Travels with Thai Food by Helen Brierty – review

It all sounds rather mystical. A journey with Spirit House conjures visions of idyllic retreats for the world-weary, guiding a path to something enlightening and memorable. Well, that’s probably a fair estimation of what this particular Spirit House is all about, but it’s the spirit of Thai food which is venerated here, and the House in question is a restaurant in Queensland, Australia.

Asian cookbook review Travels with Thai Food This sumptuous tome is penned by both the owner, Helen Brierty, and the chef, Annette Fear. Thai cookbook collectors might know them as the authors of Spirit House, which is a bestseller. This is another collection of contemporary dishes from one of the world’s most fascinating dining destinations.

Helen and Annette don’t expect you to be expert Thai cooks. They lead you through the ingredients which are now widely available either in your regular supermarket, in an Asian grocers or by mail order if you live in a lighthouse off Shetland. Thai food is becoming more popular in Europe with the advent of long-haul travel. We have been able to see for ourselves the reasons why Australians have held this cuisine in such high esteem.

Travels with Thai Food offers recipes that are simple and quick to prepare. Heavenly Beef has got to be one of the most delicious dishes and ideal for a novice cook. Only five ingredients and on the plate in about 7 minutes. Rice can be cooking at the same time as the beef is being prepared so it’s going to be much faster than a take-away and only a little slower than toast.

Royal Son-in-Law Eggs are a must-try. It’s seldom one finds a recipe for deep-fried boiled eggs. These are garnished with a sauce of well-seasoned minced chicken. The recipe suggests using two medium red chillies but the timid might add a little less for the first attempt.

Vegetarians are not forgotten here. Fragrant Red Curry of Tofu with Caramelised Sweet Potato, Cashews and Ginger is a recipe for the slightly more confident cook as the ingredient list seems lengthy. It’s a three-part dish so consider each element as a stand-alone recipe and the job will not seem so daunting. The curry paste just requires mixing all ingredients together, and the sweet potatoes just need baking. The final curry cooking isn’t a taxing task and the results will make your initial worry a thing of the past.

Sorbet is a great way to end a spicy meal or equally a Western dinner. It is simple to make if you have an ice cream machine, but try these recipes even if you only have a freezer and a plastic tub. Make the liquid base and freeze, but scrape with a fork periodically so that your sorbet does not set into a brick. The texture will be more granular than the classic sorbet but the flavour will be just as delightful. Banana and Passionfruit Sorbet uses passionfruit juice which is much less work than using the fresh fruit. Lychee and Ginger Sorbet is exotic and memorable and would be a unique addition to an Eastern menu.

Travels with Thai Food – A journey with Spirit House is a visually striking book. It offers accessible recipes which tempt this Londoner to buy a ticket to Queensland with a stop-over in Bangkok on the way.

Travels with Thai Food – A journey with Spirit House
Authors: Helen Brierty and Annette Fear
Published by: New Holland
Price: US$24.95, AUS/CAN$35.00, GB£14.99
ISBN 978-1-74110551-3


Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018