Food 2020 – The Great British Chefs Cookbook Club (Fire Islands by Eleanor Ford)

May 2020 – Recipes (Hot and Sour Duck, Stir Fried Greens with Garlic and Chilli, Solo Coconut Rice, Lamb Shank Red Curry, Five Minute Stir Fry Beef, Aubergine with Shrimp Paste, Golden Stir Fry Vegetables, Babi Guling, Spice Stuffed Smoked Duck, Yellow Coconut Rice)

As some of you will have realised, I’ve developed something of an obsession with one of my new cookbooks, “Fire Islands”, by Eleanor Ford. In pretty rapid succession I’ve rattled through a tremendous amount of the recipes, starting back in February and just keeping right on going!

One night I went for the Hot and Sour Duck, a couple of duck breasts cooked simply, and quickly, but full or flavour. It was easy to make and very well described, and was a fabulous dish for a Sunday dinner, shot through with chilli and garlic and rich with tamarind paste. It went brilliantly with the stir fried greens (I used green beans instead of leafy green stuff because Lynne does not like leafy green stuff) with garlic and chilli and what the book calls solo coconut rice which is cooked in coconut milk, seasoned with sugar and chicken stock. It made for two very happy diners and left a lot of leftovers.

Another weekend we opted for the lamb shank red curry but I used a pair of venison shanks instead. This was glorious, meat falling off the bone and so tender you could cut it with a teaspoon. Oddly, perhap, it uses condensed milk and palm sugar (jaggery) to finish and the resulting sauce is rich beyond belief. It was served with coconut rice, again very rich and smooth.

Another night I went for the five minute stir fry beef, which genuinely does only take five minutes to cook (though you’ll need a bit more time to chop and prep your ingredients). With it I served Aubergine with Shrimp Paste though I had to use Thai fish sauce as I didn’t have any shrimp paste at this stage, and Jasmine Rice. It was also accompanied by Golden Stir Fry Vegetables, full of green beans, carrots and sweetcorn, fresh and crunchy and satisfying.

I also tweaked the Babi Guling recipe (Roast Pork with Turmeric, Ginger and Garlic) to use with a joint of wild boar. It was slightly drier than pork might have been and may need further thought if I decide to try it again. It went well wth the Green Bean Lawar which is packed not just with green beans but with coconut as well.

However, the most spectacular cooking session from the book was another duck recipe, this time Spice Stuffed Smoked Duck which is just glorious. You basically stuff a duck with a whizzed in the food processor mix of garlic, shallots, ginger, galangal (if you can get it), turmeric, red chillies, birds eye chillies, oil, kecap manis, palm sugar, seasame seeds, coriander, smoked salt, black pepper, ground cloves and mutmeg (this makes a bumbu, an Indonesian paste). Once stuffed, you then paint the outside of the duck with tamarind paste, stick it in an oven smoking bag if you can get one, or an ordinary roasting bag if you can’t, chuck it in the oven for around 4 hours, and enjoy. The meat will fall off the bones, and the sauce that results from all those spices, and the roasting juices, combined with the tamarind, is just amazing. After we’d had two meals from it, I stewed the carcass with the remains of the sauce and used the leftovers in the Portuguese duck rice I cooked another day.

With it we ate Yellow Coconut Rice, which is the most unctuous rice I have ever eaten. I won’t make you buy the book for this recipe (though you really do need this book in your life).

Yellow Coconut Rice

Serves 6-8


  • 500g Jasmine rice
  • 6cm galangal
  • 4cm turmeric or 1 rounded teasoon of turmeric
  • 2cm ginger, peeled
  • 5 small red Asian shallots (or 1-2 normal shallots)
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 400mls coconut milk
  • 5 lime leaves
  • 3 lemongrass stalks, bruised and tied in a knot
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 heaped teaspoon salt


  1. Wash the rice well, swirling it in four changes of cold water. Steam it for 10 minutes to pre-cook.
  2. Put the galangal, turmeric, ginger, shallots and garlic in a small food processor with a small glass of water. Whizz the mix then strain it through a sieve onto a large pan. You should have a bright orangte liquid. Pass another 400mls of water through the sieve then discard the solids.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the pan, and bring to the boil. The contents of the pan should be a creamy primrose yellow. If it isn’t, add more turmeric. Add the rice, turn off the heat and leave it for 10 minutes.
  4. At this point you can keep the rice until you are ready to eat (keep it in the fridge if it’s going to be more than an hour). Transfer it back to the steamer for 10 minutes before serving. Removed the lemongrass, heap the rice into a mound or shape it into a cone and serve it.

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