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A Quickie

QUICK, GLUTEN FREE, DAIRY FREE TV DINNER: pad thai followed by date, cocoa and brazil nut squares

I’m in London for a few weeks of rehearsals and am living the itinerant lifestyle; hopping from home to home, friend to family, and occasionally paying my way in the kitchen. At the moment I'm staying with SS, while GS is away at a sex festival in the deserts of Spain. Yep. The last we heard from him he was pleased with himself because he'd managed to construct a mobile refrigerator for the group camper van. Presumably for all the beers, rather than any sort of nutritional sustenance. Now he's gone dark.

Thursday movie night in was the highlight of our equally crazy week. We wanted something snappy as neither of us were going to be home early from work, and we had a hankering for some spice (nothing to do with the sex festival). As it’s been SWELTERING I also thought it would be a good idea to avoid using the oven.

I hadn't actually made pad Thai since I went to Thailand about ten years ago, and now I don't know WHY. It's quick, easy and DELICIOUS. Tangy tamarind, nutty crunch, sharp lime and slurpy noodles. You can choose surf, turf or vegetarian. Here we went for chicken, but you could happily use prawns as well or instead, and add more vegetables (sugar snaps, mushrooms) for a veggie option. I originally learned to make the dish at a three day cooking course in Chang Mai (entirely authentic, I'm sure), where the main thing I remember is our teacher repeatedly urging 'safety first' in regards to chili usage. He took great relish in unsubtly implying how uncomfortable the morning after could be if you were too liberal. I've gone light in this recipe but feel FREE to add more.

This dessert is a variation of one I've already shared, but using Brazil nuts instead of almonds as that's what I had to hand. It's no bake, vegan, gluten free, and OH so quick to whizz together. You get a real cocoa hit and plenty of nutty goodness. We popped it in the freezer for about half an hour which made it extra pleasing on a hot evening, lounging on a comfortable sofa. Who needs the desert when there's an ice cold dessert to enjoy?

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Et en français...

Pad Thai

Serves 2, generously, takes 15 - 20 minutes

main / perennial / ready in a jiffy / easy peasy / nothing fancy / date night / gluten free / dairy free

This is going to become a new staple. Ready in a flash, super tasty and satisfying. As I said above, feel free to use prawns instead of, or as well as, chicken. Or add extra carrots, beansprouts, sugar snaps and mushrooms to make a veggie version (add the mushrooms with the carrots and the sugar snaps with the beansprouts).

* Thick rice noodles - 180g

* Vegetable oil - 2 tbsp

* Spring onions - 3, finely sliced

* Carrots - 2, peeled and sliced into thin batons (or julienned)

* Garlic - 2 cloves, peeled and finely chopped

* Coriander - a handful, roughly chopped, leaves and stems separate

* Chicken - 250g, chopped into 3cm chunks

* Tamarind sauce^^ - 3 tbsp

* Fish sauce - 3 tbsp

* Chili flakes - a couple of pinches (or more to taste)

* Bean sprouts - a couple of large handfuls

* Eggs - 2

* Cashew nuts - a handful , roughly chopped

* Lime wedges - to serve

^^ If you can't get hold of tamarind sauce, you can substitute with a few tbsp of soy sauce and a tbsp of honey here.

Boil up a kettle of water and cook the rice noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok over a medium high heat. Add the spring onions and carrots and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring often.

Add the coriander stalks and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes more. Keep stirring.

Add the chicken and fry for about five minutes, until it looks cooked through.

Meanwhile mix the tamarind sauce, fish sauce and chili flakes in a cup.

When the chicken is cooked, add the sauce and the cooked noodles to the pan and mix well.

Move everything over to one side of the pan and crack the two eggs in to the empty space. Use the spatula to scramble the eggs. Once the eggs are pretty much cooked, mix everything together again and add the coriander leaves. Remove from the heat and serve immediately with the cashew nuts sprinkled on top and a lime wedge on the side.

Date, cocoa and brazil nut squares

Serves 4, takes 5 minutes, plus chilling time

dessert / perennial / easy peasy / quietly smug / ready in a jiffy / party / date night / gluten free / dairy free / vegetarian / vegan / detox / picnic / refined sugar free

So quick. So healthy. So gooey. Delicious on its own, as a snack or with fresh berries.

* Pitted dates - 1 cup

* Cocoa powder - 3 tbsp

* Desiccated coconut - 4 tbsp

* Chopped brazil nuts - 1/2 cup

* Sea salt - a generous pinch

* Water - 4 tbsp

Place all the ingredients in a high speed blender and blend until you have a smooth paste. You might need to scrape the sides of the bowl down a couple of times.

Line a small loaf tin or a tupperware (about 15cm square) with greaseproof paper.

Scrape the mixture into the tin and make an even layer using the spatula. Place in the fridge for an hour (or the freezer for half an hour) before slicing and serving.


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