Blog: Great British Produce, Thai Style
Award winning Thai Chef Suree Coates of the King and Thai in Broseley, Shropshire is a passionate supporter of great British produce and sources most of her menu from within British Shores - including growing her own in her restaurant gardens and sourcing from a local Victorian walled garden estate - even foregoing Thai prawns for British Crayfish and Scottish Langoustines, when in season.
I love this time of year – it seems that all the colours, textures and flavours of the whole year come together at once – The sunny days of Summer, give way to the shorter crisper days of Autumn and the sugars in the leaves turn to golden browns, reds and yellows. The produce in the gardens is perfectly ripe – it seems all at once – and I love visiting my loal Victorian Walled Garden at the Apley Country Estate just near my restaurant outside Historic Ironbridge. They boast 4 acres of historic walled gardens in the country estate, where I also get my game.
Head Gardener Phil Allen (pictured in the gardens with Suree) has been growing produce for me now this year, much of it exclusively cultivated to supply
my hungry customers. I am so lucky to have this produce on my doorstep and use it every which way I can.
Being brought up in rural Thailand as a child I learned the importance of fresh and local produce. As soon as you pick any fruit or veg the flavours start to deteriorate, so, if they are only 10 minutes away, and you pick them for that nights’ service then you cant get much fresher than that. When cooking in my restaurant at the King and Thai we try not to mess too much with the raw ingredients – we like to fast cook the vegetables on our wok, and slowly marinade our locally sourced meats – my Butcher in the village sources some wonderful cuts of meat for the Shropshire beef, and free range pork – our chicken and eggs are also free range from a lady down the road. It makes such a difference to the colours, flavors and textures of the food – Thai food is all about flavor. Layers of herbs, spices and freshly ground ingredients such as chilies and ginger – I even grow my own in our back garden and source chilies from UK growers. They are much more vibrant than the imported ones.
We are also growing fresh Thai basil, lemon basil, crystal lemon cucumbers, and coriander inside the greenhouses, alongside squash, pumpkins, artichokes, beetroots and ten different types of Spring onions, as well as fresh fruit for my popular desserts, and of course decorative flowers and micro herbs for Thai dishes. All being largely organic means the flavour is outstanding. One thing we do struggle to grow is of course rice, but we have no problems with other produce.
This time of year I enjoy picking the pumpkins squash and route veg from the gardens – they are so versatile for soups, pastes, and roasted for my curries. People love the balance and texture of them in the curries – I also slow roast the pumpkin and squash seeds and then sprinkle them on top of the soups and curries to add that crunch – especially mixed with dry roasted chilies to give them that traditional Thai kick.
Thai food is very healthy and helps fight of colds and bugs this time of year as there is lots of vitamins C in the vegetables and of course chilies help sweat out any sniffles.
Shropshire offers a wonderful larder of fresh produce and innovative producers, which contributed to the high number of Michelin Stars the County has celebrated – British Food Fortnight was a perfect time to help raise awareness of the UK’s diversity and we created an all British Menu, even British grown chillies and sustainable British fish including British Cray fish instead of Asian Prawns. It was very popular and we have kept most of the ingredients on the menus.
I always say local and British is best, but only if the flavours and quality is there. Hunt around and ask your supplier how far away it is grown and when it was picked – it makes such a difference to the flavours and your health. Cook things quickly and don’t mess with great ingredients, it's all about the flavors.
Chef Suree Coates King and Thai Restaurant is the current Good Food Guide Midlands Restaurant Of The Year 2016. Chef Suree was also crowned Curry Chef of The Year and South Asia Chef Of The Year. Shropshire Curry Chef of The Year. 2014
Cook Book Cook Thai By Suree Coates Available on line featuring over 100 simple Thai Recipes by Suree. Each with photos and step by step guide RRP £15
Follow Chef Suree on Twitter @Kingandthairest
The King and Thai
The Forester Arms
Tel: 01952 882 004
Photos: Chef Suree Coates with Head Gardner Phil Allen at Apley.