It is the end of a typically hectic half term, which happened to culminate in a hugely busy last week and a ridiculously chaotic Friday. Enough of the cooking, I thought. The diabetic husband was having what he would call a Business Meeting (and the kids and I call a “meeting”) with our great mate (and major client) at the local pub at the end of the day, while I took the younger daughter for a physiotherapy appointment at 5. My plan was to go straight from physio to the pub where we could all have something to eat (minus older daughter who was out on the town). However, our youngest had other plans for the evening which didn’t include us, aside from a bit part as facilitators, so we picked up a takeaway for her, and dashed home where I ‘fed’ her and then delivered her to her teenage tribal rendezvous.
By the time I got to the pub, husband and friend had devoured so many crisps that they weren’t hungry, and friend was then summonsed by his own teenage socialite who was ready for taxi service. I was driving, so wasn’t much in the mood for hanging around in the pub for a few rounds of soft drinks, hoping that hunger would strike my loved one. So I decided to enjoy a quick pint and a bowl of nuts, before dragging husband back home. But I was left with the problem of what to feed us.
Fortunately, I had been shopping earlier so I had plenty of food in the fridge, although most of it was designated for meals planned over the next few days. However, I am blessed with a well stocked store cupboard (I am after all a very greedy hedonist) and as I always over cater, just in case an extra mouth turns up at the table as so often seems to happen in our house, it was easy to pilfer a little bit here and there from the fresh supplies. I was not, it must be said, over-endowed with a desire to cook up a storm or to spend a great deal of time in the kitchen.
Time for, what I like to call, ‘whatever you’ve got stir-fry’: versatile, very quick and really yummy. Plus, it’s a whole lot better for me than the pie into which the chap at the table next to us was tucking in the pub, and which was sending out an irresistible message to my pie loving alter-ego. We tend not to have much meat kicking around the joint, courtesy of the veggie teenagers, so I used a store cupboard staple of cashews as the protein element of the meal, but this recipe works just as well with chicken, pork or prawns. I used fresh carrots, sugar snap peas and red pepper and a tin of sliced water chestnuts as my veggie mix, but you could use just about any vegetables that you have to hand and, if those include beansprouts, all the better.
You will need fresh spring onions, ginger and garlic, which I always have to hand as much of what I cook has an Asian influence, probably because spices are a fantastic taste replacement for fat and sugar. You will also need soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil and chilli flakes: ditto the fresh ingredients but with the advantage that, once bought, they last for ages.
Otherwise, this dish couldn’t be easier to prepare; quicker to cook or nicer to eat on a Friday evening, at the end of a long and frenetic half term, curled up on the sofa with a nice glass of chilled wine. Or, for that matter. any other really busy day when you need to feed people quickly, from seemingly nothing. You might have to practice the art of turning water into wine.