Thai chicken coconut curry soup

Now this is what I call soup!

Now this is what I call soup!

Ok, I know I brought you a recipe for Thai curry not long ago, but this soup is an absolute must! And granted, it’s not the most summery of dishes, but once you’ve tasted the insanely powerful and addictive flavours bursting out of the bowl, you won’t care. Hell, you won’t even know what season it is! Yes folks, it really is that good.

Now, I can’t take all of the credit: this soup is an amalgamation of countless recipes found online and in various cook books, with a few of my own additions and subtractions (as most good recipes usually are).

I was actually trying to recreate a soup that my mum and I are in love with from Chao Baby in Manchester (the little sister of Chaophraya). We pay £15 for their otherwise mediocre buffet simply for the Thai soup. It’s incredible. We sit and work our way through bowl after bowl with a set of extremely satisfied smiles on our faces. And I was over the bloomin’ moon when this one turned out to be a cat’s whisker from Chao’s scrumptious offering.

I adapted this recipe to suit my taste, so I’d encourage you to do the same. I like a certain sweetness to my food, so one of the additions I made was a little pouring of agave syrup (natural sweetener). Personally I think this makes a huge difference and you should leave it in, but then I add sugar to curry, peas and bolognaise, so feel free to listen to your own palate.

Some recipes call for carrots and bean sprouts, but I’m not a fan and instead used tenderstem broccoli and asparagus for a bit more substance. An awful lot of recipes also include egg noodles, but I developed this when I went all paleo on your ass, so my version leaves them out. With the addition of cashews and a whole heap of veg, I think it’s mighty filling without the slippery suckers.

I tend to use way more curry paste than most recipes suggest because I like it spicy, but again, listen to your own palate. And whilst you can make Thai paste if you have time, I buy a quality brand that’s free from additives and only includes the incidents you’d put in if you made it yourself. I will make my own paste one day, but for now this serves me well.

To make this most marvellous of dishes, you’ll need:

  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 3 tbsp coconut cream
  • 3-4 tbsp authentic Thai curry paste
  • 1 fresh red chilli, chopped
  • 1 bunch coriander, chopped
  • 2 chicken breasts, roasted and shredded
  • 1 white onion, sliced
  • Asparagus and tenderstem broccoli, sliced (as much as you want)
  • Chicken stock (I’m not specifying quantity here because it depends how thick you like your soup and how far you want it to go; I’d suggest adding a ladle full at a time)
  • 4-5 kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce (I hate fish, but this is an absolute must; it totally transforms the taste)
  • Zest and juice of one lime
  • A sprinkling of ground ginger
  • A few dashes of soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup
  • A handful of cashew nuts, toasted and chopped
  • 2 spring onions, chopped

To make the best bowl of soup this side of Thailand:

  1. Place a non-stick wok on a medium-high heat and add 1 tbsp coconut cream; when hot, throw in the curry paste, ginger, ¾ of the chilli, and a little of the coconut milk. Allow to sizzle for a couple of minutes before adding the rest of the coconut milk, cream and some stock
  2. Next up, pop in the kaffir lime leaves so they have time to infuse, along with your chicken, fish sauce, soy sauce, lime zest and juice, and agave syrup
  3. Simmer for ten minutes before adding your onion; after five minutes throw in the asparagus and broccoli
  4. After a further five minutes, stir in the chopped coriander and chopped and toasted cashews (leaving some of each to sprinkle over the top); stir and leave for a minute
  5. When you’re happy with it, ladle into bowls and garnish with the chopped spring onions and remaining coriander leaves, cashews and red chilli

Enjoy with a very cold bottle of Singha beer.

Love Emma xx

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Paleo: eating the no wheat, no grain, no dairy sort of way

paleoIf you’re a regular visitor to the blog, you probably know me best for all things fun, frivolous, and utterly indulgent ― from my Oreo cookie cupcakes, Reece’s peanut butter chocolate cake and zesty lemon curd muffins, to party sausage rolls, boozy shepherd’s pie and tasty chorizo tortilla pizzas.

Owing to a pretty speedy metabolism, I haven’t given much thought to my diet in recent years; but since discovering exercise through caveman training (a local class that combines power lifting, plyometrics, agility, speed, balance, and strong man training for a full body workout) I started to think of food as ‘fuel’, rather than an excuse for gluttony. This of course led to a pretty sharp assessment of what I excitedly shove into my cave hole each day (namely, you guessed it, cake ― with regular take outs thrown in for good measure).

Now, whilst this wasn’t making me fat, it also wasn’t making me feel good. I had little energy, got a lot of headaches and stomach aches, and often went to bed feeling uncomfortably full. So when I saw the paleo diet being championed on the caveman facebook page, I was intrigued.

I’ve never done too well with faddy diets, but after doing a bit of research (and finding out that friends of mine had tried it out and felt great as a result), I began to realise that ‘paleo’ (short for Paleolithic) isn’t so much a diet as a way of life. It’s about eating foods that can be picked or hunted in nature, and avoiding foods that can’t be eaten raw. In other words, eating the things that naturally, your body can handle, and avoiding the things that naturally, it can’t.

The basic principles include:

  • No dairy (cheese, milk, cream)
  • No grains (wheat, rice, pasta)
  • No legumes (soy, peanuts, beans, peas, chicken peas)
  • No processed foods
  • Avoiding sugar and refined oils

You can eat as much lean meat as you want, and should aim for a high intake of vegetables. You can technically eat as much fruit as you want too, but as it’s high in natural sugar I try to limit myself to two portions a day. You can also indulge in nuts (but no peanuts, because they’re not actually nuts ― who knew?); but again, keep the quantities down because the fat levels ― however good those fats may be ―are pretty darn high. For maximum effect, you should also up your water intake ― and get plenty of sleep.

So, I’ve swapped potatoes for sweet potatoes and butternut squash, peanut butter for almond butter, cooking oil for coconut oil, milk for coconut milk, flour for coconut flour (you can see a pattern emerging), soy sauce for tamari (a wheat free alterative), sugar for natural agave syrup, mochas for espressos, and stock cubes for homemade stock (most stock cubes contain wheat). And so far I’ve made some incredible tasty recipes!

My favourite being Thai red chicken and coconut milk broth:

Now this is what I call soup!

Now this is what I call soup!

Then there were the fajitas (made with homemade fajita spices, homemade oven roasted salad, and homemade guacamole), completed with gem lettuce leaves instead of tortillas:

I didn't even miss the sour cream

I didn’t even miss the sour cream

Chicken breast marinated in tamari, fresh lime juice, garlic, chilli and agave, with rosemary sweet potato straws and steamed red cabbage:

Heavenly straws!

Heavenly straws!

Rump steak stir fried in coconut oil with cashews, tenderstem broccoli, pak choi, asparagus, coriander, lime, spring onion, garlic, and chilli:

You can't beat a nice bit of rump

You can’t beat a nice bit of rump

Parma ham with toasted chilli and cinnamon walnuts, on top of a red cabbage, caper and olive salad:

Sweet toasty nuts make for a winning salad

Sweet toasty nuts make for a winning salad

Thai red chicken curry with broccoli, onion and asparagus, served with cauliflower faux rice (surprisingly delicious for someone who doesn’t like cauliflower):

So satisfying!

So satisfying!

A post-caveman bowl of chicken stir fried with veg and a teaspoon of almond butter:

Kick ass chicken and veg bowl

Kick ass chicken and veg bowl

And roasted butternut squash tossed in rose harissa, served with toasted pine nuts and a spinach, rocket, red pepper and spring onion salad:

A whole plate of goodness right there!

A whole plate of goodness right there!

I’ll be sharing all of these recipes in full in subsequent posts ― and they all come highly recommended! The Thai broth was actually the tastiest thing I’ve ever made, and I honestly haven’t felt hungry once because of all of the veg I’ve been ploughing through. I feel full, in a good ‘non bloated’ sort of way, and my body just feels ‘right’.

Admittedly, paleo is a little hard to keep up if you’re out at the weekend, but they say to try and stick to a diet 80% of the time, so I’m not going to beat myself up about the mash potato I ate in a nice country pub on Sunday after a freezing cold morning in Port Vale football stadium.

If you’ve tried paleo yourself, feel free to share your comments and recipe ideas. I’m still learning and will bring you plenty of updates (along with my usual naughty recipes ― I’m still a feeder!) I also post photos of my recipes on Instagram and Twitter (@emmaattenB).

Love Emma xx

Spicy butternut squash soup

The BBC's offering

The BBC’s offering

As much as I love cake, pizza and all things bad, even I have to admit that there is perhaps room for a few healthy dishes now that spring is peeking playfully on the horizon, beckoning us on to a time where we’ll all wear far less layers and expose far more flesh.

Personally, I don’t think you can beat a bowl of homemade soup for comfort, warmth, and mega healthy points (depending on what you put into it of course).

I spotted a recipe on BBC Good Food (oh how I love that site) and adapted it slightly (more garlic, hotter chilli, chicken stock in place of vegetable stock, and whipped crème instead of crème fraîche as it’s the only thing I had in the fridge).

It’s healthy (if you leave out the crème), incredibly tasty, and will bring you that warm sense of satisfaction that only comes from having made something entirely from scratch.

So whip up a batch and enjoy!

You’ll need:

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Knob of butter
  • 2 onions
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 red chillies
  • 850ml hot chicken stock
  • Crème fraîche or crème (optional)

Make the magic happen:

  1. Preheat your oven to 200C
  2. Peel and deseed your squash, then cut into 4cm cubes. Throw the cubes in a roasting tin, toss in olive oil, and roast for about 30 minutes (or until soft and golden), turning them once
  3. Chop you onion, garlic and chilli, then throw into a large non-stick pan with the hot olive oil and melted butter.
  4. Cover the pan and cook on a low heat until the onions are soft ― 15-20 minutes should do the trick
  5. When your squash is soft and completely cooked through, pour into a large bowl with kitchen roll to absorb any excess oil, then add it to the onion mix, along with the hot stock and crème (if you want it a little richer)
  6. Whizz everything together with a hand blender until completely smooth, then taste (I added a sprinkling of ginger and lots of salt and freshly ground black pepper at this point)

Enjoy with some crusty bread and butter.

Love Emma xx