In keeping with our Spring theme we are offering a dish that represents new beginnings with the opportunity of clearing the palate from its winter wrappings of stews and sustaining soups. Now is the time to turn the variety of beans you used to fuel you and your family during the cold of Winter months into sprouts. It is also the time when you seek out the newest vegetables – spring onions, baby leeks, baby carrots, baby broccoli, new green beans, baby spinach, new peas in the pod, green and red peppers, cucumbers and a variety of lettuces or whatever other plants are still young and tender. For those of you who are into fresh herbs, the new growth on the tips of the rosemary bush make an excellent addition, while wild sorrel is currently growing in abundance and can be picked in any open field – nevertheless use this herb sparingly as it has a strong taste and make sure you wash it well before adding to the dish.
Using whatever whole beans take your fancy, rinse them in cold water and soak in individual bowls for at least 12 hours. Rinse thoroughly and place each variety of beans in a separate glass jar. Place a piece of muslin cloth over the top of the jar and secure with an elastic band. Put in a dark cupboard. Each day take out your jars, remove the “lids” and rinse the sprouts by running cold water through the jars. Allow to drip-dry so that no water remains but sprouts are still moist. Replace your “lids”. Do this regularly until your sprouts have grown to the size you want.
The art of stir-fry in my opinion is in the preparation of your vegetables and the sequence that your ingredients are used. Use your creativity to chop and slice your vegetables into different shapes and sizes. This not only enhances the look of the final product but also the taste experience – carrots that are cut into large chunks taste different from carrots shaped into matchsticks. The reason for adding your vegetables in a specific sequence is that some need longer to cook like carrots while others such as baby spinach can be eaten raw or softened by adding them at the very last minute before serving. Make sure that every ingredient that you are about to use is in a separate bowl and lined up in the sequence you wish to use before you begin cooking.
If you have a wok – great, but a large heavy bottomed frying pan can also do the job. Heat a small amount of oil in the wok/pan. Timing of each vegetable is where the fun and the challenge lie. No vegetable is completely cooked to your specification of crunchiness or tenderness before the next is added. You add the next vegetable before you reach the maximum cooking time of the one before. Add your vegetable in the sequence that follows the premise that the longest cooking vegetable is the first to be cooked.
If stir-frying is a new experience for you and you have no idea how to combine the cooking times then you can learn by first doing one lot, removing from the wok/pan onto a paper towel when you have reached your preferred cooking state and then adding the next vegetable. Yes, this is time consuming but it will teach you how much time each vegetable needs to cook. Of course those of you who are adept at using a wok know that the wok itself has different areas of temperature, so you can slid your spring onions and baby leeks up on the cooler side while your baby carrots are placed in the hottest part of the dish.
My favourite sauce consists of soy sauce, lemon juice, chopped garlic and chopped fresh ginger. I prepare this and let it stand for a while before adding to the stir-fry just before serving.
My personal preference when translating a stir-fry dish that has a Spring theme is to cook some of the vegetables and leave some raw. I also like to add a few chopped chillies at the beginning of the frying because it gives the dish a zing and chillies are also antioxidants, so they help to clear the system. I prefer not to fry garlic or ginger as I use these two ingredients in a sauce that gets mixed into my stir-fry just before serving. I also prefer to add my bean sprouts at the end so they are raw.
Serve on a bed of brown rice that has been cooked separately rather than adding the brown rice to the stir fry. It makes the dish cleaner for the palate because the rice is not coated in oil. The idea being that this dish is meant to clear the system and wake it up.