Thyme Supperclub offers a light seasonal recipe to balance all the post-Christmas feasting…
After the excess of the Christmas feasts, January calls for food that is healing and cleansing. For me, this means dishes sharp with citrus flavours, fragrant with herbs, and perhaps a little kick of chilli. Asian food hits the spot perfectly, particularly Thai or Japanese-influenced dishes. They feel so clean. I don’t just mean that they are healthy, although of course many of them are.
But that the acidic sharpness of lime juice, the spice of ginger and chilli, or the aroma of lemongrass seem to cut through all the dairy, sugar and heavy carbohydrates in which so many of us will have over-indulged during December. They make you feel as if you’re achieving a New Year’s resolution without even having to make one.
And in addition to all this, such dishes can be beautifully warm, savoury and comforting on a cold winter’s day. Try making a Thai green curry: there’s a long shopping list, but you should be able to pick up everything you need for the green curry paste in one of those wonderful little Vietnamese stores that abound in Berlin.
I like to go to Vinh Greengrocery, where they have a wonderful selection of fresh herbs, in addition to the harder-to-find Asian ingredients like fresh peppercorns, Thai aubergines, birdseye chillies, lime leaves and galangal.
Once you’ve got your ingredients, you can make your green curry paste in a matter of seconds, whizzing up everything together in a food processor. Then it’s just a matter of frying some appropriate seasonal vegetables and adding the paste and some coconut milk.
The vegetables suggested are mainly based on what’s good at the moment in Germany; feel free to substitute for others if you want a more authentic version. Japanese cuisine is a bit less forgiving to the amateur cook than Thai food, and unless you’re lucky enough to live close to one of the Frische Paradies stores, getting hold of spankingly fresh fish can be a bit of a mission in Berlin.
I’d leave sushi and sashimi to the professionals, such as Gingi’s Izakaya or Sasaya. If you’re craving ramen, try Cocolo, but other Asian-style noodle soups can easily be made at home. Some good stock, a handful of aromatics and you’re already more than halfway there. Adding the noodles and a few little meatballs turns a hot, clear soup into a refreshing yet satisfying main course.
When it comes to dessert, I must say I find Asian ones are generally too sweet for my palate. This is where I divert back to Europe, but not away from sharp flavours. There’s a grand tradition here in Europe of using sour fruits in desserts: think of the French tarte au citron, the German sour cherry cake, or the wonderful orange and lemon sorbets and gelati of Italy.
Passionfruit (Passionsfrucht) and citrus fruits are in season at the moment; it makes sense to use produce while it’s at its best. The recipe below is a based on a classic English posset recipe, but is a little different in that it uses the juice of a passionfruit rather than the more usual lemon, and is enriched with a little white chocolate…
Asian style noodle soup
Serves 4 as a starter, or 2 as a main
For the meatballs
300g minced pork
6 spring onions
a small piece of root ginger
a small bunch of coriander
1 stem of lemongrass
oil for frying
For the soup
800ml chicken stock (homemade is best here)
juice of 1 large lime
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp rice wine
a few drops of sesame oil
a few small hot red chillis, left whole but pierced with a fork
a few dried shitake mushrooms
100g glass noodles
1 stem of lemongrass, chopped into rounds
2 spring onions, chopped into rounds
a bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
1 lime, quartered
Chop the onions, ginger, coriander and lemongrass and mix with the pork. Form into 8 little patties.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium/high heat and fry the meatballs until browned on both sides, in batches if the pan is too small to take them all at once. Set aside.
In the same pan, bring the stock to the boil, add the lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, rice wine, sesame oil, the lemongrass, onions, mushrooms and the whole chillis and simmer for around 10 minutes. Taste to adjust the seasoning. Fish out the chillis when you think the soup is hot enough.
Return the meatballs to the pan, and continue simmering for another 5 minutes or so, until they are cooked through. Add the noodles and continue simmering according to packet instructions (they usually only take a minute). Divide between four soup bowls, sprinkle with the coriander and serve with lime quarters on the side, to squeeze over for added zing.
Thai green curry
Serves 4, as a main course with rice.
For the curry paste
2-6 small green chillis (depending on heat, and tolerance)
4 stems of lemongrass
a piece of galangal or ginger about the size of a walnut (30g or so)
a generous handful of coriander, leaves and stems
6 lime leaves (or zest of one lime)
juice of 1-2 limes (depending on how citric you like it)
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp thai fish sauce (nam pla), or soy sauce for veggies
1 tsp shrimp paste (optional, can be omitted for vegetarians)
a few black peppercorns
Vegetables, e.g. –
a small pumpkin
half a cauliflower
a couple of parsnips or carrots
8 baby Thai aubergines (or 1 large one)
For the sauce
vegetable oil (not olive oil) for frying
1 tbsp fresh green peppercorns
400ml coconut milk
a handful of coriander leaves
a handful of Thai basil leaves
steamed or boiled jasmine rice
To make the curry paste, seed the chillis, remove the outer stalks of the lemongrass, and peel the galangal, shallots and garlic. Chop them all roughly, along with the lime leaves and coriander and put the lot into a food processor, with the peppercorns. Blitz until well chopped, add the lime juice, shrimp paste and fish sauce and blitz again until you have a bright green paste.
Peel the pumpkin and parsnips and cut into bite-sized chunks. Chop the aubergines into chunks as well, halve or quarter the mushrooms depending on size, and pull the cauliflower into small florets.
Heat the oil in a wok or deep frying pan over high heat and tip in the vegetables. Fry, stirring now and then, until the pumpkin is starting to soften, and the vegetables brown in places, then add the curry paste. If you are nervous about the curry being too hot, don’t use all the curry paste; you can always add more later.
Stir well, so the curry paste doesn’t stick – it will sizzle and spit a bit – then add the coconut milk, stock and green peppercorns. Turn down the heat and simmer until the vegetables are tender and cooked through – around ten minutes or so. Taste the sauce halfway through cooking and add more curry paste if you think it needs more.
Roughly chop the herbs and scatter them over. Serve immediately with rice.
White chocolate pots with passion fruit
100g good quality white chocolate
5 passion fruit
250ml double cream
2 tsps lemon juice
40g vanilla sugar
20 or so cantuccini biscuits (make your own if you like, but shop-bought are fine)
a handful of whole almonds, toasted
Put the chocolate, cream and sugar into a small pan and heat very gently, stirring occasionally, until melted and smooth. Don’t let it boil.
Meanwhile, cut four passion fruit in half and scoop the insides into a sieve over a bowl. Press firmly to extract as much juice as possible. Put the biscuits and almonds into a plastic freezer bag and pound with a rolling pin until you have a rough rubble of crumbs and nut pieces.
Divide half the crumbs between 4 serving glasses of at least 200ml.
When the chocolate has all melted and the mixture is perfectly smooth, add the passion fruit and lemon juices to the pan and stir in. You will see the mixture thicken immediately.
Pour half the white chocolate into the glasses, on top of the crumbs. Layer the remaining crumbs over the top, and complete with the rest of the white chocolate mixture. Cover and chill for at least four hours, until ready to serve.
When ready, remove from the fridge, cut open the remaining passionfruit and put a teaspoon or so of the seeds and juices on top on each chocolate pot.
About The Photographer
Kristi Korotash is an amateur food photographer, professional food lover, and one half of Berlin’s Zuhause Supperclub.