Lisa says: Come January we may find ourselves in need of warmth. Hot food seems like a good answer but, unfortunately, no one's figured out how to dispatch affordable cooks to all. "Ding-dong. Hello, can I help?" So whether we arrive home after work on Tuesday, or bestir ourselves from a sleepy Saturday sofa, we crave simple recipes.
And by simple, I mean foodstuffs you've got in your cupboard, and minimal chopping. Heresy, but I get so bored of cutting, and wiping food fragments from my wet fingers.
Here's a recipe I've made several times, always with happy outcome, based on Chinese Curry Noodles, from Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds. Ingredients, proportions and common sense are hers, needless chatter mine. It will not be as good if you leave anything out.
Chinese Curry Noodles
In June, flush with summer optimism, go to the Asian grocery store and buy yourself some authentic Madras curry powder. Do not fret that you're not grinding the spices yourself. It'll be OK. While you're there, pick up some whole canned water chestnuts and good quality soy sauce. Go home. Throw your purchases into your cupboard, get distracted by the summer evening, and order wild mushroom pizza instead.
Come January, one cold night, realize you've got to make dinner or eat salami with tortillas, two foodstuffs not often paired in nature. Dig through your freezer and find a pound of ground beef underneath the 6 partially-consumed containers of tropical sorbets. Check for freezer burn. No? You're OK. Paw through the frozen goods and find a bag of frozen peas. Hooray! Check for onions. Find 2 that aren't growing stalks. You're in business.
*Note: Start the Chinese Chicken Broth first. It smells good, you won't mind.
Meat and Its Friends
1 pound lean ground pork or beef
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons high heat-capable cooking oil
1.5 cups finely diced onions
2 tablespoons curry power, preferably Madras
2.25 cups of Chinese Chicken Broth (make an easy version of this by simmering 3 cups chicken broth, 3 cups water, 1/3 cup rice wine or sake with 4 slices of ginger you've crushed between your fingers. Heat to a boil and then simmer for 20 minutes, while you cook the meat and stuff, should be fine.)
3.5 tablespoons soy sauce
1.5 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
0.25 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1.5 tablespoons cornstarch (I use half this amount, or none, because I don't much care for the viscous texture of cornstarch)
1 cup coarsely chopped canned whole water chestnuts, blanched in boiling water for 10 seconds, refreshed in cold water, and drained
1.5 cups frozen peas, thawed
3/4 pound flat noodles, cooked until just tender, rinsed under warm water, and drained (cooked brown rice works too)
In a bowl, toss the meat with the soy sauce.
Heat a wok or a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of the oil and heat until hot, about 20 seconds. Add the meat and cook, breaking up any lumps, until it loses its pink color. Remove with a handled strainer or a slotted spoon and drain in a colander. Wipe out the wok.
Add the remaining oil and reheat the wok over high heat until hot, about 20 seconds. Add the onions and stir-fry until soft and translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the curry powder and stir-fry until fragrant, about 10 seconds. (If you want to exercise your creativity, feel free to throw in more turmeric and feel happy about the curcumin you're ingesting). Add the fragrant curry sauce, water chestnuts, and peas and bring to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent lumps, until the sauce thickens. Add the meat and noddles and toss lightly to mix. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately.
Serves 6, warmly.