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Fast (Real) Food

The vegetables freshly chopped and added to the hot frying pan

There are times when we all need a nourishing meal but either we haven’t time nor energy to stand, cooking, in the kitchen for long.  Today was such a day.  Husband had gone to see his brother as it’s his brother’s birthday, and I stayed at home to have a bit of a catch up with the housekeeping.  I managed a few basics  – making the bed, filling the dishwasher and the washing machine, hanging washing on the line, putting away piles of magazines which I’d been browsing through, washing the windowsills in the sitting room and dusting and polishing the furniture – before husband returned, and so I ceased cleaning (bless him, he showed the vacuum to the carpet) and decided to make a vegetable stir fry for lunch.

Last week, I bought a packet of stir fry vegetables in Waitrose.  I make my own sweet ‘n’ sour sauce, so didn’t buy a sachet, but really, I found the bag of vegetables a little disappointing.  Yes, they’re OK if you’re in a tearing hurry, but how long does it take to chop some veg?  I found the cabbage in the bag was in too-large pieces (and cabbage isn’t what I really want in a stir fry) and the slices of red onions were the outer casings of the onions and very tough.

So, today, I made my own stir fry from scratch.  This is real food, but fast.  It included,  sliced or chopped (sufficient for two people):

2 spring onions

1 leek

2 sticks of celery

half a red pepper

2 or 3 broccoli spears (but not the very woody end)

3 or 4 radishes

half a bag of beansprouts

These were chopped in next to no time, all similar sizes so they would cook at more-or-less the same rate (no, I didn’t chop the beansprouts.)

I used a frying pan as I don’t have a wok. I put a little rapeseed oil into the pan, heated it and added all the veg except the bean spouts.  I stir-fried for a few minutes, then added the bean sprouts and stirred them in …

I then added my own sweet ‘n’ sour by splashing in some balsamic vinegar (white wine vinegar would do just as well), some salt-reduced soy sauce, about a tablespoon of tomato puree, and a good drizzle of runny honey.  I then stirred all this into the vegetables …

I continued to stir fry this for about five or six minutes, tasting the sauce as it cooked and adding a little extra honey and tomato puree as we don’t like the sauce too vinegary.  It wasn’t long before it was ready …

This made two good portions for husband and myself.  I didn’t photograph it on the plates, I didn’t want it to go cold before we tucked in!

Of course, most, if not all, of you will be proficient at stir frying, but if you’ve not tried this simple vegetable dish, then it’s something you can do when time is short (and there’s not much washing up – just the frying pan, a wooden fork, a couple of plates and forks, and the chopping board and knife, and the large spoon with which to remove the stir fry from pan to plates.)

If you wanted, you could kick-start this dish with some small pieces of chicken and fry them in the pan first, or adding mushrooms. Indeed, most veg can be cooked in this way, and you can vary the sauce with what you have in the larder/fridge, perhaps some sweet chilli sauce or lemon juice instead of vinegar (or to augment the vinegar.)

(To use up the beansprouts and some of the vegetables in the fridge, we might have something similar tomorrow.)

We had a real-food, fast-food dessert, too:  a little vanilla ice cream with some slices of strawberries.   Ice cream isn’t too wicked if we don’t indulge too often.

Until next time.

About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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  1. Home-made stir=fries are delicious, I think. I used to make them a lot when my youngest was at home, with tofu. Our sauce for the tofu was a dash of olive oil, equal amounts of soya sauce, honey, peanut butter, and occasionally I’d add garlic or ginger, or both.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      I’d like that sauce, Ratnamurti, minus the peanut butter. Not keen on that at all. It’s a bit like Marmite, you either love it or hate it! Never tried tofu, one day I might try it. But we have little meat, and although I made a chicken and pasta bake for supper (using some of the cold roast chicken from the roast the day before yesterday) I could’ve eaten it without chicken in it quite happily. But it was very tasty, having as well as the pasta and chicken, cheese, parsley, spring onions and petits pois in it.

  2. Stir frys are so quick and delicious. I haven’t made my own sauce but use different readymade ones as long as they don’t have too much salt and/or sugar. I have found the frozen vegetable disappointing as well, The cuts are always too big or small and it ends up mushy. Fresh is best as they say.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Hello, Pieta, and yes, stir frys are quick and delicious, and I use such a small amount of oil and add just a little water so that they really steam-fry, until I add the sauce. The veg I used were fresh rather than frozen veg, but I preferred to use my own veg from the fridge and chop it myself, so that it was freshly prepared. Of course, for people living on their own, rather than buying all the various vegetables, a bag of veg is an easier and less-expensive option, perhaps.

  3. Eloise (thisissixty.blog)

    It looks delicious! I bought a bag of M&S stir-fry veg a long time ago and found it disappointing so I’d rather chop my own too. I like vegetable prep but I do find that Waitrose’s bags of soffrito (onion, carrot and celery chopped very small) is excellent and so useful to bulk out other dishes. I often make a vegetable cottage pie (for me) and a meat one for husband. The soffrito is a good base for both.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Yes, the bags of stir fry veg are disappointing, I think. And, let’s face it, it only takes about five or six minutes to chop a few veg for two people. Are we all becoming to lazy that we expect absolutely everything to be ready-to-use, such as cartons of custard, grated cheese, ready-made short crust pastry (I agree puff is a faff, but not short crust.)
      Not seen the soffrito (I’d not know what that is!) in Waitrose, but I do have a List and keep my head down not to be side-tracked into buying things we don’t need. Maybe I should look up sometimes and find something different to try! But there again, I’d chop my own onion, carrot and celery, ha ha!

  4. Eloise (thisissixty.blog)

    Its the size of the chopped pieces that attract me to the soffrito…..they are tiny. I’m not sure I could get them that small. I’m generally a terrible shopper – all over the place, back and forth. Husband rarely consents to accompanying me! I write my shopping List in the order that things appear on the shelves in the aisles, so I don’t have to back-track at all. I can shop very quickly this way. I hate having to return to an aisle if I’ve forgotten something!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      I must look for it next time I go to Waitrose, Eloise. Yes, my chopping leaves much to be desired, too. There are little chopping machines you can buy, but I’ve never bothered. When I want lovely carrots done in julienne strips, husband does this for me!

  5. We enjoy stir fries in our house, too. As we don’t have gas cooktop in our kitchen, I have an electric wok. It does a good enough job for stirfires, fried rice, etc. I cook with oil (you need one with a high smoke point so as not to set off all ththe smoke alarms in the house !), soy sauce, garlic, fish sauce and whatever else is at hand. We both like to add chilli (Sriracha hot chilli sauce in the bottle is like liquid lava so I use it sparingly on my plate) and a little sesame oil before eating.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Ooh, I’ve not heard of an electric wok! We only like very mild chilli, so use a milk sweet chilli sauce, your hot chilli would, I think, be too hot for us (even used sparingly.) But stir fries are lovely and so quick to make. We have a gas hob that is separate from our wall-mounted double electric oven.

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