When it comes to making a stir fry, I am usually pretty conservative. A former roommate of mine from England (the same corner as the Critic in fact) used to make the best ones I've ever tasted. She never used a recipe or measured anything. She just had (and still has, presumably, though I've not been invited to dinner recently) a perfect instinct for the balance of flavours. Eight years after we split up our happy bachelorette home, I'm getting close to reproducing what she did by sheer talent alone. But it's rare that I'll stray from the familiar tried and true combinations: onions or leeks, carrots, snap peas or peas, savoy cabbage, beef or pork, a red pepper.
Tonight I decided to go wild and try something completely different: shrimp. Or as she and the Critic would say, prawns. The photo of the finished product did not turn out very well I'm afraid. But the earlier photo does give you a sense of the vibrant colours that shone out from our plates tonight - orange carrots and red pepper, flecked with white ginger and garlic. They were joined by plump pink shrimp and then the finishing touch of the colour palette was added with deep green spinach. A beauty to behold and extremely tasty on a cold November night.
And, strangely for this cook, relatively healthy!
Spicy Shrimp Stir Fry (for two greedy adults and one fat cat)
450 grams cooked shrimp
3-400 grams fresh spinach (one large handful)
10-12 mushrooms, sliced finely
1/2 red pepper (bell) sliced in fine sticks
2-3 cayenne or espelette peppers, sliced in thin rounds
juice of half a lemon
2 Tbs ginger, minced
1 fat clove of garlic, minced
1-2 Tbs sesame oil
2 Tbs sunflower oil
2 tsp frozen or fresh basil
soy sauce to taste (about 1/3 cup altogether)
3/4 cup rice
Peel the shrimp and place them in a bowl. Toss a couple down to the desperate kitty at your feet if you have one. (If you are the type, you can also reserve the heads and shells and boil them in water for a nice fish stock. After an hour or so, strain the liquor and freeze it for a later fishy soup day. Make sure to label it or you'll never use it as I know from experience!) Put the peeled shrimp in a bowl and cover with lemon juice, a teaspoon of the ginger, half the garlic clove, half the sliced peppers and a glug of soy sauce.
Start some water boiling for the rice in a decent sized pot.
Peel and thinly slice the carrots and mushrooms. Put the oil in a wok or frying pan and turn up the heat. When it is hot enough that you are uncomfortable holding your hand a few inches above the pan, toss in the carrots. Add the remaining ginger and garlic and hot pepper rounds. Toss to heat evenly. Wash the spinach quickly and set it to drain. Toss the vegetables, and add the red pepper. Put the rice in the now boiling water. Continue tossing until the vegetables are nearly done. Add the shrimp with the marinade. Then add the mushrooms and toss for a few moments. Last, toss the spinach on top of the other vegetables and cover. Turn down the heat and allow the spinach to wilt.
Check the rice. If it is done, drain it. If not, turn off the flame under the vegetables until it is done. Drain the rice and toss it in the pot with the vegetables. Add the basil and one last squeeze from that lemon half. Add soy sauce to taste, but go easy on it as you can always add more at the table if need be.
From start to finish and including the peeling of the shrimp, it shouldn't take much more than half an hour. And it will be hot and full of flavour and full of vitamins to combat all the colds going around. Garlic and ginger are also reputed to have germ-killing qualities so that helps too!