GazpachoI’m looking out of the window as I type this, and I’ve come to the sad conclusion that it’s definitely not summer any more. This will be this 2010’s final recipe for the contents of your greenhouse. This year hasn’t been fantastic for tomatoes, but the cucumbers have been glorious (full disclosure here – I didn’t grow any myself, but my parents have enough to club a small army to death with), and peppers are at their best now. It goes without saying that this recipe is totally dependent on the quality of your ingredients.

Most think of gazpacho as a cold tomato soup. Tomatoes do make up the dominant ingredient by weight, but a good gazpacho should take much of its flavour from the cucumber (surprisingly aromatic) and peppers. Get the finest, ripest vegetables you can find, and if at all possible, try to get your hands on one of those lovely, spurred, English cucumbers  – they’ve a lot more flavour to them than one of the smooth-skinned supermarket variety. Use your best olive oil, and enjoy the last of the sunshine. If you’re preparing this as part of a special meal, you can jazz it up something spectacular by shredding some fresh, sweet white crab meat, and putting a couple of tablespoons of it in the bottom of each bowl before you pour the soup over.

Finally, a word of warning. Your guests might have a baked-in dislike of chilled soups. Check before you serve this up. I remember the look of utter misery on my Dad’s face when we visited a friend’s house once and were presented with a choice of Vichyssoise and gazpacho to open a meal with. Dad, you’re a heathen, but for you I’d warm this through on the hob.

To serve four as a starter, you’ll need:

1kg ripe tomatoes, as fresh as possible
4 banana shallots
3 cloves garlic
2 red peppers
1 green pepper
1 large cucumber
2 slices stale white bread, soaked in water and squeezed
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
Salt and pepper

Peel the tomatoes by scoring them around the equator and dunking them in boiling water to loosen the skins. Cut them open and discard the seeds. Blacken the skin of the peppers under the grill, pop the steaming peppers in a plastic box with the lid on for a few minutes to loosen the skins, peel and seed. Peel the cucumber, chop the shallots into quarters and mince or otherwise squish the garlic.

Blitz the vegetables and bread to a smooth purée in batches with the other ingredients. Taste for seasoning; you may want to add a little more vinegar or paprika as well as salt. Chill thoroughly and serve cold, with a little more olive oil drizzled over.

Scotch broth

It’s been a very busy month or so, and those of you who follow me on Twitter will have noticed that I was in Scotland for most of last week. I had good fun chomping on tablet, drinking gin and jam (if you are in Edinburgh and fancy a really, really clever and delicious cocktail, head straight for Bramble Bar – I can’t recommend their various egg-based flips enough), eating black pudding (much saltier than the southern variant, largely because of the inclusion of bacon rinds), and failing to spot any of those square sausages or any Arbroath Smokies. Bother.

I didn’t manage to find any Scotch broth either, so the obvious remedy on getting home was to make a large saucepan of it. The ultimate deliciousness of your broth will depend on the stock you use, which should definitely be homemade – lamb or beef is traditional, but any good, rich stock will work here (I cheated and used some stock I found in the freezer that I’d made a few months ago from a pork hock and some bits of shoulder – chicken stock is also excellent here, but it needs to be rich and dense). This is one of those dishes that it’s worth making a stock for from scratch, so if you don’t have anything likely in your freezer, try poaching a lamb shank or a bit of beef shin for a few hours and use the stock from that. You can also shred the resulting cooked meat into the soup – if you’re making your stock from scratch, just fish the bone out when you add the barley and lentils, shred the meat and add it to the broth with the chopped vegetables. If you’re using freezer stock which is sufficiently rich, you can happily leave the meat out.

Pearl barley is what marks a Scotch broth out among other, lesser broths. I’ve also thrown in a large handful of red lentils, which are a wonderful thickening and enriching agent for this kind of lovely lumpy soup. As with many stewed and simmered dishes, you’ll find this tastes even better if you leave it in the fridge overnight once you’ve made it up, and reheat it to serve the next day. To serve four (with some left over) you’ll need:

2 litres stock of your choice (see above)
150ml vermouth
75g pearl barley
75g split red lentils
2 medium potatoes, peeled
2 carrots
1 leek
1 large onion
1 red pepper (totally inauthentic, but very tasty)
1 small turnip
1 heaped teaspoon herbes de Provence
1 lemon (again, not strictly authentic, but damn good)
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring the stock to a simmer with the vermouth and toss in the barley and lentils. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, skimming any scum from the top of the pan with a slotted spoon.

While the pulses are simmering, chop the vegetables into small, even dice. When the 30 minutes are up, add them to the pan with the herbes de Provence and simmer for another 20 minutes. Add any shredded meat you’ve reserved along with the vegetables, if you’ve boiled a bone especially for this recipe.

Taste for seasoning and add the juice of the lemon. (This lifts the flavour of this rich soup, which I rather like.) If the soup is thicker than you like, just dilute it down with some water or some more stock until it reaches the consistency you fancy. Stir well before serving with big wedges of bread.

Tom yum soup

Certain foods are perfect for times when you’re feeling a bit under the weather. Depressed? You need hot wings. Exhausted and frazzled? Mashed potato. Hormonal? Chocolate cake.

Right now, I’m sitting here with a streaming nose and stuffy head. It’s not swine flu, it’s hay fever. And there’s one sure-fire way to nip a stuffy head in the bud: tom yum. This hot, sour Thai soup is flavoured with some of the world’s most powerful aromatics, spiked with tongue-numbingly hot chillies and should be served hot enough to melt your spoon. Fantastic stuff.

You’ll need to make a trip to the Chinese supermarket for most of the ingredients here. To save yourself time when making soup later on, you can freeze any leftover kaffir lime leaves, chopped galangal and lemongrass in airtight containers.

To serve two, you’ll need:

1 litre homemade stock – pork or fish stock both work really well here
1 tablespoon tom yum soup paste (available at Chinese supermarkets and some Western ones too)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 lemongrass stalks
5 kaffir lime leaves
2 inches galangal
2 small shallots
3 bird’s eye chillies
1 tomato
1 carrot
12 fresh shitake mushrooms
8 fresh prawns (with shells and heads if possible – as usual, none of my local shops had any with shells on, which elicited loud cursing from me)
1 handful beansprouts
1 handful coriander
Juice of two limes

Wallop the lemongrass stalks with the end of a rolling pin until they are ragged, slice the galangal into thin coins, and remove the central stalk from the lime leaves. Slice the shallots finely, chop the chillies, dice the tomato, chop the carrot into julienne strips and slice the mushrooms. And breathe. Once you’re done with the chopping, you’ll be pleased to hear that you’ve done most of the work.

Bring the stock to a simmer, and stir through the tom yum paste and fish sauce. Add the lemongrass, galangal, chillies and lime leaves, and simmer for five minutes. Drop the tomato, shallots, mushrooms and prawns into the bubbling stock and cook for another five minutes.

While the tom yum is cooking, squeeze the juice of one lime into each of two soup bowls. Divide the raw beansprouts between the two bowls. When the five minutes are up, ladle the soup, aromatics and all (some people like to remove the lime leaves, lemongrass and galangal from the dish, but they will continue to flavour the soup once it’s in the bowls) into the bowls. Garnish with generous amounts of coriander and serve immediately.

Roasted butternut squash and red pepper soup with garlic parmesan croutons

Just in time for you to buy the ingredients before Halloween, here’s a seasonal soup. (When I mentioned to Dr W that I was making a Halloween soup, his response was: “Ooh. Will it have blood and pus?” Sorry, love. It’s only got squash and peppers.)

The pumpkins you buy for carving don’t have the sweet, chestnutty character of many of the smaller squashes, so they’re better kept for carving and putting on the windowledge. A pumpkin-type soup is better made with something like a butternut squash instead, which has a great flavour and texture, and can be a bit easier to handle than some of the rounder squashes. In this recipe, the vegetables that make up the soup are all roasted. The squash will caramelise nuttily, the peppers become sweet and silky…and surely, there can’t be anything nicer than a roast onion? I’ve topped the lot off with some gorgeously savoury, crispy garlic and parmesan croutons. Halloween heaven.

To serve 4, you’ll need:

1 large butternut squash
5 large red peppers
5 small onions
1 litre stock (I used some home-made chicken stock)
1 tablespoon paprika
½ teaspoon ground coriander
Juice of 1 lime
20g butter
Olive oil to drizzle
Salt and pepper
Fresh coriander to garnish

½ loaf white bread (unsliced)
4 grated cloves garlic
1 handful grated parmesan
4 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180°C (340°F). Peel the butternut squash and cut it into chunks about an inch square. Arrange them on a baking tray and drizzle generously with olive oil. Peel and quarter the onions, and put them on another baking tray, cut side up. Dot with the butter and drizzle with a little more olive oil, then sprinkle with salt.

Put the squash and onions in the oven, and roast for 40 minutes, basting once. When the 40 minutes are up, put the peppers (on another baking tray, and rubbed gently with olive oil) in the oven, baste the squash and onions once more, and continue to roast everything for a further 20 minutes. The butternut squash should be soft and turning a sticky, caramel-brown at the edges, the onions should be browning nicely, and the peppers should be wrinkly. Set the squash and onions aside, and put the peppers in a plastic freezer bag. Seal and leave until the peppers have cooled. The steam coming off the peppers will loosen the skin and make them easy to peel – once cooled, you can slip the skins off.

Saute the paprika and coriander in a tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan for one minute, then add the squash, onions and peeled peppers to the pan. Saute gently, stirring, for five minutes, then pour over the stock, and bring to a simmer for five minutes. Puree the soup in a food processor (you’ll need to do this in batches) and push the resulting puree through a seive, back into the large pan. Add the lime juice, which will push the flavour of the peppers to the fore, taste for seasoning and leave the soup to one side while you make the croutons.

To make the croutons, preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Cut the crusts off the half loaf and discard. Chop the white part of the loaf into cubes about 2cm on each side (a large-ish crouton is nice here, the outside turning crisp and the inside retaining a bit of squashiness). Arrange the croutons on a baking sheet. Grate the garlic into the olive oil, mix well and drizzle over the croutons. Toss them well in the oil so every side is covered with the garlicky mixture, then sprinkle over the parmesan and toss again. Bake in the hot oven for ten minutes until golden, but start checking after eight minutes – these are quite easy to burn.

Warm the soup through, sprinkle with croutons and garnish with a bit of fresh coriander.

Golden winter vegetable soup with frizzled chorizo

Golden vegetable soupSoothing, sweet, buttery, winter vegetables are a real blessing when the weather’s cold. Plants keep a store of energy in the form of sugars in their tubers and roots, and those tubers and roots make for some surprisingly uplifting eating. This soup is passed through a sieve after being liquidised to ensure a silky, creamy texture. If you don’t own a food processor you can still make it – at the stage where the ingredients go into the processor bowl you can just mash them with a potato masher for about ten minutes, then pass the resulting mush through a sieve, pressing it through with the bottom of a ladle. You will end up muscular and with a very good pan of soup.

Because of all the plant sugars in these vegetables, you’ll find you need something salty to counter the sweet taste. I’ve cut chorizo into coins and fried it until it’s crisp and friable – a lovely contrast in texture with the silky, creamy soup. The result is a lovely sun-coloured dish at a time of year when the sun is a distant memory.

To serve four as a main course, you’ll need:

1 small celeriac
3 small sweet potatoes
1 small swede
1 small butternut squash
1 small onion
2 shallots
1 parsnip
3 carrots
1 leek
3 tablespoons butter
1 litre chicken stock (vegetarians can substitute vegetable stock and use croutons instead of the chorizo)
200 ml double cream
2 teaspoons salt
½ a nutmeg, grated
10 turns of the pepper mill
2 tablespoons chopped chives

Peel all the vegetables and cut them all into 1-inch chunks. Melt the butter in a large pan with a heavy base (this will help the soup cook evenly – I recommend Le Creuset pans, which are made of enamelled cast iron, and disperse heat beautifully) and sweat the vegetables, stirring regularly, until they begin to soften. You’ll find that the sweet potato pieces may brown a little. Don’t worry about it; they contain so much sugar that it’s hard to prevent a little of it caramelising, and it just gives depth to the soup.

When the vegetables are softening evenly, pour over the hot stock. It’s best if your stock is home-made, but some of the liquid stocks you can buy at the supermarket these days are a good substitute if you don’t have any in the freezer. Bring the stock and vegetables to a simmer, cover with a lid and leave for 20 minutes or until all the vegetables are soft all the way through.

While the soup simmers, slice a chorizo into pieces about the same size as a pound coin and fry over a medium flame in a dry frying pan, stirring and flipping the pieces occasionally. The chorizo will release its fat and the pieces will become crisp. After about 20 minutes, when the chorizo is crisp and dry, remove the pieces and drain on paper towels. Reserve the oil.

Transfer the vegetables and stock to a large bowl and liquidise in batches, passing each processed batch through a sieve back into the large pan. You will find you need to push the soup through the sieve with the back of a large spoon or ladle. Return the pan to a very low heat and stir in the cream, salt and pepper and the grated nutmeg. Bring to a simmer and serve with a drizzle of chorizo oil, some chorizo scattered over (keep some more in a bowl for people to help themselves) and a sprinkling of chopped chives.

Chicken and sweetcorn soup

This Chinese soup is a real favourite with children, and it’s pleasingly economical to make. You’ll only need two chicken leg joints (the joint with the thigh and drumstick attached) to serve four people.

You might have eaten this in Chinese restaurants. This is an egg-drop soup: this means it’s thickened by whisking a thin stream of beaten egg into the bubbling stock immediately before serving, leaving you with delicious strands of seasoned egg mingling with the chicken pieces and the sweetcorn. If you want to make extra to freeze, skip the egg stage, adding it to the defrosted soup immediately before you serve.

To serve four, you’ll need:

2 chicken leg joints
1 litre water
1 chicken stock cube
1 piece of ginger, about the size of your thumb, cut into coins
2 spring onions (plus extra to garnish)
3 cloves garlic
1 can creamed corn
2 tablespoons soya sauce
1 teaspoon cornflour
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 eggs
Salt and pepper

Brown the outside of the chicken pieces in a large, heavy saucepan with the garlic, spring onions and ginger for five minutes. Pour over the water and a tablespoon of soya sauce, and crumble the stock cube into the pan. Bring up to a gentle simmer and keep over a medium heat for half an hour, skimming any froth off the top of the stock as you go.

Remove the chicken from the pan, and use a knife and fork to remove all the meat from the bones, chopping it into small pieces. Set the meat aside and return the bones and skin to the stock, and simmer for another half hour.

Strain the stock through a sieve to remove the bones, ginger, garlic and spring onions. Return the clear liquid to the pan and add the meat you took off the bones earlier and the can of creamed corn to the stock. Add a splash of cold water to the cornflour in a mug, mix well and stir into the stock. Bring back to a simmer. In a large jug, whisk the sesame oil, a tablespoon of soya sauce and the eggs together. Remove the soup from the heat and stir it hard, drizzling the egg mixture in a stream into the rotating liquid. Taste to check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper if necessary. Serve immediately, dressed with some chopped spring onion.

Hearty Chinese meatball soup

This is one of those recipes which feels really, really good for you. A clear chicken stock, flavoured with ginger, rice wine, spring onions and garlic, forms the base for this lovely soup. Meatballs still crisp from frying float in it, deliciously light in texture with their little cubes of water chestnut. Fresh, barely cooked slivers of baby vegetables give the whole dish a lovely sweetness.

If you made the chicken rice on this site, you may have kept some of the leftover broth in the freezer. If your freezer is innocent of chicken broth, you can make some from scratch using:

3 pints water
1 lb chicken wings (usually very cheap from the butcher)
1 inch piece of ginger, whacked with the flat of a knife to squash it a bit
5 cloves of garlic, crushed slightly with the flat of a knife
5 spring onions, tied together in a knot
2 tablespoons light soya sauce
1 wine glass of Chinese rice wine
1 chicken stock cube

Just bring all the ingredients to the boil in a large pan, reduce to a simmer and cook, skimming any froth of the top occasionally, for 30 minutes. Strain the solid ingredients out and discard. The broth can now be used or frozen. (These amounts will make enough for you to use half now for this soup, and freeze half to use later.)

To make the meatballs and finish the soup you’ll need:

1 lb pork mince
1 egg
5 spring onions
5 cloves of garlic
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger
2 tablespoons dark soya sauce
1 tablespoon light soya sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 red chilli
Seasoned flour
1 small can water chestnuts
1 small handful each of baby carrots, mange tout peas and baby sweetcorn

Cut the spring onions, garlic, ginger, chilli and water chestnuts into small dice and combine with the pork, soya sauces, sesame oil and egg in a large bowl. Use your hands to form the mixture into meatballs about an inch across, and roll them in the seasoned flour.

Slice the vegetables into matchsticks. Saute the meatballs in a small amount of vegetable oil while you bring 1½ pints of the broth to a gentle simmer. When the meatballs are cooked and the broth is bubbling gently, drop the vegetables into the broth and immediately turn the heat off. Fill bowls with the vegetable-filled broth and place meatballs in each bowl. Garnish with sliced spring onion and eat immediately.

These meatballs are also fantastic just served with rice and a little soya sauce with raw chillies diced into it to dip.

Watercress soup

A friend tells me that there’s watercress growing in one of the wet bits of fen round here. I’ve been out combing the countryside and can’t find it – and my friend (who will become an ex-friend if this continues) will not tell me exactly where it is so he can eat all of it.

In the meantime, I’ve been buying my watercress in the shops and at the market. There’s plenty on sale at the moment, so head out and buy some. When you make this soup, try to find watercress with plenty of stalk – there’s a lot of flavour in the parts you wouldn’t necessarily use in a salad.

This soup is simple and delicious; it also freezes well, so you can make it in advance and bring it out when you have guests. When reheating, try not to bring it to a rolling boil – you’ll lose some of the lovely green colour if you overcook the watercress.

For a starter for four, you’ll need:

2 large bunches of watercress (about 150g)
1 large knob of butter
2 medium onions
2 medium-sized potatoes
800 ml chicken stock
150 ml double cream
Salt and pepper

Chop the onions roughly and sweat them in the butter until soft, but not coloured. Add the potatoes, chopped into medium dice and unpeeled, and keep everything moving around in the butter for five minutes until the potatoes are glistening. Pour over the stock, put the lid on the pan and bring to a gentle boil for about twenty minutes, until the potatoes are very soft.

Chop the watercress roughly (if you have any stalks left over from salads you’ve made, you can store these in the freezer until you make this soup and add these too) and add it to the pan, stirring for about a minute until the cress has turned a vivid green. Hold a bit of watercress back to garnish the soup with when you’re finished. Remove the pan from the heat and liquidise the soup in a food processor.

Return the soup to the pan and over a low heat add the cream and seasoning. This soup can be served chilled, like a Vichyssoise, but I prefer it hot from the pan with lots of crusty bread.

French onion soup

A friend of mine is visiting New York for work at the moment. I received an anguished message from him about a French onion soup he experienced at the Crowne Plaza off Times Square. I quote him in full, because it made me laugh.

‘The soup itself is quite nice, but is plugged by a solid lump of melted cheese that is about the diameter of a Camembert, and an inch think. We’re talking essentially an entire Camembert’s worth of American plastic cheese. I don’t mind a delicate top to the bowl, but you could have taken this out, chilled it, and made plastic cheese sandwiches for a hungry family of six.’

Poor him. (I am keeping him anonymous so he doesn’t get any death threats from Americans fond of plastic cheese.) French onion soup isn’t really that hard to get right, but not many restaurants seem to bother trying; the very worst I’ve ever had was, shamefully, in Les Halles, the old market district in Paris. Les Halles is meant to be the birthplace of French onion soup, and Le Pied au Cochon is meant to be a restaurant which specialises in the stuff. Ha. It’s rubbish. The stock’s insipid, the rubbery onions haven’t been left to caramelise, and there’s no booze in sight. The cheesey bread lid is mostly bread, and the whole leaves you with the sort of hurt feeling you get when someone you trusted has stolen your teddy bear and sold it to buy drugs. Avoid.

The cheese you use here is important, but you do have a choice open to you. You can do it the Les Halles way and use Camembert on your giant crouton, which is delicious and, when stirred into the soup, makes it creamy and cheesey and gloopy and glorious.

I consider we’ve been overdoing the soft washed-rind French cheese thing recently (I have discovered a local source of Epoisse, and that Tartiflette the other week had enough Camembert in it to keep your arteries busy for a good six months). So I went the other way with our croutons, and topped them with sweet, stringy Gruyere (actually Swiss, but who’s checking?). Gruyere has a special affinity for the sweetly Madeira-caramelised onions in this soup; try it instead of Camembert some time and see what you think.

To serve six as a starter or four as a main course, you’ll need:

3lb onions, sliced
1 small wineglass Madeira
2½ pints good beef stock or good consommé
Open-textured white bread (ciabatta or a French loaf) – 2 slices per person
1 slice Gruyere per piece of bread
3oz butter
Salt and pepper

Put the onions in a large, heavy saucepan with the butter, and simmer, stirring every twenty minutes or so, for longer than you think you should. You’re aiming to cook these to a golden, caramel unctuousness. I didn’t use a kitchen timer; I put the DVD of Ziegfeld Girl on and sang along with Judy, running to the kitchen occasionally to stir, until Lana Turner did her tragic thing with the stairs and the chaise longue at the end. (Those who are not Judy Garland fans can just set their timers for 132 minutes, but you’re missing a treat.) The onions will have cooked down to a fraction of their original volume.

When your onions are done and you have spent a quiet five minutes being surprised at how Hedy Lamarr was able to look fantastic walking down stairs with fruit on her head and invent spread-spectrum communications without turning a hair, throw the Marsala into the hot pan with the onions and let it simmer away to nothing. Add the stock or consommé, turn the heat right down and bring slowly to a simmer again.

While the soup is coming up to temperature, prepare the croutons. Toast thick slices of bread (I used a grill pan to get good dark, charred lines on each slice), lay the cheese on them and put them under the grill until the cheese starts to brown.

Serve the soup with a crouton floating on top. The soup should soak into the crisp crouton, its heat softening the cheese. Slurp the lot quickly while it’s still deliciously hot.

Hainanese chicken rice

Mr Weasel and I are still feeling rather jet-lagged and delicate. It’s also the cold season, and my office, which I share with six people, has a horrible miasma of runny nose.

If I were a New York grandmother, I might have prescribed chicken soup with matzoh balls for what ails us. As it is, I’m the product of Malaysian Chinese and British families. As we all know that the English are bred to maximise upper lips and minimise tastebuds, I decided that what we needed was a nice bit of soothing Malaysian cookery – Hainanese chicken rice.

Hainan is a southern island province of China. Many of the Chinese living in Malaysia and Singapore originated in Hainan, and they brought their recipes with them. This chicken rice is probably the best known of these recipes, and it’s a wonderfully soothing, clean-tasting dish. The chicken in this dish is poached, and its cooking liquid is used to cook the rice, flavour the chili sauce that accompanies the meat, and to make a clear broth.

Chicken and broth
One chicken, without giblets
Four pints water
Chicken stock cube
One teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon MSG (go on – you can leave it out if you absolutely must, but it won’t kill you)
Wine glass of Shaoxing rice wine
Two tablespoons of light soya sauce
Thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced
Ten cloves of garlic, squashed lightly with a knife blade
Two large spring onions (scallions)

Chili sauce
Two limes, peeled and segmented
Thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled
Two cloves of garlic
Two red chilis
Tablespoon of caster sugar
Half a wine glass of the chicken broth

One tablespoon rendered chicken fat (see below)
Chicken broth (adjust amounts according to how many people are eating)

Begin by bringing the water, stock, salt, msg, rice wine and soya sauce to a rolling boil. Pull out any poultry fat from the inside of the chicken, and put it in a dry frying pan on a medium heat to render out the fat. Stuff the chicken with the ginger, garlic and spring onions, and place it in the boiling water. Bring back to the boil for two minutes uncovered, then put the lid on and simmer for 40 minutes. It’s helpful if you use a heavy, thick-bottomed pan like one by Le Creuset, as the heat will disperse better and you will avoid catching the bottom of your chicken.

Meanwhile, place all the ingredients for the sauce except the chicken stock in a blender (or you could use a pestle and mortar. I’m lazy and use the Magimix). Lime doesn’t give up its juice readily like a lemon, so the best way to get all of the juice out is to quarter and peel the lime by hand as in the picture, then process in the Magimix.

I don’t want to make the sauce too spicy here, so I’ve removed the seeds and the white ribs from these chilis. The hottest part of the chili is these ribs, and then the seeds. Removing them still leaves this sauce very hot indeed; use more or less chili as you wish.

When the chicken has been poaching for forty minutes, remove it from the cooking liquid and put aside. Add half a wine glass of the stock to the pureed sauce ingredients, and mix well. (This isn’t a great photo – I’ve sloshed the sauce about a bit here. It tastes fantastic, though.)

I had run out of Thai fragrant rice, so used basmati for this; you may prefer a stickier rice. I always use a rice cooker, so I put my rendered fat in with enough rice for two, stir well to make sure all the grains are coated, and fill the rice cooker with the chicken broth up to the two-portion line, as I usually would with water.

The broth is served alongside the chicken and its flavoured rice as a soup. It’s got a tiny amount of glossy fat from the chicken floating on it, and it’s clean-tasting, clear and delicious. We prefer to eat it as a starter before serving the chicken and the rice, which isn’t traditional (but I defy you to have a kitchen smelling of this stuff and not eat it at the first opportunity). Any broth you have left over can be frozen and used as chicken stock. It’s surprisingly successful used as a base in Western dishes – try it in gravy and soups.

This dish would usually be served with some sliced cucumber. I don’t have any in the fridge, so we’re just eating the chicken and the rice on its own. I’m rubbish at carving, but thankfully Mr Weasel, a butcher’s grandson, has meat-chopping in his blood, and sets about the chicken (in Malaysia it’s always eaten at room temperature, which I prefer – the chicken is somehow much juicier this way, and the muscle tissue relaxes and makes the meat tender and toothsome) with abandon. And a very sharp knife.

The hot rice has taken on all the flavour from the broth, and a gorgeous sheen from the fat. It’s a glorious contrast with the, moist, tender chicken. The meat is served with the dipping sauce and a bowl of soya sauce. Any cold bug that might have been thinking of settling has given up in the face of all this nutrition and gone to pester the neighbours.