Thai-style Basil and Chilli with Turkey Mince

The inspiration for this Thai-style Basil and Chilli with Turkey Mince came from a dinner I enjoyed at a Thai restaurant in Oxford two weeks ago with WS and his friends to celebrate WS handing in his thesis (hurray!). One of our friends ordered the chicken with basil dish to share, and when it arrived, I took one look at it and without tasting it, knew I had to re-create it at home.

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I made this with turkey mince instead, which worked well and was probably a little healthier, too.

I know I stopped posting recipes awhile back but I really want to share this super easy and yummy stir-fry with those who want to try:

Thai-style Basil and Chilli with Turkey Mince (for 3 portions, to be served with rice and other dishes)

Ingredients
450g minced turkey
at least 10 stalks’ worth of basil leaves, stripped from the stems (I used normal basil and it was fine)
1 red chilli, de-seeded and minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced finely
1 Echalion/banana shallot (or 3 small round shallots), diced
1.5 tablespoons fish sauce
1.5 teaspoons dark soy sauce
vegetable oil, for stir-frying (I used about 1/2 tablespoon)

 

Method
1. Heat wok on medium heat. When wok hot, add oil.
2. The oil needs to be hot for stir-frying. You’ll know that it is hot when it glides around very smoothly around the wok and starts to shimmer just slightly.
3. Stir-fry garlic and shallots until fragrant, but do not brown them, adjust heat to low-medium if necessary.
4. Add chilli. Stir fry for a minute. Do not let it brown.
5. Add turkey. I stir the meat constantly, and I use the spatula to split up the meat so that it separates into lots of tiny pieces.
6. When turkey is starting to get some colour, and when the meat mixture is starting to lose moisture, add fish sauce, basil, and dark soy sauce. The dark soy sauce is not very authentically Thai, but I like adding it to give the dish a little more colour and sweetness.
7. Continue stir-frying until meat is cooked through. Serve hot.

 
Because of the chilli’s heat and dryness of this dish, I served it with a Cantonese-style cucumber salad. There was a post on a cucumber dish before, but I’ve since been eating the below version, which I prefer more.

For the cucumber salad: mince 4 small cloves of garlic and add to a food storage container with a lid. Add 1 tablespoon of light soy sauce, 1/2 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar, and 2 teaspoons sesame oil to the same container, mix well with the garlic. Dice 1 cucumber by first quartering the cucumber length wise (to do this – chop off the ends of the cucumber to flatten them, then very carefully stand the cucumber vertically, slice it down in half, then in half again making an ‘X’). You’ll be left with 4 long lengths of cucumber. Hold these lengths together than chop them across, which will create perfect quarter-circles of cucumbers. Add to the garlic and mixture, mix well, refrigerate until serving time.

Fried Rice Fragranced with Basil

fluffy, moist but never stodgy nor clumpy fried rice

The secret ingredient that makes this so yummy (to smell and eat)?

Basil!

It might sound weird, but I think basil goes quite well with the prawns, and the herb’s fresh peppery flavour really lends a lovely fragrance to the dish. I love fried rice because it’s easy to make, always yummy, uses up leftovers, great for leftovers, colourful and well-balanced. I think my first blog post here was on fried rice so I shall spare you the recipe but just to say that this time, I scrambled the eggs BEFORE adding the prawns, which helped keep the prawns firm because I think if you cook them first, they tend to get overcooked and lose their texture. Also for the basil – tear leaves into the mix just before you’re done frying.

Yum! And really – the best thing about cooking is that it’s not only fun, but that it also brings immediate gratification. That’s why I love food so much. In most if not all other areas of my life, I tend to take the approach that persevering and delaying gratification gets us to better places. Indeed I grew up hearing my dad say to me and my brother, ‘delay of gratification!’  I know that can make one sound like a repressed individual, hesitant to pursue impulsive desires and whims. For the most part though, I think I’ve bought into my dad’s philosophy. People who are strong are those who are able to delay immediate gratification – and equally, they reward themselves and are kind to themselves. That’s what keeps them from crumbling. So I guess food is, to my relief, one aspect of everyday life where I can just indulge myself! (I have many ‘weaknesses’ when it comes to food… carrot cake, cheeseburgers, potato crisps… but I try to not feel guilty about them because I know that as long as I take them in moderation, and try to maintain a balanced diet and do exercise, then I will be fine :).)

Anyway that was a bit of a ramble – next post – something Western!

Linguine with Prawn and Basil

In a slightly uncharacteristic show of impulsiveness, I bought myself a potted herb plant from the supermarket over the weekend. Potted basil only costs a few pence more than pre-packaged basil, so it’s quite a bargain as it’ll keep for longer and add a bit of green to the flat! One of my colleagues pointed out that the soil-to-plant ratio is a little too low though so it might be that I have to transfer Mr. Basil soon. In the meantime, here’s to fresh pizza toppings, lovely Thai-accented stir fry dishes, homemade pesto, pretty garnishes, and creative drinks. (Oh and about the name –  it just stuck within a few hours; it looked like a Mister Basil from the get-go but now that I spell it out, it looks and sounds oddly sinister…)

Nothing like waking up in the morning to the scent of fresh basil

So I decided to make use of the prawns in my freezer, and the leftover chilli and shallots I had from the Asian Mango Salad to cook a very quick meal: Red Pesto Linguine with Prawn and Basil.

Red Pesto Linguine with Prawn and Basil (prawns slightly obscured, oops! blame my impatience as i plated up…)

This was really quite quick to make, partly because prawns cook very quickly in the pan, and partly because I had used red pesto paste. I think next time I’ll try making this with chicken breast! Having said that, I do love my seafood in tomato sauce, and I think the prawns went very well with the bits of red chilli and shallot. Anyone object to pesto and seafood by the way? On hindsight I realise that pesto paste often contains hints of cheese from the Parmesan, so perhaps seafood isn’t the most ideal of pairings? (But green pesto and something like squid… now that must still work?)

 

Linguine with Prawn and Basil

Ingredients, for two main portions
– linguine, approx. 180-200 grams. I measure dry pasta in a weird way: using index finger and thumb, I make a circle, which to my appetite, represents about 2 portions of pasta.
– prawns, 200-250 grams. Easily replaceable with chicken breast or ham!
– shallots 3x, sliced thinly
– garlic 2 cloves, sliced thinly
– red pesto paste, about 3 tablespoons
– basil leaves, as much or as little as you like. (Go for a bunch; it’ll lend some great colour to the reds and oranges of the dish)
– red chilli 1x, de-seeded and chopped
– 1 tablespoon vegetable/sunflower oil
– sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Method
1. Prepare pot of salted boiling water, curling the linguine in.
2. Heat a large frying pan/skillet on medium-heat. Add oil to pan. I use an induction hob so the hob (the cooker ring) takes awhile longer to reach the desired temperature, which means I add in the oil a little later.
3. Fry shallots and garlic until fragrant. Add in pesto and red chilli.* Fry for one minute.
4. Tip in prawns. Cook until they turn orange. Add a little water at this point.
5. Add a little basil and sea salt, then turn down heat from medium to low.
6. When pasta is ready (linguine takes 11-13 minutes), drain pasta, keeping the pot or another bowl underneath to retain some of the hot starchy water.
7. Add pasta to frying pan, and still on low heat, mix well with the pesto sauce, adding hot pasta water throughout so that mixture is not dry.
8. Sprinkle a little salt and crack black pepper over the pasta, then garnish with basil leaves.

*If you like very spicy food, then add the red chilli at the start along with the shallots and garlic. I think this makes the dish spicier because the added heat releases the capsaicin (the chemicals that make something taste spicy) and distributes this throughout the dish…!

So that’s one use of basil. Suggestions for how I could put Mr Basil to further good culinary use much would be much welcomed!