Thursday, January 24, 2013

The no-stir stir-fry

I decided to make chinese lemon chicken (p139) last night, and serve it with vegetable stir-fry (p167). I was uncharacteristically organised, preparing my chicken and vegetables in advance, and working out the best order in which to make each element of the dish.

When all the veges were chopped and ready, and the deep-frying oil was heating on the stove, I quickly mixed together the ingredients for the lemon sauce: lemon rind and juice, grated ginger, chicken stock powder, brown sugar and water. I stirred this combination over a low heat, until it boiled and thickened. I turned the element off but left the pan sitting on it to keep warm.

By this time, the oil was hot and ready for the chicken. I'd chopped my chicken breast into bite-sized pieces, and coated them in cornflour. I dipped each piece in lightly beaten egg white before dropping it into the oil. They took a while to turn golden, so I made a start on the stir-fry in the meantime.

Despite the name, this dish doesn't really seem to be stir-fried as such. You start by heating oil in a pan, then add garlic, ginger and onions. After cooking these for one minute, you add the rest of the veges, along with a slosh of hot stock, then put a lid on and leave it to cook for three minutes. It doesn't really sound like stir-frying to me, but whatever.

The veges in the stir-fry include bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, baby corn, spinach, cauliflower and broccoli. I put in everything except the broccoli, instead substituting some courgette and beans from the garden. We've all made stir-fries before, and it doesn't matter much what you put in it - just use what you've got. The bamboo, chestnuts and corn are available canned, and make an interesting addition.

The most time-consuming aspect of this meal was definitely the preparation - and it didn't really take that long to chop some veges and open a few cans - because the cooking time is really short. Deep-frying is always quick, and the stir fry is done in under five minutes.

I was quite pleased with the resulting meal. I spooned the veges onto a platter, piled the chicken bites on top, poured over the lemon sauce, and garnished with chopped spring onions. The platter looked very yellow (the broccoli would have added some extra green) but on the whole, quite appealing.

It was tasty, too. The egg-white batter on the chicken had a deliciously light crunch, and the sauce was tangy and gingery. Though I'd had my doubts about the 'stir-fry' method, the flavour was pretty good, and the veges were cooked through but still retained a variety of textures. On the whole, it's not too different from a lemon chicken you might buy from the local takeaway - just fresher and better.

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