A friend of mine had recently done a cooking course at a hotel in the UK and sent me their website. They had a whole range of different courses that they offered each weekend, French, Spanish, Indian and Thai. I love Thai, after spending 6 months in the country in my late teens. The smells and colours are divine, so I thought I would give this a go.
On the morning that I arrived I was really quite nervous. I roped in a friend to come with me, he was quite a good cook and I was relying on him to help me out with the tricky bits. We were welcomed with lovely strong coffee and some savoury buns that the chef had whipped up earlier that day. We went through the day ahead and the menu of what we were cooking. The morning was going to be spent chopping a preparing all the vegetables and spices that were to be used for the dishes that day. We were then to all make rice paper rolls to have for lunch before choosing a traditional main course recipe each to make in the afternoon.
The preparation of the various components of the dishes was great fun and I learnt a lot. Here are the top five things I learnt:
– Sharp knives really do make life easier. Buy a good knife and sharpen it regularly, it will change your life.
– When using a chopping board, wet paper towel and place it under the chopping board. It will stop it from slipping around.
– When peeling garlic, place the whole bulb into a clean sock or tea towel and whack it repeatedly on the counter top. Not only is it good for getting out your anger, but all the cloves will come out ready peeled.
– Parmesan cheese graters can we used for mincing garlic and ginger. You can mince loads and place in an airtight container and keep in the fridge for future creations.
– All Thai spice blends can be frozen and used in future dishes, so stock up and save time.
– Cutting onions still make me cry. There is no trick to stop this phenomenon.
After all the preparation it was time to put together our rice paper rolls. We laid out all the ingredients, prawns, spring onion, rice noodles, carrots, mango, some amazingly fragrant sweet chilli sauce we whipped up earlier, along with various other salad items. We then spent the next 20 minutes attempting to assemble them into the rice paper rolls. The window of time you have between the rice paper coming out of the hot water and the actual rolling is limited. The secret to this success is less is definitely best.
After lunch we went on to choose a main course dish to prepare. I choose Thai red curry, obvious I know, but it was the dish that I thought I would cook the most. The smell of the various ingredients of the dish quickly transported me back to that Thai beach 15 years before when I was staying in a beach hut on Koh Samui. Each night an old Thai lady cooked the most amazingly tasty meals in a little hut on the beach which cost less than a pound. It still remains the best Thai food I have ever eaten.
After a little help from the chef, I was pleased to say the dish was a success. We all sat down to enjoy the fruits of our labour. We had no disaster dishes in the group. I was still full from lunch, but it is amazing how you can find room for more when it tasted that good.
That evening I went back to the hotel, satiated and with a renewed vigour for cooking. Planning in my head the next dinner party and what delicacies I would serve them up. If you ever are invited to a dinner party at my house, don’t be surprised if rice paper rolls, red curry and Thai coconut cream pie are on the menu – don’t worry they will taste great and I won’t give you food poisoning, I promise.
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Kristel van Winkel
Great Hotels of the World
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