I had a leek left from dinner Sunday, half a head of celery, plenty of carrots, some sugarsnaps, serious quantities of ginger and garlic, a chilli bush in the garden that is laden with fat fruits a good 6cm long and a packet of fresh egg noodles. Had to be stirfry.
A couple of years ago I used to make lots of them - they are quick, tasty and almost infinitely variable. I love them but I realised over time that if you just stand back and throw whatever you have into the wok, often as not it will be okay rather than good. Great, obviously, requires decidedly more attention and planning but then it's unlikely to be a quick midweek dinner. What I gradually learned was to find a balance, particularly in the elements of the sauce, and a good dinner was liable to be mine. Being very fond of all of them, I tended to use a mix of oyster, soy and fish sauces which produced a fairly indistinct result, and sometimes, when I was being particularly abandoned, one that was mouth puckeringly salty. Unsuprisingly. When I followed recipes the results were nearly always better so I started to pare back the randomness with which I added stuff and started to think about simpler combinations. Much better results in the same amount of time.
Stirfry Vegetable Noodles
2 eggs, beaten
3 tbspns peanut oil
1 tbspn finely chopped fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 or 2 chillies, chopped, deseeded if you like less heat
1 leek, sliced into rings about 30mm thick
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
2 ribs celery, cut to match the carrots
Handful of sugarsnap peas, halved lengthways
250g pack fresh egg noodles, rinsed in a colander under cold water
2 tbspns fish sauce
1 tbspn rice wine vinegar
2 tspns sugar
1 tspn salt
Chopped coriander if you have some
Heat a wok, add one tablespoon of the oil and, when it is smoking, add the beaten eggs. Swirl them around till set then tip the omelette back into the bowl the eggs were in.
Add the rest of the oil to the wok and add the garlic, ginger and chillies and stirfry for 30 seconds till fragrant. Add the sliced vegetables and stirfry for a couple of minutes till they are bright and still very crisp.
Add the rinsed noodles, the fish sauce, vinegar, sugar and salt and mix thoroughly with the vegetables. Cover with a lid and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes till the noodles are hot.
Raise the heat again to high, add the egg back to the pan and toss through the noodles.
Serve in deep bowls, topped with coriander if you have some.
The fish sauce, rice vinegar and sugar make for a clear salty sour sweet combinatin that works perfectly with the heat from the chillies and ginger for a really satisfying bowl of food.