It gets especially fun and lively!

A stroll along the bustling waterfront, lined with picturesque old buildings and parks, thrumming with street musicians and artists is a fun way to spend an afternoon or evening. Here you can people watch to your heart's content while sipping on something restorative and see ships glide by on the nearby Rhine river.

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We had a delicious bowl of goulash soup here one crisp afternoon during our recent visit. Goulash soup, with it's warming, comforting flavours is perfect for colder weather. In Germany, it can vary from being thick and almost stew-like to a thinner, soupier version. However you choose to make it, make sure to serve some crusty bread on the side!

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The smoky notes from the bacon, roasted pepper, toasted caraway and smoked paprika, along with the red wine add depth and richness to this hearty stew-like soup. Serve with a dollop of sour cream for extra richness!
For another variation of this dish, try Hungarian style Goulash

 Goulash Soup

2 tbsp oil

2 medium onions, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large sprig thyme

2 slices bacon, chopped

1 medium carrot, chopped

1 stick celery, chopped

1 medium potato, peeled and chopped

1 sweet red pepper (roasted or fresh), chopped

1-1/2 lb boneless stewing beef, cubed into bite sized pieces

1 tbsp all purpose flour

1 cup red wine

2 cups beef broth

4 large juicy plum tomatoes, fresh or canned, chopped

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 tsp each: smoked paprika, sweet paprika, oregano, toasted ground caraway or cumin seeds, sugar

2 tbsp each: chopped fresh parsley, red wine vinegar

Warm oil in deep saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, thyme, bacon, carrot, celery, potato and sweet pepper. Saute for 10 min until bacon has rendered its fat and vegetables are softened.

Add beef cubes and brown for 5 min. Add flour, stirring to incorporate, about 30 sec.

Add red wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up all the brown bits sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add broth, tomatoes, salt and pepper as well as all the spices and sugar. Bring to a gentle simmer, then cover and cook on low heat for 2 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

The vegetables should be practically disintegrating into the soup and the meat should be fork tender at this point. If soup is too thin, uncover, increase heat to medium and boil off some of the extra broth. Remove thyme sprig.

Mix in the vinegar and fresh parsley and serve.

Serves four

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Grilled Corn Chowder In Ontario

Ontario is at it's prettiest in the Fall, when changing colours burnish the landscape with shades of red and gold. This is the time to go on a long road trip to admire the scenery!

One of the most popular places to see the gorgeous colours of Fall is at Algonquin Park, in Ontario. This park is teeming with visitors from around the globe who come to marvel at the stunning and constantly changing foliage. Here you can hike the trails, canoe on the tranquil waters, camp out in the wilderness or enjoy a picnic while savouring the majesty of nature.

Fall is also when Ontario's markets are flooded with fresh farm produce, making me want to come up with new and creative ways to use them in my cooking!  The best place to buy fresh picked vegetables, smoked meats, home made preserves, pickles, baked goods and so much more is at St. Jacob's market, in Ontario. I love going there to stock up on loads of fresh produce and other goodies. And when I get back home, this grilled corn chowder is the first thing that I make. It is warming and hearty for the cooler weather and grilling adds a new dimension of flavour to the soup.

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When corn is in season, I like to grill up lots of it on the barbecue, then take the kernels off the cobs and freeze them in ziploc bags. This way, we get to enjoy that grilled corn flavour all year around!
This is an all vegetarian recipe but you can add about 2-3 slices of chopped smoked bacon if you wish. Sauteed shrimp folded in at the very end are also great add ins! Serve with some crusty bread and a salad.

Grilled Corn Chowder

3 cobs of corn, grilled

2 tbsp olive oil

2 long sprigs fresh thyme

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 each, finely chopped: carrot, celery, zucchini, red pepper

4 mushrooms, finely chopped

1 medium potato, peeled and finely chopped

2 tbsp all purpose flour

3 cups milk

Salt and ground black pepper to taste

1 cup whipping cream

2 tbsp each: grated Parmesan cheese, chopped fresh parsley

Take the kernels off the cobs of corn and place in a food processor. Pulse a few times until corn is minced but not turned into a paste. Some texture is important here. Transfer to a bowl and reserve.

Warm oil in deep skillet over medium heat. Add thyme, onions, garlic, carrot, celery, zucchini, red pepper, mushrooms and potato. Saute, stirring occasionally for about 10 min or until vegetables are lightly browned and slightly softened. 

Add flour to skillet, saute 1 min.

Add milk, stirring all the while. Add salt and pepper as well as the reserved minced corn. Cover skillet and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to low and cook covered for 15 min for flavours to blend and soup to thicken.

Add cream, cook 2 min. Turn off heat, then fold in the Parmesan cheese and parsley.

Serve right away.

Serves four

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Tomato Salad With Grilled Eggplant Confit In Siena, Tuscany

Siena, with it's magnificent Gothic architecture, captivated us from the first moment we saw it. This beautifully preserved city exudes medieval charm and made us feel magically transported back to the 12th century!  

We delighted in losing ourselves in it's warren of narrow lanes and steep steps....

which opened up unexpectedly to a breathtaking view of the glorious Tuscan countryside....

or a glimpse of a church on top of a hill....

or led us to one of the most unusual and beautiful piazzas we have ever seen - Piazza Del Campo. This Campo, a world UNESCO heritage site, is laid out in a unique, sloping accordion shape with a semi circle of buildings around it.

At one side is Siena's medieval seat of government, the Palazzo Pubblico, with it's majestic Torre del Mangia rising into the sky. You can climb 400 steps up this tower for fabulous views of the city and countryside below.

The famous Renaissance era Fonte Gaia or Fountain Of Joy is here as well, where people used to gather 600 years ago to get water and exchange gossip. It is still a favourite place for tourists and locals to hang out, take pictures and gossip!

The Campo is also where the famous Palio (horse race) is run, where important events have been held for centuries and where everyone gathers to sit at one of the many cafes lining the piazza while watching the world go by. People treat the red brick lined campo rather like a sandy beach, to stretch out under the sun for a snooze, eat an impromptu picnic or simply take a break in between sightseeing.

One of Siena's most awe inspiring sights is its Duomo (cathedral). You can see tantalizing glimpses of this eye catching striped black and white marble structure from various parts of the city, beckoning you to come inside and marvel at it's many wonders. The classic Italian Gothic striped design is carried on it's interior as well and the mosaic panels on the floor, the works of art by famous artists such as Michelangelo are fabulous to behold.

Some of the best food we had in Italy was here in Siena. There were so many good restaurants and so many unusual dishes to try that two days weren't enough! Grilled eggplant confit was on many restaurant menus, served in interesting, creative ways. We ate it stuffed into puff pastry envelopes for appetizers, folded into warm pasta to make an unusual and satisfying main course, and served atop thick slices of tomatoes as a superb salad. That salad was so addictive that I have been making it regularly ever since! Delicious, summery and refreshing, it is perfect for lunch, needing only some crusty bread to complete the meal.

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When I grill the eggplant, I also throw some sweet peppers and onions on the barbecue, then chop them finely when charred and add to the eggplant confit for additional smoky deliciousness.

For more tasty tomato recipes, check out Caprese salad and Bruschetta.

Tomato Salad With Grilled Eggplant Confit

1 medium eggplant

1/4 cup each: extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped fresh basil leaves

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/4 tsp toasted ground cumin seeds

1 lb (about 4) ripe heirloom tomatoes of assorted colours, sliced into rounds

250g (about 8 oz) fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced

Grill eggplant in a barbecue, oven or stovetop until charred and soft. Cool and discard outer charred skin. Transfer pulp to a chopping board and mash well with a fork. You should have about a cup of eggplant pulp.

Combine eggplant pulp, 2 tbsp each of the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and chopped fresh basil as well as salt and pepper to taste in a bowl. Mix in the toasted cumin. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour or longer for flavours to blend.

Arrange tomato slices on serving platter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Top tomato slices with mozzarella cheese, then add a dollop of eggplant confit.

Drizzle remaining olive oil and vinegar over top.

Scatter remaining fresh basil over salad.

Serve right away.

Serves four

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