Finally the relentless heat of the last several weeks is easing up a little and thinking about some serious grub doesn’t make me raise an eyebrow at my own sanity anymore~! Of course, it’s still summery warm outside, so going wild with pots, pans and my stove for any extended period of time is still out of the question and anything ending up on our plates absolutely needs a zingy, refreshing component to count as “edible”.
Perfect opportunity to pull my wok out of retirement for one of our speedy all-season favorites! This dish works deliciously well during summer, refreshing and satisfying without much of an effort – and with a couple of seasonal tweaks in the veggie department, presents a yumtastic reminder of sun, warmth and long evenings when a particularly nasty winter day makes you itch for the chance to hit a giant fast-forward button on the wheels of time.
The Bean & Plum Salad
1 small Cucumber, peeled
4 Yellow Plums, pitted and sliced into 6-8 segments each
Wintery Alt: 2 large, ripe Persimmon, peeled, cored and diced into ~1cm cubes
150g String Beans – check for stray threads and remove them, but keep the pods intact
Wintery Alt: 150g Sugar Snap Peas
½ Red Bell Pepper, cored and finely diced
½ Bunch of Coriander, leaves picked and finely chopped
½ Bunch of Mint, leaves picked and finely chopped
2 Tbsp Sesame Seeds, lightly toasted
1 Tsp Hot Chilli Flakes or 1 fresh Bird’s Eye, very finely chopped
1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp Mirin
2 Tbsp Rice Vinegar
1 Tbsp Light Soy Sauce
2 Limes, Juice of both and Zest of 1
1 Tsp Fish Sauce
1) Bring a pot, large enough to accommodate your beans, of lightly salted water to a gentle simmer.
2) Once the water is merrily bubbling away, add the beans and blanch them for 2-3 mins – the exact duration of the hot bath depends on the size of the beans – you’ll have to go by bite-trial-and-error to avoid under- or overcooking them in case you’re not all that familiar with this type of beans. The same goes for the sugar snaps – they take even less time to blanch though, about 1-2 mins should do the trick.
3) While the pot is doing it’s thing, prep a large bowl of icy cold water and add a couple of ice cubes for good measure while you’re at it.
4) Once you’re satisfied with the consistency of the beans, move them out of the hot, into the cold water to bring the cooking process to a screeching halt – not only will the ice water keep them from turning wobbly, it will also help them retain their vivid green color and their crunch.
5) While the beans are cooling down, pick up a large mixing bowl and add the sesame seeds, oil, chilli flakes, mirin, vinegar, soy sauce, lime juice and zest, as well as the fish sauce.
6) Whisk the lot until everything is well combined, then add the bell pepper cubes and plum segments.
7) Pick up your beans, shake off any excess water and slice them, pods and all, into bite-sized pieces before adding them to the mixing bowl as well.
8) Slice the cucumber into thin ribbons with veggie peeler – once you reach the seedy, watery core of the cucumber, loose the core, add the ribbons to the growing pile of yum in your bowl and gently fold them into the mix along with the herbs.
9) Cover the bowl with clingfilm, pop it into the fridge and move on to the second half of the dish~
The Spicy Beef & Mushroom Stirfry
400g Rumpsteak, thinly sliced into comfortably chopstickable ribbons
100g King Oyster Mushrooms, thinly sliced
100g Enoki Mushrooms – they usually come in grown-together bundles and they love to hide soil in between their delicate stems, so pay them some extra attention when separating and cleaning them~
50g Shiitake Mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 small Brown Onion
1 Tsp freshly grated Ginger
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
2 Tsp Togarashi Pepper Blend
5 leafy Sprigs of Thai Basil, thinly sliced
1 Clove of Garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp Oyster Sauce
1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Sesame Oil
5 Tbsp Plum Wine
5 Tbsp Beef Stock
1 Tbsp Sesame Seeds
1 Pinch of Salt
1) Add the cornstarch, a generous pinch of salt and the togarashi pepper blend to a small bowl and stir them until they’re well combined.
2) Spread the beef ribbons out on a plate and dust them with the spiced starch – make sure the slices are evenly dusted on all sides. Lightly tap on the spice coat with your fingers to keep the future crisp from escaping.
3) Fire up a heavy-based pan or wok on high heat.
4) Once the pan has reached its maximum temperature, pour in the sesame oil and have it joined by the beef strips a couple of seconds later.
5) Sear the ribbons, while stirring from time to time, until they’re crispy. Depending on how thinly you’ve sliced the steak, it will take around 2-3 mins for a nice and even crisp to settle in around the pieces.
6) As always, in case your pan or wok isn’t large enough to comfortably hold whatever is going in in one layer, work in batches to keep it from loosing too much heat – you really don’t want anything dipped in starch to sweat and boil, rather than be seared in the blink of an eye.
7) Move the meat out of the pan, onto paper towels once it’s done and set it aside in a warm spot of your kitchen while you finish up the rest.
8) Turn the heat down to medium, add the onion to the liquids in your pan – if there are none, add another spoonful of sesame oil – and sauté the cubes for 5 mins until they start to soften and turn translucent.
9) Meanwhile, add the plum wine, beef stock, soy sauce, oyster sauce and the garlic to a small bowl and stir to combine the lot.
10) Deglaze the pan with this mixture once the onion looks about ready and whirl up all the yummy roasting-leftovers sticking to the bottom of the pan with a rubber spatula.
11) Pop the king oyster and shiitake mushrooms into the pan along with the sesame seeds, give the lot a hearty flip to coat everything with the sauce, turn the heat down one more notch to medium-low and leave the contents of your pan to simmer away for another 5 mins.
12) Have a taste and, if the mushrooms are cooked to your liking, adjust the seasoning if necessary. Keep the zingy salad dressing in mind, in case you’re tempted to think about adding something citrusy at this point.
13) Add the beef strips, the enoki mushrooms and the thai basil leaves, flip the lot once more to distribute the leaves and crispy beef bits, and immediately divide the stir-fry onto two plates.
14) Don’t forget the salad sitting in your fridge~! Plate that up as well, lean back and dig in~!