To many people in their mid-20s, making stir-fry is not an art; it is a chore. While some people enjoy making food, others see it as a time-consuming daily ritual. Thus far I have opted for the path of least resistance: I make whatever requires the minimum effort. I have resolved a number of times to start cooking properly, only to be discouraged by hand-wavy recipes , long ingredient lists, or cooking failures. But, last Tuesday, I decided that it was time for a change. And a radical one. I was going to make stir-fry for the first time.
I can’t really explain what brought on this sudden urge. Perhaps it was some residue inspiration from a friend. But a friend and I had been putting off seeing each other for a bit now and I decided to invite my friend over and that I would cook for us. Once the invitation had been accepted, there was no turning back. So I had a look in my Beginner’s Cookbook and inquired with Google (most what the vegetable names actually referred to—true story). I found the general gist of stir-frying and felt confident enough to try my own recipe (that is what stir-fry is all about, after all). So I went to the store to get all the ingredients, then I came back to start prepping.
First an observation from my shopping trip: making food for yourself isn’t economical, unless it is in bulk. Not only did I find the veggies more expensive than I would have thought, but you also can’t buy just one carrot from the supermarket: it needs to be a bunch. So keep that in mind: either stock yourself for the week when you cook, or, even better, turn it into a social event.
Ok, here are the ingredients I used:
- 300g of beef strips
- 1/2 onion
- 1 red pepper
- 1 clove of garlic
- 2 carrots
- 3 spring onions
- Some mangetouts
- Tomato paste
- Soya sauce
- Freshly ground salt and pepper
I would have liked to have added some zucchinis and/or mushrooms, but then this would have become a very expensive exercise.
Back home, I “marinaded” the beef with the tomato paste and some soya sauce. (I apologise for being hand-wavy, but I really didn’t measure any of this.) Some red wine or sherry should have been used also, but I skipped that this time. I left the meat to marinade for about an hour.
Meanwhile I washed the veggies and peeled the onion and garlic. I then chopped the onion, spring onions and red pepper. I like my onion and spring onions nice and fine, but it is nice to cut the pepper and carrots into long strips. I do not have a pestle and mortar to crush the garlic cloves, but my friend showed me a technique to finely chop the garlic… one which I can’t remember now. But whatever you do, do not try to crush your garlic with a hammer… that was part of one of my previous cooking failures. Anyway, in the end we only used about half of a clove. Use to taste.
Now, following recipe convention, I shall switch over to the present tense.
Put some oil (I used sunflower, because I am still young and healthy) into a wok—enough to cover the bottom—and heat the wok to a high temperature. When the wok starts getting really hot, put in the beef and spread it out over the bottom of the wok. Leave it for a couple of minutes, keeping an eye on it that it doesn’t burn. When the bottom of the beef strips starts to look nice and brown, flip the meat over and do the other side. When you are finished, but it in a bowl. Keep the bowl warm somehow: you can cover the bowl with some tinfoil or use some other insulation. Meanwhile, without letting the wok cool down, start with the veggies (if the oil looks really little, put in a tad more). Put in the carrots, onion, spring onions, red pepper and garlic, but only add the mangetouts at the last minute. Stir the veggies until they look cooked, but make sure they still have some crunchiness left. When this is done, make sure you have your plates ready, because the food is hot and ready, so dish up and enjoy! Season to taste and enjoy! (My flatmate swears by rosemary when it comes to stir-fry, but I forgot to try it out this time.)
I am glad to report that it was really delicious, and my guest (who also helped me out in the kitchen) also agreed. I didn’t think to take a picture, but there would not have been time anyway, as we polished off the food rather quickly.
So, what is the moral of the story? It is this: if I can do it, so can you!