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Spicy Tomato Pasta with Homegrown Chillies 22 July 2006

Posted by cath in easy, freeze-friendly, mildly spicy, Recipes, summer, variations, very spicy.
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I’ve been growing chillies in the hottest, sunniest window of the house. Yesterday was finally time to try the first fruits.

I’ve got a mixture of red, purpley and still green chillies on the plant, so we tasted a bright red and a green one.


chillies fresh from the plant

homegrown chillies


An easy dinner, variation on the basic tomato sauce: Spicy Tomato sauce, this one has chorizo, chillies, basil and a ewes milk Parmesan style cheese:

Close up of finished dish

spaghetti with spicy tomato and chorizo sauce


First make your basic tomato sauce with 5 or 6 tomatoes per person.

Once the tomato sauce has cooked for an hour, put on the spaghetti in a large pot with plenty of boiling water.

Use about 2 chillies per person, or to taste. Two of my fresh homegrown chillies were sampled – very hot and fiery with a lovely fresh taste and amazing smell, 4 of these in 2 portions gave a pretty spicy dish). The red chili was hot but mellow and slightly sweet, the green chili was slightly hotter and fresher, more zingy in flavour.

You’ll also need a handful of basil, some grated Parmesan-style cheese, pepper and extra virgin olive oil. I’ve also used some chorizo, but this is optional.


  1. Finely chop the chillies – seeds and all if you want it properly spicy, add it to the sauce on the heat and continue to cook until the pasta is cooked
  2. Roughly chop the chorizo, if using
  3. One the pasta is cooked, drain it and return to the pan with some olive oil, swirl together
  4. Turn off the heat from the sauce, add chorizo, basil and stir through
  5. Serve the pasta, top with sauce and a sprinkling of cheese and a grind of pepper

Spicy Tomato Pasta

The finished dish


Tomato and Basil Sauce for Pasta 5 July 2006

Posted by cath in easy, freeze-friendly, Recipes, variations, vegetables.
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Tomato Sauce, perhaps the most wonderful thing you can do in the kitchen! Tomatoes are in season right now, so go and buy some and try this!

Pasta and Sauce

Tomato and Sausage sauce with Pasta

garnished with Basil leaves and grated cheese


How to make a basic tomato sauce:

Step 1, buy some good quality tomatoes – preferably from a local source, not the supermarket – honestly they will taste much better. I recommend J & M Craig, Carluke, available from the Castle Terrace Farmers Market in Edinburgh.

Step 2, roughly chop the most ripe tomatoes, skin, seeds and all. For 2-3 people you’ll need about 500g – scale the recipe up or down as required, it keeps well in the fridge or freezer.

Step 3, roughly chop 1 large or 2 small onions and a few cloves of garlic.



  1. Heat some olive oil in a pan.
  2. Add the onions and sweat down on a medium heat until translucent.
  3. Then add the garlic and cook for about a minute.
  4. Now add the tomatoes, stir and cook for a minute or two until they start to soften.
  5. Once the tomatoes are hot, turn down the heat and half-cover the pan.
  6. With the heat on very low, stirring occasionally, cook for about an hour (minimum) until the sauce has thickened and sweetened. Turn off the heat.
  7. Now add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Finally, throw in some chopped fresh herbs, basil or parsley are excellent.
  9. Serve with pasta and top with some grated cheese (Parmesan style)


Final adjustments:

If the sauce is too runny, try boiling it down without a lid until you get the desired consistency.

If the sauce is quite thick, add a few spoons of the water you use to cook the pasta in, again, keep going until you get the consistency you want.

Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil into the sauce at the end for a slightly richer flavour.

If you’re fussy about tomato skin and pips, you can use a sieve or press the finished sauce to remove them, but I think the chunky texture works well and saves loads of time!



As well as the classic tomato and basil, you can combine many different things into this sauce. It also works as a base for bolognese, chilli con carne or anything that needs a bit of tomato sauce.

Add a bit of fried pancetta, cooked sausages, sliced chorizo or salami or anything meaty for a quick meaty pasta sauce (see picture above).

Add mushrooms (fried or cooked in the sauce), spinach, other vegetables, more herbs – rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram for veggie pasta sauces.

Add chillies – I hope soon to be adding my homegrown chillies to the sauce for a bit of a kick…, olives, capers, anchovies…the list is endless.

Try your favourite ingredients…use something different every time. Dinner never got so easy!



Get some really good quality dry pasta – macaroni, penne, spaghetti, spaghettini, linguine, whatever you like. The best pasta is rough on the outside, rather than smooth (which is a quality of mass production).

Following recipes and other controversial topics! 5 July 2006

Posted by cath in general info, help, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, Recipes, thai curry, Thai food, thai salad, thai soups, variations.

One thing you all should know about cooking is that it’s all about personal taste. As the cook, you get to decide what ingredients to use and what your meal should taste like. For me, recipes are just guides, offering ideas and techniques, which are then adapted to what I have, what I like, who is coming round for the meal etc.

Variety is important. Everyone can have their own special way of making things, and there is nothing wrong with that. But if you’re new to cooking, you may find it hard to deviate from recipes, so here are some tips on what to think about when reading a recipe.

There has been some controversy about my Laab recipe so lets start with some thoughts about Thai salads and other Thai food…

A recent post included another recipe for Laab. The two recipes are very similar – a couple of different ingredients, including sugar in the alternate recipe, and slightly different cooking techniques.

Cooking can be a controversial topic, and you’ll find many different ingredient lists and techniques for basically the same dish – Thai food is no different. Depending what ingredients you can find, you may have to adapt and look for substitutions. Also consider where you are, what your personal tastes are, and what about your guests? My Thai cookery teacher always asked what a dish needed when we tasted it…his response was always “more chilli!” so my recipes are pretty spicy reflecting this. Having tried both spicy and less spicy (when entertaining guests) I think it’s always worth adding a little more chilli than you think, the heat really works with Thai food.

Here are some other things to think about:

I don’t like adding extra sugar when it’s not required, so I would generally only add sugar to sweet and sour and possibly shop-bought panang paste. Its all about personal taste, but here in the UK we rarely need extra salt or sugar – this is not a tropical climate! So think about who’s going to be eating your meal, and where, before chucking in any sugar…

When you’re learning to cook it’s good if you taste your food before and after adding extra ingredients. Thai food has four main layers of flavour: salt, sugar, sour and spicy. If you taste before adding fish sauce or lime juice to a dish you can see what a difference these ingredients make. In my laab recipe, mint provides sweetness, with fish sauce, chillies and lime providing their usual salt, spice and sourness. If you like extra sour, add more lime juice at the end, as discussed elsewhere, cooking lime juice reduces it’s sourness. Taste and adjust until it’s what you like, or what you think your guests will enjoy.

Kaffir lime leaves are a common enough ingredient in salad, but I am not a big fan – I prefer fresh herbs such as mint and coriander as they are more widely available locally (in the UK). Lime leaves keep well in the freezer and are a good ingredient to have on hand frozen to add to soups and curries for an extra lemony flavour. But frozen leaves don’t work quite so well chopped up in salads. If you want to try lime leaves in salads look out for fresh lime leaves and use them promptly.

Now for the most controversial topic – do we marinate the meat (albeit for just a few minutes) before cooking, or after! My recipe recommends adding flavour including lime juice to the mince before cooking, then cooking it all up. This is the recipe I was taught, but more interestingly, it is a technique I watched many times on stalls and in restaurants. Some Thai (and other regional) dishes are actually not cooked: prawns and other meats are sometimes ‘cooked’ by just marinating in lime juice – the acid in the juice ‘cooks’ the meat or fish so it’s technically no longer raw. In the case of Laab, this was always the first step, you will see the meat take on a less raw appearance as its sits in the lime juice while you prepare the rest of the dish. Cooking in this case just heats up the salad, properly cooking it where appropriate, Thai meat salads are usually served warm. Adding the hot meat to the herbs in the serving dish really brings out their aroma. Remember if you cook the meat for long, the lime juice sourness will dissipate so add some more at the end.

So: cook, taste, add the next flavour, taste again…this is the best way to learn and adapt to your palette and to understand the effect of making substitutions.

Vegetables > Steam-fried Cabbage 8 June 2006

Posted by cath in Recipes, stir-fry, variations, vegetables.

stir-fry cabbage

Cabbage steam-fried with herbs and balsamic vinegar

I often find it difficult to find interesting recipes for vegetables. Cabbage is always a hard one. It’s often best simply steamed or wilted, but some more substantial cabbage varieties, particularly red cabbage and dark green cabbages, are really good stir-fried with steam, what I call: steam-fried. Steam frying can be done simply by shredding cabbage, followed by a quick stir-fry in a tablespoon of oil, then the addition of up to a glass of water, usually in one or two splashes.

This method is quick and easy, depending only on how much cooking the cabbage needs. Once you’ve added the water to the hot stir-fry, put the lid on for 5-10 minutes with the heat turned down to medium. The steam wilts the cabbage, the oil or butter gives it a glaze. Test a bit to see if it’s done. If not, add some extra water as required and put the lid back on for a few minutes more.

To make cabbage a bit more interesting, you can add herbs to the steam-fry. In this recipe I’ve used thyme, lemon thyme and chives along with a wee sliver of garlic in the oil. I’ve also finished the glaze with a splash of balsamic vinegar, which gives a slightly sweet edge and I think works nicely with cabbage. I also slipped in some nutty walnut oil – just a splash as I like that flavour in cabbage too.




1 cabbage

freshly cut herbs, i.e. thyme, rosemary

1 clove garlic

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 glass cold water

1 tablespoon olive oil

small lump of butter

(optional, some walnut oil)

Some chives (chopped) and lemon thyme (removed from stalk) to sprinkle on top

Salt and pepper




  1. Shred the cabbage into strips, not too fine, removing any tough stalks (you can also cook the stalks in the same way – I love eating them, but others are not so keen!)
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a wok or large-based pan (make sure you have a lid)
  3. Add sliced garlic to the hot oil and quickly swish round the pan. Add any thicker herbs (rosemary, thyme) to flavour the oil a bit.
  4. Now add the shredded cabbage and stir-fry for 2 minutes, coating the cabbage with oil. Season with a little sea salt.
  5. Now add some water, making sure it starts to bubble. Half a glass is usually sufficient at this point. Put the lid on, lower the heat slightly, and cook for 5-10 minutes, shaking occasionally. The longer you cook the cabbage, the more likely you will need to add some extra water. Take the lid off and check inside for steam, add water and stir again if necessary, then replace the lid.
  6. Once the cabbage has wilted, remove the lid, make sure that you dry the cabbage by steaming off any excess liquid in the pan. To give the cabbage it’s final glaze, add the balsamic vinegar and stir through.
  7. Turn off the heat.
  8. Sprinkle the top with the extra herbs, some freshly milled black pepper and stir to combine.

A great accompaniment to many meals, Vegetarian-friendly. Try it with cauliflower and macaroni cheese…recipe coming soon…


Walnuts added to cabbage make a great combination, similarly with brussel sprouts.

You can add any herbs you like to this dish. Meaty cabbage: Try steam-frying the shredded cabbage by first rendering the fat from some bacon or pancetta. Remove the fried bacon and any excess oil. Add the cabbage to the bacon fat in the pan, stir-fry and then add the liquid and steam for 5-10 minutes (less for sliced brussel sprouts) and then take the lid off and steam off the excess liquid. Now stir-fry some chopped walnuts into the cabbage and add the chopped crispy bacon back to the dish. I love making this with brussel sprouts and people certainly seem to enjoy it.

Basic Recipes > Bread 16 May 2006

Posted by cath in bread, freeze-friendly, Recipes, variations.

Basic Bread Recipe

I tend to make small loaves that fit well into my 2lb bread tin from Lakeland. The quantity is roughly 400g flour plus the other ingredients.


1/2 tsp easy bake yeast

400g strong flour (a particular type for breadmaking)

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp salt

15g butter or 1-2 tbsp oil

water at room temperature: 280mls for 100% white, up to 300mls for 100% wholemeal loaves

Optional ingredients
1 tbsp milk powder

1-4 tbsp wheatgerm (best when using white bread flours)

Seeded or Nutty Breads

up to 5 tbsp mixed seeds, such as sunflower, linseed, pumpkin, sesame, poppy

1-2 tsp cumin, caraway, fennel or other strong flavoured seeds

up to 50g walnuts, finely chopped

Other Variations

You can also add dried or fresh herbs, curry powder or pastes, fried onions, sundried tomatoes. Try your favourite ingredient in bread and share your experiments with us here.

Prepare the Dough

Mix and knead the dough – how to do this and other tips

Lightly oil the bread tin all over, place the prooved and knocked back dough into the tin and leave to rise into a full loaf.

To Bake

I recommend a fan oven temperature of 210 deg C, that's about 230 degrees in a conventional oven. Also as you heat up the oven, put a tray of water in the bottom, this produces a better crust, less blackened by the heat.

Cook your bread loaf for 25-35 minutes until browned and crusty on top. It should come cleanly out of the bread tin and sound hollow on the base when tapped.

Loaf of Bread

Thai Recipes > Soups > Tom Yum 7 May 2006

Posted by cath in freeze-friendly, Recipes, Thai food, thai soups, variations, very spicy.

SpicyTom Yum Gungfreeze-friendly
(Hot and Sour Soup with Prawns)

Serves 4 as a lunch with steamed rice, or as a dish in a main meal

300g whole, large prawns – uncooked, unpeeled
750mls water
2 stalks lemongrass – lower 1/3 only, cut into 3cm/1inch pieces
5 kaffir lime leaves – torn into pieces, discarding stem
3 purple shallots – sliced
3 cloves garlic – crushed
2 tomatoes – cut into 8 segments each
5 thin slices of galangal (ginza) – skin removed
300g small-medium sized mushrooms – cut in half or quarters into small chunks
20 green birds-eye chillies – cut in half lengthways
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
A handful of chopped fresh coriander


  1. First, prepare the prawns. Wash, peel and de-vein the prawns, keeping the shells and heads.
  2. Put the shells and heads into a pan with the water and bring to the boil, then simmer for about 10-15 minutes, you should notice a smear of oil floating on top. Strain the stock, squeezing out the flavour from the prawn peelings.
  3. Return the stock to the pan and bring back to the boil.
  4. Bruise the lemongrass in a pestle and mortar, then add to the stock with the kaffir lime leaves and mushrooms.
  5. Add the shallots, garlic, tomatoes and galangal and bring to the boil again.
  6. Add the chillies to the stock with the fish sauce.
  7. Cook the stock gently for 2 minutes, then add the prawns. Bring back to the boil and simmer until they have just changed colour.
  8. Turn off the heat.
  9. Remove from the heat, transfer into a serving bowl if required.
  10. Finally, just before serving stir in the lime juice and garnish with coriander.

It's important to stir in the lime juice right before serving, and not whilst it's still on the heat, as this keeps the flavour fresh.

Serve with fresh steamed thai fragrant rice

Cooks Notes:
Tom Yum is usually made very spicy.
You can adjust the levels to your taste, for example to reduce the heat you could use less chillies, consider removing seeds from the chillies if you only like a very mild spice. Leaving them whole also keeps the heat mild, or try bruising whole chillies lightly with a pestle and mortar to release some flavour but allow them to be easily picked out of the finished dish.
On the other hand, slicing the chillies lets out a lot of the flavour and the balance of hot, salty and sour in this dish is unbelievable. You can still avoid eating the half chillies if you like!

Thai cooks use straw mushrooms in tom yum soup and other cooking. Straw mushrooms are available in the UK in tins – watch out though, they are usually stored in brine and will need to be very well drained and rinsed. Remember to cut the mushrooms in half – they have an air pocket inside and this also fills with brine, so rinse them again to ensure the extra salt doesn't ruin your dish!
I've not seen any fresh straw mushrooms here in Edinburgh, but they'd be worth trying if you can get them. The best bet is to buy fresh mushrooms of any kind – I prefer to use brown cap mushrooms, or another closed cup variety because large flat mushrooms make sauces and soups go brown. Other fresh mushrooms such as oyster or shitake also work well.
No fresh mushrooms? Dried mushrooms make a great substitute, especially shitake. Soak in boiling water until soft (about an hour), drain, chop and add to the broth as usual. You can reserve the mushroom liquor for use in risottos or as a mushroom stock. Seal and keep in the fridge or freeze in ice cube trays, store in bags and pop into pasta sauces, gravies, soups etc.

You can use any meat – chicken, pork, beef, fish, or for vegetarians mixed mushrooms, baby corn or tofu (and switch fish sauce for soy sauce).
Use a home made chicken stock for the best flavoured broth. Be careful of using bought stock cubes as they will add extra (unnecessary) salt to the dish – diluting twice as much as recommended should help.
Chicken and pork take a bit longer to cook, so add the raw meat after step 5 (before adding the chillies) and simmer until just cooked, then add chillies, fish sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Check the meat, when it's cooked through, remove the pan from the heat and finish the dish with lime juice and coriander.

Vegetables > Beetroot 20 March 2006

Posted by cath in Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, Recipes, variations, vegetables.
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VegetablesDo more with Beetroot

I’ve been buying fresh beetroots from the market for a while now. But just what to do with them? – I wasn’t too sure except for cold cooked beetroot in salads and Austrailian-influenced sarnies.

Well, good news! At the weekend, peeled, chunky pieces of beetroot were added to an experimental venison stew. I had no particular recipe for the stew, but starting with good stewing principles and lovely fresh ingredients it’s pretty easy to make something that tastes good. (I recommend the The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall for in-depth discussions about stewing).

Anyhow, I’m pleased to say that 2-3 hours later the stew plus beetroot was a great sucess – particularly the beetroot addition. Perfectly cooked, quite stewy tasting in the first bite, but really beetrooty towards the middle – an amazing find and something I’ll be doing again – particularly with dark meats in rich porter, ale or wine based stews. One to remember!

Venison Stew with Beetroot

Venison Stew with Beetroot served with homemade crusty bread.

Other beetroot experiments
Beetroot in stew was not the first experiment actually, roasting beetroot was the first real break from tradition for me. Again, roast beetroot was a real surprise, very tasty, and so easy to do! Just peel and chunk, then coat in (hot) goose fat (oil for veggies) and cooked in a hot oven for 1-2 hours, turning once or twice (depends how big you’ve cut them and how well done you want your beets).

No picture of roasted beetroot – I was too slow and they were all gobbled up!

Check out these beetroot from Thisselcockrig Fruit & Veg (at the Farmers Market in Edinburgh):

Fresh Beetroot

Fresh Beetroot

Note: you will get very purple hands washing, peeling and handling fresh beetroot. Don’t worry – it doesn’t last long!

Easy Dinners > Chicken in the Oven 6 March 2006

Posted by cath in easy, mildly spicy, Recipes, Thai food, variations.

Mildly SpicyThai Chicken in the Oven
(and some other variants)

A really easy way of cooking joints of chicken on the bone. The flavours can be adapted to almost anything from Thai (shown here) to Indian, Mexican, Italian by adding different herbs, spices, oils and liquids.

Follow the instructions and you will get both tender, succulent chicken and a golden, crispy skin – yum!

Serves 4 as a snack or starter on it’s own or as a main meal served with steamed rice, stir-fried vegetables and a tomato and mint sauce.

8 Chicken Thighs, Legs or similar, on the bone (leave the skin on)
5 cloves of Garlic, crushed slightly and roughly chopped
1 small red onion or shallot, halved and thinly sliced
2 stalks Lemongrass, chopped into 1 inch pieces
1-2 inches of Ginza (Galangal) or Ginger, shredded or grated
Kaffir lime leaves, shredded
4 crushed dried birds-eye chillies, or finely chopped fresh chillies – to taste
Handful of coriander – stalk, finely chopped; leaves, roughly chopped and set aside
1 teaspoon palm sugar (or dark brown sugar)
2-3 tbsp Fish Sauce
1-2 limes or lemons, halved and juiced, then chopped into chunks
A splash of groundnut oil
Salt, freshly ground pepper, coriander seed and/or cumin seed


  1. Using a large roasting dish, place a large piece of tin foil inside and brush with a bit of oil. Make sure you have enough foil to create a closed pocket around the chicken for the first stage of cooking.
  2. Place the chicken into the foil-covered dish. Then add chopped ingredients except the coriander leaves (reserve for later).
  3. Add the liquids, oil and sugar. Mix well, ensuring each chicken joint is well covered and the lime chunks are spread out in the tin.
  4. You are aiming for a moist, chunky marinade, do not add too much liquid at this stage.
  5. Fold the tin foil into a loose fitting parcel and twist the edges together to form a tight seal.
  6. The mixture can be left to marinate for a short period (30 mins) or a few hours as desired.
  7. When you are ready to cook, heat the oven to 180 degees C, then add the chicken parcel and bake for 30 mins. During this stage, the chicken is steaming, rather than roasting in the oven.
  8. If you’ve left the skin on the chicken, you’ll definitely want to brown the dish before serving. Remove from the oven, turn the oven up to 190 or 200 degrees C and open up the top of the parcel. The chicken should be cooked, so you just need to place it back in the oven uncovered to brown, this may take up to 15 minutes, this also reduces the juices down to a delicious spicy sauce.
  9. Serve hot from the oven, drizzled with the sauce and garnished with coriander leaves. Alternatively, serve cold with salad or in sandwiches.

Spicy Chicken

Here’s what it looks like after marinating, just seal up the foil and its ready to cook.

Serving this as a main meal it goes well with rice or noodles and with stir-fried vegetables such as broccoli with sesame seeds on the side. For those who like it spicy, a mint and tomato sauce can be made as a cooling accompaniment. Simply add some chopped tin tomatoes or peeled and chopped fresh tomatoes to a small pan or frying pan, add some finely chopped mint and a sprinkling of sugar and heat through.

Mexican flavours: lime, garlic, fresh/ground coriander, spring onion, chillies, dark chocolate, lots of crushed cumin seeds, peppers, etc.

Italian flavours: aromatic herbs (i.e. thyme, rosemary), lemon, peppers, tomatoes, bay leaf, chillies etc.

Indian flavours: coriander seeds, cumin seeds, tumeric, cloves, cinnamon, fresh coriander, chillies lemon, peppercorns etc.

Other ideas: Simply use your favorite flavours, herbs and spices to create your own version.

Cooking Notes > Mince 3 March 2006

Posted by cath in general info, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, shopping notes, variations.
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InformationWhat's your Mince?

Pork mince is great! Do you want a change from the usual beef mince in your dinner? Try some Pork mince instead. It works really well in Bolognese and similar pasta sauces, also is fantastic in the Laab recipe.

I buy my pork mince from Piperfield Pork, it's available at the Farmers Market in Castle Terrace, Edinburgh. They do really great sausages, bacon, ham and chorizo too.

Thai Recipes > Stir-Fry > Spicy Sweet & Sour Vegetables 1 March 2006

Posted by cath in mildly spicy, Recipes, stir-fry, Thai food, variations.
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Mildly SpicySpicy Sweet & Sour Vegetables

Serves 4 as a lunch or main meal with steamed rice

3 tablespoons oil
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 onion, sliced
½ cauliflower, cut into bite sized pieces
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into strips
1 courgette, cut into strips
8 baby corn, cut in half lengthways
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 handful beansprouts
150g tin pineapple cubes/chunks in natural juice
Big red chillies, use as many as required for desired spiciness, sliced (remove the seeds for a gentle heat)

For the Sauce:
1-2 tablespoons lime juice (roughly the juice of one plump lime)
3 level tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons tomato ketchup
2-3 tablespoons pineapple juice from the tinned pineapple


  1. Mix all the ingredients for the sauce together and set aside.
  2. Put the oil in a wok and fry the garlic for a minute or two until golden, add the onion and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
  3. Add the cauliflower and carrot and stir-fry for about 3 minutes, then add the courgette, baby corn and stir-fry for another 2 minutes.
  4. Add the chillies, tomato and continue to stir until the vegetables are cooked (doesn’t take long).
  5. Add the pineapple, the sweet and sour sauce and stir to combine and heat until bubbling (this won’t take long in a hot wok).
  6. Then add the beansprouts and stir well again.

Serve immediately with steamed rice or noodles.

Keep some of the pineapple juice or a cup of water by the wok. Use this instead of more oil to add to the ingredients to keep them loose in the wok. This allows the vegetables to steam-fry and reduces the oil content of the finished dish.

To get the most lime juice from a lime, just give it a quick roll on a chopping board with gentle pressure before cutting and squeezing it…this really works!

This dish can also be made by adding strips of meat to the vegetables, stir-fry the strips of chicken, pork or beef in the garlic and onions and remove from the pan but keep warm. Then adding any seasonal vegetables and stir-fry as above. Return the cooked meat to the pan to combine at the end.

You can also use up pre-cooked meat in this dish, left-over roast chicken works well. Try marinading the cold chicken for half an hour or so in a little soy sauce, sesame oil and add a sprinkle of sesame seeds, before adding to the stir-fry to heat through.

You can use any vegetables that you like (or that are in season) in a stir fry. Simply cut a selection of veg into similar sizes and shapes. Start with the hardest, crunchiest vegetables as these tend to be the longest to cook (e.g. carrots, cauliflower, jerusalem artichokes) and add the more delicate vegetables towards the end (such as finely shredded cabbage, green beans, peas).

Instead of long white beansprouts – I’ve also used mixed sprouts such as lentils, chickpeas, aduki beans. You can make these easily yourself or buy them ready-sprouted from some supermarkets and health food shops.

Need more ideas?

If you like this, try my recipe for sweet and sour pork, with more ideas and variations for stir frying.