Weeknights and it has to be quick and easy. While I love spending a luxurious long time in the kitchen, a glass of tasty Italian wine on the counter next to my mis-en-place, listening to tastier Eros Ramazzotti on the stereo, I will take time to cook a lavish meal, weeknights however is a dash against time.
My dad always says "Meeta steals time to work for her!" I was never sure exactly what he meant by that until a few years ago when he tried explaining how I manage my pace to Tom. What he meant was that my one hour would be two hours for many others. I "steal" time to do several jobs or chores at once. Multi-tasking has a whole new dimension with me.
So, for example today, a hectic work day but also with several private tasks to complete. It was one meeting after another, all over the university campus. In between I found myself with 20 - 30 minutes to kill. I used this time to my advantage. I did my grocery shopping at my organic store in the first 20 minute meeting-free block, the next 20 minutes block, made a doctor's appointment for Soeren, as class rep. for Soeren's class managed to arrange a day trip to the local fire station and brought back library books.
At home it's the same. While I am cutting veggies for dinner I will get Soeren to practice guitar or his reading. Or while I am tidying up I catch up on chit-chatting with friends on the phone and while I have a roast in the oven I do a bit of newspaper reading.
Are you exhausted yet? ;-)
Tom gave up long ago trying to keep up with my pace. I admit it's fast - but I have a problem. If I slow my pace I get edgy and irritated. Then I am not a nice person to be around. Am I exhausted at the end of the day? Not really. I was very hyperactive as a child. As an adult I found a way to channel the energy to my advantage.
On weeknights I will steal time and make a quick and easy dinner - full of flavor and nutrition. My preferred method of cooking - stir frying those lovely organic veggies I bought earlier in the day.
When the Chinese invented the stir-frying method they must have been thinking of all those busy working mums of the 20th/21st century!
Stir-frying is one of the easiest and quickest techniques of Chinese cooking. All it requires is cooking bite sized pieces of meat, fish or vegetables in a wok on a fairly high heat. As the pieces are small and the heat high it enables the food to be cooked quickly and fully. This short and intensive way to cook ensures that the full flavor and nutrients are retained in the food.
Although stir frying is typically an Asian way of cooking, I often use this method to cook a lot of my meals - be it Indian or Italian. I find it the healthiest - less oil, crispy flavor, perfect texture and full in nutrients.
This particular dish uses the simplicity of root vegetables, concentrating on the freshness of the flavor and texture. Many of you know that I believe in organic produce, but will never preach it to anyone. Here though I have to say the quality makes this dish. Try buying organically grown and fresh vegetables for this dish. You will notice the difference in the aroma and flavor straight away.
I chose to serve this with quinoa, cooked according to the instructions on the package, just using strong vegetable stock instead of plain water. The result a powerful and intensive meal - veggie pure and full of incredible aroma.
Printable version of recipe here.
10 carrots, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
6-8 Icicle radishes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
Bunch of green asparagus, cut into 2 to 3 cm pieces
Bunch of spring onions, cut into 2 to 3 cm pieces
Small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped
Small piece of ginger, finely chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
200 ml vegetable broth
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
250g cooked quinoa
In a large wok heat the peanut oil on high heat. Once it is hot add the ginger and garlic and sit-fry for 1 minute until transparent.
Add the carrots, radishes and asparagus and stir fry for 5 minutes. Add a little dash of the broth and cover to gently steam until the vegetables just start to soften.
Mix the cornstarch in a separate cup or bowl, with a few tablespoons of broth until smooth.
Add the spring onions and stir fry for another minute. Now add the soy sauce and continue to sauté for another minute or two. Finally add the remaining broth and cornstarch mixture. Bring mixture to boil, stirring until sauce thickens.
Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve with hot bowls of cooked quinoa.
Notes & Tips:
- When stir-frying it is advisable to prepare all your vegetables (and/or meat) before you start cooking. Cut your vegetables and meat and place in bowls.
- Make sure all your ingredients are ready and within reach. Stir frying is fast. Often there won't be time to mix the sauce or look for the salt while things are cooking.
- It's important to cut your vegetables approximately the same size - bit size. This will ensure that everything is cooked evenly and thoroughly.
- If you are making a stir fry with meat or chicken, stir-fry the meat first. Cook completely and remove from heat. Then cook your vegetables, adding the meat at the end.
- Each item has a different time. It is advisable to start with those that take the longest to cook through.
- Heat the pan/wok first. When it's hot then add the oil. Once the oil is hot it is time to start with ginger, garlic and onions. These need to be stir-fried just for a few seconds, until they become aromatic.
- The sauce or broth should be added towards the end of the cooking time. If you find that the vegetables still need a few minutes, cover and steam until done.
Not only does the wonderful rainbow of colors makes this dish look delightful, it is also the incredible aroma of ginger, garlic and lovely vegetables wafting in the kitchen that makes for hungry mouths sit eagerly at the dinner table. I personally find that quinoa offers a fantastic alternative to rice and pairs beautifully with the root vegetables. Perfect on any occasion, but a time saver on weeknights!
Don't forget to send me your authentic Italian creations by next week. The best creation could win a one year subscription to the La Cucina Italiana magazine! Details here.
You might like these Asian style dishes from WFLH:
|Asian Style Tilapia|
|Chinese Vegetable Noodles|
|Honey Teriyaki Salmon|
Daily Tiffin Reading Tip:
All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2008 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First