Archive for the ‘Food and Cooking’ Category

Thai Days: Fin Free Swissotel – a Thailand first

February 19, 2013

Hugh Paxton’s Blog applauds Swissotel Le Concorde’s decision to pull shark fin off its menus. It is the first of Thailand’s five-star hotels to do so. The move was partially spurred by the “Fin Free Thailand” campaign launched on Feb 10th by a coalition of chefs, environmental groups, businesses and celebrities.

“Although choosing sustainable seafood can be challenging, we have created alternative culinary choices because we believe the food that we eat should sustain and benefit the planet we live in.”

Marcel Sawyere, Swissotel General Manager.

Thai Days: The Paxton Family Learns to Cook Thai. Cooking photos attached.

January 20, 2013

Hugh Paxton’s Blog joined a Thai cooking course. With my Mother-in-law. Recipe for disaster.

And after spending the day cooking Thai food and then having to eat what I cooked I have two really good suggestions.

One. Let a Thai cook the stuff. It will taste a lot better and your red curry will cost less than a dollar. My cooking course cost twenty times as much.

Two: Live a little, if you are visiting Chiang Mai, join this tour/course.

I’ll give you contact details in the next post. But let me leave you with a hint.

If you are cooking Thai rice and are uncertain about how much water to add, just stick your thumb into the pot. No matter the quantity of rice in the pot, or the size of the pot, if your water reaches to the middle of your thumb (an inch) all will be well.

Thai Days: Elephant dung coffee

December 13, 2012

Hugh Paxton’s Blog was in Bali recently and had the pleasure of meeting a civet whose job it was to eat coffee beans and then defecate. The owner then stepped in with a sieve, a bowl of water and a charcoal stove and a wok. The end product was a bag of coffee costing $US 50. The civet’s digestive tract, the man explained, assimilated the coffee fruit but left the inner bean not just intact but enriched with a blend of subtle flavours unrivalled in the coffee drinking world. Hence its ghastly price.

Unrivallled? Pehaps not.

In northern Thailand a herd of 20 elephants have taken up the gauntlet and with a little help from eco-entrepeneur, Blake Dinkin and John Roberts, director of the Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation, the herd is producing Black Ivory – a bargain at $US 1,100 a kilo.

Elephants, explains Dinkin (who has invested $300,000 in R&D on the project) act like slow pressure cookers. It takes between 15 and 30 hours of gastric stewing alongside bananas, sugar cane, hay, veggies etc. before the Arabica beans see the light of day after their incredible journey. The mahout’s wives then break up the dung, retrieve the beans and they are shipped south to Bangkok where a gourmet roaster knocks the Black Ivory into shape.

Elephants cost roughly $1,000 a month to maintain and a kilo of coffee not just maintains them but also keeps Hill tribe coffee growers fed and watered. Elephants don’t absorb caffeine from the beans, for some reason, so there is no hyperactivity or stampeding and everybody seems happy about the whole thing. The Golden Triangle Asian Elephant Foundation gets eight percent of profits which goes to providing healthcare for injured elephants and other noble deeds.

The maiden batch of Black Ivory Coffee (70 kilos) has already sold out and is currently being served ( at about $US50 a cup) in exclusive resorts and hotels in the Maldives and Abu Dhabi. You can also pick up a crapuccino in the Elephant Foundation’s neighbouring hill top lodge.

Dinkin hopes to increase output six-fold next year catering to customers who are “relatively affluent, open-minded and adventurous with a desire to tell a good story.”

I like the man’s style. And if replicated elsewhere it could help elephant sanctuaries wherever they occur. Rhinos might put a new twist on the brew. Something for Namibia’s Save the Rhino Trust to mull over! Get on it Rudi!

Sadly I can’t vouch for the taste of Black Ivory. I’m adventurous, open-minded, have a desire to tell a good story – but fifty bucks for a coffee? I’m not that relatively affluent.

Thai Days: Two new takes on the humble sandwich

October 14, 2012

Hugh Paxton’s Blog woke up this morning and flicked through the papers. Syria was exploding as usual and American polticians were talking nonsense, some Japanese guys had murdered another guy and cooked him in curry sauce, rape cases in Kenya were being ignored by authorities, a planet had been discovered that was mostly composed of diamond, three sealions had been released back into the wild in Peru, the Taliban had slaughtered lots of innocent people, and a pizza delivery man in Mexico had been tortured for five hours before being murdered for being 40 minutes late  with the pizza… usual stuff.

What caught my eye was an article called SNACK HEAVEN.

This was new! This was amazing!

The article, written by Mark Hix and Bill Grainger, suggested new takes “on the humble sandwich”.

Their first suggestion for a quick bite?

The Naanwich.

Nothing could be simpler or more convenient for the man or woman on the run! Go on! Give it a go!

First obtain 500g of strong white bread flour, 7g of yeast, 150 ml of warm water, 1 tbsp of clear honey, 3 tbsp of vegetabe oil, 2 tbsp of natural yoghurt. And some salt.

Then all you need is:

1 tbsp of:

fenugreek seeds

fennel seeds

fenugreek leaves

cumin seeds

dried chillies

1/5 tbsp of caraway seeds, and the same quantity and weight of nigella seeds (I’m not really sure what they are) and podded cardamon.

While getting this lot together, you can be gainfully employed finding additional suggested ingredients.

1 tbsp of mustard seeds

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp ground coriander

1 tbsp ground or freshly grated turmeric

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

500-600 g of lamb neck

3 medium red onions, peeled, halved and feshly chopped

5 medium cloves of garlic, peeled, and crushed

30g of root ginger, scraped and finely grated

50g of ghee

1 black cardamon pod

1 tbsp of tomato puree

1 litre of lamb or beef stock

4 dried red chillies

A good pinch of saffron

A small handful of curry leaves

And to finish (thank Gawd!) freshly chopped coriander to garnish.

You then have to bake the bread and cook all that stuff but after you’ve done that then gosh! You’ll not just have a new take on a sandwich! You’ll have a really new excuse for the boss to explain why you are three week’s late for work.

The other suggested sandwich recipe involved sticking some fried pork, black pudding and a pickle in a bap.

A sort of ten minute excercise.

If anybody has the stamina to attempt the first fast food recipe get in touch and I’ll provide further details. No time wasters please. You’ll need a pestle and mortar. A lightly floured tray. A damp cloth. Three or four people to help. And “a heavy bottomed frying pan”.

BBQ chefs be advised, southern Africa remains the land of the grill kings: Ons gaan nou braai

May 15, 2012

Hugh Paxton’s Blog was (is) about to fry steak. Then Brigitte sends me this. I’m going to be looking at my steaks and I’ll be thinking how small they are. Thanks Brigitte! Curse you to hell!

Thai Days: Peking Duck With Sauce (chips/crisps)

April 24, 2012

Hugh Paxton’s Blog has eaten a lot of thinly slivered very fried spuds in packets with names like Cheese and Onion, Salt and Vinegar, Beef, Shrimp Cocktail…and I guess you have done something similar.

The Roast Chicken crisps sold in English pubs were really great! They didn’t taste anything like a chicken, roasted or otherwise. They tasted really quite revolting but in their way they seemed to make one’s palate smile if you were having them with a pint or two of real ale. After five pints of Old Mothersoles Extra Strong Bitter they had outgrown their usefulness and it was time to hit an Indian restaurant for a super hot Vindaloo. Then the taste buds were bashed into oblivion.

But memories linger. Especially stupid ones.

Today I saw a packet of roast chicken crisps and nostalgia washed over me. But what was this???

Next to the chicken crisps was a new and exciting crisp packet. Peking Duck with Sauce.

Argh! The agony of choice! Chicken? Peking Duck (with sauce)? Chicken? Peking Duck (with sauce)?

I went for the Peking Duck (with sauce).

BLOG VERDICT: The Jury’s still out. Nobody likes them, the general opinion is that they don’t taste like Peking Duck, that they don’t taste like duck, that they are disgusting, that they are too crisp, that they are too soggy, at the moment these crisps can’t do anything right.

My predicted verdict is that this recipe is unlikely to thrive unless it is accompanied by at least six pints of Old Mothersoles Extra Strong Bitter. I’ve only had a six of the crisps. Indigestion has already kicked in!



Vietnam Days (pt II): An explanation.

December 10, 2011

Observant readers of Hugh Paxton’s Blog will have noticed that the last post featured photographs of cooked dogs, rats and smoked fruitbat wings. Also that there were no images of cooked cats. Or indeed any text.

An explanation, you are no doubt thinking, is in order. Here goes. The post was meant to draw your attention to an ongoing explosion in rat populations in Thai Binh, a northern province in Vietnam. Cats, known by consumers and market butchers/restauranteurs as “little tigers” are increasingly popular for their flavour and alleged medicinal properties. Stray dogs, bred dogs, or kidnapped pet dogs in Vietnam have always been favoured for the pot and command high prices. But the cat craze is a more recent thing. And with a marked decrease in un-cooked cats has come a marked increase in rats. Rice farmers are reporting a corresponding increase in crop damage. Health authorities are urging an increase in rat poison use (which says something rather worrying about the health authorities). All in all a lot of increases in Thai Binh. One more increase is in sales of (hopefully unpoisoned) rat kebabs. The smoked fruitbat wings in the background of one image have nothing to do with the story. The images were shot by my eight-year-old daughter, Annabel in a market. She couldn’t find any cats to photograph. Which is probably just as well. I’ve probably already ruined your breakfast. The lack of text and captions in the last post were down to Hugh Paxton’s technical competence. Nothing new there!

Soup! Glorious Soup!

November 29, 2011

Hugh Paxton’s Blog is very fond of cooking in general, and cooking  soup in particular. If you are cold and the snowflakes are falling, soup is warming. If it’s hot and sweat is dribbling into your eyes, soup is cooling. Jewish mothers are the staunchest advocate of soup (chicken) in cliche history. But Jewish mothers have no monopoly on knowledge. Soup sustains every nation, culture, race, religion, and class.

In March 2006, my sister kindly presented me with a copy of The Soup Bible, published by Lorenz books, an imprint of Anness Publishing Limited, Hermes house, somewhere in London. They’ve got a website.  The Consulting Editor is Drebra Mahew.

The Soup Bible has800 photos and over 200 recipes, hot and cold. Fiery and calming. Extremely heavy and comforting. Light and delicate, almost unoticeable. Surprising. And frisky.

Gumbos, bisques, Tuscan, Scottish, Chinese, Thai, English, Japanese, Mexican…lots.

Wherever in the world you have your soup bowl, this book’s highly recommended. I’ve not tried every recipe – the Hungarian sour cherry soup is scheduled (my daughter will hate it) and a few soups are quite frankly terrifying- but that’s part of the fun of the Soup Bible.

Stuck for Christmas present ideas? This is a good one. No matter how hot or white your Christmas is likely to be.



Shark Fin’s Off: Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Ltd (Peninsula Hotels) to stop serving shark fin soup

November 23, 2011

Hugh Paxton’s Blog applauds the decision of Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Limited (HSH) to remove shark’s fin soup from their menus as of January. HSH run the Peninsula Hotels.

Hong Kong is currently the largest market for shark’s fin – guzzling an estimated 50 percent of the annual 10,000 tons consumed globally according to statistics assembled by the World Wide Fund for Nature. 

“The gelatinous, tasteless soup made from shark’s fins has been a persistent cultural symbol of privilege and an essential fixture at Chinese banquets since the Ming Dynasty.” AFP

Estimated numbers of sharks killed each year range from 73 million to 100 million. 180 species of shark are threatened with extinction. “Finning”, a practice that involves slicing off the fins then dumping the shark overboard (often still alive) to save space is still unfortunately rife.

“We hope that our decision can contribute to preserve the marine ecosystem for the world’s future generations.” HSH chief, Clement Kwok.

Good for you, Clement! You are well-named!   


(Not Suitable For Children) This Reminded Me Of Homunculus

October 27, 2011

These links were recently sent to me by a friend. The Vice Guide To Liberia reminded him of my novel, Homunculus.–2

Yes, indeed! This site has been nominated for twice for a Webby. I think it’s got a very good chance of sweeping the prize.

Back to Liberia, this picture is pretty incredible.

Yes, that does appear to be a drugged up drag queen toting an AK 47.
They say truth’s stranger than fiction, in this case they’re about equally strange! Visions of hell, both.
Thank you, Mason

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