Recipe: Patrick Drake’s Singapore Laksa
Q: ‘I’ve got into a rut, cooking the same boring dishes. What advice do you have for a relative novice to get a bit more creative in the kitchen?’ Ava, Clapham
A: You thought you were asking a question about cooking, but let’s take a look into on human psychology and the tyranny of choice.
Picture the scene: it’s Wednesday night. You walk into the supermarket, where unlimited food combinations lay at your feet. What do you buy? A ready-made lasagna, because Wednesday is “lasagna Wednesday”. Similarly, I wandered into a popular London juice place and was faced with so many choices, my brain almost melted. I ended up going next door for a cup of builder’s tea.
Too much choice makes decision making and innovation harder, and our brain automatically falls back on default patterns to make our lives easier.
My solution is “The Creative Funnel” (a phrase I just made up). With this, you start big and work your way down.
First off, choose a region that tickles your taste buds (say, the Far East). Next, pick a country that intrigues you (Singapore). Now, think of one ingredient you want at the centre of your dinner (peanut butter). Then throw in a couple more filters: hot or cold? Meat or vegetarian?
Once you’ve got your criteria, what’s next? Google. Stick your search terms in and I guarantee there’ll be a recipe for even the weirdest flavour combo.
Alternatively, if you don’t have time for all that, give my airport-inspired Singapore Laksa a whirl…
A CREATIVE SINGAPORE LAKSA
• 2 spring onions, ½ cm discs
• 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
• 1tbsp ginger, peeled and chopped
• 3 tbsps fresh coriander, finely chopped
• 1tbsp red curry paste
• 400ml coconut milk
• 1 chicken stock pot
• ½ – 1tsp fish sauce
• 2 dried kaffir lime leaves
• 1½ tbsp crunchy peanut butter
• 1 lime, zest and juice
• 4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
• 2 nests medium egg noodles
• A pinch of red chilli flakes
• A handful of beansprouts
1. Prep the spring onions (keep the green parts for garnish), garlic, ginger, coriander and zest your lime.
2 Heat 1 tbsp of oil on medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger and spring onion and after 1 minute stir in the red curry paste. After another minute add the coconut milk and stir until smooth. Pop in the chicken stock pot and fish sauce with 200ml of water, bring to a simmer, then add the kaffir lime leaf and peanut butter. Leave to simmer on a medium-low heat.
3. Season the chicken thighs and heat 1 tbsp of olive oil on a medium-high heat. Brown the chicken on each side and add to the Laksa. Pop a lid on and gently poach for 5 minutes.
4. When the chicken is nearly done, add the noodles with 200ml more water. Cook until soft, add the zest and half the juice.
5. Serve the Laksa in bowls topped with the chicken (cut in ócm strips), greens of the spring onion and coriander, along with any other toppings you love.
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