Monday, 27 April 2009

Recipe of the Week - Hot and Spicy Thai Beef Soup

These days you are never very far away from an Indian, Thai, Chinese or Mexican restaurant these days. In the city where I live, we have a huge selection of all kinds of restaurants serving food from around the globe. It's a big step away from when I was growing up and spaghetti with meat sauce was considered pretty exotic just because it was Italian.

One of the more popular restaurants to appear in the UK in the last few years is Wagamama. It is modeled on the noodle bars which are so popular in Japan. You are seated at long tables which hold about twenty people. I always find that part of the experience a bit disconcerting, sitting elbow to elbow with total strangers while trying to eat noodles politely! The service is fast and it is not a meal you are encouraged to linger over, but if you like hot and spicy ramen and noodles you are in for a treat.

A few months ago I had a delicious soup at our local Wagamama’s restaurant called Chilli Beef Ramen. It contained thinly sliced, just cooked steak in a broth of delicious vegetables. There was something about the hot strips of just cooked steak simmering away in the hot soup that was so delicious, The only trouble was it was a bit too spicy for me. I'm pretty good with spicy stuff, but this soup made my eyes water and my nose run - not a really attractive look for me!

This experience made me want to create my own version of this soup without the rather unattractive side effects. I knew that with a bit of tweaking I would be able to make something similar that I really liked. I played around with the vegetables and spicing, and also changed the broth into a creamy soup with the addition of coconut milk. I also left out the noodles, but there is no reason why you could not add some if you feel this is an unnecessary omission. You could cook them up and add them at the last minute. It's just that with the steak and all, I did feel that the noodles made the whole thing a bit filling!

This is the best version of this soup I have created so far (in the opinion of my tasters as well as myself!). I went with red Thai curry paste in the end, a bit of a departure in terms of country of origin for this recipe (Japan to Thailand!) but the spices were just warm enough to make it delicious. Be warned though, red Thai curry paste is very spicy and seems to get spicier as it simmers. I recommend you start with a scant tablespoon and go from there, tasting as you go. You don't want to be crying in your soup like I was!

This recipe makes enough for three to four, but of course it is easy to halve or double it.

2 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 carrot, peeled and sliced very, very thinly
1 cup handful white mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon Thai Red Curry Paste
1 - 400 ml can coconut milk
500 - 750 ml vegetable stock (made from cubes is fine)
4 ounces rump or sirloin steak per person
salt and pepper
1 bunch spring onions, shredded

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan. Saute the onion and mushrooms until they are just beginning to soften. Add the carrot and continue to saute. Stir in the Thai Red Curry Paste until the vegetables are coated.

Gently pour the coconut milk and 500 ml stock over the vegetables. Bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Season the steaks with salt and pepper and cook them quickly, a few minutes each side. You don’t want the steaks fully cooked at this point so that they can continue to cook in the soup. I usually cook them about two minutes each side. Wrap the steaks up in foil and allow to rest for a couple of minutes while you assemble the bowls and serving spoons.

Taste the soup for flavour, adding salt and pepper if necessary. (You probably won’t need to.) Check the consistency/spicing of the soup and add a bit more stock if you feel it needs it. Slice the steaks thinly.

Divide the soup mixture between three or four bowls. Top with slices of steak, pushing them down gently into the soup. Garnish with the shredded spring onions and serve.

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