Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Food Column – Carol Taylor – A – Z of Food ‘R’ for Rice, Ras el Hanout, Rhubarb, Ricotta Cheese and Rice Noodles

The Culinary Alphabet, The Letter R.

Welcome to this months edition of the Culinary Alphabet, where I am bringing you ingredients and cooking terms beginning with the letter R

Starting with my favorite carb which is?    Rice

There are several grains called rice, which have been cultivated for thousands of years. Asian rice (Oryza sativa) is most widely known and most widely grown, with two major subspecies and over 40,000 varieties. When I first came to Thailand that is when I realized just how many different rices that there were and also colors. The main kinds of rice I cook with are Jasmine Rice, Brown Rice, Black Rice and sticky rice ( glutinous rice)…Thailand is also one of the major exporters of rice and it is the staple food for many here even the dogs eat rice…Mine will not touch dog biscuits or tinned food and many dogs here are the same…
Before I came to live in Thailand I had been on a few holidays here and liked to cook Thai food at home… Mainly it was a disaster I just couldn’t cook a bowl of nice fried rice…It was absolutely awful…

Since living here I have had a few lessons from my daughter in law as to the error of my ways and now I can make a stir fry and hold my head up amongst most Thai cooks.

I will now show you how to make the perfect fried rice

  • Rice must be cooked and cold so generally, if you have had rice the night before and have leftovers then it is a way to use it up.
  • That was my first big mistake and why I had clumpy rice which stuck to the pan and why I didn’t ever get that nice dry fried rice.
  • However, if you must use freshly steamed rice, just try to make sure your bowl of rice has cooled off and that it’s somewhat dried out before you get started.

Fried rice can include anything such as vegetables or little bits of leftover chicken or shrimp (prawns) and you can have a bowl of lovely fried rice to go with many a meal. Traditionally served here with sliced cucumber, spring (green) onions and a chili dip it is a dish many young children eat or maybe something eaten for a quick lunch or as an accompaniment to other dishes.

Fried Rice


• 1.5 cups cooked cold rice
• 3/4 Spring Onions
• ¼ of white onion chopped
• 2/3 cloves of garlic chopped
• ½ leaves of Chinese cabbage or other cabbage ( optional)
• 1 Egg
• ½ tbsp Oyster Sauce
• ½ tbsp Soy Sauce

For chili Sauce in Thai Prik Nam Pla


• 5 Thai chilies finely sliced
• 3 tbsp Fish Sauce
• ½ a fresh lime

If you are using shrimp( prawns) then start with the whole fresh shrimp, pinch of the head and de-shell the body leaving the tail on ( Thai style) at the same time try to retain that lovely shrimp oil from inside the head this is what gives your fried rice a wonderful red color and a nice rich flavor.

Let’s Cook!

Chilli and fish sauce

This little dish is always served alongside your Fried rice whenever you eat it in a restaurant…Just finely chop the chilies and add the fish sauce and a squeeze of lime. That’s it!

Making fried rice only takes about 15 minutes or less to make and this recipe serves ones.

All you need is a wok and a spatula. Serving more than 1 person just double up. The more you make this dish you will get a feel for it and will instinctively know how much of this and that you need just by taste.

  1. Firstly peel and finely chop your garlic.
  2. Slice about a quarter of your white onion
  3. Finely slice 3-4 green onions
  4. If you are using Chinese cabbage slice in half along the spine and then slice into 1 cm strips.
  5. Heat your wok or suitable pan and add about a tbsp of oil once your oil is hot add your garlic and stir fry continuously for about 15 seconds we don’t want burnt garlic do we?
  6. Throw in the shrimp and fry for about 30 seconds. Your shrimp should just start to turn pink then add just about less than half of your rice which will soak up all those lovely juices stir fry for about 10 seconds.
  7. Push all the rice to one side and crack the egg into the empty side swirl the egg and let it cook for a few seconds and then start to mix with the rice and shrimp. (This was my second big mistake I used to just pour the egg straight over the rice hence a claggy, clumpy mess which no one wanted to eat.)
  8. Then stir in the remainder of your rice and you should have a lovely dry fried rice with separate grains
  9. Now add your soy sauce and oyster sauce and stir, some people add a little sugar at this point. I don’t
  10. Now add your chopped Chinese cabbage and white onions and stir fry for about 30 seconds and then toss in your spring onions and stir for a few seconds a little longer if you like your vegetables a little softer.
  11. Place on a plate with a slice of lime and spring onion and your little bowl of chili dip.(If you want it to look extra special put it in a little bowl and turn out on the plate as pictured.)
  12. A little sprinkle of fish sauce and some fresh chilies on top of your fried rice with and an extra squeeze of lime just elevates your fried rice to another level.

Younger children, here are generally given just fried rice with egg and a little spring onion and maybe some very finely diced carrot. Fried rice is one of those dishes where anything goes. As little or as much as you like.

Sometimes if I have a few shrimp (prawns) or half a breast of chicken or a thigh leftover I bag them and they are ideal for 1 serving of fried rice. We all have leftover vegetables chop them and put in your fried rice. For one all you need is a small piece of carrot maybe a couple of peas or a floret of broccoli cut small and bobs your uncle and you have fried rice.

Truly anything goes it is one of those dishes where you really can add almost anything I suppose a bit like you would do when topping your pizza.


Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay

Of the rhubarb plant, only the stalks are eaten. These have a rich, tart flavor. The leaves of the rhubarb plant are poisonous, so be sure that they are not ingested. Rhubarb is easy to grow but needs cool weather to thrive. It is generally used as a fruit in desserts and jams, but my favorite being a pie or a crumble although Rhubarb is not readily available here it also pairs very nicely with oily fish like Mackerel.

The habit now is to eat all of the vegetables and the rhubarb leaves do look very tempting.

They are however poisonous …Do not eat…THEY SHOULD ALSO NOT BE COMPOSTED OR FED TO ANIMALS.

Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta curds are creamy white in appearance, and slightly sweet in taste. The fat content changes depending on the brand and the type of milk used In this form, it is somewhat similar in texture to some cottage cheese variants, though considerably lighter. It is also very easy to make at home.


There are two basic ways to render fat: dry rendering and wet rendering. Their names are pretty self-explanatory and both methods are very similar. For any of those two methods, you can render fat either in a crock-pot, on the stovetop or in an oven. Animal fats like tallow, lard or poultry fat can be obtained very cheaply from your local butcher or farmer. With a little luck, you’ll probably even find a farmer willing to give it to you for free. Of course, it’s a good idea to try and get the fat from an animal that has been grass-fed and pastured. There is a lot of money to be saved there, especially when considering the rather high price of grass-fed butter, coconut oil, and olive oil.

Ramen Noodles

Have received a lot of adverse publicity and go from the very bad to the very good. Ramen Noodles …Should you be eating them?


A ramp is a wild onion similar to a leek, it has a strong onion/garlic flavor. It is native to North America and is growing in popularity and can often be found at farmers markets. As ramps aren’t cultivated in the way leeks are, they’re much easier to clean: just cut off the roots, rinse thoroughly, and scrub off any excess dirt on the bulbs.

Fresh ramps aren’t available for very long in the spring, but you can chop and freeze them for later use in cooked dishes. The green tops are milder in flavor and are usually used along with the bulbs. Chop about half of the green leaves separately, air-dry them for a few hours, then freeze them in an air-tight container for future use as a seasoning. They make a great substitute for green onions (spring onions).

Raw Sugar

Raw sugar is cane sugar which has been minimally processed. In all cases, raw sugar is the product of the first stage of the cane sugar refining process, and as a result, it has some very distinctive characteristics. Given that raw sugar requires minimal processing, the raw sugar we consume today is probably very similar to that made in Asia hundreds of years ago. I am lucky in that raw sugar is freely available here both from sugar cane and from the Coconut.

Razor Clam

Razor clam is a common name for long, narrow, saltwater clams (which resemble a closed straight razor in shape), Personally, I haven’t cooked with them but they seem to feature quite prominently in many of the TV cooking shows.

Redeye Gravy

A southern gravy to which sometimes coffee is added to Pork dripping which is then served with biscuits…

Rice Noodles

Rice noodles are a staple here and come in many sizes from very thin to thick. Many are hand made or sold ready cooked at the market and are generally eaten with a hot spicy chili dip. This is a typical Thai meal with eggs, noodles, beansprouts, and other fresh vegetables, maybe some fish and always a spicy dip.


Rillettes gets right to the heart of what’s good: pork, pork fat, salt, and pepper,” says chef Anthony Bourdain. “Easy and cheap to make, it’s one of the great casual starters of all time.” The French word rillettes is first recorded in 1845. It derives from the Old French rille, meaning a slice of pork, which is first attested in 1480. This is a dialect variation of the Old

French reille, meaning a lath or strip of wood, from the Latin regula. The word rillettes is thus cognate or linked with the English words’ rail, referring to railways, and ruler, meaning a straight strip of wood for measuring.


Radishes are grown and consumed throughout the world, being mostly eaten raw as a crunchy salad vegetable with a bit of a bite. There are numerous varieties, varying in size, flavor, color, and length of time they take to mature.

They are sometimes grown as companion plants and suffer from few pests and diseases. They germinate quickly and grow rapidly, common smaller varieties being ready for consumption within a month, while larger daikon varieties take several months. Being easy to grow and quick to harvest, radishes are often planted by novice gardeners. Lovely lightly pickled as a garnish they are quite popular now …There is also a Radish Festival held in Oaxaca, Mexico on December 23rd called the Night of The Radishes where the most amazing radish carvings can be seen…It is quite an occasion…

Ras el Hanout

A Moroccan Spice Recipe…It plays a similar role in African cuisine as Masala does in Indian cuisine. It can be added to spice rubs, marinades, soups, and other recipes…It is one of the predominant spices in Tagines…

Chicken and Prune Tagine/Stew


• 4 large chicken breasts, skinned and cut into cubes
• 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil I used coconut oil
• 1/2 tsp Ground Allspice
• 1/2 tsp fresh ground Black Pepper
• 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
• 2 tsp Cumin Seeds
• 1/2 sp Ground Nutmeg
• 1 tsp Ground Turmeric
• 200g/7oz pitted Prunes
• 2 large Onions, sliced
• 1 tbsp freshly grated Ginger
• 3 Garlic Cloves, crushed
• Salt to taste
• 14fl.oz fresh Chicken Stock

Let’s Cook!

  1. Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan then add the chicken pieces and brown on all sides.
  2. Add the spices, garlic, ginger, and onions and cook stirring over medium heat until the onions have softened.
  3. Add the stock and season with salt then bring to a slow rolling boil and reduce the heat to very low, cover and cook for about one-hour stirring occasionally.
  4. At the end of the cooking remove the lid and increase the heat to reduce the sauce.
    Serve with rice or couscous.
  5. The other concession I made was to use white rice instead of brown less for them to object to, aha. Told you I was sneaky!

The verdict

Everyone including little Lily loved it. After they had expressed their delight and hubby said he thought the black things were mushrooms(shitake) and grandson asked for more I confessed the dish contained prunes, a dish I will definitely make again even I was pleasantly surprised given the lack of chilli and some of the spices used. The biggest plus is now the grandkids will try dishes with prunes.

Changes next time: I would use chicken thighs and legs and maybe add a little chilli but it was very nice but would definitely use prunes in a savory dish again with no hesitation.

Thank you so much for reading this and please as always let me have your thoughts as I love your comments…Next time the letter ‘S’…..Have a great week xxx

About Carol Taylor

Enjoying life in The Land Of Smiles I am having so much fun researching, finding new, authentic recipes both Thai and International to share with you. New recipes gleaned from those who I have met on my travels or are just passing through and stopped for a while. I hope you enjoy them.

I love shopping at the local markets, finding fresh, natural ingredients, new strange fruits and vegetables ones I have never seen or cooked with. I am generally the only European person and attract much attention and I love to try what I am offered and when I smile and say Aroy or Saab as it is here in the north I am met with much smiling.

Some of my recipes may not be in line with traditional ingredients and methods of cooking but are recipes I know and have become to love and maybe if you dare to try you will too. You will always get more than just a recipe from me as I love to research and find out what other properties the ingredients I use have to improve our health and wellbeing.

Exciting for me hence the title of my blog, Retired No One Told Me! I am having a wonderful ride and don’t want to get off, so if you wish to follow me on my adventures, then welcome! I hope you enjoy the ride also and if it encourages you to take a step into the unknown or untried, you know you want to…….Then, I will be happy!

Carol is a contributor to the Phuket Island Writers Anthology Amazon US

Connect to Carol – Blog: Carol Cooks 2 – Twitter: @CarolCooksTwo – Facebook: Carol Taylor

My thanks to Carol for sharing this series with us as she also works on her cookbook and novel this year…As always we are delighted to receive your feedback and if you could share that would be great.. thanks Sally.

The Cholesterol Myth – Carbohydrates – Not all are demons….

So far I hope that I have established that cholesterol is important for many areas of our health and that it is the LDL (low density lipoprotein) with its smaller particles, particularly when those particles are oxidized, that causes plaque build-up in the arteries.

This oxidation occurs when we have a diet high in white fat and white carbohydrates, sugar and indulge in activities such as smoking. Since the white fat diet is the most popular today – flavoured latte’s with muffins – cookies, high sugar white cereals, etc etc, the LDL levels of a great many people is going to cause health problems eventually.



Carbohydrates are a component of food that supplies us with energy in the form of calories to the body. Along with proteins and fats they provide the human body with the main elements required to be healthy. Carbohydrates are made up of sugars (simple carbohydrates), starches (complex carbohydrates) and fibre. If you take the fibre out of the formula through over processing you are just left with the sugars.. These are intense and result in blood glucose fluctuations. You may have experienced this for yourself after a heavy lunch with lots of white rice followed by a rich and sugary dessert. You become light headed and feel faint requiring a top up around 4pm in the afternoon!

To lower cholesterol levels naturally you need to eat carbohydrates that have retained the fibre element as this helps absorb some of the sugars and prevent blood glucose fluctuations.

Carbohydrates are not the demons that some would make out. They have essential elements that are required to make the perfect fuel mix for our bodies.

However,our requirement for carbohydrates will change as we get older. When we are children and young adults our growing bodies require a supercharged fuel – carbohydrates are also needed in higher concentration during periods of high activity as you get older but should be allied to that particular period of exercise. When men and women pass through the mid-life change the requirement certainly drops but levels again depend on how active your life style is.

If someone is a total couch potato drifting from bed to table, table to car, car to desk, desk to car, car to sofa – then putting a high octane fuel into the body will simply be converted to fat. However, stopping all carbohydrates is wrong – there are certain nutrients and fibre within wholegrain carbohydrates that the body needs so that the chemical balance is maintained. Here is the link to Food Pharmacy – Brown Rice and this will show you what is actually removed from the grain.

As far as LDL cholesterol is concerned there is some evidence that a lower carbohydrate intake can decrease the numbers.  I think that this is likely to be because of the reduction of sugars when the carbohydrates usually consumed are white without the fibre and B-vitamins element. However, a certain amount of wholegrain carbohydrate with the fibre attached should still be eaten in certain quantities.

Going back to the last post on the liver – the organ that is vital in converting the carbohydrates into energy – keeping the liver healthy is extremely important and if it is working efficiently your carbohydrate uptake can be less but still effective.

I am afraid I do not class white carbohydrates as a food group – they are sugars pure and simple and most have little or no nutritional value. By the time the wholegrain has been stripped of its fibre, vitamin B and other nutrients to suit today’s palate you have nothing but white stodge on a plate. There are exceptions – those of an Italian origin have been eating white pasta made with a specific flour for generations but it is offset too by their love of olive oil, lots of tomatoes, onions and garlic etc which is actual the predominant part of their diet not the pasta.

It is important that the grain carbohydrates should be wholegrain – rice, wheat and oats. However, wheat is one of the newer grains and does not suit everybody’s digestion –


Gluten is a protein present in grains such as wheat, barley and rye and it can be very difficult for some people to digest. Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disease that can ultimately badly damage the intestines. Having one parent or close relative with celiac disease your chances of being affected are around 1 in 25. An interesting study in China where the grain of choice is rice, has noted an increase in celiac disease and also the less severe gluten intolerance. There is some evidence to suggest that as more people adopt a western diet with industrially produced bread products they are developing this rarely reported reaction.

If you are reading this and you are an adult, have eaten wheat products all your life, have never suffered from prolonged bloating, stomach upsets and fatigue, then the chances are that you are not sensitive to gluten. If on the other hand you are suffering from these symptoms look at your food for the last few weeks and circle all items that contain wheat, especially industrially  processed.

I am personally better with home-made bread made from good quality organic flour than I am with commercial sliced bread of any kind which tends to have many more additives.

Back to carbohydrates.

Whatever age you are, if you are very active you can eat a diet of wholegrain carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats and plenty of vegetables with some fruit to obtain the nutrition needed for optimal fuel.

Breakfast – Porridge oats (buy guaranteed gluten free – they may be contaminated if milled in the same place as wheat) – or homemade muesli with nuts, seeds and a small amount of fruits – go easy on the dried fruit as it has higher concentration of sugars.

Oats contain soluble fibre and this works on your cholesterol in a couple of ways – If both your HDL and LDL are on the high side – the fibre will reduce the total absorption of cholesterol into your bloodstream but it will also reduce the LDL cholesterol which is what you should be aiming for.   You need about 10 grams of soluble fibre a day and by having a bowl of porridge (6grams) and a banana (4 grams) you will have started the day well.

If you enjoy a cooked breakfast then one slice of wholegrain toast with a scrape of butter and a poached egg and perhaps a tomato…


Lunch – I medium potato with lots of green vegetables and some carrots or perhaps two tablespoons of brown rice with lean protein is all that is needed. If you enjoy pasta than buy a high quality italian variety or better still wholegrain.  Limit yourself to around 75gm and eat with lots of tomato sauce and onions. Avoid pies and other pastries unless you have made yourself with wholegrain flour and real butter (not margerine).

Supper -A bowl of homemade vegetable soup. A large salad with roast chicken. Salmon and green vegetables.  If you are going to be enjoying a night on the sofa and television the carbohydrate is not going anywhere except your waistline.

If you are working out three times a week then add another spoonful of wholegrain rice to your dinner the night before – eat a banana before your workout.

Other carbohydrates

nuts and seeds

Other foods to include with your carbohydrates are nuts and seeds – walnuts are great, beans, but only a handful, certain fruits such as apples (contain pectin which helps keep your bile ducts healthy) and prunes, and my favourite, banana, again not huge amounts but the fibre from all of these will not only help keep the LDL numbers in balance but also keep the bowels working and healthy.

Next time the greatest myth about cholesterol… that all fats are bad for you..

Here is part one and two in the cholesterol series.

©sallygeorginacronin Just Food for Health 2008