Hot and spicy foods are enjoyed the world over, but when some hear the word 'spice' they immediately think of burning mouths and watering eyes. This does not actually have to be the case, though. You can add some spice to your diet, without necessarily incurring the side effects normally associated with hot foods.It’s probably best to begin with spice combinations that we find more generally tolerable and then gradually move up the ‘spice heat scale’. As we do, we’ll open up a whole range of food options that you may not have tried previously.
I’ve put together a range of foods intended to be a hit at spicy cocktail parties. It’s a good mix of different foods that include fresh prawns flavoured with garlic, ginger, chilli and Dukkah.
I’ve also created a surprising spin on chicken, encased with a crunchy noodle cage made from Japanese udon noodles. This is served with a hoisin dipping sauce and only requires one minute of cooking time.
I love the aromatic smells that are produced when a wok full of Singapore noodles are in full flight on a big flame. The ‘sing chow’ has numerous versions and this one is flavoured with Malaysian curry powder.
One tip though – if you have eaten something that is just too hot and spicy for your palette, throw down a glass of cold milk! There is just nothing like a glass of moo juice as an antidote for those ‘burning belly blues’.
Pan grilled fresh prawns with garlic,
Dukkah is a combination of roasted nuts and light spices. There are quite a number of versions, but this is my favourite, otherwise Screaming Seeds Spice Company makes an absolute cracker
Dry roast the coriander and cumin seeds until fragrant, then coarsely grind with a mortar and pestle. Toast the sesame seeds until lightly golden and leave whole.
Oven roast the hazel nuts and pistachios, remove some of the skins and chop coarsely. Combine all the ingredients together and store in an airtight jar.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Serves: 10 pieces
Remove the head from the prawns by gently twisting while holding the body. Pull away the shell from around the body and gently slide out and discard the centre vein. Using a sharp knife, make an incision half way through the entire length of the body and gently flatten out.
Combine together the olive oil, garlic, ginger and chilli. Brush the mixture evenly over the prawns and sprinkle with the dukkah.
Heat a grill pan, add some olive oil and grill the prawns on both sides until just cooked; serve immediately.
Crispy chicken with garden mint
This is a fabulous way of presenting chicken in a most unusual way. It’s crisp, moist, has a crunchy coating and is finished with a sweet hoisin glaze. It is fabulous served at a cocktail party as part of a range of different courses.
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cut the chicken fillets into neat 2cm x 6cm batons, place into the beaten egg then coat with the Japanese bread crumbs.
Place a toothpick onto each piece, wrap with a mint leaf and twist two of the noodles around to cover the leaf. Brush a little of the egg mix around to secure the noodles and deep fry at 185°C for one minute until golden and crisp.
Present on a platter lined with a banana leaf square and a bowl of hoisin sauce.
Singapore Fried Noodle (or Sing Chow)
These egg noodles are stir fried with chilli and Malaysian curry powder and mixed with barbecued pork, eggs and vegetables. Thin rice noodles work equally well here as do Japanese soba noodles, which are made from buckwheat and wheat flour.Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 4 minutes
Cook the noodle cakes in boiling water for two minutes. Drain, rinse several times in cold water and drain in a colander to dry. Set aside until required.
Place a wok on high heat and add the peanut oil. When it just begins to smoke, add the vegetables and pork (char sieu) and stir-fry on high heat for 30 seconds.
Add the stock, soy, seasoning and curry powder.
Toss well then top with the noodles and omelette. Now toss together (do not stir as the noodles can break up) and add the chopped coriander and sesame seed oil.
Finish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and crispy fried shallots.
Indian Samosa with sweet mango chutney
These deep-fried Indian pastries are lightly spiced and deliciously presented with sweet mango chutney. The pastry is easy to make and cooks up beautifully.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Ingredients for the dough mix:
Sift the flour, garam masala, salt, turmeric, pepper and chilli into a mixing bowl. Blend in the oil and enough water to form a stiff dough. Kneed well, wrap in plastic film and chill for 30 minutes.
Ingredients for filling:
Heat the olive oil in a heavy pan and add the garlic and ginger. Cook for 20 seconds, then add the onion and fry until slightly golden. Combine in the mince, garam masala, turmeric and chilli powder. Fry until the meat is fully cooked and the juices have been reduced away.
Combine in the lemon juice, potatoes, coriander and peas. Check the seasoning, then cool the mixture and set aside until required.
Roll out the pastry into thin 18cm rounds and cut each one in half. Place a small amount of the filling onto the centre and fold over, pinching the edges together to form a triangle shape.
Deep fry in canola oil until golden. Serve with the minted yoghurt and sweet mango chutney.
Spicy Muscat poached fruits
This dessert is fabulous to have available in the pantry at all times, as it has an infinite number of uses. It will store in sterilised jars and will improve with time. I have developed this recipe over the years and I always have a tub of this in the fridge available at all times.
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Using a mortar and pestle, grind the black peppercorns finely and place into a saucepan.
Dry fry or roast the pepper with the whole star anise and the cloves for several minutes or until fragrant. Add the liqueur Muscat, water, sugar, cinnamon and split vanilla bean.
Bring to a boil, turn down and simmer for 20 minutes. Now add all the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Set to a gentle simmer, cover with a circle of greaseproof paper and a small saucer to keep all the ingredients submerged under the surface.
Poach very gently for 90 minutes and then turn off the heat, leaving the contents in the saucepan to cool. Transfer to a clean glass jar and refrigerate.
This can be served with yoghurt or ice cream. It makes a delicious flavouring for ice cream, or can be drained and presented with cheeses. Try this as the main flavouring for steamed Muscat fruits pudding.
Steamed pudding with caramel sauce
Here’s another delicious dessert that will be enjoyed by all. One full recipe will produce exactly 14 standard dariole mould sized portions. It incorporates the Muscat poached fruits recipe already detailed alongside. I have developed this recipe to result in the lightest of puddings with intense flavour, but be warned: the caramel sauce is quite addictive!
Melt the two tablespoons of butter and brush the insides of the individual moulds. Place a heaped tablespoon of the Muscat poached fruits into them and set aside.
Combine together the chopped dates, figs and bicarbonate of soda. Cover with the hot water, mix and let stand for 10 minutes.
Combine together the butter and caster sugar and beat until white and light. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well. Gently combine in the flour, finishing with the soaked fruits.
Place equal amounts of the mix onto the fruits (fill ¾ only), cover with foil and steam (or place into a water bath) for 25 minutes.
Combine the cream and butter together in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add in the brown sugar and vanilla extract, then boil again. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly.
Present the puddings upside down on top of a spoon-full of caramel sauce and a swirl of fresh cream.