Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: Review of "The Girl from The Savoy" by Hazel Gaynor, Served with a Recipe for an Earl Grey Gin Fizz with Homemade Earl Grey-Honey Syrup

It's a two TLC Book Tour kind of week! Today's tour stop has us traveling to London for The Girl from the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor, a glittering historical novel about what happens after the Great War in Britain ends, the age of jazz, the bright lights of the theater, and two women--one, a star of the London stage and the other, a hotel chambermaid with dreams of being discovered. Along with my review, I am serving up a recipe for a wonderful Earl Grey Gin Fizz, with homemade Earl Grey-Honey Syrup, inspired by the book. 

Publisher's Blurb:

London, 1923: Welcome to The Savoy hotel, a glittering jewel in London’s social scene, where the lives of the rich, the famous, and the infamous intertwine.

Here, amid the cocktails and the jazz, two women with very different pasts try to forget the devastation of the Great War and forge a new life in a city where those who dare to dream can have it all.

Dolly Lane is The Savoy’s newest chambermaid, her prospects limited by a life in service. But her proximity to the dazzling hotel guests fuels her dreams—to take the London stage by storm, to wear couture gowns, to be applauded by gallery girls and admired by critics . . . to be a star, just like her idol, Loretta May.

The daughter of an earl, Loretta has rebelliously turned her back on the carefully ordered life expected of a woman at the top of society’s elite. She will love who she wants, and live as she likes. Outwardly, her star burns bright, but Loretta holds a dark secret. She alone knows that her star cannot burn forever.

When an unusual turn of events leads Dolly’s and Loretta’s lives to collide, they must both learn to let go of their pasts in order to hold on to what they most desire.

Paperback: 448 pages
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (June 7, 2016)

My Review:

I jumped on this tour because I enjoy historical fiction--especially set around either WWI or WWII, and I loved the author's second book A Memory of Violets (My review + recipe are here). Her first book about the Titanic, has been on my Kindle forever and I keep vowing to get to it. (I will! I will!) The Girl from The Savoy is similar in style to A Memory of Violets in that it follows multiple characters, is told from differing perspectives, and has some twists and turns that unfold with the story. We meet Dolly (Dorothy) Lane in the prologue, as she says goodbye to her childhood love Teddy, as he heads off to war in 1916. So many young lives were lost in the Great War, that although he promises that they will be married in the summer and have babies and the quiet life they always talked about, the prospects are not good. We catch up with Dolly again in 1923 as she is about to start her first day of employment at the famous Savoy hotel and bumps into returned soldier and uninspired composer Perry Clements. Perry is headed to weekly tea with his sister, the famed stage star Loretta May (in reality society darling and titled Lady Virginia Clements), at the height of her success (everything that Dolly dreams of) but is struggling with her own issues. Finally, mixed into Dolly and Loretta's stories we hear from Teddy, Dolly's boyfriend, who did return from the war but came back with an injured leg and severe 'shell shock'--what we call PTSD today--and in 1919 is in a hospital ward unable to remember much about his life and anything about Dolly, even with a young nurse reading him the many letters from Dolly that were found with him. Dolly and Loretta end up connecting through Perry when Loretta encourages him to hire Dolly as his muse since he has been unable to forget her since bumping into her. Loretta grooms Dolly to fit into their social circle and for the stage, and they find that as different as they are in life and in their upstairs/downstairs social statures, they have much in common when it comes to loss and heartbreak.  

Hazel Gaynor does an amazing job of vividly describing the time periods she writes about--you can see the meticulous details of the research she does while feeling the passion she has for her subject. London, The Savoy, the theaters, the music, and the whole era come to life in her writing. The main characters are well written, particularly Dolly, whom I felt that I got to know and understand the most. There is a lot of story, backstory, and characters in the 400-ish pages, which means that some of the secondary characters' stories aren't as complete as I would have preferred. For the most part the different perspectives and shifts in time flowed well, but there were a few instances when I had to go back and determine what year I was reading about so that I understood the context. There are definite twists and turns in the book, most of which I saw coming, but which added to the emotional pull and poignancy of the story. There is a lot of heartbreak in the book but as the titles of the three sections (cleverly called "Acts" to fit with the theater scene) relay, there is also "Hope," "Love" and "Adventure" to be found.  

If you like your summer books to transport you, you are a fan of historical fiction, jazz, and London, and/or you are missing Downton Abbey since it ended, you'll enjoy this book as much as I did.  


Author Notes:  Hazel Gaynor’s 2014 debut novel The Girl Who Came Home—A Novel of the Titanicwas a New York Times and USA Today bestseller. A Memory of Violets is her second novel. Hazel writes a popular guest blog ‘Carry on Writing’ for national Irish writing website and contributes regular feature articles for the site, interviewing authors such as Philippa Gregory, Sebastian Faulks, Cheryl Strayed, Rachel Joyce and Jo Baker, among others. Hazel was the recipient of the 2012 Cecil Day Lewis award for Emerging Writers and was selected by Library Journal as one of Ten Big Breakout Authors for 2015. She appeared as a guest speaker at the Romantic Novelists’ Association and Historical Novel Society annual conferences in 2014. Originally from Yorkshire, England, Hazel now lives in Ireland with her husband and two children. 

Find out more about Hazel at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


Although not a foodie book, there is quite a lot of alcohol/cocktails in The Girl from The Savoy and some occasional food mentions too. Food-wise, Dolly eats pretty simply at the hotel--most notably toast triangles and pats of butter and porridge for breakfast and cocoa with bread and butter at nine, before bed. When she and her friend Clover go dancing, they often stop for a meal of poached eggs and toast afterward. Loretta and her brother Perry meet for tea at the Winter Garden at Claridge's where tiny tea sandwiches with cucumber, tarragon, and smoked salmon and miniature cakes and strawberry tarts might be served, along with Earl Grey tea. There are also mentions of Marie biscuits, milk rolls, Christmas Pudding, chocolates, humbugs (a hard-boiled sweet) at the movies, blackberries and gooseberries, cherry cake that Perry's advertisement for a muse mentions as 'payment' and that he and Dolly share with tea, and chunks of bread and pickled onions that the stage performers tuck into between acts. For alcohol there was champagne, absinthe, scotch, hot port, martinis, a tray of "gemstone-colored cocktails" and Loretta May's gin--consumed straight and in gin and tonics and a gin fizz, and about which she said, "Gin is an acquired taste, and once acquired, it is rarely lost."

For my book inspired dish, I decided to pair the Earl Grey tea and gin that Miss May imbibed so frequently into an Earl Grey Gin Fizz. A gin fizz is usually a mixture of gin, lemon juice and carbonated water or soda--although variations can include egg whites, sparkling wine (usually called a French 75), or other mix-ins. 

I made an Earl Grey-Honey Syrup to add to my gin fizz--essentially a tea-steeped simple syrup but using honey instead of white sugar and adding a little vanilla. I sometimes find Earl Grey tea on its own to be a bit like Dolly considered it--"It is like drinking a bottle of perfume"--but I do like it mixed into lattes or mixed with other flavors, where it isn't the entire focus. I wanted my syrup to have plenty of Earl Grey flavor so it stands out, but thought the honey and vanilla would mellow it and round it out. The result is quite a lovely and refreshing drink. 

Earl Grey Gin Fizz
by Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes 2 Cocktails)

3 oz gin of choice
2 oz fresh lemon juice
2 oz Earl Grey-Honey Syrup--recipe below
cold club soda
lemon slices or peels for garnish

Place gin, lemon juice, syrup and ice in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously until well-mixed. Strain into glasses (fill glass with ice if desired, I didn't) and add cold club soda to fill. Garnish with lemon peel and enjoy! 

Earl-Grey Honey Syrup
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 2/3+ cup)

1 cup cold water
2 tea bags Earl Grey tea
1/2 cup honey of choice
1 tsp vanilla extract

In small pan, bring the water to just below a boil. Once the water is about to boil, add the tea bags, turn off the burner, cover the pan and allow teabags to steep for 5 minutes. Remove lid, add the honey to the tea and turn on burner heat to medium. Cook, stirring until honey is completely dissolved into the tea mixture. Once honey is dissolved, remove pan from heat, stir in vanilla extract, and allow syrup to cool completely. Once cool, remove tea bags from syrup and pour syrup into an airtight container and place in fridge until ready to use. Syrup should keep for several weeks tightly covered in fridge.

Notes/Results: Crisp, not-too-floral, bubbly and refreshing--this is quite a tasty cocktail. You get the sophisticated notes of the Earl Grey, the warmth of the honey, the bright citrus from the lemon and the slightly piney essence of the gin but they blend together well and nothing overpowers the other ingredients. The gigantic lemon spirals are because I was reading about spiralizing fruit with my Inspiralizer and thought they were more fun than a plain slice or zest. Very happy with both this drink and my Earl Grey-Honey Syrup, the remainder of which which will also probably end up in a London Fog Latte or maybe over some berries for fun. I will happily make both recipes again. 

I'm linking up this review and recipe to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post

Note: A review copy of "The Girl From the Savoy" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.

You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Monday, June 20, 2016

The Book Tour Stops Here: A Review of "June' by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, Served with a (Mostly Non-Dairy) Malted Black-and-White Milkshake

Today's TLC Book Tour stop has us traveling to rural Ohio exploring a family mystery that began sixty years ago in June, a novel by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore. I'm serving up my review with the recipe for a mostly dairy-free version of a decadent Malted Black-and-White Milkshake, made with homemade chocolate sauce and vanilla bean coconut ice cream. I find that nothing will get you through a Monday better than a good book, chocolate, and ice cream!  

Publisher's Blurb:

From the New York Times bestselling author of Bittersweet comes a novel of suspense and passion about a terrible mistake made sixty years ago that threatens to change a modern family forever. 

Twenty-five-year-old Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in rural St. Jude, Ohio, mourning the loss of the woman who raised her—her grandmother, June. But a knock on the door forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary matinee idol Jack Montgomery’s vast fortune. How did Jack Montgomery know her name? Could he have crossed paths with her grandmother all those years ago? What other shocking secrets could June’s once-stately mansion hold?

Soon Jack’s famous daughters come knocking, determined to wrestle Cassie away from the inheritance they feel is their due. Together, they all come to discover the true reasons for June’s silence about that long-ago summer, when Hollywood came to town, and June and Jack’s lives were forever altered by murder, blackmail, and betrayal. As this page-turner shifts deftly between the past and present, Cassie and her guests will be forced to reexamine their legacies, their definition of family, and what it truly means to love someone, steadfastly, across the ages.

Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Crown (May 31, 2016)

My Review:

There is something about a book with a house that has its own personality and even thoughts and feelings, but not in a horror story kind of way. Twin Oaks, built by an oilman, who broke ground on the lot in 1895, has seen a lot of history before Cassie ends up there in 2015 after the death of her grandmother June. June was one of Twin Oaks, favorite occupants, along with her friend Lindie, and the house holds the secrets of a terrible night in 1955 that changed several lives. June is an absorbing novel, with two story lines and time periods set sixty years apart, but woven together. It's a bit mystery and suspense with a gothic feel, centers around family and secrets, and it has a smidge of romance worked in there too. Set in the summer of both 1955 and 2015, it is a absorbing story, perfect for a warm summer night.  

I have not read any of author Miranda Beverly-Whittemore's previous books but I found myself quickly caught up with her lush and vivid descriptions and how well the stories moved back and forth. When the book switched between 1955 and 2015, I found myself eager to revisit each time period and its characters and learn more about the mystery, but I also was sorry to leave the previous decade and characters I had been caught up in--I take that as the mark of a well-written and strongly intertwined story. If pressed, I would have to say that the summer of 1955 and Lindie and June were most intriguing, but Cassie grew on me and I like her snarky humor and how she dealt with her possible family and the small entourage from Hollywood when they descended on her. Although the mystery and its details were not that difficult to figure out--Twin Oaks tells us almost from the start that a murder occurred and who did it, it did not detract from the pleasure of the story. My only complaint--the end came too quickly, I wanted more time at Twin Oaks. Add this one to your summer reading list.


Author Notes: Miranda Beverly-Whittemore is the author of three other novels: New York Times bestseller Bittersweet; Set Me Free, which won the Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, given annually for the best book of fiction by an American woman; and The Effects of Light. A recipient of the Crazyhorse Prize in Fiction, she lives and writes in Brooklyn.

You can connect with Miranda via her website, Facebook and Twitter


Food Inspiration:

There is actually quite a bit of food mentioned in June. If you could see my ARC of the book, you would see a ton of page corners turned back (yes, it's a bad habit!) with all of food that is in there. From the chapters set in the 1950s, there are ice cream sodas, fried chicken and mashed potatoes, hot milk steamed with honey and vanilla, biscuits, eggs, Cokes, Vienna sausages eaten straight from the can, anchovies, popcorn, and the "occasional slab of fried Spam;" coffee cake, pork chops and cross-patch potatoes, Rice Krispies, party fare of champagne, tea cakes and little sandwiches, candied ham, cookies, cut-up pineapple, meringues and mint patties, and a few classic restaurant menu items like creamed chicken in a mashed potato nest, Shirley Temples, a rib eye--medium-rare with a baked potato and creamed spinach, and a whiskey-neat. 

In current day, when she is eating, Cassie seems to exist on junk food like the green olives stuffed with pimentos, sour cream and onion potato chips, a hunk of cheddar cheese and a carafe of flat 7-Up she serves to Nick when he first shows up, "Damn those hostess genes." Other food consumed by Cassie included Jack Daniels, Buffalo Wild Wings, egg sandwiches, Velveeta on Ritz, and a pitcher of Hawaiian Punch "the color of maraschino cherries," DQ--burgers, fries, and dip-top soft-serve cones, canned green beans and tuna fish, pickles, Snickers, tuna casserole, boxed mashed potatoes topped with boxed macaroni and cheese, and a side salad of raw broccoli and mayonnaise, frozen pizza, a Twix and some zucchini, red Jell-O with Cool Whip, Smirnoff Ice screwdrivers, and Bud Light, lemonade and Ritz, whiskey sours, and a classic Thanksgiving dinner. Cassie's potential new relatives eat like you imagine Hollywood celebrities and their staff would with shakes of spinach, kale, and ginger, egg white omelettes and turkey bacon, raw almonds, espresso, red peppers stuffed with a mixture of quinoa and spices, baba ghanoush and hand-ground flaxseed crackers, baby kale and heritage grains, tofu loaf, plums, avocados and apples, blueberry quinoa pancakes,hibiscus tea--sweetened with agave, cauliflower bisque, roasted salmon and asparagus, spinach and cucumber salad with lemon juice on the side, amarath and haricots verts

I was toying between eggplant baba ghanoush, quinoa-stuffed red peppers, and the hibiscus tea with lemonade but it was a meal that Cassie ordered at Illy's, the local dinner of a cheeseburger with extra special sauce , fries with a side of Russian dressing and a black-and-white milkshake that stuck in my mind. Mainly it was the black-and-white milkshake which she has poured into two glasses to share with Tate's assistant Hank. There is just something about a classic diner milkshake, thick and creamy, and it seemed like something that would fit right into either 1955 or 2015

I did a bit of research online on classic black-and-white milkshakes and some recipes called for malt and others did not. The one thing that seemed pretty definite is that it is made with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup--not chocolate ice cream, making it a glass of milky chocolate goodness. I ended up liking Bobby Flay's version the best and decided to do a mostly dairy-free version of it, using a coconut milk-based vanilla bean ice cream recipe that I pinned recently from Minimalist Baker. The malt powder I had on hand (Ovaltine) is not dairy-free but, having less dairy means less clogging up my nose and breathing, and there isn't that much of the malt powder in the shake. Since I was using up things, I decided to use the last of a homemade, less-sweet dark chocolate syrup I made a few months ago for a chocolate soda. (The link for that recipe is on the recipe for the shake.) My small changes are noted in red below.

Malted Black-and-White Milkshakes
Slightly Adapted from Bobby Flay via Food Network
(Serves 2)

2 pints good vanilla ice cream, slightly softened (I used the vegan ice cream below)
3-4 Tbsp malt powder
6 oz chocolate sauce, divided (I used this homemade version)
Whipped cream, for garnish (I omitted)
Shaved bittersweet chocolate, for garnish (I omitted & used chocolate syrup)

Place 1 1/2 pints of ice cream, malt powder, and 4 ounces chocolate sauce in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour shakes into 2 tall glasses, leaving a little room at the top. 

Place an extra scoop of ice cream on top of each shake and drizzle the remaining 2 ounces chocolate sauce over. 

Garnish with a large dollop of whipped cream and some chocolate shavings if desired. Serve immediately.

Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream
Recipe, very-slightly adapted from Minimalist Baker
(Makes about 4 Cups)

2 (14-oz) cans full fat coconut milk
1/2 cup organic cane sugar, or to taste (I used 1/3 cup = 1 Tbsp)
3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
pinch sea salt
1 vanilla bean pod, split and scraped (I used 1 heaping tsp vanilla paste)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Place coconut milk, sugar, coconut oil, sea salt, vanilla bean paste and vanilla extract into the jar of a blender. Blend on high until completely smooth and creamy. Taste and add more sugar if needed. 

Place mixture in the chilled drum of an ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer's instructions, about 40 minutes, until cream--like soft serve.

Transfer ice cream to a freezer-save container and freeze for at least 4-6 hours, until firm. Set out for 5-10 minutes before serving to soften.

Ice cream will keep up to 10 days, in an airtight container in freezer. 

Notes/Results: A thick, creamy, dreamy milkshake--really decadent, delicious and satisfying. The vanilla bean coconut ice cream is rich and delicious and tastes of vanilla rather than coconut, making it perfect for blending with the chocolate syrup and malt powder. You could easily make this vegan by leaving out the malt or sourcing a vegan barley-malt which I would have done if I wasn't working my way through a large container of Ovaltine. I made a half-recipe which, as rich and thick as this milkshake is, would easily serve 2. I drank half and froze the rest for later to eat with a spoon. I would definitely classify this as a dessert rather than a beverage but it is a delicious indulgence either way. I will happily make it again. The dairy-free ice cream will also be on rotation this summer as it will be perfect with fresh fruit.

I am sharing this post with Novel Food #27, hosted by my friend Simona at briciole and celebrating the combination of food and books. See her announcement post here.

I'm also linking up this review and recipe to the Weekend Cooking event at Beth Fish Reads, a weekly event that is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share. For more information, see the welcome post

Note: A review copy of "June" was provided to me by the publisher and TLC Book Tours in return for a fair and honest review. I was not compensated for this review and as always my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the stops for the rest of this Book Tour and what other reviewers thought about the book here.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Summery Zucchini and White Bean Soup for Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammie) Sundays

I wanted a quick, summery-feeling meat-free soup this week so I went to the master of the fast and easy vegan recipe, Robin Robertson and found a Zucchini and White Bean Soup in her More Quick Fix Vegan cookbook. This soup makes use of pantry staples like diced tomatoes and white beans, but adds in summer favorites like zucchini, fresh basil and fresh Roma tomato.

Robertson says, "White beans add protein and creaminess to this tasty soup made with zucchini and garnished with chopped fresh tomato. When you wash the zucchini, be sure to scrub it well to remove any bits of dirt."

I made a few changes to the soup--using up both zucchini I had, adding extra beans and a bit of extra flavoring. My changes are noted below in red.   

Zucchini and White Bean Soup
Slightly Adapted from More Quick-Fix Vegan by Robin Robertson
(Serves 4)

1 Tbsp olive oil or 1/4 cup water
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 lb zucchini, trimmed and coarsely chopped (I used about 1 1/2 lbs)
3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced (I used 5 cloves)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
(I added 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
4 cup vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups home-cooked or canned white beans, drained (I used 1 can navy beans + 1 box cannellini beans--about 26 oz total)
1 (14.5 oz) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, drained (I did not drain mine)
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh tomato

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and garlic and cook for 3 minutes longer. 

Stir in the oregano, broth, white beans, tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. 

Add the basil, then taste and adjust seasonings, if needed. Serve hot, topped with the chopped tomato.     

Notes/Results: Simple but tasty, this is the kind of soup for any naysayers who declare that soups aren't meant for summer. It makes the most out of combination of pantry and fresh ingredients and is ready to go in about 30 minutes of prep and cook time. I had two zucchini that equaled about 1 1/2-ish pounds so I added extra beans and more garlic and dried herbs to compensate--as well as kept the liquid in my fire-roasted tomatoes. I liked the changes and would keep them if I make this again. Although a vegan recipe and perfectly satisfying with the protein from the beans, you could also use it as a base for some shredded cooked chicken or you could also sprinkle on grated Parmesan or spice it up with red pepper flakes if you were so inclined. A good little soup for using up zucchini and just right for a warm day or evening. 

Souper Sundays is back with a new format of a picture link each week where anyone interested can post their soups, salads, or sandwiches any time during the week and I post a recap of some (or all) of the entries the following week. 

(If you are not familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.)

Here's a recap of the delicious dishes from last week's Souper (Soup, Salad, & Sammie) Sundays roundup.  

Tina of Squirrel Head Manor shared a scrumptious-looking Deluxe Pizza Panini that she enjoyed for lunch saying, "Ham and pepperoni layered up with sauteed mushrooms, roasted red peppers, olives, mozzarella and parmigiano cheeses, with Italian herbs and our homemade tomato sauce. Leave the meats off for a great veggie option! ... Pity I didn't get a clear shot of this sandwich. It was amazing. It honestly did taste like a pizza."

The lovely Beth of Beth Fish Reads (home of the Weekend Cooking weekly blog event) joins us at Souper Sundays for the first time with a couple of recipes she tried this week, saying "Not only were they really yummy but both were pretty and relied on the fresh vegetables that are so plentiful at the farmers market right now."  First was this Italian Vegetable Soup (photo from Bon Appetit). Beth says, "This was excellent and reheated in the microwave perfectly the next day."
Next there was Ellie Krieger's Snow Pea, Scallion & Radish Salad (photo from Fine Cooking). Beth says, "The following recipe comes from her The Food You Crave book, and is a refreshing salad that looks so pretty in the bowl and on the plate. I served this with simple grilled chicken breasts."

Thanks to Tina and Beth for linking up last week!

If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:
  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you.
On your entry post (on your blog):
  • please mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and link back to this post.
  • you are welcome to add the wonderful Souper Sundays logo (created by Ivy at Kopiaste) to your post and/or blog (optional).

Have a happy, healthy week!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Monchong Filets, Gently Cooked in Lemongrass and Yellow Curry with Easy Thai Coconut Rice

This is a simple curried fish dish and coconut rice from Curtis Stone via Take Home Chef. Chef Stone used striped bass filets, but I subbed in local monchong (aka deep sea pomfret, a firm, moderately-flavored white fish). 

I am a little bummed about the way this dish turned out, basically because I didn't have my favorite Thai yellow curry paste (this one) and every grocery store I went to was out. Yellow curry paste is harder to find here than red or green and I ended up using a yellow curry packet of dubious origin that I had in my pantry. (I wasn't thinking and tossed the packet before I investigated further, but it seemed to be mostly turmeric and lacked the bright flavor notes of a good Thai yellow curry.) I added extra lemongrass, ginger and kaffir lime leaves and a touch of lime juice and cooked it a bit longer, but it still fell a bit flat. I don't blame the recipe, curry paste is always fresher tasting and more vibrant than powder, so I think the fault is there. 

I noted the amounts I added to the recipe in red below. If you have a good, flavorful Thai curry paste you probably won't need the extra ingredients.

(Striped Bass) Fish Filets, Gently Simmered in Lemongrass and Yellow Curry
Slightly Adapted from The Take Home Chef via 
(Serves 4)

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 lemongrass stalk, halved crosswise (I used 2 stalks)
1/4 cup yellow curry paste (I had a yellow curry powder packet without much flavor)
4 slices peeled fresh ginger (I used 6 slices)
2 kaffir lime leaves (I used 4 large kaffir lime leaves, slightly torn to release flavor)

one (14oz/400ml) can unsweetened coconut milk
four (6oz/185g) striped bass filets or other mild white fish (I used monchong)
sea salt, to taste
8oz/225g fresh spinach leaves
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves

(I added 1 Tbsp fresh lime juice)

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over a medium heat. Add the shallot and saute for 2 minutes or until soft. Using the back of a large knife, gently pound the lemongrass to bruise it all over.

Add the lemongrass, curry paste, ginger and kaffir lime leaves to the shallots. Saute for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the coconut milk and stir to blend in the curry paste. Simmer uncovered for a further 2 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

Add the striped bass to the curry sauce. Cover the pan with a lid and cook over medium-low heat for about 8 minutes. You will know the fish is done when a toothpick can easily pierce through the flesh of the fish without any resistance.

Discard the ginger, lime leaves and lemongrass. Season the curry to taste with salt, if necessary. Using a metal spatula, transfer the fish to a plate. Return the curry sauce to a simmer over medium heat. Add the spinach to the curry sauce and toss for 2 minutes or just until the spinach wilts.

Mound the spinach in the center of 4 large dinner plates, dividing equally. Place the fish atop the spinach and garnish with the cilantro. Serve with Thai Coconut Rice.

Thai Coconut Rice
Slightly Adapted from The Take Home Chef via
(Serves 4)

1 1/4 cups uncooked jasmine rice
1 cup cold water
3/4 cup/150 ml unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 tsp sea salt

dried coconut, lightly toasted, for garnish

Rinse the rice in a sieve under cold running water until the water runs clear from the rice. Drain.

Combine 1 cup/225 ml fresh cold water, coconut milk and salt in a heavy based large saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a near boil. Reduce the heat to low. Add the rice and stir constantly for 1 minute.

Cover and simmer over low heat without stirring for 10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork, then cover and continue cooking 5 minutes longer or until the rice is almost tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Remove from the heat and let the rice stand covered for 10 minutes or until the rice is tender and all of the liquid has been absorbed. Lightly fluff up the rice with a fork. Transfer the rice to bowls and garnish with the toasted coconut and serve.

Notes/Results: The rice was delicious--you can't beat jasmine rice for its sweet, aromatic flavor which is only enhanced by the coconut milk and coconut chips--a definite keeper recipe. I was not as enamored by the curry but again, I blame the curry packet I used and not the recipe--it just wasn't the Thai yellow curry I love, so I'll try it again when I find the good Thai yellow curry paste I like or have the time and gumption to make my own yellow curry paste. The monchong was perfectly cooked however, tender and juicy. So overall, I'll still call this recipe a win. 

This post is linked up to I Heart Cooking Clubs where we are cooking Surf and/or Turf this week--Curtis Stone recipes featuring fish/seafood (surf) and/or meat/poultry/vegetables (turf). You can see what the other IHCC participants made my checking out the picture links on the post.

***Giveaway Reminder***

If you are a book lover I have a Rafflecopter Giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the quirky and fun 'We're All Damaged ' by Matthew Norman going on right now. (This giveaway is open to US and Canada addresses.)

Click on this link to see my review and recipe and to enter! Giveaway ends on 6/28/16.