A couple of my posts recently have been about special occasion food that requires a bit of extra effort, long, slow cooking or (sometimes) expensive ingredients, such as the last post Shananigans’ Wagyu Stew.
But the joy of Chinese cooking is the ease with which you can use cheap and readily available ingredients to whip together, in minutes, a tasty stir-fry that tickles your taste buds on a miserable autumn evening. So I’m posting this recipe as an example of how you can use up left-over vegetables to produce a nourishing weekday meal requiring little or no meat.
Yesterday I had friends to dinner and, as one of my guests can’t digest spicy food at the moment, I made Shan’s Xinjiang Spaghetti with Lamb, using peppers instead of chilli and mange touts instead of green beans, as I couldn’t find any Irish green beans over the weekend. So tonight I had a small amount un-cooked lamb left over and odds and ends of vegetables. The recipe that follows is something of a cross between Shan’s Xinjiang Spaghetti and Irish Vegetable Chow Mein. Play around with it, using whatever you have to hand, but remember what Shan has taught me – the importance of having a variety of colour and textures on the plate to get a range of nutrients and to excite the palate.
Shananigans’ Lamb and Vegetable Stir-fry – yang rou chao shu cai – 羊肉炒蔬菜
Serves 2 – 3
- About 150 g of lean lamb
- 1 large clove of garlic
- 1 fresh red chilli
- One medium leek
- One small head of Chinese celery or about 4 sticks of ordinary celery
- 1 large handful of mange touts
- 2 peppers – 1 red and 1 yellow or green if available
- 1 large parsnip
- 1 large tomato
- White pepper powder (Hu Jiao Fen, 胡椒粉)
- 2 tbs light soy sauce
- 2 tbs of Shaoxing wine (or rice wine or sherry)
- 1/2 tsp of Chinese Five Spice Powder
- A good pinch of sugar
- A good squeeze of tomato puree
- 1 x 300g packet of Blue Dragon Medium Quick Wok Noodles (mine were infused with coriander)
- Cooking oil – Irish rapeseed oil is now my favourite.
- Cut the lamb into thin square slices.
- Thinly slice the garlic, chilli and leek.
- Cut the celery into short lengths, the peppers into small squares, the parsnip into very thin discs and the tomato into wedges.
The entire cooking process for this dish uses high heat and is very fast – preparation to plate in less than 15 minutes.
- Rinse your quick noodles under cold water to untangle and drain thoroughly.
- Heat a wok and put a generous amount (about 2 – 3 tbs) of oil in it. Wait until the oil is really hot.
- Add the lamb and stir-fry briskly for a minute or two to brown and cook through. Remove the lamb with a strainer or slotted spoon and set aside.
- Re-heat the wok and, when the oil is really hot, add your leek, garlic and chilli. Stir-fry for a few moments then add the remaining vegetables, stir-frying briskly for a minute or two until the tomato juice is cooked out.
- Season with salt, white pepper and 5 spice powder and return the lamb to the wok.
- Add the soy sauce and Shaoxing wine, swirling the wine around the edge of the wok as you pour so the alcohol burns off. Add a good squeeze of tomato puree and a pinch of sugar. Give everything a good stir and check your seasoning. Then add in your noodles, reduce the heat slightly and stir-fry briefly to heat through.
Variations to the dish:
The variations on this are endless. You can replace lamb with beef or simply cook it as a vegetarian dish with aubergine to add a “meaty” texture.
You can use aubergine, carrots, green beans, shitake mushrooms, broccoli or cauliflower.
If you want it to taste a bit more middle-eastern, substitute some cumin seeds when cooking the lamb or aubergine.
I’m having photography “issues” these days as I only ever get a chance to cook at night when there is no natural light with which to take photos that do the food justice. So don’t be put off by my amateurish food photos. The photos will improve but the food already tastes delicious. Honest!