30 June 2014

One pan pizza

You may recall my one pot pasta post not so long ago.  I'm pleased to say it got quite a positive reaction.  I'm sure I have bored you all silly with my regular grumblings about the limited facilities I have to cook with but I soldier on, trying to think up new ways of keeping Mr John happy.  Well, last Friday I managed to produce home made pizza in a frying pan. Yes, I couldn't believe it either!  A bit of "google-ing" and then pretty much doing it my way resulted in a pretty good dinner.

Now before I tell you how I achieved this miracle and inwardly I'm still gloating let me make it clear that if you are fortunate enough to have an oven, please continue using it to create pizza.  If, like me, you're stuck without such a luxury then this may help you.  The only limitation with this is your ability to purchase good quality toppings and although I struggled a little the end result means this won't be the last time we enjoy pizza / wine night on a Friday.

You may be able to find yeast in Thailand, but I could not find any at the supermarket so opted for a no yeast mix, which actually helps with the timing of it all as it's much quicker.  I also can't find self raising flour here but this didn't deter me.   You will need either a cast iron frying pan or a good quality non-stick pan.  You will also need a lid that covers the pan completely ideally a glass one so you can see what's going on I used the lid from my slow / electric cooker.

The following makes 2 x 9" inch pizza's.

Pizza Base
1 cup self raising flour or all purpose flour and a tablespoon of baking powder
0.5 cup of water
pinch of salt

Mix all of these together in a bowl, kneading it a bit and set aside.  I ended up leaving it to sit for about 2 hours but only because things were going on.  I think you can pretty much use this straight away.

Once you've made the dough you can make a tomato paste for spreading on the base before you add your toppings.  

Tomato sauce
3 tablespoons of tomato paste
0.5 tablespoons fresh basil
1 clove garlic, grated
pepper to taste

I also added a little bottled tomato sauce to make spreading a bit easier but pretty much just smell it and add whatever you want to.  I guess you could just use a bottle of tomato sauce but I wanted ours to have a bit more oomph.

Pretty much anything you want to.  Because of the way you cook this, don't put any raw ingredients on top that you can't eat straight from the fridge.  For example cured meat is OK because you could take that and eat it without warming through whereas uncooked chicken would not be OK.  Anything that needs to be cooked before being consumed should be done before you bake your base so, for example, potato should be fried in the pan before you add it to the top.  Also make sure your items are thinly sliced, diced or grated.  You get the idea right?  Our toppings were

pepperoni slices
pork luncheon meat slices
onion, finely sliced
mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
cheddar cheese, grated

Top Tip: make sure you have everything ready whatever toppings you choose because you don't have long to add them to your cooked base.

  • heat a non-stick or cast-iron frying pan on medium / high heat
  • stretch out your dough to make a round, large enough to fit into your frying pan and add it to the pan
  • cook for about 3 -4 minutes or until the underneath looks cooked just lift it up with a spatula or egg flip for a sneak peak
  • once cooked, remove from the flame and flip it over
  • spread tomato sauce
  • quickly add toppings
  • put the lid on, put it back on the flame for a further 4 minutes
  • turn the flame off but leave the lid on and let the heat do its work melting the cheese  I found this took another minute or two
  • remove from pan, slice, serve ideally with a glass of wine and enjoy

27 June 2014


Let me say it, I love my motorbike. The freedom and convenience it gives me.  Don't get me wrong, I'm still quite mindful that it's just me and a helmet on a road often chaotic with traffic.  And maybe that's where the problem lies?  You see, I'm not sure my motorbike loves me.

It rained all day on Wednesday, the clouds didn't shift and visibility inside the happy home was getting close to negative figures.  As the rain eased to a light drizzle, I persuaded Mr John to meet me at Vintage Coffee as he had a break.  It was close enough given that the heavens could re-open at any point and in fact, he could walk there.  Duly liberated, I relished the thought of my latte. 

Everything went well until I was on my way home.  I felt a wobble in the handlebars at low speed and though some might say "don't go slowly then", I had a look at the tyres whilst waiting for a break in the traffic at the crossroads.  My front wheel looked a little flat and I considered heading to the nearest garage but I was a complete coward as the wobble got worse and limped it home.

So Tom to the rescue along with "Tyre-man" our superhero.  He turned up on a motorbike with extra framing that carried his stuff.  In under 30 minutes he'd replaced the inner tube, blown it up and it was all lovely again.  All this for the modest price of 220 baht that's roughly GBP£4 / AUD$7 / USD£6.70 or four days with of dinners for the two of us at the corner shop.  If you get stuck, you can call him on 086-1124993 though I would recommend you have a Thai friend handy as he doesn't speak English.

Just when you think Lollipop Cafe couldn't get any better .... it does.  Not only can you get takeaway from them, but you can give them a call and they'll have your food waiting for you at an agreed time.  You can even book ahead ... genius!  Just go to their Facebook page to get the phone number ok so it's 090 982 1293 but don't forget they're closed on Wednesdays.

25 June 2014

Kays Espresso Bar

Mr John and I visited this place again having been taken there by Pii Kob.  We felt fortunate we'd turned up just after they'd opened as within half an hour, the place was buzzing with people.

Situated across the bridge, half way between the Eastern Hotel and Latte Coffee House, this place has only just opened.  The best way to describe the coffee is ... the nearest thing to Starbucks you'll find in Chan.  We also indulged in the coffee cake though there were lots of nice looking macaroons on display and it was very good.  A hot latte will set you back 55 baht but you get what you pay for.  Being newly opened, they are still sorting out their system for service I heard that one lady went there and waited two hours for her coffee partly because they lost her order.

The outside space has been beautifully landscaped and there's plenty of seating.  If you manage to get a seat inside you won't be disappointed with the selection of semi-comfortable chairs, air-conditioning and free Wi-Fi.  The toilets are sit down and this is going to sound weird the view through the big glass window in the Ladies is really pretty.  There's no need to worry, as you emerge from the cubicle there's a free standing large mirror above the sinks to shield you from being seen.

Our advice is definitely to go here but probably earlier rather than later if you want to avoid the queues and get your coffee in a timely manner.

23 June 2014

Bits 'n' Bobs

Well, it was quite a busy week.  In fact so much so, I forgot to post anything on Friday.  Definitely losing it I think. 

Some exciting news is that Tom now has a smart phone.   He's still trying to figure out how it works and when his friend in Bangkok video called him, he kept putting the phone up to his mouth.  I suspect his mate got a good look up his nose bless him.  I'm sure we all remember the first time we held our smart phones.  I remember getting to grips with mine fairly quickly but then spending hours trying to find the number keypad so I could make a normal call.

You may have read about the Fruit Festival and it is on at the right time, when everything seems to blooming.  We've been kindly given huge bags of mangosteen, rambutan, and lychees mostly from John's fellow teachers and of course our lovely corner shop folk.  The other day, when I was having coffee with my friend Kik, I was lucky enough to be given dragon fruit.  The lady behind the bar had picked them that morning from her tree and it was really delicious.  It's a more delicate flavour than the stone fruit we've had.

Speaking of our friend Kik, I was lucky enough to be taken to a "restaurant" on Wednesday run by Pii May.  I use the term restaurant loosely as it's just the covered side of her house and she's the only one who does the cooking plus you can't even tell it's a restaurant when you arrive.  I had a seafood spaghetti that was, without doubt, the best meal I've had in this country.  It was like a fusion of Italian and Thai cuisine. 

Pii May is married to a farang so I think her palate has been expanded and certainly her English is excellent.  Opening hours vary and usually require a phone call to check.  For all these reasons, I'm not going to divulge where it is but will take any overseas visitors here.

It seems no weekend is truly complete without brunch at the Lollipop Café and having had a late night on Saturday with friends Wicus and Ake, we headed here yesterday for brunch.  Mr John opted for the Eggs Benedict which he enjoyed, though Wicus was not so impressed.  He'd turned up after us to order the eggs only to find Mr John had eaten the last portion.  Oopsie! 

18 June 2014

Pasta Grill Restaurant

We visited this restaurant on the advice of Pii Kob and were pleasantly surprised by the food we ate.  Located down a small street by the Hang Out, near Robinson, the chef speaks good English with the menu varied and reasonably priced.

I chose the spaghetti Bolognese and Mr John the Carbonara.  I think I preferred mine more than Mr John did his as it had mushrooms in which weren't what he expected.  You always have to bear in mind that we are in the far flung east of Thailand and ingredients are very difficult to come by - not that I've ever put mushrooms in my Carbonara. 

I really enjoyed my meal and we will definitely go back again and maybe even try the steak.  Don't forget you can enjoy a post-dinner drink at Hang Out.

16 June 2014

TV excitement

The weekend has been action packed.  I've mastered the one pot pasta meals, although I discovered when Mike came for dinner on Saturday that it helps if you actually put the pasta in the pot...so dinner took twice as long as it should have!

I mentioned before that John got a modest pay rise when he started his new job and he spent it all this weekend.  He'd decided he wanted to upgrade our TV package.  I told him that it was his decision and that I wasn't bothered and I meant it.  Anyway, we tried to sort it out ourselves but to no avail, so Pii Kob stepped in yet again and came with us to the shop.

Although we'd been to the shop earlier in the day they were unable to help.  I think the language barrier was the biggest issue.  The girl in the shop "helpfully" gave us the call centre number and  sort of chucked us out of the shop.  Mr John later rang the number and guess what they said....yes....we had to go into the shop.  Great!  You can imagine how thrilled Mr John was.  After all that, once Pii Kob had gone with us it only took just over an hour for the new package to appear on our set top box.  How efficient is that.

Having said I wasn't bothered, I am so excited about the channel line up we have.  There's BBC World News and I'm obsessed with the news so this is very exciting for me.  Apart from HBO (Game of Thrones people) we also have Fox and last night we got to watch the latest episode of 24: Live another day.  We both love this show and we get it on the same day as the US which is before the UK get to see it.  We've got some great film channels and most exciting of all is the Australia Network.  I believe they show Australian Rules Football (though maybe only the finals, I'm not sure).  We put it on last night only to find that the NCPO (National Council for Peace and Order) have blocked the channel presumably because Australia has put an embargo on the General and his family travelling to the country.  Fingers crossed it'll be "un-blocked" before the end of September!   

Speaking of the NCPO yesterday, in order to help return happiness to the people, there was a free showing at 11am of the movie The Legend of King Naresuan 5.  The film, set in the late 1500s, is about this Kings liberation of the Siamese from the control of Burma.  According to the Bangkok Post there were large queues and tickets went within 15 minutes at some places.  As the film is in Thai, we gave it a miss.

Of course, the World Cup soccer is on at the moment.  Although we now have the appropriate channel, we haven't seen any matches.  Mr John who's rugby obsessed is not bothered and I would like to see Australia play as we don't get into the tournament very often but the times the matches are on isn't helpful here.  The first game starts at 11pm then 2am then 5am and I think there's been one at 8am but neither of us are interested enough to either stay up or get up.  I'll just stick to the news round up as I can't see Australia raising the trophy...but you never know!!

Having this TV package makes me feel like we properly live here.  Even though it won't dominate our lives, it's strangely settling adding an element of normality to an otherwise weird but fabulous experience. 

13 June 2014

A friend returns

It's been quite a week really and it all started with Mike returning from America.  Mike, Mr John and the lovely Wicus all used to work at the same school though not at the same time and it was really lovely to get together.

It's like this... it started with Wicus and Mike working together then Wicus moved school and Mr John worked with Mike.  Then Mr John moved schools too and worked with Wicus. As my regulars will know, Mr John moved schools this year and now, guess who he's working with? Yes, Mike.  So now that you've got that sort have I should tell you about our week. 

We all headed to the Lollipop Café with Miss Mam who's a teacher at the first school all they guys have worked at.  She's very kind and thoughtful and has been instrumental in finding jobs for the boys.  In fact, we wouldn't have had our "free" house if it wasn't for her

This is also Wicus' new fav place as he's had the cheeseburger.  I suddenly thought I should have made a banner for Mike and whizzed one up on my phone which I pathetically held above my head for him - not quite the same impact as a sheet!  After a great meal we tried the cake pop and also the peanut butter & jelly actually strawberry jam cupcakes.  Man were they good.

We've also been taken to two other great places for coffee and food.  Pii Kob took us to the newly opened Kays for coffee.  It's the closest coffee taste we've had to a Starbucks type coffee house.  We were having a discussion about TV channels don't ask it's a long story and so I didn't really take it all in.  We'll definitely go back though so I'll do it some justice in another post.

I went with my friend Kik to Nine Pizza which is owned by her friend.  As it's just across the road from Mr John's school, he also joined us and man were those pizza's good.  We had a small double cheese and a medium Nine Pizza Signature which has bacon, sausage, peppers, onion and pineapple.  They were delicious and we've been told it's OK to take wine, along with some glasses, to have a pizza / wine night there. Hurrah!  They also do takeaways if you don't want to eat in.

There's also giant coffee machine and some comfy seats if you just want a coffee.  Mr John had an Americano which he enjoyed but I was too full for coffee.  I'll pop back at some point and report

11 June 2014

Learning Thai

Continuing our efforts with the language, I thought I'd share some basics with you and days of the week.  I learnt languages at school, right through to year 12.  I can still speak reasonable Italian, my French is still a little bit "school girl" but I had never heard the Thai language until I landed in the country. 

Unlike European languages, where you get a different word for a different object Thai, being tonal, means you can have one word which, when pronounced differently can mean five different things.  This adds to the difficulty of learning the language but just like everything, it takes practice.  On a more positive note, there are no verb tenses.  By this I mean that if you use the verb "go" it never changes whether you mean yesterday, today or tomorrow. 

One key thing to remember is, if you are female, you end some words with "ca" but if you are male, you end some words with "crap".  This is different to European languages in that the objects themselves can be male or female.

Good luck with todays lesson!


Hello = sawadee / ca (f) crap (m)

Thank you = kob kun / ca (f) crap (m)

How are you = za-ba-dee-my

Days of the week:

Monday = wan chan

Tuesday = wan ang khan

Wednesday = wan poot    this is my favourite, go on, say it out loud

Thursday = wan pha-ru-hat

Friday = wan sook   another favourite

Saturday = wan sao

Sunday = wan a tit  Mr John's favourite!

Have fun!

09 June 2014

One Pot Pasta

Before I start on today's ramblings, I must wish my sister Anne a very happy birthday.  This also reminds me that I haven't done this months shout out for all the birthdays, so to Ted, Lyndsay, Abby, Aunty Jen, Julie Ann, Liz, Alison and Clare we wish you all a very happy birthday and will be thinking of you on the day.

We've had another lovely weekend even though there's been a lot of thunderstorms and rain.  In fact yesterday we were rudely awoken at 6am by a massive storm.  This is part and parcel of the rainy season in a tropical climate and it's always slightly cooler to compensate for getting a good soaking if you're not prepared.

I managed the weekly Tesco run on Friday without running out of petrol hurrah and cooked some good food over the weekend which was nicely interspersed with breakfast out on both days.  Wicus took us to a nice Vietnamese restaurant on Saturday and on Sunday Mr John finally got his big breakfast from Lollipop Café and was not disappointed.

On Friday I made an amazing even though I say so myself one-pot pasta meal.   I can't believe I've never made one of these before.  How come I've always used two pots / pans to make a pasta meal when I could have got away with one?  It was Abby, my niece, who suggested this to me and I had a good look round the internet and found this recipe

It sounded a little bland for our tastes and so I improvised and didn't really follow the recipe very much but was able to use all the principles to produce our dinner.  I don't know a lot, but I know my Italian flavours and adjusted things accordingly.  The end result was much appreciated by Mr John and I really enjoyed it.  I'm afraid I can't give you any specific quantities it's been a long time since I've had to be so exact with measurements in cooking but I'll try.  So here we go, my measurements for two people are;

  • 2 chicken breast , skin removed and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large mug of chicken stock I used a stock cube in boiled water
  • Half cup of cream any type
  • 1 medium sized onion I actually used 4 smallish shallots
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed / minced / finely chopped
  • 1 dried chilli they pack a punch here
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil
  • 1 inch round of fettuccine  I make a circle with my thumb and forefinger
  • 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
In a deep pan, brown the chicken pieces in olive oil.  Don't worry about these being cooked through as they will cook more once everything is in the pot.  Then add the garlic and onion and fry with the chicken for a minute or two.  Chuck everything else in even the cream. No seriously, just do it. 

Bring it to the boil then turn it down to a simmer.  Put the lid on and let it do it's thing for about 12 - 15 minutes.  Try a bit of the pasta and you could use any sort it's just that Mr John likes fettuccine to make sure it's cooked.  Take the pot off the heat and stir through the parmesan.  Then just dish it up.  It's that easy.  As an added bonus there's hardly any washing up.

We enjoyed watching the rugby union on Saturday as both the England and Australia games were shown live on our TV bonus.  England played New Zealand and put up a good fight, though ultimately lost.  Australia gave France a whooping!  Mr John and I get on amazingly well except when our national teams play each other.  At this point, it becomes unreasonable behaviour on both our parts and therefore grounds for divorce.  We have this joy to look forward to at the end of November.  Hmm, wonder who'll get bragging rights.

06 June 2014

Lollipop Cafe

Mr John's fellow Grade 6 teacher Yas, recommended this place to us and boy are we glad she did.  In fact, Mr John came home yesterday and announced he didn't fancy rice for dinner, so we headed here I may be turning into a stalker.  Located in the Old Town opposite Sangchereon which is near the bridge to Wat Chan the owners spent five years studying, working and living in Brisbane.

If you're western and crave a burger then you really must go here.  We had the cheeseburger last week and it was amazing. Definitely the best we've had here in Chan so far and the virgin mojito was very refreshing.  The café is beautifully decorated I'm not normally a "pink" girlie but I've made an exception for this place and you can check out the menu and prices here.

The owners (he is Thai and a professional chef, and she is from Hong Kong) speak very good English and there's always a smile to welcome you.  Our friend Ake was visiting from Bangkok last weekend and as he was here on Monday, we both went to have coffee but ended up having the Big Breakfast.  It too was excellent and I found I still wasn't overly hungry when we went ate dinner at 6pm.  My latte was good but I have to admit having drink envy for Ake's cold cappuccino with a dash of hazelnut syrup.

Mr John is very excited about the breakfast and we're planning to head here for Sunday brunch.  The minor drawback here is the lack of air conditioning but there are plenty of fans and an air cooler but you have to go for the food alone. 

Did I mention they also do cupcakes? Hmmm......

04 June 2014

Learning Thai

I mentioned last week our continuing struggle with the Thai language and then realised that it's been some time since I shared any with you.  So today's "lesson" is on colour or sri as it's known in Thai.  Here, colours have meanings and are also related to the days of the week.  In fact, if you plan on teaching here, you should know the colours for the working week as guys, in particular, should try and wear an appropriately coloured shirt.

The Flag:

The three coloured flag is called Thong Tri Rong

The red represents the nation, the white religion and blue for the King.  In Thai you say

red = sri daeng
white = sri khaow
blue = sri nam-ngen

Other colours:

Sunday = red = sri daeng

Monday = yellow = sri lueng

Tuesday = pink = sri chom-phu

Wednesday = green = sri kweaw   go up at the end of the word

Thursday = orange = sri som

Friday = light blue = sri pha

Saturday = purple = sri mu-ang

Good luck - keep practising!

02 June 2014

Fruit Festival

We've had such a weekend, it's hard to know where to start. Oh no, hang on, it was on Friday when I ran out of petrol on the way back from Tesco Lotus.  To be fair, the petrol gauge on the old Honda hasn't worked for sometime even though attempts have been made to fix it. 

Anyway this all resulted in me pushing the bike round the corner to a sliver of shade and waiting about an hour for Mr John to finish his class and be my knight in shining armour and deliver a litre bottle of petrol from Tom's corner shop.  Trust me, this a much better option than pushing the bike.  Pii Kob said I should have called him, but I don't like to do that unless it's a real emergency and goodness knows we have enough of those.

Friday late afternoon also saw us watching a live rugby match surprisingly. It was Queensland Reds playing New Zealand Highlanders.  There is nothing particularly unusual in this except for the fact my sister Anne and her lovely husband Graham were at the match.  We were texting them and so knew where they were sitting and although the cameras got tantalisingly close, we couldn't quite pick them out though I did think I saw their Reds hats on one occasion.

Mr John & I had the best cheeseburger in town at the recently opened Lollipop Café. In fact, it was so good, I believe this new eating establishment deserves it's own review so watch this space but I digress.  This week, well actually from May 30 to June 8 is the annual Chanthaburi Fruit Festival.

Stalls have been set up all around the Park and there's quite a mixture of things on display and for sale.  Along with the fruit offerings there's furniture, clothes, petting zoos and loads of food.  Mr John was almost beside himself when he discovered the kebab van and I suspect there will be further visits later this week.

The festival is so well known that they bring people in by double decker buses. There was a massive queue of them as we walked around.  This area is known for its Durian fruit, just one of the many fruits on offer at this Festival.