Undeterred by the witty and cutting insult left for his previous culinary effort, Goon has agreed to go ahead with my plan to help him learn to cook. This is a great step forward for someone who has flatly refused to make anything more complicated than an omelette for the last six months.
Now, it is clear that Goon and I have completely different cooking styles. I never learned to cook at home as my parents had me on low calorie ready meals through my teenage years. Then, all of a sudden at age 22, when I finally got a long term boyfriend, I just started making simple things but without any recipe books. Those came later, when I got bored of making basic things and wanted ideas for new meals. I never followed a recipe as such, just got an idea of the ingredients and improvised. I find that I’m so impatient, I get bored reading instructions and just get them wrong. Things are much more reliable when I make stuff up, which is why I’ll probably never be a good baker.
Goon is completely the opposite. He can follow a recipe really well but if there’s a typo (or the chef writing the recipe is a bit mad) Goon can’t make adjustments. He has no idea of how to compensate for things going wrong…. at least not yet.
So we’ve formulated a plan. Once a week (or more if he feels like it) I will go through my recipe books and find a recipe that I think will suit Goon’s cooking ability. Goon will try it with as little help from me as possible, then we’ll blog it. It should be a good way of reviewing basic recipes as well as being great for teaching Goon to cook.
For the first experiment of this kind, I found an exciting looking recipe by Nigel Slater from his book Real Food. It is a stir fry of pork fillet and cashew nuts with strong vibrant flavours of lime, chilli and mint. Since it is a stir fry, there wasn’t anything involved that was too scary for Goon. However, I didn’t agree with the recipe completely, so I adjusted the quantities to what I thought would work. There was a decrease in chilli, as Goon doesn’t like too much heat in his food, and I reduced the amount of lime because it just seemed totally ludicrous.
Of course, we need to go one step at a time. Goon can’t cook two things in parallel yet, so I made some fried rice to go with the pork and some wilted pak choi in oyster sauce, but he made the meat dish entirely on his own.
Pork with Lime, Cashews and Mint (Adapted from Nigel Slater’s Real Food)
- 400g pork fillet
- flavourless oil for frying (vegetable, groundnut, etc)
- 75g cashews, roughly chopped (90g was suggested, but I ate some before we started. I think 75g was plenty and I prefer the nuts chunky, so I changed the ‘finely chopped ‘ stated in the original recipe to roughly chopped).
- zest of 2 limes plus the juice of one (the recipe suggested 3 whole limes, we used 2 and it was still a bit much.)
- 3 green chillies, deseeded and chopped (maybe go for the suggested 4 red chillies if you like heat.)
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 4 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal
- 2 inches of ginger, peeled and finely shredded
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce (the original recipe suggests 2, but I knew this would make it too salty for me)
- handful mint leaves, finely chopped
- handful basil leaves, torn to shreds
- Cut the pork into 2cm thick rounds, then cut each round into thin strips.
- Put the oil into the wok, get it really hot and then brown the pork by quickly stir-frying it until it is golden brown in places. Pour the pork onto a plate with its juices.
[Goon observation: It says to use a wok for a good reason. If you use a big saucepan like Goon did, not much of the pork will be in contact with the pan surface and it will take longer to brown. Since it doesn’t seal as quickly, it may lose more water than it should. It’s not the end of the world. Just pour off excess liquid and carry on.]
- Turn down the heat a little and add the spring onions, garlic, ginger and chilli to the pan. Fry, stirring constantly for a couple of minutes.
- Return the pork to the pan and add the cashews and continue to fry these, whilst stirring, for another minute or two.
- Add the fish sauce, lime zest and juice and stir through.
- Finally, add the mint and basil.
[Ros observation: The original recipe stated ‘add the herbs.’ This confused Goon as he thought there weren’t any herbs in the ingredients list. Sometimes it helps to really spell things out.]
- Taste and adjust seasoning.
[Goon doesn’t like doing this. In fact, he tasted it and just said, ‘it tastes weird’. It turned out he meant ‘the lime is a bit strong’. In compensation I added some more mint and garlic, which seemed to help in balancing it.]
- Garnish with a sprig of mint and serve immediately with some fried rice.
So how did it turn out?
Not bad I say! With the minor adjustments I made, this turned out to be an excellent recipe, with wonderful bold flavours and a refreshing citrusy-heat that wasn’t too much for Goon. The lime wasn’t so overpowering by the time it reached the table, although I would stick to the quantities above rather than using 3 whole limes as Slater suggested.
So I think we have a success! Hopefully in time, Goon will be able to do the rice and vegetables too.