Chiang Mai Pork Belly Curry

yummy dinner

yummy dinner

I was given this recipe from a friend who loves Thailand and it’s amazing food, she was there recently and had this dish in a restaurant and loved it so much she searched until she found the recipe and passed it on to me, how awesome! I couldn’t wait to make it, actually I made it that same night, I had to buy some galangal, tamarind puree and shrimp paste (buy the type already roasted so you don’t have to stink out your house for days) but all the other ingredients were on hand. It’s a curry with a light and fragrant gravy, I think the tamarind puree gives it a wonderful tangy lift.

Chiang Mai Pork Curry
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Thailand
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
This recipe takes a little time because you have to make the curry paste but you will have some left over for other dishes and it is SO well worth the effort!
  • For the Chiang Mai Curry Paste
  • 1 tbs coriander seeds, dry roasted
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds, dry roasted
  • 2 dried long red chillies (13cm long) - I used my frozen home grown chillies
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 5 cm piece of galangal, grated
  • 1 lemon grass stalk, white part only, finely chopped
  • 2 asian shallots, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 tsp grated turmeric or a pinch of ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp shrimp paste
  • ½ tsp ground cassia or cinnamon
  • For the Curry
  • 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) pork belly cut into cubes
  • 2 tbs oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbs Chiang Mai curry paste (above) or bought paste
  • 4 asian shallots crushed with a cleaver (I omitted these)
  • 4 cm piece of ginger, shredded
  • 4 tbs roasted unsalted peanuts
  • 3 tbs tamarind puree
  • 2 tbs fish sauce
  • 2 tbs palm sugar
  1. Making the curry paste
  2. Grind the coriander and cumin seeds to a powder with a mortar and pestle
  3. Slit the chillies in half and remove the seeds
  4. Soak the dried chillies in hot water for 1 - 2 minutes, or until soft.
  5. Drain and roughly chop the chillies
  6. Using a mortar and pestle, pound the chillies, salt, galangal, lemon grass, shallots, garlic and turmeric to a smooth paste
  7. Add the shrimp paste, ground coriander, cumin and cassia and pound again
  8. Alternatively use a food processor or blender to grind or blend the ingredients into a paste (I used my food processor)
  9. Add cooking oil as needed to assist blending
  10. Makes about 185g of paste
  11. Store in a jar in the fridge and use within 2 weeks
  12. Making the pork curry
  13. Blanch the pork in boiling water for 1 minute, then drain well
  14. Heat the oil in a wok or fry pan and fry the garlic for 1 min
  15. Add the curry paste and stir-fry until fragrant
  16. Add the pork, shallots, ginger and peanuts and stir briefly
  17. Add the tamarind and 500ml of water
  18. Bring to the boil
  19. Add the fish sauce and sugar and simmer for about 1½ hours, or until the pork is very tender
  20. Add more water as the pork cooks if necessary
  21. Serve with steamed rice and vegetables but a Thai salad would be beautiful!


Roast chicken

I was reading about the Melbourne Food Festival’s celebration of the winter roast with multiple restaurants in Melbourne and regional areas creating special menus over the month of June and felt inspired to roast an organic chicken. I read up Maggie Beer’s recipes and decided to fill the chook with limes, rosemary, bay leaves, 1/2 whole head of garlic, oil, salt and pepper and then massaged the flesh with olive oil and rubbed it with Berbere spice mix (from the spice shop in Rathdowne St, Carlton). I tied the legs together and placed the chicken leg side up in the roasting dish with potatoes, pumpkins, shallots and fennel. I roasted the chook for 20 minutes in 200* C before basting it with verjuice and rotating to the other leg side up for 20 minutes more cooking. After thoroughly basting the chicken with more verjuice I placed it breast side up and cooked it for a  further 20 minutes before taking it out of the oven and resting it for 15- 20 minutes (rest breast side down). The pan juices made a lovely gravy  flavoured with lime, garlic, verjuice, herbs and of course chicken.

The next day I roasted the chicken carcass with vegetables before making an asian style chicken stock with lemon grass, lime leaves, ginger, garlic and chilli.  After cooking on a low heat for 3 hours I strained the stock and made a lovely refreshing soup with more vegetables and pieces of chicken.

When I was a kid roast chicken was served on a Sunday and it somehow stretched out to feed a whole family with some left over for sandwiches the next day. Just how did they make food go so far? Chicken is quite a cheap meat compared to other proteins and so versatile, I like the thigh fillet best it has more taste than the breast and doesn’t dry out like the breast does. Of course chicken wings are pretty special marinated and cooked to perfection in a sticky, spicy marinade- see the blog on our friend Davo’s spicy chicken wings. The local butcher in Portarlington makes an amazing boned chicken stuffed with macadamias and herbs, Pasta man cooks this in the Webber and it is pretty hard to beat, so yummy!



Beef cheeks and ribs – slow food cooking

I’d heard about beef cheeks on the cooking shows on TV but never seen them until recently when I found some at our local butcher shop. The butcher recommended cooking them in the pressure cooker for 1.5 hours or 4 – 5 hours on the stove or in the oven. I bought 3 beef cheeks and what strange bits of meat they are, very tough, you just about need a chain saw to cut through them! I trimmed them a little, cut them in half, tossed them in plain flour before browning them in butter and then  into the pressure cooker with red wine, garlic, carrots, celery, fennel, parsley, sage, thyme, bay leaves, salt, pepper, chilli and some stock (lots of very strong flavours). The smell coming out of the pressure cooker for 1.5 hours was delightful and I was intrigued to see how they would turn out, and ooh la la I could not believe it, they were very, melt in your mouth good. I wasn’t sure what to do next so I put the meat and strained stock in the fridge for a day or so until I decided what to make with them. I ended up making a hearty family pie by cutting the meat into bite sized pieces, made a gravy out of the stock and topped it with mashed potato and puff pastry. My next attempt at cooking beef cheeks was on the stove top, I used a similar process but cooked it for about 5 hours on a very low heat, they turned out just the same and I made another yummy pie with them.

Beef cheeks are a relatively cheap cut of beef but please buy them already trimmed because there is so much wastage on the untrimmed ones and they are absolutely ghastly to look at and handle (they look like a part of the creature from the movie “The Thing”). I enjoyed my experiments with beef cheeks and look forward to many more – on French Food Safari I watched a chef pull apart some well cooked beef cheeks, he added some finely diced carrots and celery and seasonings and formed this into a sausage shape, he then wrapped it in cling wrap and let it set in the fridge. The French chef then enclosed the beef sausage with bric pastry and fried it in butter until golden, it looked very edible indeed!

My next meat adventure was with beef and pork spareribs, I’d made some american style pork ribs before but the ribs we had in England were the best we have ever had – sticky, spicy, tender, juicy and tasty! Oh how I would like to make ribs like those so after a bit of research my first experiment was with short beef ribs first and then some meaty pork ribs from Siketa’s (best pork in Geelong). They both worked out OK but there is definitely room for improvement – not quite the “English” gold standard as yet – I’ll just have to keep trying.


Fish and vegetable chips

I was racking my brains to think of another way to cook zucchini when I checked out Stephanie Alexander’s book – The Cook’s Companion – and she suggested deep fried in beer batter. Well I thought this wasn’t a bad idea because I had some nice sea bream, eggplants and peppers and I could beer batter and deep fry them all! I can’t remember the last time I made a beer batter so I used Stephanie’s recipe and added some cumin and Saharan spice (from Wilding’s Kitchen Essentials- I love that stuff) mix to spice it up a little. We had it with a salad and lots of mayonnaise and the verdict was we will definitely be having this again!

Fish and vegetable chips
Recipe type: Dinner
Cuisine: Australian
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 3 - 4
Fish and vegetables deep fried in a delicate crispy beer batter.
  • 250gm self raising flour
  • ½ cup of beer
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tbsp Saharan spice mix
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  1. Place all ingredients in a bowl and whisk well until all is incorporated and there are no lumps
  2. Cut the vegetables to your desired shape
  3. Coat the vegetables and fish in the batter and cook in hot oil (175*C) in small batches until golden
  4. Drain on absorbant paper and keep warm in the oven
  5. Serve with mayonnaise



Monkfish with salad

We’ve had monkfish for dinner twice this week; it is just so delicious and easy to prepare. I used two layers of foil large enough to completely seal the fish, then placed lots of lime, lemon and basil leaves followed by the fish. I sprinkled some spice mix (I used saharan spice mix from Wildings Kitchen Essentials), salt / pepper and olive oil over the fish before covering it all with more lime leaves and wrapping it all up tightly. Pasta man cooked it in the webber for 10 – 15 minutes and we had it with a roast vegetable & garden salad. Apart from being totally lovely to eat it is nutritious, low fat and costs about $10 to make. Of course you can cook any sort of fish like this, the added bonus being no fishy smell in the kitchen and no dirty pan to wash.

Chicken & vegetable tajine (Moroccan style)

It’s strange where inspiration comes from sometimes and where it leads – yesterday I was looking through Maggie Beer’s latest cookbook (Maggie’s Christmas) and was inspired to make the chicken dish with preserved lemon and rosemary. However it soon morphed into this Moroccan style tajine dish (mainly because it was too hot to have the oven on) and I hadn’t used my tajine in a while.

Chicken & Vegetable Tajine
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Moroccan
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
A spicy sweet slow cooked chicken and vegetable dish served with couscous
  • 4 chicken chops
  • 3 shallots or 1 large onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 clove garlic (finely diced)
  • I tablespoon ginger (finely diced)
  • 2 finely sliced chillies (more or less depending on your taste)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (+ bit extra for serving)
  • 1 cup diced fresh tomato (skin removed) + some whole mimi tomatoes for colour & sweetness
  • ½ large sweet potato cut in large dice
  • 3 long thin eggplants cut into 1cm pieces
  • 4 dates chopped
  • Handful dried cranberries
  • ½ preserved lemon or lime (pulp removed, washed & sliced finely)
  • 2 tablespoons organic tomato paste (plus some added water up to 1 cup)
  • salt / pepper
  • 1 tablespoon Moroccan spice mix (I used Kashmiri Masala mix from Wildings Pantry Essentials)
  • 2 pinches Sumac
  • 10 basil leaves
  • Half bunch coriander roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • Couscous to serve (I cooked 4 handfuls of Israeli medium sized couscous but any sort is fine)
  • Pomegranate seeds for dressing the dish
  • 2 spring onions including greens finely slice
  • 1 tablespoon chopped pistachio (didn't have any)
  1. Heat the oil in a tajine or large pan and add the shallots, garlic, chilli & ginger and fry gently for 2 minutes
  2. Add the chicken and watch it doesn't stick - turning regularly
  3. Add the tomatoes, sweet potato pieces and eggplant stirring to mix
  4. Add the tomato paste and water mix
  5. Add spices, seasoning, herbs (reserve some for serving), dates, cranberries & preserved lemon
  6. Cook over low heat with lid on for at least 1 hour stirring often to stop it sticking
  7. Add more water if necessary (you want a nice amount of sauce)
  8. When ready to serve place cooked couscous in the centre of the dish, add the pomegranate, spare herbs, spring onion and some chopped pistachios (I didn't have any) replace tajine lid and heat through before serving
  9. Sprinkle with some sumac and olive oil
  10. Serve with a salad & bread


Sardines 3 ways

I just love sardines – our local fish supplier sells trays of them already cleaned  and for only $7 you will feed 3 people. I like to remove the spine and back fin so they are super easy to eat but it is a bit fiddley to do and not really necessary. Being an oily fish they are quite tasty and very good for you too. I usually dip them in flour, egg and breadcrumbs (either butterflied or normal fish shape) and shallow fry them but I thought I might try putting some cheese in the fish, closing it up and wrapping it in prosciutto for a change.

I prepare the fish by making sure they are clean and taking the top of the spine and gently teasing the flesh away from the bones but leaving the tail, I then remove the back fin (both these steps are optional). Dry the fish with paper towel if damp and flour lightly before dipping in the egg wash and then breadcrumbs. Fry in hot oil for 1 – 2 minutes each side or golden in colour. Drain on paper towel and keep warm in the oven until all are cooked (cook the fish in small batches).

The prosciutto sardines are prepared as above but stuffed with a piece of cheese to fit the fish cavity, then close the fish up and wrap with prosciutto. Place the fish in a oven proof dish and sprinkle with olive oil and tomato based sauce of your choice (I used Wildings Pantry Essentials product pomegranate, lime and chilli piquant and a splash of homemade tomato sauce). Roast or grill for 5 – 10 min until just cooked.

Sardines have always been a favourite of mine but not so with my family, however prepared this way they just love them! Thanks to White’s Fisheries in Drysdale for their excellent produce.