After the madness of Freshers week the first term is really starting to kick into gear and already you’ve got lectures to attend (good heavens) and deadlines to make (yoinks). You’re still going out eight times a week and going to every GIAG event that will take you. Your mother’s hearty meals seem like a lifetime away and you’re mildly concerned that your bones hurt and your gums look pale. You need a delicious meal you can have on the table in literally minutes, that doesn’t divert precious funds from Mr Strongbow or Mrs Malibu and that provides more nutritional value than a crisp sandwich.
Here is my quickest recipe yet:
Ingredients (serves one)
M Savers Stir-Fry vegetable (50p)
M Savers Instant Noodles (10p)
1 Fresh Chilli (I use a scotch bonnet with seeds removed)
Chinese Five Spice (1/2 teaspoon)
Tomato Ketchup (3 tablespoons, 40p per bottle)
Soy Sauce (2 tablespoons) (or use salt and add a dash of hot water)
*You could easily add meat to this dish. Thin strips of chicken or beef or a small portion of mince would work well. As would pre-cooked meats or left overs. Just use small portions as otherwise it’ll create too much food to handle in your wok or frying pan. To cook a meat version, simply cook the meat through before adding the vegetables.
- Place a large frying pan or wok onto your biggest hob ring and set the temperature to maximum. Add a little oil. Fill the kettle with around a litre of water and wait for it to boil.
- Break up the noodles into a few smaller lumps and place into a jug, discard the flavouring sachet. Once your pan is really hot and the oil is starting to smoke, pour the hot water into the jug of noodles and start the clock!
- Throw in the whole packet of stir-fry vegetables and fry briskly. Keep the vegetables moving at all times to stop them from burning, to cook them evenly and to stop them sticking. This can be achieved by tossing them in the pan (a bit like a pancake motion, forwards and upwards) or by stirring quickly with a wooden spoon. Add the chopped chilli and keep frying for 90 seconds.
- Mix the ketchup with the chinese five spice in a mug. Meanwhile check the noodles; they should be softened but still slightly al dente. Drain the noodles and add them to the pan.
- Now add the tomato ketchup and spice mix and fold in the vegetables and noodles so everything is covered. Add a dash of soy sauce but be sparing with it as it’s extremely salty and a slip of the wrist can ruin a meal. The best method is to add a tablespoon at a time and taste until you’ve got it with a little bite of saltiness but with the majority of the flavour coming from the sweetness of the tomato ketchup and the heat of the chilli, rounded off with the aromas of the five spice.
- I’ve found that Morrision’s Savers ketchup is a great base for sweet and sour stir-frys as its extremely high sugar content (and low tomato content) makes it much sweeter than the quality stuff without creating an overpowering tomato flavour. Taste the mix to check the spice, add more chinese five spice if you feel it needs a stronger flavour. Then you are ready to serve; simples.
Here are a few tricks for your stir-frys so that you don’t fall into the common pitfalls that turn fresh, crisp and vibrant dishes into soggy, bland and heavy noodle stews.
1) Get the pan as hot as you possibly can before starting to cook anything.
2) Only use extremely finely sliced vegetables and meat to minimise required cooking time. Ingredients should be light and speedy – don’t weigh it down with things that take too long to cook. Vegetables should also retain some crunch, don’t overcook them. If you want to use ingredients that require longer cooking (such as beans or chickpeas) pre-cook them.
3) Don’t add too much liquid. You want everything to be covered in sauce, but adding too much liquid cools down the pan to a temperature that isn’t frying the ingredients anymore and begins to boil them instead. This ruins the light and fresh effect gained from quick frying.
4) Prepare everything before you start! You won’t have the time once the first ingredient is in the pan.
5) Only ever cook a maximum of two portions at a time in your wok. Adding too much food to the pan cools down the pan too much and again you will boil your ingredients instead of frying them. One portion as detailed here is ideal, even in a large wok or frying pan.