Family Bolognaise

I have been so busy this week with thinking about Christmas, that I forgot to order my veg box. I was so occupied looking at all the Christmas hampers and cook books for family, that I clean forgot. But it is amazing how rummaging through the fridge I came up with all sorts. Last week I was talking about bulking out, or even replacing, meat dishes with mushrooms and I had a punnet to use up so that went in, and I had leeks too, which can always replace onions in sauces or stews.

I have also been talking quite a bit about cooking for kids and I came across a picture of my daughter aged 3, quite happily tucking into Spaghetti Bolognaise and I wondered how she had managed to turn into the fussy little madam she is today. I know that I have probably been a bit to blame, maybe bearing the adults in mind a little too much when cooking family dishes and I am quite a robust sort of cook. With children’s sensitive, little palettes, a little too much pepper or chili is probably enough to put them off. So I decided to make a batch of Bolognaise entirely with her in mind and see if I could win her back. Here are a few key points when cooking for kids although obviously you will need to adapt them for your own. Anyway, I am very pleased otro say that my efforts were rewarded when she not only finished up her own plateful, but somewhat regrettably, half of mine too!

• Go easy on the pepper and chilli. Don’t use too much wine. Make sure you cook it off.

• Break up the tinned tomatoes really well. Children can be fussy about pieces of tomato in things. Don’t use chopped, use whole, and mush them up with your hands until there are no big chunks left.

• Make sure you do not let anything catch. Burning makes things taste bitter. We tend to use leaner and leaner meat which of then does not have enough fat to cook. Add sufficient. If your sauce is greasy at the end, skim it or blot it with kitchen paper,

• Leave out (or puree) vegetables that they hate. My daughter will not eat carrots, no matter how I try and tell her they are something else, golden nuggets for example, she is not falling for it. As frustrating as it is leaving these things out, it is not as frustrating as them refusing to eat the whole dish.

• Cut vegetables fine, and cook down for as long as possible. Do this slowly with enough oil and a good pinch of salt. This will help them disappear into the sauce. This will also add some of the missing flavour that you have had to leave out, back.

• Be careful with cuts of meat. Children can be particularly fussy about skin, sinew or pieces of fat.

• Be careful with “green bits” ie herbs. Dried oregano is best to start with as it is familiar from pizzas.

Spag Bol 2

Family Bolognaise
Extra virgin olive oil
250 g quality British beef mince
6 rashers thinly sliced dry-cured smoked streaky bacon, sliced into lardons
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
1 leek, peeled and finely chopped (or onion)
2 sticks celery, very finely chopped
4 large Portobello mushrooms or 8 smaller ones
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp tomato puree
100 ml red wine
2 x 400 g tins of plum tomatoes

Put a casserole pan on a medium heat, add a splash of olive oil then cook then brown the meat. Break it up completely with a wooden spoon. Do not burn. Add more oil if necessary. When golden brown, remove to a separate bowl. Drain any extra fat if necessary. Add another glug of oil to the pan and add the bacon. At first the bacon will sweat. Use the liquid to scrape the bottom of the pan clean so that it does not burn. Fry until crispy. Add leek or onion and celery and sweat for a good 10 minutes, with a pinch of salt, stirring now and then, until really soft. Add the mushrooms, oregano and garlic and cook until completely broken down. Add the mince back, the tomato puree and then pour in the red wine. Bring to the boil and cook off for at least 2 minutes. Add the mushed up tinned tomatoes. Rinse the tins out with a little water and add that too. Either tip the whole lot into a slow cooker for 3 hours on slow or cover with a lid and cook on the hob very slowly for 1 ½ hours. Check seasoning and add salt and a little pepper to taste.

Serve with whatever pasta your kids like best. Parmesan is obviously optional too. Don’t forget it is great in baked potatoes.

Amelie eating spag bol

Keralan cabbage & Carrot Thoran

I don’t know how it happened but I am overrun with cabbage this week. I had accumulated not one, but three cabbages in the fridge, so I decided this week to give you not one, but three cabbage recipes.

The first Keralan Cabbage and Carrot Thoran, is a recipe that I adapted for Riverford Companion – Autumn and Winter Veg and cooked once again at Simon’s SuperClub last week in St Mary’s Putney. I served it up with my Courgette, Aubergine and Red Pepper Curry and Coconut Cauliflower Rice but you can eat it just on its own, with rice or with some poppadoms.

It is a dry, vegetable and coconut curry from Kerala and you can add all sorts of vegetables. As always I felt the need to change the recipe very slightly, even though it was my own! I cut out the dried red chillis as I felt the birds eye green ones made it hot enough, but if you like it spicy, by all means add some more. If you can’t be bothered with fresh coconut, look for flaked, dry or even toasted coconut (not desiccated) in the baking section of large supermarkets or health food shops.

Cabbage Thoran

Keralan cabbage Thoran
3 tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
10 dried curry leaves
2 tsp cumin seeds
30g fresh root ginger, finely grated into a paste
30g fresh garlic, finely grated into a paste
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
½ tsp coarsely ground black pepper
250g/9oz hispi, savoy or pointed spring cabbage (or spring greens), shredded into 5mm pieces
2 carrots, Julienned
2 fresh green birds-eye chillies, sliced into very thin rounds, with seeds
100g fresh shaved coconut, or dried flaked coconut
Fresh Coriander, finely chopped

Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan or Wok set over a medium heat, and, when hot, add the mustard seeds followed by the curry leaves, cumin seeds and turmeric. Stir for about 30 seconds, and then add the ginger and garlic paste, salt and black pepper and fry for 30 seconds.
Stir in the cabbage and carrots and cook, covered, over a medium heat for 5-7 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, adding a splash of water if they start to stick to the pan. Add the coriander and grated coconut and serve.

Spicy Roasted Beetroot, Flat Beans, Leek & Walnut Salad

One bonus of cooking the same thing three times in one week is that you really get to fine-tune them. Take this salad that I have been making. I started off with a recipe from Ottolenghi for a Spicy Beetroot, Leek and Walnut Salad from his fantastic book Jerusalem. But as I made it again and again, I gradually began to tweak the ingredients. I had already added flat beans to the original as I had some in the box to use up and I thought they would work well. Although I liked the idea of the tamarind in Ottolenghi’s recipe, I felt it was not necessary as it already had so much vinegar it was almost too sour. Then the pomegranate seeds may have looked pretty, but I did not feel that they added much else. I upped the balsamic to counteract the sour and added a little mustard as it compliments both leeks and beetroot so well. Finally, I added some roast carrots as I had some in my box and I hate to turn on the oven for only one thing. So I guess by the end of the week the recipe was no longer really Ottolenghi’s rather than my own, but I think that adapting recipes for personal taste is what good cooking is all about. Come to think of it, a little goat’s cheese scattered on top may be rather nice with the walnuts. Better stop now or I’ll be changing it again.

Poaching Leeks

I think we often run out of ideas for leeks and  forget how well they work in a salad. If you find prepping beetroot tiresome, may I recommend some Veggie Gloves.

Veggie Gloves

They are great for scrubbing and peeling beetroot, protect your hands and they wash clean, back to their original, lovely bright green with no trouble at all. Super useful for carrots and potatoes too.

Spicy Beetroot, Leek and Walnut Salad

Spicy Roasted Beetroot, Flat Beans, Leek & Walnut Salad
Makes 4 to 6 servings
4 medium beets, trimmed
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into wedges lenghtways
Olive oil
4 medium leeks, trimmed and cut into 4-inch pieces
1 bunch of flat beans
Mixed Salad Leaves
Dressing:
100g walnuts, chopped
1 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. chili flakes
1 tsp. cider vinegar
2 tbsp. good balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp. walnut oil
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Begin by roasting the beets. Preheat an oven to 180°C. Scrub the beets, wrap in foil, and roast for 45 to 60 minutes or until a knife inserts and removes easily. Set aside to cool. For a little while. At the same time, toss the carrots in a little olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in the oven for about 30minutes checking regularly and stirring to ensure even roasting.

Once the beets are cool enough to handle, peel and cut into bite-sized wedges. Transfer to a bowl. IOnce the carrots are golden brown and tender remove from the oven.

Top and tail the flat beans and cut into 1” pieces on the diagonal. Cook in a pan of boiling salted water for 3 miutes. Remove and refresh in cold water. Drain well and leave to dry.

For the leeks, you cannot cut the leeks open otherwise the pieces will fall apart, so it is important to look for dirt in the top, leafier green pieces and wash well. Grit can ruin this dish. To cook the leeks, place in a medium saucepan with enough salted water to cover. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10 minutes or until the leeks are just tender. Do not cook for too long otherwise they will lose their colour, so keep the heat quite high but you do not want them to fall to pieces and become waterlogged.As soon as they are tender remove from the water and leave to drain really well on kitchen towel.

To make the dressing, combine the walnuts, garlic, chili flakes, vinegar’s, oil, mustard and salt and pepper to taste. Let stand at room temperature to combine the flavours.

Gently toss the beets with half of the dressing and the leeks and carrots with the remaining dressing.

To serve, place some of the salad leaves onto serving plates, top with a few beets, followed by more salad leaves, some beans, some leeks, and then a few more beets and some more leeks, scatter with carrots, until you have layered the whole dish and used everything, Serve straight away.

Beetroot in a bag 2

Rainbow Stir-Fry

Finally for this week, I needed to use up practically everything else in my veg box. I noticed that when my box arrived what a great array of colours the vegetables where at this time of year. I have been reading a bit about how eating all the different coloured vegetables, or eating a rainbow as it is called, is a really good way of making sure that our bodies get all the nutrients and vitamins that we need . It is almost like nature has highlighted the fruit and veg that we need by colour coding them.

With this in mind, I decided to make a Rainbow Stir-fry with what I had in my box. Red onions, carrots, sweetcorn, red peppers and mushrooms. Unfortunately I was missing purple, although I think the red onions might count, but if you like you could put some red cabbage in too. Anyway, most importantly it tasted great and looked pretty colourful too.

Rainbow stir-fry

Rainbow Stir-Fry
Serves 2
100g egg noodles
Sunflower oil
Large knob of fresh ginger
3 cloves of garlic
1-2 fresh red chillies
2 small red onions
2 large carrots
½ a cabbage
1 red pepper
1 ear of sweetcorn
8 mushrooms
Sesame oil
Mirin
Soy sauce
Chinese cooking rice wine
Handful of fresh coriander, chopped

Put a pan of water on to boil. Cut the chilli in half, remove the seeds and finely chop. Scrape the ginger with a teaspoon to remove the outer layer and grate. Peel the garlic and grate it. (A microplane in really good for this.) Cut the cabbage in half, remove the core and finely shred. Peel the carrots and cut into julienne or coarsely grate. Peel the onions, cut in half and finely slice. Cut the pepper in half, remove the seeds and membrane and cut into thin strips. Cut the mushrooms into slices. Cut the sweetcorn of the cob. Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook for 6 minutes or as instructed on the packet. Drain and dress with sesame oil to prevent sticking together. Heat a large wok. Add some sunflower oil and add the chopped chilli, garlic and ginger. Fry for a few minutes. Add all the rest of the vegetables and stir fry for 5 minutes or so. It is important to keep the veg moving all the time as the name stir fry implies. When the veg is well wilted, add the sauces to taste. You want a balance of sweet and salty. Taste until you have it right. Add the noodles and maybe a little more sesame oil to taste. Add the freshly chopped coriander, stir well and serve straight away.

Removing corn kernals

Pasta e Faggioli

When I saw the fresh Borlotti beans on Riverford’s website, I just had to have some. I had difficulty with growing mine this year on the allotment. Too cold, too wet, whatever! It was it was a great disappointment, especially after a bumper harvest last year. Never mind, Riverford sent me a huge, lovely bag full. They are so much nicer fresh than dried or tinned. All fat and plump and creamy inside. I decided to use them for two recipes this week. The first is a classic Pasta e Faggioli which literally means Pasta and Beans – it always sounds so much better in another language. This is a real peasant dish with inexpensive, rustic ingredients but a double helping of carbohydrate to keep you fuller, longer.

Borlotti Beans in a pan

How to cook Fresh Borlotti Beans
store
Keep in their paper bag in the fridge until you are ready to cook them. They should keep for at least a week.

prep
Split open the pods to get to the beans inside. No need to soak before cooking.

boil simply
Put the shelled beans in a pan with just enough cold water to cover. Add a clove or two of peeled garlic as sprig of rosemary (tightly tied in string or an elastic band so that the flavour escapes but not the leaves) and maybe a fresh red chilli. Boil for 20-30 mins until soft. Add a little more water if needed. Just before the end of the cooking time, add a good glug of olive oil. mush up the garlic cloves and season well.

Pasta e Fagioli in a bowl

Pasta e Faggioli
There is no need to add the bacon if you are vegetarian or the parmesan.
Extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
150g smoked bacon, thinly diced
2 medium onions, finely diced
2 medium carrots, finely diced
2 medium ribs celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp tomato puree
Chicken stock or good quality chicken stock cubes
1 cup of cooked Borlotti beans
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary, very finely chopped
3/4 cup dried pasta, such as macaroni or ditalini
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot over medium-low heat. Add the pancetta and cook until crispy and the fat has rendered, about 5 minutes. Add the onion, carrot, celery and rosemary and increase the heat to medium; cook, stirring frequently, until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn. Add the tomato puree and cook for a minute more. Add a litre of chicken stock and bring to the boil. Season well with salt and pepper. Add the dried pasta to the pot and stir to incorporate. Turn the heat up to a gentle boil and cook until the pasta is tender but still firm to the bite, anywhere from 8-12 minutes depending on the type of pasta you used. Add the cooked beans and check seasoning. Drizzle each portion with a touch of extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle with more cheese, if desired. I think the flavour gets better if you leave the soup for a while but it will keep drinking up the stock so you may need to let it down a bit again.

Borlotti beans in shell

Ham Hock, Cannellini Bean and Runner Bean Soup

I started this week with a small veg box (less roots) and being the time of year, I was confronted with yet more runner beans. I hate to sound a little dismayed but sometimes a particular vegetables begins to get you down. It is not that I don’t like runner beans, it is just two things that upset me. Firstly that I feel that runner beans are usually best when really fresh just lightly boiled or steamed with a little butter but that does not make a very exciting blog post. Secondly, it is very hard to find really good recipes with runner beans that justifies the extra work rather than just boiling or steaming them and serving them with a little butter. Whatever you do decide to do with your runner beans, make sure you take the time to quickly run a peeler down each side of the bean to remove any stinginess before you cut them up. This little tip improves their texture tenfold.

Peeling Runner Beans

Believe it or not, I go to great lengths to think up recipes which I feel are not just an excuse for using up a vegetable. I am very determined that every recipe that goes in this blog is something that you are really going to want to eat. Or at least something that I am really going to want to eat. I was thrilled with my first idea for a Salad Nicoise with runner beans, favourably substituting the traditional French beans. But I looked out the window and it was pouring, literally bucketing it down. Not salad weather I thought, I will have to try harder. More warming, comforting soup weather. We all need comforting when August feels more like winter.

What I love about this soup is that it is supper quick. I have written about the joys of ready cooked, pulled ham hock before and here it is combined with lots of lovely vegetables, cannellini beans, pasta and runner beans. I really feel the runner beans are not an afterthought, but somehow belong in this recipe.

I got a complimentary bunch of basil in my box which you could whiz up with a little olive oil and add to your soup if you like but a little grated parmesan is my favourite addition. Apart from that, your only other decision is what pasta to use. I opted for the very pretty looking Mafalda Corta which is from Campania in Italy but I found in Waitrose. In the past I used anything from Orzo to alphabet pasta or broken spaghetti. I have got to say that it was most definitely a perfect meal to cheer you up on a very wet summer’s day.
If you want to cook your own ham hocks, place them in cold water, bring to the boil, then add a carrot, onion, leek and stick of celery (all chopped in half), some thyme and white pepper-corns. Simmer for a couple of hours until you can pick the hocks up and the meat falls from the bone.
To adapt for vegetarians, exclude the ham hock and use vegetable stock or water.

Ham Hock soup with Parmesan

Ham Hock, Cannellini Bean and Runner Bean Soup
180g ham hock, cooked and shredded
1 litre chicken stock or use good quality stock cubes (or use the liquid from cooking the hocks)
2 carrots peeled and sliced into 5mm thickness
1 large onion peeled and chopped
2 sticks of celery sliced into 5mm lozenges
1 small leek shredded
A handful of runner beans
A tin of cannellini beans drained
80g dried pasta
Olive oil
Wash the vegetables. Then in a large pan add the olive oil, carrot, onion, leek and celery season with salt and pepper. Sauté for five minutes until they start to soften but without any colour.
Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Check seasoning and if it needs salt add some now. Add the pasta and cook as per packet instructions. Meanwhile peel your runner beans down each length with a peeler. Top and tail the beans and then cut diagonally into thin strips. When the pasta is done, add the ham-hock, runner beans and cannellini beans and bring to the boil. Cook until runner beans are done. Check seasoning. Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil, parmesan or basil oil.

Veg for Ham Hock Soup

#cooktogether

As I have mentioned, I have recently sold my house and I am now living temporarily at my parents’ house for a month until I can move into my new house next month. This has certain pluses and minuses but one big plus, it has to be said, is that we currently live in a 10 minute walk to Wimbledon Village.

Our latest weekend activity has been wondering around lovely shops, looking at lovely things which we can’t possibly afford. Nowhere more so than at the Le Crueset shop in Church Street where I could spend hours admiring pots and pans which are simply never going to be a justifiable necessity in the long list of necessities in my life. I did however pick up a free leaflet publicising the gorgeous new “Ink Range” and the cover featured some rather nice looking soda bread baked in a heavenly Le Creuset dish. Just happens that I was planning to try a recipe for soda bread cleverly incorporating carrots and beetroot and happily both of these vegetables turned up in my veg box this week.

Bread is always a great thing to cook with children and I thought I might take some photos for Riverford’s Cook Together Campaign #cooktogether. Unfortunately, I am not clever enough to work out how to upload them! Never mind. She still had fun.

Amelie cooking 1

Carrot Soda Bread on Plate

Carrot and Pumpkin Seed and Beetroot and Caraway Soda Breads

175g strong bread flour
175g wholemeal or spelt flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
large pinch black pepper
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
200ml natural yoghurt
olive oil

For the Carrot and Pumpkin Seed
50g pumpkin seeds
2 carrots
For the Beetroot and Caraway
1 medium sized beetroot
1 tsp caraway seeds

Preheat your oven to a good, high temperature (200⁰C Fan) and oil a large pan or Le Creuset or a baking sheet. Toss all of the dry ingredients (flours, salt, pepper and soda) into a large bowl and stir to combine.

In a separate mixing jug, measure out the yoghurt and an equal volume of cold water. Whisk the two to combine, and gradually pour into the flour mixture. Stir well between pouring the yoghurt into the dry mixture, ensuring that everything is well combined.
Divide your dough into two equal amounts.
Peel your carrots and grate them into the large bowl.
Peel your beetroot and grate them into another bowl.
Add the carrots and sunflower seeds to half your mix.
Add the beetroot and caraway seeds to the other half.
Roll into even sized balls adding extra flour if to wet and place in the Le Crueset or onto the baking sheet.
I also thought it might be nice to top the rolls with some other seeds – maybe some sunflower seeds on the carrot ones and some poppy seeds on the beetroot.

Place in the pre-heated oven for 40 minutes.

Once baked, allow to cool sufficiently before slicing. My loaf sounded nice and hollow when the base was tapped; this tells you that the bicarbonate of soda has reacted with the moisture and acidity of the yoghurt, producing tiny pockets of carbon dioxide to give rise to the bread. Cutting the bread before it is cool is like cutting it before it’s done baking; let the starch set, or you end up with a dense dough-like texture.

Soda Bread in Pan

Kohl Rabi

This week I started with a medium vegbox less roots which contained wet garlic, bunched onions, broad beans, garden peas, swiss chard, mixed salad leaves, mini cucumbers, red pepper and the dreaded kohl rabi,

I decided to get to work straight away on the Kohl Rabi as it is one of those vegetables that no one really knows what to do with. Looking like an unwanted alien, it is of the cabbage family but with the smell of mild turnip. It actually doesn’t taste of anything much but it has a great texture. So many recipes seem to be merely an excuse to get rid of it, so I wanted to try embrace it but use gutsy enough flavours to hide the rather unappetizing smell – unless you are a turnip lover. On the plus side, kohl rabi is really good for you. Higher in vitamin C than oranges it is a powerful antioxidant and contains phytochemicals which appear to have an anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.

I have researched long and hard on your behalf and come up with three salads which most celebrate the Kohl Rabi.

Kohl Rabi Remoulade

Kohl Rabi Remoulade
Remoulade is usually made with raw celeriac and delicious with cold meats.
1 medium kohlrabi
A squeeze of lemon juice
4 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. Grain mustard
4 tbsp. Mayonnaise

Peel the kohlrabi and cut it into matchsticks about 3mm thick, either by hand or using a mandolin. Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a large bowl. Season well and mix in the kohlrabi.

Asian Coleslaw with Peanuts & Chilli

Asian Coleslaw with Peanuts & Chilli
½ large kohl rabi, peeled and finely grated
2 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
1 red pepper, de-seeded and thinly sliced
100g beansprouts (optional)
2 tbsp crushed roasted peanuts
1 bunched onions, finely sliced
Small bunch coriander
For the dressing:
1 tbsp thai fish sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 ½ tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp lime juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 red chilli, finely diced

Whisk all of the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl and set aside. Pick the leaves from the coriander. Mix together all the vegetables, add the coriander leaves and toss with the dressing. Pile on a serving plate. Sprinkle with the roasted peanuts.

Kohl Rabi and Fennel Salad with Dill

Kohl Rabi and Fennel Salad with Dill
Great with fish, especially fatty fish like salmon or mackerel as the sharpness of the lemon cuts the fattiness of the fish.
I head of Fennel, tough outer leaves, stalk and tops removed, very finely sliced preferably on a mandolin
½ Kohl Rabi, peeled and very finely sliced preferably on a mandolin
½ lemon, juiced
Very good extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Small bunch of dill, finely chopped

Mix the lemon juice with a good pinch of salt. Mix well and add the olive oil, about 3 times as much oil as lemon. Taste and adjust. Add the fennel and kohl rabi and most of the dill. Serve with a little more dill or fennel fronds sprinkled on top.

Kol Rabi

Use-up Stir-fry

Spring greens are a thing of beauty, however I do understand when you have seen your hundredth one turn up in your veg box, you may not continue to think so.

I got a couple this week in my small fruit and veg box along with more carrots, another veg that often accumulates, spring onions, sugar snap peas and new potatoes. On the fruit front there was apples and raspberries. So to make sure that you do not despair of summer greens, I will be concentrating on them over the next few weeks starting with a fabulous use-up dish this week. This is the sort of recipe which clears out your fridge before your next veg box arrives because there are so many variants of ingredients you can use. And of course you could add some prawns, or chicken, pork or steak if you wanted.

I started with my spring greens, sugar snap peas, carrots and spring onions but I also discovered half a left over red pepper, some mushrooms and a few bunched onions, which all went in. The only staples that you really need are chillies, ginger, garlic and coriander and a lime, Teriyaki sauce and noodles.

There are several varieties of Teriyaki sauce. My kids like Waitrose own best probably because it is particularly sweet but if you want a healthier option Clearspring make an organic one. The sweetness is counteracted with some lime juice and if you want more salt, add a little soy or Nam Pla (Thai Fish Sauce) is also particularly good. On the noodle front, any will do. I used some old Pad Thai noodles which  where hanging around in the cupboard. More important is the ratio of veg to noodle. Your cooked veg quantity should be about equal to that of noodles otherwise it can get a bit heavy going. I have given you a rough recipe below but really it is up to you.

The only other thing which really is of help in use-up stir-fry is a Wok. If you don’t have one, don’t splash out on an expensive one. I got mine about 25 years ago for £10 and it is still going strong.

Stir-fry in bowl

Use-up Stir-fry

Serves 2 very generously

150g Pad Thai noodles (or any will do but vary cooking as instructed)

1 head summer greens

1-2 fresh red chillies

Large knob of ginger

2 cloves garlic, peeled

4 spring onions

2 small bunched onions

4 carrots, peeled

8 mushrooms

100g sugar snap peas

½ a red pepper

Sunflower oil

1 lime

Teriyaki sauce

Sesame oil (optional)

Soy sauce, Nam Pla or salt

Small bunch of coriander

Boil the kettle and pour boiling water all over the noodles so that they are submerged. Leave for 15 minutes. Meanwhile shred your summer greens, wash and drain well. Grate the carrots. Thinly slice the mushrooms and red pepper, removing any seeds. Remove the outer most layer from the spring onions and bunched onions and finely slice. (Don’t forget to use the green of the spring onions too.) Top the sugar snap peas and string if necessary. Finely chop the chilli, removing the seeds. With a teaspoon remove the outer layer of the ginger. Grate the garlic and ginger. Drain the noodles. Heat your wok or large frying pan with a little sunflower oil. Add the garlic, chilli and ginger. Fry for a minutes, stirring well. Add the spring onions, bunched onions, mushrooms, sugar snaps and red peppers. Stir-fry for a minute or two more. Next add the summer greens and carrots. Stir-fry until the veg has wilted. Finally add the teriyaki sauce and noodles and mix really well. Take off the heat and stir in your chopped coriander. Squeeze over the lime and drizzle with Sesame oil if using, Taste. If it needs more salt add soy or salt. Make sure you have the balance of sweet, salty and sour. Serve with a wedge of lime.

Stir Fry in Wok

Vietnamese Lettuce and Beef Wraps

Vietnamesse Wraps closeup

Finally for this week one of my favourite sorts of recipe. It is one of those when you manage to somehow conjure up a delicious dinner from almost nowhere. All I had left in the box was a green Batavia lettuce, some carrots and a cucumber. All I had in the fridge was one fillet steak. We can learn a lot from Asian recipes as they have long understood that meat and fish are costly and they know how to make expensive ingredients go along way. This is of course a healthier way of eating too and the idea that the vegetables should be as important as the accompaniment is very trendy at the moment. Although the list of ingredients often looks long and complicated, it really is store cupboard stuff and it really could not be quicker and easier to make.

Just time for “Kitchen Kit of the Week” – a microplaner is a grater reinvented. The story is, a Canadian housewife decided to use one of her husband’s favourite woodworking tools and discovered that it was the best orange zester she had ever used. There is a whole range available now but I suggest a fine one, for effortlessly grating ginger and lemongrass like you have never seen. Pick one up on Amazon or at Lakeland.

Vietnamese Wraps

Vietnamese Lettuce and Beef Wraps

You can make the dipping sauce and marinade the meat the day before.

For the marinade

1 fillet steak

2 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce (Nam Pla)

1 tsp caster sugar

1-1½ tsp toasted sesame oil, to taste

For the dipping sauce

1 tbsp. rice vinegar, to taste

2 tsp. caster sugar, to taste

1 tbsp. Fish sauce (Nam Pla)

1 stick lemongrass

1 lime, juice only

1 fresh red chilli

For the wraps

1 carrot, cut into fine julienne strips or grated

½ cucumber

3 sprigs mint, leaves picked and chopped

½ small bunch coriander, leaves and stalks roughly chopped

1 lettuce such as Batavia or baby gem

Lime wedges, to serve

For the marinade, put the steak into a large bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix until coated evenly. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least two hours, or overnight if possible.

Meanwhile make the dipping sauce. Mix the rice vinegar, sugar, fish sauce and lime juice together. Finely chop the red chilli. If you like it hot then leave the seeds in, if not remove them. Remove any tough outer leaves from the lemongrass and trim the bottom. Grate using a microplaner starting at the bottom and grating until nearly three quarters of the way up. (If you do not have a microplaner, chop very finely). Add with the chilli to your dipping sauce and taste. Adjust the flavours as necessary – adding a little more sugar if it’s too sour, or more rice vinegar or lime juice if too sweet.

Next peel and grate your carrots and cut your cucumber into julienne. A mandolin is good for this. Separate and wash the salad leaves and leave to drain. Pick the leaves off the herbs.

In a large heavy-based frying pan, heat a dash of oil. Shake off any excess marinade from the steaks and cook for 2-3 minutes on either side – depending on their thickness and how rare you like your steak. Tip over the marinade and remove and rest on a plate for five minutes.

To serve, arrange the lettuce leaves on a serving plate. Fill the lettuce leaves with carrot and cucumber. Add a small handful of herbs. Slice the rested steak, and top each leaf with a slice or two of steak, tipping any resting juices over the top. Serve with the dipping sauce and lime wedges on the side.

Lettuce