Saturday, 16 August 2014

Thai basil chicken - pad kra pao gai (ผัดกระเพราไก่)

This Thai basil chicken recipe - pad kra pao gai (ผัดกระเพราไก่) is a true classic. It's one of the most popular Thai street food dishes. The chicken is stir fried with Thai holy basil, and traditionally served on top of rice with a crispy fried egg on the side!

No fried eggs for me thanks.  I’m English and what do fried eggs mean to us Brits?  Yup, breakfast, so no further explanation required.

Thai basil chicken is a dish I've been wanting to make at home for so long.  What's stopping you? I'm hearing right now.  Well, quite simply, the Basil!

Living in Spain is amazing but, one problem for ex-pat cooks is sourcing ingredients. Particularly for Asian dishes.  Made almost impossible when fresh, perishable foods are essential.

I was getting so fed up not being able to get my fix of Thai basil chicken I sent a message to our local Garden Centre for one last ditch attempt.  Because the owner is English and occasionally stocks plants not normally found in Spain, I assumed there may be a minimal chance it may be stocked.

Without much hope, I was elated to receive a reply confirming stocks of Thai Basil.  I felt like I had won the Lottery and sent Mr. Grumps to immediately purchase a plant.

It's doing well in our garden too and gives a regular supply of fresh leaves, how happy am I?

You may think this dish is going to be a very spicy dish due to the amount of garlic and chillies required.  Trust me when I say it's perfect so please don't adjust the recipe, you will regret it if you do.  Will you try it and come back to tell me you love it too?

Thai basil chicken recipe (pad kra pao gai - ผัดกระเพราไก่)
Makes 1 large or 2 smaller potions

1 chicken breast (or any other cut of boneless chicken, about 200 grams)
5 cloves of garlic
4 Thai chillies
1 tablespoon oil for frying
1 teaspoon of oyster sauce
½ teaspoon light soy sauce
½ teaspoon sugar
1 splash of dark soy sauce
1 handful of Thai holy basil leaves
1 Crispy fried egg (optional)

Cut the chicken into small bite sized pieces.

Rinse and peel the garlic and chillies, and pound them in a mortar and pestle (alternatively you can just mince them with a knife). They don't need to be super fine, you just want to bring out the oils and flavours from the garlic and chillies.

Pluck a good sized handful of holy basil leaves off the stems.

Now it's time to start cooking. Heat your wok on high heat, and add about 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan.

When the oil is hot, add the chillies and garlic. Stir fry them for about 20 seconds or so until they get really fragrant, but don't let them burn or get too dry.

Toss in your chicken. Keep stir frying continuously. At this stage you want to continue to stir and cook your chicken until it's just about fully cooked all the way through (depending on the size pieces of chicken and how hot your fire is, it should take about 2 - 3 minutes). If it starts to get dry, add just a tiny splash of water.

Add 1 teaspoon of oyster sauce, ½ teaspoon light soy sauce, ½ teaspoon sugar, and finally a splash of dark soy sauce. Keep stir frying for about another 30 seconds.

Grab a handful of holy basil, toss it into the pan, fold it into the chicken, and then immediately turn off the heat (if you're using an electric stove, you'll want to remove the pan from the burner). The holy basil really only needs to cook for about 5 seconds, and it will continue to wilt and cook from the existing heat of the chicken. This step is important because if you cook the basil for too long, it loses some of its glorious flavour and gets slightly chewy.

Recipe source Eating Thai Food

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Review of Hotel Restaurante Alberdini, Competa, Malaga, Spain

2 Weeks ago Mr. Grumps, myself and two friends, Ken and Siss, enjoyed a special summer evening being wined and dined at Hotel Restaurante Alberdini.

An unusual and interesting Hotel.  Actually, it’s so much more than a Hotel.  There is a bar, a restaurant, yoga classes (amongst others), a swimming pool for guests and some rather unusual accommodation too.

Mr. Grumps and I actually had no clue as to this pre-arranged evening.  We were actually kidnapped and force fed!  Really, we were, read how this came about in my previous post here.

The Alberdini as it is commonly known, is just a few minutes drive from our home and yet not somewhere we have visited often.  Isn’t that just typical?

Upon our arrival we were shown to our reserved table and our waitress quickly took our drinks order.  We were then given the menus to peruse.  Same menu as when Mr. Grumps and I last dined there some two years before.  However, there was one new item we had heard much about named ‘Steak on a Hot Stone’.  I guess this needs no further explanation as “it does what it says on the tin”.

The menu is extremely varied and we were also informed of the Specials available that day.

Whilst I had been tempted to order the steak on a hot stone, I was also a little nervous by the prospect of cooking my own meal.  The intention was to enjoy myself and therefore did not want the bother of worrying about ruining my steak.  Siss however needed no convincing and ordered the Fillet Steak option.

Jabali (Wild Boar) was offered as a special that day so I was keen not to miss this opportunity as it’s rarely an option in most restaurants.

Mr. Grumps chose the fish special of the day being Dorada (Sea Bream) and Ken ordered the Pez Espada (Swordfish).

Nobody ordered starters which suited me because I was in the mood for a dessert that evening and new I could not manage three courses.

We were all given a choice of side dishes to accompany our meals.  Not being a massive fan of chips I requested rice, whilst the others chose roasted new potatoes.

Orders placed we were chatting and drinking when 4 small terracotta pots were placed on our table containing sopa de ajo blanco.  White garlic soup, a common cold soup served in Spain.

Despite being a popular soup, none of us had ever tried it before so this small offering was a good opportunity.  Unfortunately, we were not keen but a nice gesture.

When our Main Meals arrived, all eyes were on the Fillet steak served on a hot stone which Siss had ordered.  No need to explain why, just look at that beauty in the photo.

Served with 3 different sauces on the side with vegetables and  potatoes.

Ken’s Pez Espada looked fabulous with garlic, parsley and olive oil sauce drizzled over the top.

The Dorada too looked delicious accompanied by potatoes and a side salad.

I was a little surprised to discover my Jabali served as a stew.  I had presumed it to be a large cut of roasted meat.  I made this assumption  based on being told Jabali was a special that day, not Estofado de jabalí.

Whilst I did enjoy the Estofado de jabalí I will definitely question how it is prepared in future when an option.  I’ve previously eaten Jabali elsewhere which was roasted and more suited to my palette.

We all enjoyed our meals but I feel Siss made the best choice with the Fillet Steak.  I will definitely order that next time we visit The Alberdini.

Only myself and Siss ordered desserts.  Sorry no photos, Siss was tucking in hers the second it placed in front of her and I was busy pushing aside the dreaded “Squirt Cream” surrounding mine. 

Siss chose the Chocolate Mousse and I could not resist trying the Chocolate Brownie.  Both good choices, but please no more “squirt Cream“.  That stuff should never have been invented.

All in all a fabulous meal.  Great service too, nothing was too much trouble and the prices are reasonable.

Special thanks go to Ken and Siss for kidnapping us and providing a memorable evening.

Saturday, 2 August 2014


Kidnapped and Force Fed at Hotel Restaurante Alberdini, Competa, Malaga, Spain

One evening last week, Mr. Grumpy and I were kidnapped and taken to the Hotel Alberdini in Competa.

Yes you read that correctly, we actually were kidnapped and taken to the above venue!

Entrance to the driveway

To cut a long story short, our long time friends and neighbours, Ken and Siss kidnapped us in a very friendly and organised manner with the sole intention of providing us with a good time.

Who needs enemies when you have friends like that?

After a brief period in remission I was diagnosed as terminal with the return of Colon Cancer.  Since then we have had many visitors and been quite busy with as many family and friends as possible.

Ken and Siss had told us sometime ago that they were intending to kidnap me before I become too ill.  They both work hard and very long hours so time for social events is rare for them.  However, Siss had a free evening coming up and on that date, we too were free.

So a date and time was set for the Kidnapping.  I had absolutely no clue as to what this would entail.  I was simply told both of us were being taken and to be ready for 7.15pm.

Consequently, we did exactly as we were told!

We were bundled in the car and driven to a surprise venue.  Upon arrival we certainly were surprised too.  The Alberdini is just 5 minutes from our home but we never seem to go there, isn’t that just typical though?

After being shown to a reserved table, the waitress took our drinks order which quickly arrived.

The remainder of the evenings events can be read in my next post Review of Hotel Restaurante Alberdini (here) 

Thanks to Ken and Siss for an amazing evening at the Alberdini

NOTE – Nobody was harmed and no ransom was paid to the culprits.  Residents of Competa are now very aware who the kidnappers are due to their photos being published on facebook.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Thai Red Curry with Braised Duck Recipe (Kaeng Phed Ped Yang)

Thai Red Curry with Braised Duck Recipe (Kaeng Phed Ped Yang)

Thai Red curry, along  with Green are both very popular throughout the globe. Yellow curry is also a great option, a lot milder on the heat though.

It's common place for Thai Red Curry to be served with Beef or chicken, but have you tried it with Duck?

It's makes a pleasing change and certainly surprises guests when served for a dinner party.

Ready for a change?

Thai Red Curry with Braised Duck Recipe (Kaeng Phed Ped Yang)

Thai Red Curry with Braised Duck Recipe (Kaeng Phed Ped Yang) - Serves 2


1 x large duck breast
1 x 400g coconut milk
1 tablespoon red curry paste (or to taste)
½ tablespoons Thai fish sauce (or to taste)
1 tablespoon palm sugar
3 kaffir lime leaves
½ fresh Pineapple (cut into bite-sized pieces)
1 x handful Thai basil leaves (reserve some for garnish)


Prepare the duck for braising by scoring the skin. You want your cuts to be just deep enough to cut through the fat, but not enough to slice the meat.

Begin with a cold frying pan.  Add duck, skin side down then turn on heat to medium-high, DO NOT add any oil to the pan, cook until the skin is golden brown. Turn the duck over and sear the other side quickly. We will be poaching the duck in the next step, so it’s OK if it’s not cooked all the way through, we just want to give the duck a lovely brown colour and help seal in the juices.

Remove duck and place on kitchen paper to drain, set aside. Also, set aside pan containing duck fat and see note below.

Pour the coconut cream into a wok or sauce pan and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly until the coconut oil begins to separate.

Add the curry paste, fish sauce, palm sugar kaffir lime leaves. Simmer for 2 more minutes.

Bring to a boil. Then add the coconut milk.  Add the duck, flesh side down and braise in the sauce until cooked to your liking.

Remove duck, loosely cover with foil and let it rest for a few minutes.

Taste curry sauce and adjust seasonings to taste.

Add the pineapple and simmer for 2 minutes. Then add the Thai sweet basil leaves.

Slice the duck (skin can be removed first if preferred).

Add the duck slices to pan, simmer for 1 minute then serve immediately with additional Thai basil leaves.

NOTE – Once cooled, pour duck fat into a container and refrigerate or freeze for other recipes.  I usually keep this for roast potatoes.

Thai Red Curry with Braised Duck Recipe (Kaeng Phed Ped Yang)

Monday, 21 July 2014

Restaurant La Plaza, Canillas de Albaida, Malaga (Review)

Review - Restaurant La Plaza, Canillas de Albaida, Malaga

Over a long period of time (more years than I care to remember in fact) I have eaten in every restaurant in the mountain villages of Competa, Canillas de Albaida, Arches and Sayalonga.

Many no longer exist, many have changed management, new ones open up regularly and of course there are also those that simply should not be there at all!!!

Then of course there are those where the management remains but a new chef is bought in.  This could be due to various reasons, perhaps the chef moves on, perhaps the chef is replaced.  Whatever the reason, a new chef can often revive a restaurant that may have become tired.  Equally, a new chef can also kill a previously popular restaurant too.

Restaurant La Plaza has seen several new chefs over the years.  It’s always been popular and sits in a beautiful position too.  It is part of Posada La Plaza Hotel, which is located directly opposite the restaurant within the square (La Plaza).

I have eaten there on many occasions myself.  Not for a long period though for which there have been some valid reasons.  One being that we were unsure whether or not it was still trading!

However, recent advertising announcing a new chef and a new menu too inspired us to go back.

With my brother and sister-in-law visiting for a few days, it seemed the perfect opportunity for a re-visit, especially as this is one restaurant they had actually never been to on previous visits.

Unfortunately, there was a cold breeze that evening (despite now being summer).  However we had no choice but to sit outside due to me   currently being unable to the tackle stairs up to the dining area inside.

For my starter course, I chose the Indonesian spare ribs with bean sprout salad.

Indonesian Rack of Ribs with Bean Sprout Salad

A reasonable size rack of ribs, marinated and cooked until almost falling off the bone.  Succulent, tender and flavoursome.  Albeit, a little dry at either end, due to re-heating I suspect!  The bean sprout salad was a perfect accompaniment.  Mixed with onion and peppers and served with a tasty dressing.  Personally, I would have preferred a thicker, sweeter sauce, which would also have been perfect for mopping up with the ribs too.

Despite this, it was a good choice and I would order it again.

For the main meal, I opted for Duck Confit.  A dish rarely found in restaurants in Spain, so I was looking forward to this.

Duck Confit

I was not disappointed either, a perfect choice.  Perfectly cooked confit duck leg, positioned on top of a carrot and potato mash, well seasoned and quite smooth.  All accompanied with fresh and crunchy broccoli and cauliflower florets, carrot slices and roast potatoes.  The thick gravy completed the dish, which had a slight sweetness to it and a perfect flavour balance, but not quite enough of it!  I did request extra a short while later and was expecting it to be bought to the table separately.  However, I was a little taken aback when the Waitress whisked away my plate and returned it now swimming in far too much gravy.  This time however, it had not been reduced to provide the same previous consistency, nor was there the sweetness either.  Very runny and a little too salty too which rather spoiled what was originally a perfect dish.

That said, I’ll know another time to request the gravy be served separately upon placing the order and plenty of it too!  My only other request would be not to have the sliced carrots.  The other vegetables were plenty, rendering the additional carrots unnecessary.

Fast forward…………………………….

That delicious meal was almost 3 weeks ago.  I was unable to publish this earlier due to receiving many guests/visitors from family and friends and therefore had little time to prepare it for posting.

In the meantime, I, together with my husband, in-laws and several friends have visited La Plaza again.

This time, it was a beautiful summer evening, without the cold wind as before.  The owner, Gustavo was also waiting every table the whole evening.  He was on holiday during our last visit, so it was nice to see him this time as it’s been a few years.

Wanting to try a different dish, this visit I chose the Beef Fillet with Mushroom Sauce for the main my course.

Beef Fillet

Beef Fillet

I order steak with caution most of the time.  It’s rarely perfectly cooked to my liking, resulting in disappointment and sending it back!  There is normally only one particular restaurant where I always order steak and nothing else (review of that to follow another time).  So to order steak here was a risk for me.  But don’t tell Gustavo please!!!!!

When my dish arrived I was so pleased to see the fresh Cauliflower and Broccoli Florets again, alongside the Carrot and Potato mash.  The beautiful looking Beef fillet was placed on top of the mushroom sauce.  However, I was also hoping for those delicious roast potatoes again, but no.  In there place I received Patatas a lo Pobre (poor mans potatoes).  A simple side of sliced potatoes, cooked in olive oil with seasoning, sliced onions and peppers.  A nice dish but not, in my opinion, restaurant quality fare.  Tapas yes or served in the home, but not in many restaurants and definitely not alongside fillet steak!

Before tucking in, my first task was to check out the cooking of the beef.  I cut straight through the middle as this is the only way to check if it is cooked to my liking (medium).  Perfectly cooked beef fillet, one happy diner as I hate having to return food with complaints!!

The mushroom sauce was delicious too and certainly helped me to quickly forget I was still missing those beautiful roast potatoes!

My Husband ordered the Salmon, as recommended by Gustavo.  He was pleased with his choice too and was relieved it was served with new potatoes (with butter for dipping in) and a salad.  He will not touch “trees” as he calls them.  In other words, real vegetables!

I was too full to enjoy a dessert on our previous visit so was keen not to miss out again!!!!

No dessert menu as such was offered to peruse.  Instead, Gustavo explained what was available.  The choices were, Crema Catalana, Crème Brulee, Sticky Toffee Pudding, Tiramasu or Chocolate Mousse.

The first two instantly struck me as strange choice to offer both as an option.  One is Spanish, One French but basically the same dessert!  The only difference being the cooking method of each.  That aside, some delicious choices were offered.

Like many, I do enjoy a good Sticky Toffee Pudding.  However despite not being adverse to dates, I do prefer a pudding without them.  Purists will naturally be frowning at that comment!  But, I find they spoil it by making the pudding too heavy and bring nothing to the texture or flavour.  I love a moist, light sponge with a lot of toffee sauce!

Before ordering, I questioned the ingredients in the sponge and was delighted when Gustavo assured me there were no dates.  Despite being a little sceptical, as I have been told this in other restaurants, only to find it is in fact packed with dates, I went ahead and ordered it.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Excellent, the best Sticky Toffee Pudding I have ever been served in a restaurant!  Upon its arrival, I was disappointed to see such a small portion.  Despite this, I was however unable to finish it!!!!!!  A little fresh cream was swirled into the toffee sauce which made for a nice presentation.  So too was the addition of Walnuts.


I most definitely recommend this Restaurant.

The Hotel Posada La Plaza, opposite the restaurant in La Plaza (the square) also has much to offer (click link at start of post to view website).  The square is for pedestrian access only.  However motorbikes occasionally ride through.  Cars are unable to enter the Plaza.  But, for those with walking difficulties you can enter by car upon prior arrangement with the management when booking (applies to both Hotel and Restaurant only bookings).  This is necessary for the security post to be released upon your arrival.  No facilities for disabled are available within the restaurant nor Hotel.

Inside (upstairs) and roof terrace dining available.  Outside dining, within the Plaza.

Friendly service and nothing is too much trouble.

Food -            9/10   Very good
Service -        8/10   Good
Location        5/10   Pretty setting, but not suitable for disabled or infirm
Pricing           9/10   Fair
Food choice 8/10   Good – Vegetarian Main Meals offered, but no
Starters available!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Halloumi and Strawberry Salad

It's been 4 weeks now since my chemo session.  I was due to have 3 months of treatment, every other Tuesday.

What time I have left I intend to be spending as quality time having fun with my family and friends.  That includes enjoying as many foodie delights as possible.

I've always had a great love for the saltiness and sqweak of a good quality Halloumi Cheese.  Paired with sweet Strawberries and you encounter the most delicious partnership. 

Having already been through several periods of illness over the past 4/half years, the medical team were unsure that I would be strong enough to accept another session of chemo, especially as this was a lot stronger dose than the treatment previously received

It transpires that my body clearly can't cope.  The first session has just about rendered me pretty much useless.  All further sessions have been cancelled under the circumstances.  This a great relief, what's the point in spending 3 months plus in a zombie like state?

Halloumi & Strawberry Salad (Serves 1 – easily doubles)

4 Strawberries, hulled and cut in half or quartered
½  tbsp Balsamic vinegar
Squirt of Lemon juice
½ tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

3  x ½" thick slices Halloumi cheese (cut from a block, or more if starving)
1 tbsp Olive oil
Small handful of mint leaves (finely chopped)
2 small Cos lettuce leaves, finely chopped (or a handful of mixed leaves)

Prepare the Strawberries & dressing:-

Place strawberries into a small bowl, add the balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil,. lemon juice and season with sea salt and black pepper.  Stir well to combine and leave to one side.

Prepare the Halloumi:-

Heat olive oil in a frying pan and pan fry the Halloumi slices on both sides until golden brown (about 1-2 minutes per side).

Recipe adapted from scandifoodie

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Craving Matcha Ice Cream (Be careful what you wish for)

'Be careful what you wish for'.  A saying I'm sure you've all heard before.  But do you understand it's meaning and relevance?

It seems to have come a regular phrase within my vocabulary, in addition to 'follow your dreams, life is too short to have regrets for the things you never did'.  That one is self explanatory!

Photo courtesy of Daily Cooking Quest

Despite being a trained typist from school days.  This post is taking some time to type due to one of the side affects of  Chemo, causing pins/needles to finger tips in addition to pain.

Back in January 2010 I was diagnosed with Colon Cancer.  A larger tumour was discovered and I was operated on immediately.

After receiving a mild does of Chemo via a portal implanted in my neck, I also received the maximum treatment of Radiotherapy.  The Radiotherapy caused a lot of damage and since 2010 I have spent several long periods in hospital, plus 3 more operations.

Despite being given the all clear just over 12 months ago in 2013.  I was informed last week the Cancer has returned and spread.  This time it is terminal and I was informed on the same day that 19 year old Stephen Sutton died of the same disease and also of Colon Cancer.

Please feel free to read on or skip to Matcha Ice Cream (here) if I'm boring you too much.

'Be careful what you wish for'

Before my original diagnoses, I wished for a flat stomach and a little weight loss , just like many of us do! Well that wish came true from the tragedy of being diagnosed with Colon Cancer and the affects of damage via the radiotherapy!  Important note - However, please do not be afraid of receiving Radiotherapy if you ever face Cancer yourself.  My situation happens to an incredibly low percentage of Cancer patients, it is rare and I just got unlucky.

Last year Mr. Grumps and I decided we would move back to UK.  There were several reasons for this decision and I particularly have been looking forward to it.  One of those reasons was finances and the move would have solved that problem.  Mr. Grumps wished we could remain in Spain, but this was never going to happen unfortunately (or so we thought!).  Due to many factors, his wish has been granted.  Both of us just wished we did not have to do so mainly due to finances.  That wish has also now come true due to the fact I am now terminal........................

Upon arriving in Spain permanently, we decided it was important to arrange Private Health Insurance, write new Wills, have Life Insurance Policies and become Spanish Residents.  The most wise moves and lucky we did!!!!

If you too have already moved to Spain, or plan to, please find yourself a good Ascesoria (Solicitor) and look into the aforementioned and shy, you may be shocked at what you don't know about the Spanish system.

Having taken out Life Insurances Policies has solved any financial stress.  The Policy we chose pays out half the insured amount upon diagnoses of any Terminal illness with balance upon death.  Now we will have no financial stress for the time I have left and Mr. Grumps will be financially secure upon my death.  He will be in a position to do whatever he decides.  So there's another wish come true due to tragic circumstances!!!!!

'Be careful what you wish for'

 'follow your dreams, life is too short to have regrets for the things you never did'.

My Dad died at the young age of 52 due to a massive heart attack.  Mum died at the young age of 62 due to lung cancer.  Neither of them carried out their dreams.  These plans were put on hold for retirement!!!!!!

Matcha Ice Cream and my Craving

Last week on the morning of May 14th I came across and commented on a recipe for a Matcha Ice Cream Recipe, posted by Daily Cooking Quest (here)

That weekend I was supposed to be discharged from hospital and was so looking forward to making this simple recipe as I was craving it so much.  Alas, it was not meant to be.

Saturday morning the Oncologist visited me in Hospital and informed me the Chemo would start on Monday. Three months of treatment, via the portal with a bottle every 2 weeks for 2 days treatment being feed in over the 48 hours.  However, being a strong treatment and not sure how I would react, the first one was to be given whilst in hospital.

I was also informed of side affects.  One of many was not to take cold food/drink from the fridge/freezer.  I must only consume room temperature  items throughout the whole 3 months.  No ice cream for me then for a while.

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