Tag Archives: Daily life

A Lesson in Thai Cooking

We have known our friends Paul and Rashimah for a long time.  Paul has worked with my father in the real estate business for years and their daughter is a good friend to our daughter of the same age.  He is also an experienced beekeeper and was generous with his time and wisdom in mentoring us through our first summer with bees last year.  Rashimah is a native of Thailand and they met while Paul was working overseas.  They are kind, generous, worldly, open-minded, interesting….you get the idea.  We love being around these people.

In addition to these many great qualities, Rashimah is also an amazing cook.  Food prepared by her is always the main attraction at any potluck.  The personal favorite of myself and many others, are Rashimah’s fresh and fried spring rolls.  After searching out and occasionally attempting recipes for spring rolls, I was always left disappointed.  They were never as tasty or neatly rolled as Rashimah’s.

My sister and I finally mentioned to Rashimah that if she was willing, we would love to learn her secrets and techniques for the perfect spring rolls.  She generously offered to teach us and our schedules finally allowed us to have our lesson in Thai cooking last Sunday.  Paul and Rashimah invited us into their home, where Rashimah walked us through making fresh and fried spring rolls, Pad Thai and her version of fried rice.  I took photos along the way and my sister took notes so that we could try to produce results similar to her cooking on our own.  Rashimah sells her delicious food at various music festivals during the summer, so of course I can’t give away all of her “secrets” to the perfect spring rolls.

We enjoyed a lovely traditional Thai appetizer to start out our cooking lesson.   The platter included dried shrimp, toasted coconut, cashews, diced onions, ginger, and limes.


Rashimah demonstrates how to eat the snack by folding up the lettuce and placing a little of each ingredient inside, topped off with a drizzle of maple syrup.  She explained that in Thailand they would use some other sweetener rather than maple syrup, but since her and Paul produce maple syrup on their farm, that is what she prefers to use.  The combination of flavors and textures made a light and fresh tasting snack!

Our first lesson in Thai cooking was to learn how to make fried spring rolls.  Rashimah prepared the mixture of shredded chicken and cabbage for the filling.

She then demonstrated how to roll the spring roll tightly so that it fries up nice.  She makes it look so easy.

Next, we fried the spring rolls in hot oil until they were golden brown.

Moving on to my absolute favorite….the fresh spring rolls.  We started out by preparing a beautiful platter of fresh ingredients.  There are no hard and fast rules on what to put into the fresh spring rolls, but she had cut up chicken, fried tofu, carrots, cucumbers, lettuce, cilantro, mint and basil.  We also had thinly sliced eggs and some rice noodles to add.

In the photo below, I am carefully laying the ingredients on to the rice paper before I attempt to roll it all up.  In the past, my problem has always been that I end up tearing the rice paper as I’m rolling in the ingredients.  After watching Rashimah, I realized that I have most likely soaked the rice paper too long, thereby making it weak and more prone to tearing.  Following her example, I had no issues rolling up the spring rolls.  I still couldn’t get mine as tightly rolled as Rashimah, but she assured me that this would come with practice.

The finished product.  Beautiful.  Fresh.  Healthy.  Delicious.


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Filed under Cooking, Daily life, Food

Pumpkin problems solved?

We have tried to grow pumpkins for the past several years and have always failed miserably.  Our first attempt consisted of digging up an area out in our field to plant a pumpkin patch.  The heavy clay soil was unfortunately not very amenable to pumpkin-growing.  Frustrated, we moved the pumpkin patch next to the barn.  Although the soil was extremely fertile as a result of years of composted manure, it seemed that we either watered them too much or not enough.  Another failure.

The following summer our mischievous free-ranging chickens pecked all the pumpkins when they were young and tender, either completing destroying them or leaving them scarred and deformed.  We tried to outsmart the girls and fenced the pumpkins off with a low fence, but they still occasionally hop the fence to snack.

Last year, some type of insect started to attack our pumpkins in the fall just as they were ripening and we lost most of them.  I wish I had taken pictures so that some other gardener out there could have helped me identify the culprits for future reference.

Even after all these failed attempts, we did not lose heart.  In spring of 2009, we once again planted several mounds of Gurney’s “Giant Magic” pumpkins.   Trying to heed the advice on the back of the seed packet and from gardening books, we tried to remember to pluck off a few of those blossoms along the way so that the plants focussed their energy on fewer fruits.  And finally….FINALLY…some success.

While I realize that these pumpkins are not perfect specimens, we were delighted with the harvest after all of our past failures.

As you can see, our youngest child was enthusiastic about the harvest and willing to help.  His dad, however, takes this farming stuff much more serious and was very pleased with our pumpkin success.   And he even got to haul them in a wagon behind his tractor…

At the end of the day, we are just two realistic farm kids.  Like the crops grown on our childhood farms, we realize that our pumpkin success this year is only partly due to our evolving gardening skills and adaptations over the past few years.  The rest of the equation is merely the whim of Mother Nature and just plain luck.

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Filed under Gardens, Vegetable

Winter Walk

Due to the cold temperatures and the heaps of snow that were dumped on us over Christmas, we spent a lot of time around home and inside the house during winter break.  Despite the frigid weather, we were determined to get outside for fresh some fresh air.  We went for a walk down to the meandering river that runs through our property.  Our dog Sofie came along, happy to be with us. 

 

 

The river is always quite unpredictable and we never make any assumptions about its safety.  We felt fairly confident that it would be frozen quite thoroughly, but still proceeded cautiously as we walked along the ice up the river.  The only questionable areas we found were along the edges and around downed trees. 

 

The areas of ice that were not covered with snow were covered with beautiful ice crystal formations. 

 

During the summer months, the farmstead is not visible from the river bottom.   Taken from the far side of the river, this picture shows our barn through the trees. 

 

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Filed under Daily life