The British have always taken quickly to the flavours of the Orient. Thai cooking, in particular, has grown enormously in popularity and thus introduced us to the fragrant stalks of lemon grass.
It's not exactly a lemon flavour, but the strong scent is noticeably citrus. When you buy lemon grass it looks uninviting but the flavour is sublime. Added to a very English summer fruit compote, it gives a marvellously new dimension and I've also used it to create a very different Vichyssoise.
This dark, pungent curry paste makes a delightful alternative to dry, ground spices. I have included it in the recipes for Angel-hair Pasta with Thai Spiced Prawns and Thai Fish Cakes with Cucumber Dipping Sauce
This recipe was given to me by chef Norbert Kostner at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Bangkok when I visited the cookery school there. It's lovely served as a first course or included in a cold-buffet menu.
You won't believe how utterly simple and easy this is, and yet it tastes exotic and wonderful and, what's more, it can all be prepared well in advance and the fish added about 10 minutes before you want to eat it.
Predominantly fruit, this is a healthy summery dessert to serve to dieters who often feel they miss out on the pudding front. You can use any fruit combination you like - the lemon grass adds a subtle and intriguing element.
Although leeks are the traditional ingredient in a vichyssoise, the inclusion of lemon grass instead gives the soup a wonderful citrusy oriental flavour that really lends itself to serving chilled.