Basic Beef Stir Fry

The most important things when making a stir fry are heat and speed. The oil must be hot enough to cook the ingredients quickly so that nothing turns mushy and any meat you put in doesn’t become rubbery. Woks are ideal for something like this as they concentrate the heat in one area but also make sure that you can move the contents around the pan so everything can be cooked evenly.

Everyone uses different ingredients when they make a stir fry, but for me long strips of carrot and spring onion are essential when noodles are involved. Once they soften, you can twirl them up with the noodles into a delicious ball and eat! If you use rice instead of noodles, I would recommend cutting everything a little smaller – for example cutting spring onions into circles rather than lengthwise into strips. You can also add things like beansprouts for added crunch; peanuts are also a common addition at the end. It should be noted that beansprouts scorch easily at the high temperatures required to make a good stir fry but a way to avoid this is adding them just after the sauce and place them on top of the other ingredients which allows them to steam so they are cooked but still retain their crunchy texture.

In this recipe, I use glass noodles (sometimes called cellophane noodles). These appear transparent when cooked (unlike rice vermicelli which are opaque white) and take on the colour of whatever sauce they are in, so your dish will look beautiful. I am also a fan of standard rice noodles or even stick noodles in stir fry but you have to bear in mind that these are all cooked differently so you have to adjust your timings for the rest of the dish accordingly.

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The glass noodles have taken on all the colour from the sauce but are still shiny and inviting.

The final things which should be mentioned are the meat and the sauce that you decide to use. The high heat means you can seal the meat to prevent all the juices from leaking out but leave the inside relatively uncooked so that when the sauce is added, the meat can cook as the sauce reduces and coats all of the ingredients. Make sure the sauce isn’t too sweet as the sugar can burn, so if you see the sauce getting a bit thick and starting to caramelise, add a tablespoon of water to make sure everything cooks properly.

To give your stir fry a restaurant finish, add some raw beansprouts to one side, sprinkle over some fresh herbs and thinly sliced spring onions. You can also add some crushed peanuts when making dishes like pad thai. As with most dishes, a little garnish goes a long way so I would always recommend experimenting until you find the method of plating up that looks best to you!

 

 

Stir Fry

Prep time: 10 minutes (optional extra 20 minutes if leaving the beef to marinade)

Cook time 10 minutes

Serves 2

Cost per portion: around £1.80

 

Ingredients:

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp sherry (optional)

2 tsp honey

2 cloves garlic

1 inch ginger

1 bunch of spring onions

1 large carrot

170g frying steak or thinly sliced beef

2 portions of glass noodles

Vegetable oil

 

 

Peel the garlic and ginger and finely chop both.

Stir in the soy sauce, sherry and honey.

Thinly slice the beef and add to the sauce and leave for about 20 minutes (if you have time).

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Peel the carrot and then use the peeler to thinly slice the carrot lengthwise into long strips.

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Slice the spring onions lengthwise into quarters.

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Soak the noodles according to the instructions on the packet but take one minute off the soaking time as the noodles will soften more later – drain the noodles.

Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan and add the carrot and spring onion.

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Once they start to soften, move the carrots and onion to the side of the pan, lift the beef out of the marinade (reserving the liquid for later) and place it into the centre of the pan.

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Turn the beef until all of it is sealed on the outside (and it all looks an opaque brown).

The moment the beef is sealed, add the noodles and reserved marinade and stir to mix everything together.

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Keep cooking until all the liquid has been absorbed into the noodles.

Serve piping hot and enjoy!

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This stir fry also keeps very well in the fridge and can be reheated easily in the microwave.

 

I hope you enjoyed the recipe and if you fancy a very different dinner, check out my recipe for spinach and ricotta lasagne or if you want to try your hand at a posh dessert, why not make some choux pastry and finish your meal with profiteroles?

Have a good one and I will see you next week with a recipe for an exciting, fancy apple tart.

H

Basic Curry

Tofu is not known for its wonderful flavour. Or texture. Or visual appeal. In fact, most people’s first reaction to the word is some sort of grimace. This probably stems from the fact that, in England, one of the more available forms of tofu is ‘silken tofu’. This has a very gelatinous texture and is incredibly fragile, in fact I have found it almost impossible to cook silken tofu without it all falling apart and becoming some sort of mush – though this is probably just me. Silken tofu is created by curdling soy milk but the liquid is curdled inside the carton in which it proceeds to be sold, whereas standard firm tofu is curdled and then the liquid is strained off before the curds are pressed into a block.
With records dating back to the Chinese Han dynasty, tofu has been around for about 2000 years. One of the leading theories is that it used to be made by curdling soy milk using sea water – the impurities in the water acted as the coagulants needed – and some forms of tofu are still produced like this today. The production of tofu spread around eastern Asia and it became a popular meat substitute as it is far cheaper.
There are several different types of tofu ranging from extra-soft to extra-firm. Extra-soft tofu has so much liquid in it that it barely holds its own shape – think of the texture of ricotta cheese. The next firmness is standard silken tofu. This tends to be used in desserts and sauces or smoothies as it can be used as a substitute for dairy and eggs. When blended into sauces or smoothies, it gives them a very creamy texture.
For tofu to be firmer than silken tofu, it must be pressed during production. This involves straining out the soy bean curds and then squeezing them to remove as much liquid as possible. The tofu produced from this has a much harder texture and tends to be what I use for cooking. You can press it at home to drive off even more of the liquid by wrapping the block in a tea towel and placing a heavy object on top – I tend to use either a pan or an encyclopaedia. The tofu can then be cooked in a variety of ways to give it the texture you want. Extra-firm tofu is incredibly dry. It is a little rubbery and is firm enough to be sliced very thinly without the pieces breaking. It is sometimes shredded and used instead of noodles in dishes.
Standard tofu is bland. It has basically no flavour whatsoever. This makes it perfect for absorbing flavours from other things so you can always marinade tofu in soy sauce or flavoured oils after it has been pressed to give it some taste. When I bake tofu before adding it to curries and such, I like to add some salt, pepper and sometimes a little curry powder before I put it in the oven as that way it will have a natural taste. The other way to avoid this lack of flavour is continuing to cook your curry for five or so minutes after the tofu has been added as it gives a chance for the moisture from the curry to soften the tofu a little bit and also infuse the flavours of the sauce into it.
Nowadays tofu is only really used as a meat substitute Europe and America. In eastern Asia, it tends to be viewed as just another ingredient and is often used alongside meats or seafood in dishes. A lot of people, especially in England, are not exposed to well cooked tofu when they are younger resulting in the reactions I mentioned at the beginning. With proper seasoning and cooking and, most importantly, the correct type of tofu, I believe most people would appreciate it far more and use tofu when cooking on a more regular basis.

Basic Curry (Vegan)

Prep time: 10 minutes Cook time: 40 minutes Serves: 2
Price per portion: £1.30 (for tofu)

Ingredients:
1 block of tofu (400g)
1 large onion
500ml vegetable stock
1 ½ tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
2 cloves of garlic – chopped
1 ½ tsp cornflour mixed with 3 tsp water
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper
Oil

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 (200 C).
Drain the tofu and if you have time, press it (this step is optional).

Cut the tofu up into small cubes, I tend to do one horizontal slice through it and then cut it to make cubes which are around a centimetre a centimetre and a half long. The tofu will shrink in the oven.

Line a tray with baking parchment or a silicone mat and spread the tofu out on it.

Drizzle over a little oil or if you use a cooking spray, a couple of sprays of that will also work well.

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Season with a little salt and pepper and place in the oven for 40 minutes remembering to turn the tofu every 10 minutes.

After the tofu has been cooking for 20 minutes you can start on the curry.

Chop the onion into wedges (I tend to go for eight of them).

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pan or wok and add the onion.

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Once the onion starts going translucent, add the stock, garlic and spices.

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Simmer for 15 minutes while the tofu finishes off in the oven.

Stir in the soy sauce, sugar and cornflour mix and let the curry sauce thicken. If it is still

very thin, add some more corn flour but if the sauce has become too thick, add some more stock.

Take the tofu out of the oven and pour it into the curry and stir through.

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Let the curry simmer for another two minutes to so the tofu can absorb some of the flavour and then serve with sticky rice.

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This curry keeps very well so if you are only cooking for yourself, you will have leftovers to eat the next day too. I like to use medium curry powder but if you like a spicy or particularly mild curry, there are different versions available. You can also eat this curry with noodles or bread.

A way to make the curry even cheaper on a budget is just don’t use the tofu! This will also drastically reduce the cooking time and you can replace it with whatever you want. Cubes of carrot work well and you can always throw in water chestnuts and bamboo shoots at the end too to bulk it out. Obviously you can also use meat too but make sure to sear it in the wok before you add the onions and the stock to it.

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. For another easy meal, check out my One Pot Pasta or if you are looking to do something a little more flamboyant, why not make yourself a Chocolate and Caramel Cake filled with lashings of cream and delicious caramel.

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a yummy shortcrust tart.

H

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