Taking on Thai cookery

Thai cookery is really a balancing act between the five primary flavours of salty, sweet, sour, bitter and hot. Although the food has a reputation for being very spicy, many dishes are milder and more aromatic, thanks to the use of fragrant herbs and citrus fruit.

The frequent use of coconut, peanuts and satay mean that Thai food is not always a dieter’s dream but follow these lower cal recipes and the only thing to get hot under the collar about is the chilli, not the calories!

Most of these ingredients can be found in a supermarket, either with the fresh herbs or in the jars and bottles section, in the case of nam pla (Thai fish sauce). Dried lime leaves might only be available from an Asian market.

Adjust the flavourings to find the balance that suits you best and remember to remove the seeds from chillies if you prefer a milder flavour – keep them in for a hotter curry. Replace chicken with any other meat, fish, tofu or vegetables if you prefer.

Tom yam gai

Poach a medium-sized chicken fillet in 1 litre of water until cooked through – around 10-12 minutes. Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and set aside. To the poaching liquor, add a crushed clove of garlic, a stalk of lemon grass, chopped into 5 cm pieces and flattened slightly, 2 dried lime leaves, 4 spring onions, chopped into 2cm slices and 1 or 2 sliced red chillies, depending on taste.

Boil for 10 minutes. Now add the juice of a lime, 1 tsp of sugar, ½ - 1 tbs of nam pla, again depending on taste, and lots of fresh, chopped coriander. Fantastic!

Makes 2 servings. Nutrition information: 120 calories and 3g of fat per serving.

Pad thai

Pad Thai traditionally uses peanuts or cashew nuts with dried shrimp but I have replaced these here with prawns – these are easier to find than dried shrimp and much lower in fat than nuts.

Soak 2 pieces of dried egg noodles in boiling water for 3-4 minutes or until softened, and drain. Heat ½ tbsp vegetable oil in a wok or non-stick frying pan, add 2 crushed cloves of garlic and cook until golden. Add an egg and cook for just a few seconds, stirring well.

Add in the softened noodles and stir well with the egg and garlic. Now add 2 tsp lemon juice, ½ -1 tbs nam pla, ½ tsp sugar, ½ tsp chilli powder, 30g bean sprouts, 2 sliced spring onions and 100g of cooked prawns. Cook for another couple of minutes before serving.

Makes 2 servings. Nutrition information: 170 calories and 8g of fat per serving.

Green chicken curry

In a food processor, mix together 2 cloves of garlic, 2cm ginger, peeled and sliced, a stalk of lemon grass, cut into 5cm pieces, 1 green and 1 red chilli (or more if you prefer a hotter curry) and ½ tbsp vegetable oil. Blend to form a paste. Heat the paste in a non-stick frying pan or wok.

Add a finely chopped onion and 2 chicken fillets, cut into 2cm chunks, and cook until evenly browned. Now add 2 lime leaves, ½ - 1 tbsp nam pla, the juice of a lime and enough reduced fat coconut milk to just cover the ingredients – around 200ml. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and serve with green vegetables such as broccoli and mange tout, fragrant rice and plenty of fresh, chopped coriander.

Makes 2 servings. Nutrition information: 240 calories and 12g of fat per serving.

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