When the weather gets cold and the days get shorter and darker I find that my energy levels plummet. However, in the run up to Christmas work and social life seem to do the reverse and get increasingly busy. The result is that I have even less energy to devote to cooking than normal, yet it is also the time that I really need fresh, nutritious home cooking. Therefore I tend to fall back on my quickest and simplest tried and tested recipes, and stir fries are one of the best for minimal cooking time and lots of fresh ingredients, but with no compromises on flavour. However, rather the traditional stir fry technique of cooking the meat or vegetables quickly in oil, stirring all the time, I tend to cook them in the sauce, covered, so they actually steam or boil until they are just cooked through as this makes them less oily and also means you don’t need to keep such a close eye on them so they are easier to cook. This “stir steam” has one of the easiest sauces to make that I have ever come across, is packed with fresh vegetables and makes a lovely antidote to heavy Christmas food.
Sesame “stir steam”
Cooking time: 10 minutes preparation, less than 10 minutes cooking time
Dietary info: vegan (if you use a vegetarian/vegan oyster sauce), dairy-free (even without vegetarian oyster sauce) (Note: oyster sauce usually contains gluten so this recipe is not gluten-free)
- 4 tbsp oyster sauce (vegetarian)
- 1 tsp cornflour
- 4 tbsp water
- 1-2 tsp toasted sesame oil (to taste )
- 1-2 tbsp sesame seeds
- 1 aubergine, washed and cut into batons
- 2 pak choi, washed and leaves separated, larger leaves cut in half
- 200g shiitake mushrooms, washed and cut into quarters
- Lime, to serve (optional)
- Mix the oyster sauce and cornflour together until there are no lumps of cornflour, then stir in the water and sesame oil and mix to a smooth sauce.
- Put the aubergine in a frying pan with the sauce over a medium heat and cover for about 2 minutes.
- Add the shittake mushrooms and cook for a further 2 minutes, until the aubergine is starting to soften.
- Add the pak choi, cover and cook for a further 3-5 minutes until the vegetables are just cooked through. You can vary the cooking time depending on how soft or crunchy you like your vegetables.
- Meanwhile, put the sesame seeds in a dry, non-stick frying pan or saucepan and heat, shaking or stirring regularly until the seeds are just starting to brown and smell toasted.
- Serve the vegetables with the sesame seeds sprinkled on top and some lime juice to squeeze over.
A few tips to prep ahead:
- The sauce can be made ahead and keeps well for 1-2 weeks in a sealed container in the fridge.
- The vegetables can be washed and prepared a day or two ahead and kept in a freezer bag or container in the fridge.
- The sesame seeds can be toasted in advance and keep well for several weeks, covered, out of the fridge.
- Then all you need to do on the night is cook the vegetables through in the sauce and serve.
Some tasty little twists…
- Make this meal more substantial by stirring in cooked noodles or serving with rice.
- Add diced chicken, strips of beef, prawns, tempeh or tofu to add more protein to this stir fry (add the chicken with the aubergine or any of the others with the mushrooms, and check that any meat or fish are cooked through before serving by cutting into one – chicken or fish should be opaque all the way through and chicken should not be pink).
- Try different vegetable combinations, for example: slices of squash (put in at the same time / instead of the aubergine) , different types of mushrooms, shredded cabbage or baby sweetcorn (same time as / instead of the shittake mushrooms), grated carrot, beansprouts, courgette batons, mangetout or sugarsnap peas (same time as / instead of the pak choi).
- Serve as a side dish for grilled beef, tofu or tempeh steak:
- If using tofu or tempeh, cut into “steaks” about 5-10mm thick
- brush the beef, tofu or tempeh with some of the sauce and leave to marinade in the fridge overnight (or out of the fridge for about 30 minutes if you are doing it on the night)
- Grill the steak under a hot grill or put into a hot griddle pan and cook for 2-3 mintues per side (depending on how cooked you like you beef steak, tempeh or tofu), until browned on the outside but still juice on the inside.
- Serve with the stir fry described above.
- This grilled beef, tempeh or tofu steak and stir fry vegetables is also a nice filling for hand rolls (see my hand roll instructions here) but if you are doing this you probably only need about half the amount of vegetables as you will only be able to fit a few into each hand roll.