This is the basis for most of my curries and stir-fries. The principle is the same regardless of what I’m making. Only the basic ingredients remain the same, and although I vary what I’m putting into the dish the basic method is still there.
- core meat or veg
- peppers (capsicum)
I don’t keep track of quantities when I’m doing this, I make it to taste and I make it proportionate to the number of people I’m serving. Don’t worry if you make too much, just put it in a sealed container in the fridge or freezer after it’s cooled.
Please remember – do not reheat any dishes that contain rice if you’ve left it standing for too long. If rice is involved cool it quickly and get it in the fridge as soon as possible. I generally take whatever is left out of the wok (if any) and put it to one side to cool without mixing it with anything else and make fresh rice or noodles to go with it when I need to use it. Alternatively grab a couple of slices of bread and make a sandwich out of it instead (especially good with curries).
Ok, here’s what you need to do …..
Decide what you’re making, whether it’s a curry or a stir-fry and get all of the ingredients together. I prefer to cut my ingredients so that they’re a little chunky as they’ll lose some of their volume in cooking. If you make your meats too chunky though it’ll take longer for the heat to cook through the meat so thin strips or inch sized cubes are better than whole steaks. I also think it looks more visually appealing with chunky chopped veg as you can see what you’re getting and I think it cooks better like that in the wok.
- Spices – for whatever you are cooking including things like soy sauce, curry spices, chilli, etc
- Meat or Veg – the core of the dish, whether it is strips of chicken or beef, mince beef, quorn, vegetable mix such as courgette, baby corn, cauliflower, potato, aubergine, etc
- Onions – sliced
- Closed Cup Mushrooms – skinned and sliced/quartered
- Mix of peppers (capsicum) – I’m currently using a mix of sweet red peppers and green or red bell peppers. It’s best to ask what people like first, some people say they prefer the red to the green which I find rather odd. Additionally I like to use them to add colour to the dish to contrast with other ingredients, e.g. red and orange peppers with chicken, green and yellow peppers with strips of beef steak.
- Prepare your ingredients first, you’re going to be working fast with a hot wok.
- Get the oil in the wok really hot over a high heat – this is where I think cooking with Gas is better than electric. I prefer using Sesame Oil or Walnut Oil as they can cook at high temperatures and add a little extra flavour to the dish. If I’m doing a curry I’ll use Ghee, which unfortunately I have to go hunting around the shops for.
- Start the water on to boil for rice or noodles
- Once the wok is up to temperature I add the onions
- as soon as the onions start to go translucent start adding in any of the core flavours for the dish (chilli, curry paste or spice mix, ginger, five spice, etc) and fry those off with the onions for a minute to release the flavours into the oil
- I then add the core of the dish (meat/veg) to seal it, make sure you coat the ingredients with the onion and spices
- Once the meat is sealed add the mushrooms and peppers and mix in with the other ingredients and fry off until you start to see your meat or veg starting to brown.
- By this time your water should be boiling. We use basmati rice or medium egg noodles depending on what we’re making so get them in the pan with the water and set your timer
- At the same time I add any sauce required for the dish. Whether this is topping up with tomatoes and water for a curry or black bean/Schezuan sauce for a stir fry. You can top up your sauce in the wok or leave as is, it all depends on what it is you want to get out of it. If you top it up remember that it needs to reduce in the time required to boil your rice or noodles. For curries I sometimes use a can of chopped tomatoes instead of water as there’s always lots of juice in the tin but fresh tomatoes taste better if you’ve got them.
- By the time your rice and noodles are cooked the sauce should have reduced in your wok and everything should be cooked nicely.
- If you’ve done rice serve it separately, but for noodles I always throw them in the wok for about half a minute or two to soak up the juices. I think it makes it just that little bit more tastier.
- If you’ve done a curry, do a heat test. If you find it’s too hot try stirring in a little natural yoghurt into the sauce to soften the heat of the chilli and spices.
- If you’re doing anything with chilli’s ensure you wash your hands, knife and board after de-seeding and cutting them. If the oil gets in your eye via you’re fingers it hurts, a lot!
- If you cook anything with hot spices like chilli’s in, then the longer you cook them the hotter it will get.
- Season your wok before using for the first time and brush it with oil and cleaning with water once used to help maintain its condition.
That covers all of the basic methodology I use when creating a curry or a stir-fry. For instance, have a look at my Beef in Black Bean Sauce recipe