Thai Fruit Salad and Mango Chocolate Mousse Dip

“You like cooking,” observed the man sat next to me in the plane on the way home to Paris after my dad’s birthday and FBC11, as I’d spent the flight reading the Feel Good Food magazine in the FBC mega-goody bag. “Oui,” I said, “And I’ve just been to a food blog conference.”

Although the magazine was in English, he spoke to me in French, with a heavy Thai accent. He cooks in a Thai restaurant in Clermont Ferrand.

“Hey I just cooked a Thai meal for my father’s birthday last week – Som Tam papaya salad and a Thai green curry. But deciding on the dessert had not been easy. Being bold I asked, “Can I ask you what dessert would be very Thai?”

He told me that tapioca cooked in coconut milk and served with mango would be typical. And it’s true that a lot of desserts on Asian menus are very Asian in taste, brightly coloured noodles made with sticky rice flour or a variation on Tapioca.  The glueiness of the tapioca turns the coconut milk into a solid flan-like dish, with the tapioca pearls imprisoned in the coconut milk. Not my father’s cup of tea at all. And it doesn’t have chocolate in it.

Fruit salad is what he likes. So instead of tapioca I had thought a fruit salad with an exotic twist would be a nice light and summery finish to the Thai-themed meal. With a ridiculously simple mango chocolate mousse of sorts used as a dip for the fruit. Kind of like a cold fondue but nice and decadent thanks to the use of calorific mascarpone. Not so Thai maybe, but you can’t have a birthday with chocolate. Or at least I can’t.

Thai Fruit Salad and Mango Chocolate Mousse Dip

For the fruit salad:

Serves 6

– 1 ripe papaya
– 1 mango
– 1/2 pineapple
– 1 banana
– 3 passion fruit
– 2 limes

1. Peel the papaya, cut it in half and scoop out the black seeds. Slice across, and cut the slices into cubes. OR Cut in half, scoop out the black seeds and scallop out the flesh with a spoon.
2. If you have a mango splitter: peel the mango and use the mango splitter. Cut the sides into cubes. OR, Cut off each side of the mango, score the flesh of each one diagonally to make diamonds and turn inside out. Cut off the diamonds that pop up.
3. Cut the pineapple into cubes (leave the core and tough outer skin).
4. Slice the banana.
4. Divide the fruit into 6 bowls.
5. Cut the passion fruit in half and spoon half a passion fruit onto one bowl.
6. Slice the lime in half and juice it. Spoon a spoonful or two over each bowl.

For the mango chocolate mousse dip

Serves 6

– 160g dark chocolate
– 1 ripe mango
– 200ml coconut milk
– 4 tbsps (about 100g) mascarpone

1. Melt the chocolate over a bain marie or in the microwave (start at 1 minute and continue at intervals of 30 seconds).
2. Chop up the mango according to one of the methods above and put it in a mini chopper or food processor.
3. Add the coconut milk and mascarpone.
4. Add the melted chocolate.
5. Whiz for a minute or so.
6. Spoon into 6 bowls.
7. Put in the fridge for at least 4 hours.
8. And have fun dipping the fruit into it!

NB. if you don’t have a mini chopper or food processor you can try a hand blender or blender.

You can’t have a birthday without birthday cake either…


Thai Green Curry and a birthday

“Sauce” was the only criteria in my father’s choice of a birthday meal. “What would you like to have as a birthday meal Dad?”, “Well I like something with a bit of sauce”. Make that drowning in sauce, and it’s true if it doesn’t have sauce he’ll add some. Maybe of the thick red kind.

And as my dad likes his sauce and curry, rather than go to the Indian restaurant there happens to be in the not so little anymore Somerset village I grew up in, I offered to cook him a meal as I was lucky to be in England on the day. But not a red curry, a Thai green curry. (And come to think of it, I also made it last summer for 14 of Pierre’s family, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, son, mother…at the second home in Corrèze, which we ate by moonlight and candlelight).

This is a great dish for making an impression when you have people around, and even with just some paste from the freezer and a tin of coconut milk and fish sauce from the storecupboard, you can use whatever you have in the fridge vegetable and protein wise. The trimmings make it all the more authentic. Continue reading

Thai Green Papaya Salad for travelling light

I try and travel as light as possible, miniaturizing everything as much as possible. Even my knickers.

I never take full-sized toiletries, try to have 2 in 1 shower gel and shampoo and no longer know how to pack a suitcase with clothes, keeping to a capsule wardrobe that is usually black.

So in packing for the Lebanon trip back in May when all I had to put in the suitcase was my clothes, they almost got lost in it, and I still didn’t wear all of them. I’d asked, “what do you wear in Beirut,” and my aunt had said “you can never be too overdressed”. My eyes bulged. I took FIVE pairs of shoes for the outfits. Despite having more shoes than Pierre has bicycles, and Pierre has a lot of them, and the fact I only wear about two pairs of my shoes.

Why do I prefer to travel so light? Usually because I like to weigh my suitcase down with kitchen gadgets rather than shoes (on that occasion it was more zaa’tar, sumac and loukoum – turkish delight about 4 kilos, plus rose syrup and petal confit…but that’s another story).

When heading for the UK, with a 20 kg check-in allowance I usually put a suitcase in a suitcase and stuff both full on the way back, maxing out that weight allowance. And not with clothes. Cookbooks, groceries and the latest not particularly useful but wonderfully gimmicky gadget from Lakeland.

This time on the way there though, I stuffed it with Som Tam, or Thai green papaya salad. Deconstructed. Well it’s a nice light salad. Sometimes I could almost happily chomp away on a bowl of it rather than chocolate. Almost.

(Think I need to reduce the size of the photo)

However not knowing if I’d find a green papaya in the Yeovil Tesco I dashed out before leaving for the airport to get one from my local Thai/Japanese store. But it being August: congés annuel and vacances oblige, it was closed of course. Luckily the mini Tang Freres store opposite was open. I also grabbed a small pot of shrimp paste, which has to be one of the stinkiest things you can get in an Asian grocery. That and fish sauce, which I knew I could get in the UK.

My suitcase weighed in at 19.4 kg filled with ingredients for Som Tam (prelude to the next post), gifts from Lebanon for the family and outfits with colour for FBC 2011 this weekend. Like I indicated I’m a lightweight champion.

Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam)

(Ok so I forgot the peanuts and basil!)

Som Tam is one of the classic starters to any Thai meal. It has a slight sweetness over a tangy slightly sour base. A host of deep pungent flavours that probably shouldn’t go well together but when they mingle over crunchy strips of green papaya sprinkled with crushed peanut… Wow. When you fork the firm green papaya strips into your mouth you give your taste buds an oh yeah baby moment.

You can also add prawns, and eat it with a bowl of sticky rice.

Makes a large bowl of Som Tam as a starter for about 4, or a main for 2


For the vinaigrette
– 2 cloves garlic (or 1 tbsp of a cheat’s chopped garlic or paste)
– juice of 1 lime
– 3 tbsps fish sauce (nam pla) (3 tbsps soy sauce if vegetarian)
– 2 tbsps brown sugar
– 1 tbsp liquid honey (or to taste)
– 1 tsp shrimp paste (or a tspful of a bean sauce if vegetarian)
– 1 Thai red chili (or a pinch of chili flakes)

For the salad:
– A small green papaya (make sure there are no bad parts when buying. Green mango works well too)
– 1/2 cucumber
– 2 tomatoes
– A handful of bean sprouts
– A small handful of fresh coriander
– A small handful of fresh basil (if you can get Thai basil, all the better)
– 3 tbsps peanuts, crushed


1. First mix all the vinaigrette ingredients together in a jar and shake well. Leave aside for the flavours to mingle.
2. Prepare the papaya by peeling it, cutting it open and scooping the seeds into a compost bin preferably, and shredding it in a food processor on a coarse setting. Or with a coarse grater, but beware it doesn’t bite you. Add to a large bowl.
3. Slice the cucumber into matchsticks. Add to the bowl.
4. Cut up the tomato into small pieces. Up to you if you keep the pips. Add to the bowl.
5. Add the bean sprouts to the bowl.
5. Strip the coriander leaves from the stalks and coarsely chop the leaves (keep the stalks if you’re making a Thai Green curry). Tear the basil leaves. Scatter both over the contents of the bowl.
6. Pour over the vinaigrette and mix well.
7. Serve and sprinkle the peanuts over each serving.