I find it rather comical that I often look to non-Asian chefs for inspiration on Asian dishes. Take Bill Granger, for example. Most of his savoury recipes are Asian-influenced and, whilst they may not correspond exactly to what is served in Chinatown, they always taste fabulous. In fact, he has a way of scaling down and simplifying recipes so that the dish still reminds you of the traditional version, but it employs the trademark Aussie casualness which is often in stark contrast to the hectic energy in most Asian kitchens.
Rachel Allen is the same. I don’t think she has spent extensive periods in Asia like Bill Granger has, but her Asian-inspired recipes are the sort of dishes which I like to eat at home. This is one thing which I love about globalisation, the blurring of borders – it is totally acceptable to take the coriander, ginger and chillies from the Thai palate and apply them to a chicken for your Sunday roast. A meal which takes the best of both worlds can only be wonderful.
Rachel Allen’s new book, Easy Meals, was recently released, causing a few raised eyebrows in the foodie circle. I thought the rate at which Jamie Oliver churned out new books was alarming, but it seems Rachel Allen and others also have a talent for conjuring up recipes on a whim. Still, an opportunity presented itself to me to add to my bulging cookbook collection, and I promptly ordered Rachel Allen’s new book online.
If it weren’t for the favourable exchange rate at the moment, I would have hesitated about purchasing a book which was aimed at the beginner cook. Not that I consider myself to be on par with a Top Chef contestant, but I am a bit beyond the “add a packet cake mix” sort of recipe. And besides, I always thought Rachel Allen’s books were aimed at cooks who already wanted an easy life in the kitchen, so I couldn’t imagine how much easier her recipes could be.
But Rachel Allen’s new book is not necessarily about how to cut corners. It instead focuses on how to cook easy, non-fussy meals which are perfect for during the working week when time is sparse.
This recipe from Easy Meals is, as the name suggests, an easy meal. In fact, it is so easy that I’m wondering how I didn’t come up with a dish like this myself sooner! The ingredients include those which I would normally have in the fridge or pantry, and the great potential I saw in this recipe was that it would be a great way to use up any leftover cooked noodles.
Maybe it is just me who has this dilemma but we eat a lot of noodles at home and, because my eye is often bigger than my stomach, I always cook more noodles than we need for a meal (the same applies to pasta). I know there are implements that you can buy to measure how many noodles you need per person, but even if I had one of those, I know I will always throw an extra handful (or packet) in the pot, just in case. You know, just in case 400 g of noodles per person turned out not to be an over-estimation.
I used thick vermicelli noodles in this dish which requires more time to cook and soften than the usual thin noodles. Interestingly, I found that these noodles, together with the coconut milk, vaguely reminded me of a Vietnamese dish called Bánh Tằm Bì but which is served cold.
The recipe is fairly flexible in that you can add whatever vegetables you like – I used carrots, baby corn and snap peas because that’s what I had in the fridge. And, of course, you can add chillies to the stir-fry for extra kick, or served on the side if others do not share your palate for hot food.
Overall, I thought this was a great dish and made it again the following night, a sign of a successful recipe in my home.