Easy Chow Mein

Well now, it’s been a while and dear Lord the world is a rather different place since I last posted! I can only conclude that recent events must be down to by absence and so for the sake of saving my own country from itself and the rest of the world from ecological disaster, I though I’d better start again. It’s bold claim I know, but I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge.

That, and the fact my eldest found my blog and wanted in on the action.

I still cook but it’s become a little more functional in recent years. The days of roaming the markets looking for za’atar and imported nam pla a distant memory, but I had my youngest eating lobster claw the other day (I know, get us), so I live in hope they are coming around to my way of thinking.

And so, in an attempt to bring them further onboard the foodie train by dangling the carrot of getting on them on the internet, I made this ridiculously simple, totally inauthentic (if it ever was thus) Chow Mein.

Ready in minutes and using just a wok, this is a kids’ friendly version that can be squeezed in between Brownies/Rainbows/Ballet/Swimming or what ever else sits between the little angels and a decent meal. Enjoy!

Tailor it for the adults, as I did, by adding in Lao Gan Ma black bean and chilli sauce once the kids portions have been plated up for an umami overload….

2 small onions, sliced.

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced.

1 large or 2 small carrots in thin batons

2 handfuls of frozen peas, thawed

2 handfuls of chopped ham or bacon

1 chicken breast, thinly sliced

1 packet of noodle (4 nests)

Light Soy 2 tbsp

Dark Soy 2 tbsp (or to taste)

Pinch of sugar (optional)

Oil

Cook the noodle in slightly salted water, until just done, rinse and chill in cold water.

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Prep all the ingredients. My able assistant Dem is demonstrating here…

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Fry all the ingredients except the soy sauces and peas and fry in a smoking hot wok with about 3 tbsp of oil until the chicken is done. Add the peas, the soy sauces and the sugar if using and fry for a couple more minutes.

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Remove, wipe down the wok and fry the noodles in the same amount of oil. After a few minutes add the meat and vegetables back and taste. Season with more soy if needed.

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At this point I plated it up for the kids and added some of the black bean chilli sauce for a real kick. Delicious.

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Chicken and Brown Rice Warm Salad with Mint, Yoghurt and Honey

Chicken Brown Rice Yoghurt Mint Honey

A couple of things people often say to me when they find out about my alter-ego as a dinner snapping food enthusiast is that they would love to cook but ‘don’t have time’ or that it’s too expensive to buy all the ingredients these days.

I try and smile in agreement, but inside I’m wrestling with the urge to reply “bullshit”. I don’t of course, it would be rude, but the point stands that preparing decent food doesn’t have to be expensive, nor time consuming.

I swear other than a little bit of marinading, this took no more than 25 minutes (with a little attention) and cost no more than a fiver. We got two dinners and lunch out of it so that’s £1.66 per head. Now if people say they can’t be bothered, then fine, I respect that it isn’t for everyone, but this is very doable.

This warm salad, much like the Monarchy has a distinct Greek accent with yoghurt, lemon, oregano, tomato and olive oil but I’m not sure it features in any Taverna. I worry about these issues too much though as I was actually quite pleased with the outcome and think the balance of flavours was just about right. Healthy too if you go steady with the salt.

The superb honey I used was a gift to Helen by her colleague James, whose folks keep bees, so a gratuitous plug is due:

Yorkshire Honey

The rice, with a bit of kettle boiling, takes the longest to prepare. I will stick my neck out though and recommend that if time is tight, you could always use one of those pre-cooked packets. Before you start pelting me with cries of “hypocrite!”, the plain varieties are mercifully just rice, oil and salt….

A little yoghurt and mint dressing and some of the warmed honey drizzled over the top finished it off nicely.

Serve 2-3

  • 2 chicken breasts, sliced thinly
  • 100g brown rice
  • 1 red chilli
  • 1 medium green pepper, diced
  • 1 medium red pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • A couple of handfuls of broccoli
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • Dried oregano
  • Thyme (dried or fresh)
  • 3 or 4 tomatoes, diced
  • About 100g feta cheese, finely diced
  • 1 lemon
  • 3-4 heaped tbsp yoghurt
  • 1-2 tsp mint sauce
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • Oil for frying
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt

Marinade the chicken in the juice of half of the lemon, a little olive oil, the garlic (sliced thinly), salt, and about 1 tsp each of oregano and thyme. 20 minutes should do as a minimum.

Chicken marinading

Meanwhile cook the rice in salted water.

Prepare the vegetables, and the mint dressing (just mix the yoghurt and mint sauce with a little salt). Set aside.

Diced vegetables

Precook the broccoli a little by steaming a pool of shallow water until softened (but still firm). Leave to cool. Drain the rice and rinse under the cold tap

In a large pan or wok, fry the chicken/marinade ingredients in hot oil until coloured. Add the vegetables and season. Cook until the chicken is just done. Add the broccoli and rice to heat through. Taste and season some more if needed.

When just done, add the tomato, and other half of the lemon juice.

Mix well and plate up. Sprinkle over the feta and drizzle with the yoghurt. Heat the honey in a small milk pan and spoon a little over too (not too much or it will be too sweet). A final dusting of oregano and a little decent olive oil finishes it off.

See, not too bad?

Chicken Brown Rice Yoghurt Mint Honey

Singapore Style Noodles

South Asia meets East Asia in one of my favourite stir fry dishes. Rice noodles are cooked with curry spices and chilli for a kick.

Apparently, this dish originates out of Hong Kong and isn’t entirely accurate as Singapore has many noodle dishes and in any case is unknown in the country. I love it though and providing you don’t go mad with the oil, is healthier than its flavour suggests.

Serves 2. Prep and cooking time 15 minutes (Dan).

Ingredients:

  • 150g Vermicelli rice noodles
  • 1 chicken breast, finely sliced
  • 50g lean cooked ham cut into thin batons
  • 100g prawns
  • 1 small (or half a larger) red pepper & green pepper, finely sliced
  • 1 small onion finely sliced
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
  • 1 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tbsp curry power
  • 1 red chill, finely chopped
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • Soy sauce

Get your favourite knife out and prepare all the ingredients beforehand. You’ll need to do this as it cooks quickly!

Start by cooking the noodles as instructed. Once done, drain in a sieve and cool under a running tap until cold. Drain thoroughly and add a little oil (so they won’t stick)

Add the oil to the wok and heat until smoking. Put in the ham and brown for a minute followed by the onions, peppers, garlic, chilli and ginger for a minute more, with a good splash of soy sauce.

Add the chicken and prawns and stir until cooked, keeping the heat on.

Once done, sprinkle over the curry powder and the oyster sauce. Stir in the noodles and continue for a minute or two more to heat through.

Serve it up with the chopped spring onions on top. Taste and add a little more soy sauce if necessary.

Great with a Tiger Beer!

Singapore Style Noodles

Chop Suey

One of my favourite ways of preparing vegetables, Chop Suey can be made as healthily as you want, providing you don’t drown the dish in oil.

My wife much prefers my attempt at Chinese cooking as it’s not as ‘greasy’ as the local takeaways, but I must admit I personally think good a restaurant dish is pretty difficult to copy faithfully.

The version here uses, chicken, a lot of veg, and Oyster Sauce. I’m not sure if there is an ‘authentic’ combination in a chop suey, so apologies people of China if not! I recommend using a ‘premium’ Oyster Sauce from a Chinese Deli. It’s a few pounds more, but far richer flavoured than the cheaper supermarket approximations. It’ll last a while if you get a large bottle and keep it in the fridge.

The key to Chinese food seems to be preparation and plenty of heat. Get everything ready so that when you start to cook, you only focus on that.

I’ve had many a tantrum in the kitchen before learning this, I think it has something to do with the panic induced by cooking in a super hot wok. Anyhow:

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts thinly sliced (and, if you can, marinated in 2 tbsp rice wine, good pinch 5 spice, soy sauce and a few drops of sesame oil for a minimum 20 mins).

1 Tbsp oil (you need more in a steel wok – I’m going for healthy here and used non-stick……)
2 garlic cloves, sliced finely
Thumb sized piece of ginger, finely chopped
Vegetables of your choice (Pak choi, carrot, mange tout, onions, bean sprouts etc) – I used tender stem broccoli, sugar-snap peas, onions, baby sweet corn and bamboo shoots, all sliced into bite sized pieces. About a handful of each.
Soy sauce
2 Tbsp Premium Oyster Sauce
About 150ml water mixed with a tsp cornflour
White pepper
2 Spring onions, chopped

Method:

Heat the wok and oil until hot and smoking.

Add the chicken (drained well if marinated) and brown well, until cooked through. Take out and set aside, retaining as much oil as possible.

Drop in the onion and garlic and ginger for a minute (don’t burn the garlic, keep it moving!)

Add the vegetables and stir fry for two or three minutes. Stir the chicken back in along with a good splash of soy sauce and the Oyster Sauce. Stir well, turn the heat down then add the cornflour mixture, mixing thoroughly and using more water if too dry. Taste the sauce and adjust as necessary using the soy sauce.

Season with pepper, add the chopped spring onion and serve with boiled rice (or egg fried rice if you’ve fallen off the wagon!). Yum.