Despite the mostly inclement weather, we’re enjoying being back in Cornwall, and it is especially novel not sharing our house with the plumbers, carpenters and electricians. We quite miss them though – they are a happy and helpful bunch – though we don’t miss the early morning start time. They were here last week finishing off a few bits and pieces, but I think that is everything now until the summer. Robin is muttering about ‘getting up the floor of the conservatory’ to install underfloor heating, as that is our only dining space and it can be parky at this time of year. Personally, I favour a large rug. The thought of having the floor up fills me with horror. I am hoping he will have forgotten about it by the summer.
Yesterday, it occurred to me when I was getting my hiking boots out of the cupboard that it was nice not to have to do my usual scorpion check before sticking my feet into them. Another thing that never fails to make me very happy indeed is turning on a tap and having clean water for cooking and drinking. And fresh milk instead of horrid UHT. That’s three things already. What else?
Definitely going to the supermarket is still a novelty – I could honestly quite happily spend a day browsing in any one of our local supermarkets. We have almost all of the main chains within a ten-minute drive – Sainsburys, Asda, Lidl, Waitrose, Tesco, Aldi. What more could a girl want? Farmers’ market stall? Yep – two minutes walk from our front door. Butcher, fishmonger, deli and Baker Tom’s all in Falmouth. We’ve even got a post office AND two pubs within walking distance. We are officially blessed.
We are saving the best treats for tomorrow – Falmouth Library (fabulous – library and small art gallery combined) and Beerwolf Books, which is a bookshop and freehouse pub. What a spectacularly good idea. They also serve excellent coffee, which is a good thing, as we will have the car.
Yesterday I was developing a craving for something hot, sour and salty, and I had some excellent homemade stock in the fridge, so tonight’s supper was Thai noodle soup. Apart from a bit of chopping, which you can do at any time beforehand if you want to, it only takes minutes to prepare. Minimal washing up too. I love it when a plan comes together.
I happened to have a handful of bits of roast chicken left from last night’s dinner, so they went into the pan, but this would be good just made with vegetables – especially if you added some thickly-sliced mushrooms at the end – or you could add prawns or tofu or anything else that takes your fancy. It does need to be quite punchy, so be liberal with the chilli and the ginger – I wished afterwards that I had scattered some thinly-sliced chilli on the top, along with the coriander, but I’d nearly finished eating my soup before I thought of it.
You can cook the noodles in the soup if you prefer, but I find it easier to soak them separately and put them into the bowls before adding the vegetables and the broth – otherwise you spend ages trying to catch them and they still all end up in one bowl. Breaking them up into pieces before you soak them makes them easier to eat in a soup too. I used Sharwoods egg noodles, but rice sticks, vermicelli, udon noodles or whatever you have in the cupboard would be absolutely fine.
If you have homemade stock, all the better, but there are quite a lot of other flavours going on, so a good quality cube certainly wouldn’t be the end of the world. Even though I like salt, I find most of them exceptionally salty, but both Knorr and Kallo have started doing lower-salt versions, which are worth looking out for. My cupboard was bare of fish sauce, but you could add a couple of teaspoons if you have some, or a little soy sauce if you are keeping this vegan/vegetarian. I had to make do with adding a little salt – Cornish of course.
This has reminded me that I still haven’t acquired a wok. Every time I think of buying one (which is usually when I am in Ikea), I wonder where I would keep it, as we are fresh out of cupboard space. So I will stick with my trusty sauté pan for now then.
Hot and sour Thai noodle soup
1 nest of egg noodles or other noodles of your choice
4cm piece of ginger, shredded or grated
2 red chillies, finely chopped (remove the seeds if you don’t like too much heat), plus extra for scattering if you wish
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Half of a stick of lemon grass, halved and very finely sliced
1 bunch of spring onions, sliced
1 red pepper, sliced
A selection of green vegetables – I used mangetout, courgette, broccoli and pak choi
A few prawns, some tofu, thickly sliced mushrooms or a little cooked chicken (optional)
2 teaspoons fish sauce or soy sauce (optional)
1 bunch coriander, leaves and stalks
A couple of large handfuls of beansprouts
Break the noodles into a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave to soak for a few minutes until softened then rinse and refresh in cold water. Set aside.
Prepare all of your vegetables and flavourings before you start cooking. Cut everything into pieces suitable for eating with a spoon – mangetout can be left whole. If you are using broccoli and the stalks are not too woody, they are a good addition if they are fairly thinly sliced.
Heat a little vegetable oil in a wok or large sauté pan, and add the ginger and chilli. Stir over a medium heat for a minute or so, until the ginger is starting to soften. Stir in the garlic, spring onions and red pepper (and the sliced broccoli stalk if you wish).
Cook for around one minute, then add the green vegetables, stock, finely chopped stalks of the coriander (save the leaves for the end) and the grated zest and juice of the lime. If you are using chicken, prawns, tofu or mushrooms, add them now, along with the fish sauce or soy sauce (if using).
Bring just to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer gently for 2 minutes.
Divide the noodles between two large soup bowls and add a large handful of beansprouts to each bowl. Stir most of the coriander leaves into the soup, then spoon the vegetables over the top of the beansprouts.
Pour over the hot stock, then top with some more beansprouts, the rest of the coriander leaves and some sliced red chilli if you wish.