Our October Cooking Club meeting was hosted by Ilse who kindly agreed to share some tips on cooking fish. Ilse is Belgian, but she fell in love with Thai cooking whilst living in Thailand for a few years before moving to South Africa. She pulled out a well worn copy of her favourite Thai cook book – Heritage Edition Thailand the Beautiful Cookbook, recipes by Panurat Polanditmontri – and revealed some secrets of cooking the perfect Tom Yum soup with prawns (here is the recipe – Tom Yum Goong). The soup was spicy and deliciously fragrant and we were all thrilled to hear that most of the ingredients could be found locally. For ingredients that may be tricky to find there some easy substitutes. For example, one can simply use normal white mushrooms instead of straw mushrooms and lemon leaves instead of kaffir lime leaves. Ginger root is also a reasonable substitute for galangal. The soup seemed really easy to make and Ilse suggested that it could be served with rice as a more substantial meal. We all agreed it was delicious!
As a tribute to her European roots, Ilse also showed us how to cook fish en papillote. We had some delicious fresh soles that were wrapped in foil with a selection of onion, tomato, mushroom, coriander, lemon, butter and white wine, seasoned with salt and pepper and paprika. The foil parcels were baked in the oven for about 20 minutes. This is a very easy way to prepare fish, which ensures it stays nice and moist and full of flavour. You could use any kind of white fish and whatever mix of soft veggies, fresh herbs and flavourings you have on hand. It can be served as is or with mashed potato or rice.
As much as we enjoyed the fish, the pìece de résistance was definitely Ilse’s desert – a Belgian chocolate fondue served with fresh fruit. What a simple, yet utterly delicious way to end a meal! It is as simple as melting some Côte d’Or or similarly high quality Belgian chocolate and serving it in a fondue pot with seasonal fresh fruit on the side. Fresh strawberries work particularly well with this!
Yet another great afternoon spent learning some new tricks with the lovely ladies from Happy Cooking. Thank you for your hospitality Ilse!