Takeaways are a great treat, especially at the end of a long week when you just want to flop in front of the telly with something tasty to eat and a nice glass of wine. However, they can be a very expensive option, not to mention hugely calorific as it's always tempting to order far more food than you actually need (eyes-bigger-than-belly syndrome). And I've lost count of the amount of time I've sat around impatiently waiting for a takeaway whilst knowing full well that I could have made it myself in less time.
This recipe is my take on chicken chow mein and, whilst it's is probably far from authentic, it's one of my favourite Chinese-style meals. It's essentially a stir-fry (although with the small quantity of oil I use, the vegetables end up being steamed rather than fried) with added seasonings to give it a real flavour kick. This is a great fall-back option when the cupboards are bare because it relies on mostly storecupboard ingredients, plus a few fresh vegetables that can be varied depending on whatever odds and ends you have in the fridge. It's also a good way to use up leftover roast chicken - simply add it with the beansprouts and spring onions.
My kids are still not mad keen on mixed-up foods so this isn't something I make for them at the moment but I hope to in the future. I sometimes find that giving them a deconstructed version of a dish (in this case, plain noodles, chicken and raw vegetable strips with soy sauce on the side for dipping) can help introduce them to new meals so I will probably try doing that.
Chicken & Vegetable Chow MeinServes 2 generously
125g dried medium egg noodles
1 tbsp groundnut oil
5-cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
350g skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
1 red pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced
2 carrots, peeled and cut into julienne slices
4 spring onions, shredded lengthwise
2 handfuls of fresh beansprouts
½-1 tsp crushed chilli flakes (optional)
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
Bring a medium saucepan of water to the boil. Add the noodles and bring back to the boil, then cook for 3-4 minutes, or according to the packet instructions. Drain.
Meanwhile, heat the groundnut oil a in a large saucepan or wok over a high heat. Add the ginger, garlic and red chilli and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds. Add the chicken and continue to cook, stirring, for 3-4 minutes, or until the chicken is sealed all over.
Stir in the peppers and carrot and cook, stirring frequently, for a further 3 minutes. Add the spring onions and beansprouts and continue cooking for 1 minute, or until the vegetables are softened and the chicken is cooked through.
Add the drained noodles along with the chilli flakes (if using) and soy sauce and, using tongs, toss well to combine. Finally, drizzle over the sesame oil, toss briefly and transfer to serving dishes.
- It's best to have all the ingredients chopped and ready before you start cooking (getting all your ducks in a row, so to speak). There's a fair amount of preparation to do with this recipe, but this is more than compensated by the super-quick cooking time.
- If the noodles are cooked before you're ready to add them to the chicken and vegetables, drain them and toss in half the sesame oil to prevent them from sticking together in one big clump.
- This recipe is really adaptable - the chicken can be replaced with pork fillet, rump steak, prawns or Quorn pieces - and it's a good way to use up whatever bits of vegetables you have lurking in the fridge too. Just make sure that everything is chopped thinly so it cooks evenly and add any vegetables that require a longer cooking time to the pan first. If you have any salad leaves that need using up, throw in a handful along with the noodles and stir to wilt.
- Crushed chilli flakes are pretty fiery so if you are cooking this for kids it's probably best to leave them out at the cooking stage - you can always sprinkle some over the adults' portions at the end.