Thailand… The highs, the lows, the good, the bad… And the downright ugly prostitutes..

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Thailand… The highs, the lows, the good, the bad… And the downright ugly prostitutes..

I’ve taken a long time to write my next piece on my blog for a number of reasons… Like before, we have not stopped for a second to breathe! But along with exhaustion from constant backpacking, and so much to take in, I’ve become somewhat lazy.

Firstly, I must state for those of you following my food stories – this entry is more dedicated to the traveling side. My career as a yacht chef has shown the current ‘in’ cuisine is Thai – it’s fast, healthy and tasty… Reason being I did not bother doing a cookery course while here as I felt it would be a waste of my time. Instead I focused on the culture and scenery, the joy of a new place, and ultimately the highs, and seriously depressing, brutally honest lows of a beautiful country I loved and can’t wait to return to….. (Western pimps heading for a cheap Thai bride; need not read any further, as the truth may scar)….
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Over our 3 weeks in Thailand, we explored both the North, but to be honest no further than Bangkok, and then South. In this time we went to Koh Phi Phi, Phuket, Samui, and Krabi – then back to Bangkok.

I absolutely loved the islands, their mix of people and cultures, and beautiful scenery. But, compared to Indonesia, I felt Thailand had some degree of ‘falseness’ about it – and I don’t mean handbags! (I got an amazing fake Mulberry for less than half the price). Craig and I also had our most crazy nights out on our entire trip so far on Ko Phi Phi – where we met amazing friends we will treasure forever, despite my injury of jumping off a 12 metre cliff for fun… FYI I will never do it again!!
The food was amazing, the weather perfect and people wonderful… I guess the only bitter taste that was left in my mouth from Thailand was the BAR GIRLS. We had sort of missed them first time round as we headed to the islands, but when we went to Phuket and back to Bangkok it was inevitable. On asking our hostel manager what the deals was, he said if we went to Soi Cowboy we would come back ‘depressed’… Something I didn’t realise until seeing with my own eyes – and strangely, bringing out the inner feminist in me!!
Girls from poor backgrounds and the roughest states in Thailand, are sent over to the big cities (ie. Phuket and Bangkok), by their families, with the sole purpose of meeting vulnerable Western men, who think they are doing them a favour. These girls (as we were warned), have been trained on how to chat up western men, and usually send their money home to their parents every month ASAP – all the parents do is produce kids to marry off. I must admit, Craig and I visited a bar in Bangkok and witnessed this first sight – young, Thai girls hanging off men twice, sometimes three times their age yet declaring their ‘love’ for them. Mugs of western men. We actually had to leave one bar in disgust. We were warned at our hostel, but despite Thailand ‘s natural beauty and wonder – to see this is to believe it. We can’t sugarcoat – its prostition. Picture warning on our hotel is below. Me, as a compassionate woman, I felt awful watching these young, ‘bored’,looking women pretending to entertain rich western men. But, as we soon realised – it’s tit for tat and were informed they are all trained on how to snag a man – what is wrong with Thai men I wonder?? Too many times we have been told it’s all about the MONEY.
We had an amazing time in Thailand, some beautiful dives off Koh Tao, and had the best fun of out trip so far on Koh Phi Phi.. Food is awesome and we will definitely be back one day… The food everywhere is incredible!! But for any of my friends considering going, be ware of the BAR GIRLS. The girls from poor background, suspiciously there to make money. As they depressed us on our last few days in a beautiful country. Pics to follow xxxxx

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Cooking in New Delhi – an authentic North Indian experience!

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Cooking in New Delhi – an authentic North Indian experience!

Firstly, I feel the need to apologise for taking so long to post again!  I am going to blame this on numerous reasons – number 1 being I have been so chilled out and lazy, number 2 the internet in the Thai islands hasn’t been the best, and number 3 I had such bad food poisoning in Goa the last thing I wanted to do was talk about or write about food for a while!

This blog entry is purely in dedication to Neha Gupta, and her amazing cooking classes Saffron Palate.  You can check them out at http://www.saffronpalate.com.  As a chef, I have always been intrigued by true authentic North Indian cooking, but in all honesty no matter how many cookbooks, web pages and TV programmes I have researched on the subject, it is one area of cooking I feel I’ve never bee able to ‘nail’ better than the restaurants…. Neha has changed this! (Or so I hope!).

Being welcomed into Neha’s home in South Delhi was an experience in itself – beautiful 3 story home, away from the CRAZY streets of Delhi, and in a safe gated community.  We were welcomed with masala chai (one of the best teas ever!! Recipe to follow…), homemade samosas and chicken kebabs with a tamarind dip.

Once we chatted, Neha talked us through her spice boxes – the base for almost all N.Indian curries:Spice box

From top, left to right:

  • Green cardamon pods
  • cloves
  • cinnamon
  • dried red chilli
  • black peppercorn
  • Mace
  • black cardamon
  • star anise
  • dried bay leaves

Also, a box of base ingredients, as follows:

  • Fresh ingredients

I won’t go into specifics here as in each recipe you will see what is needed, and some of these are pretty obvious! They include chopped and sliced shallots, crushed ginger, crushed garlic, fresh coriander, fresh green chilli, tomato purée and chopped,  crushed garlic and cauliflower and peas.

Also – probably the most important in N.Indian cookery was Neha’s dried spice box. I actually bought some at the market and have shipped them home!! Good dried spices are not just requirement but an absolute ESSENTIAL for good quality Indian food…

Dried spice box

From top, left to right:

  • Turmeric
  • Garam Massala
  • cumin seeds
  • dried mango powder
  • salt
  • ground coriander
  • red chilli powder
  • cumin powder
  • meat masala

I FINALLY know how to make authentic basmati rice!! Something I have never been the best on, and a good authentic paratha bread and roti.  All the food was absolutely amazing, we made both vegetarian dishes (saag paneer), and a dry based curry with chicken, diced cumin potatoes, countless breads and some real techniques when it came to which spice went in which dish.

I will upload a few of these on my Recipe page, I just wanted to check in and update on how fantastic this experience was. We sat down to eat it all after and as you can see it was a feast! Learnt a lot about Hinduism, and Delhi culture. If you go, please go and see Neha she is fantastic and I feel much better equipped now to cook authentic Indian food!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Namaste! My welcome to magical India…

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‘Expect the unexpected… India loves to toss up surprises’ – Lonely Planet guide to India

Despite having arrived in India almost a week ago, it has taken me until now to find both the time and the energy to get round to writing a blog entry.

When people say India is an ‘assault on the senses’, they aren’t kidding! There is so much to take in visually, spiritually, and using both your sense of smell for the good and of course the bad! The smells can sometimes be a literal assault – urine becoming an all too familiar smell particularly in the more hectic parts of the cities.
First of all I’d like to say, I am writing this entry from a roof top in Jaipur, watching hundreds of families practising kite flying on top of roofs all around me. Kite Day is on the 14th, and there are literally hundreds and hundreds of multicoloured kites flying above all the high rise buildings as I speak, it’s unreal. Basking in the late afternoon sun, listening to the sounds of music blasting from the roof top with a cold Kingfisher in hand – I’d like to state now, I love India.
In the past week, we have been all over Delhi, Agra, Rajahstan and Jaipur – each unique and intriguing in their own weird and wonderful ways!

India is as diverse a country as they come, Hinduism being the most common religion, followed by in this order (or so we are told!) Muslim, Christians and then Sikh. What I love about this is the lack in animosity towards each other’s faith. Maybe we could adapt some of these views at home! No one has forced their religion upon us, but all have been willing to answer our questions without putting down any other religious views. The poor (of which there are too many to comprehend until seeing with your own eyes), are offered soup kitchens. Now, that’s not to say they are all catered for, I am well aware of that. But what struck me (and I’m not ashamed to say when I saw it it brought a tear to my eye), is that the cooks inside are unpaid volunteers, working their full time job, then helping make food for the poor. One we visited in Delhi feeds around 10,000 homeless a day. More on this when I get round to my Delhi page!

I have had the pleasure of a street food tour of Old and New Delhi, plus being a guest at a wonderful Hindu woman’s home to help cook some North Indian food and learn about the culture, seen some breathtaking temples, visited the world famous Taj Mahal, done the obligatory guided tours, and then some!

When I have time, the big issue being exactly that in India – time – I will post some of the recipes I have learned so far and some of the really tasty street food. Also, I will need a separate entry for each state we have visited – there is just so much to cover.

This is my introductory note – to say (without bragging too much I hope), that I am safe, well, warm and happy – so don’t worry parents! I’m off to Goa in a couple of days, who knows what I have in store down South, but I cannot wait!

The countdown is on…. To INDIA

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Seeing as I now have ONE WEEK before embarking on an epic round the world trip, I thought this would be the perfect time to leave my first blog entry… Basically because I just can’t contain my excitement!

So, a week today, Craig and I will be heading out to Delhi to begin a 4 month round the world tour, and yes, one of the things I’ml ooking forward to most is of course the FOOD!

Seeing as Indian is, and always has been my favourite cuisine, I feel maybe more hyper than normal about what culinary delights I will try out there.  Being a yacht chef, I get requests for all types of cuisine onboard – but rarely Indian, so it’s always a real treat for me.  Plus, spending time mainly in the Caribbean and Mediterraneenan, it has just never seemed up to scratch to me. Maybe I’m a curry snob having been spoiled so far in the UK!

Next week, in Delhi, we will be embarking on a 7 HOUR FOOD TOUR – yes, an entire day filled with sights and smells of the streets of Old and New Delhi, and on the way trying the famous Dilli-Ka-Chaat – or as we know it, street food.

To say I am exciting to embark on this trip would be a monumental understatement, and I can’t wait to share all of the sights, cultures, and of course recipes and dishes I experience along the way.

Updates next week… And everyone pray we don’t get Delhi belly!

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