Thursday, April 22, 2010

I ♥ Ramen Noodles

This one is great for one of those spring evenings when it’s not too warm but not freezing either, and you can’t be bothered with really cooking, and you want something both warming but not stodgy and heavy and wintry, because you’re trying to move forward into spring, if the goddamned weather would just play ball, and you don’t have anything in the fridge except two salmon fillets and half a spring cabbage. Having said that, this particular recipe does rely on you, like me, having an unhealthy obsession with ramen noodles, and preferably a kitchen cupboard stocked with the bare essentials for oriental cooking: fresh garlic and ginger, chilli, some bamboo shoots, some water chestnuts, toasted sesame oil and of course, soy sauce. Some baby corn would also go down a treat, but I didn’t have those this time.

Salmon Ramen Noodles

2 fillets salmon
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2x1 inch piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tbsp clear runny honey
2 tsp dried chillies
half a pointed cabbage or 3 tops pak choi
2 packets ramen instant noodles
soya bean paste
toasted sesame oil
a few healthy dashes of soy sauce

1. Firstly get your salmon fillets marinating in a mixture of soy sauce, crushed garlic, chopped fresh ginger and honey (the runny kind works best, although soy sauce will mix with any kind). Leave them to marinate for as long as you can, turning occasionally, while you prepare your vegetables.

2. Chop your bamboo shoots and water chestnuts if the kind supermarket people haven’t already done that for you. The same goes for the cabbage. I like pak choi or spring greens best, although of course Savoy cabbage, pointed spring, or any other kind of leafy thing would work well.

3. Get a griddle pan nice and hot and throw in a dash of sesame oil. Fry your marinated salmon fillets evenly on all sides until they’re nicely charred and criss-crossed with black stripes with a hint of pink in the middle (maybe 4-5 minutes on either side). The honey will caramelise on the outside and make them look well fit.

4. Bring a large pan of water to the boil and add some flavouring to it. Now, you have a choice here. The minimum effort option would be to tip in the handy little sachet of flavouring that comes inside the ramen. But it's mostly MSG and tends to give me headaches if I use all of it. So, you could tip in a bit, as they do taste good, but you could throw most of it away and tip in some toasted sesame oil, some soya bean paste if you have any, some freshly chopped ginger, a little crushed garlic, some dried chilli flakes and a tiny bit of Chinese five spice.

5. Add your noodles, stir in your veggies (saving the leaves of whatever green leafy thing you have chosen to throw in near the end). Once the noodles are cooked, add the leaves and take off the heat. Place in warmed bowls and rest your salmon fillets on the top.

6.Take photos and send to your friends. Yum.

NB: After writing this, a nice lady called Helen who has just visited Japan told me that in restaurants there, if you pronounce Ramen 'rahhh-men' you're probably going to get tittered at when ordering it, so she kindly enunciated the correct way for me: 'ra-Men'. So now we know. Thanks Helen. This post is for you.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Operation Easter Bunny Pt. 2 - Escape From London

The Thursday night...

I'm at The Albany pub in Great Portland Street, chatting to my friend who we'll call Birch. Birch has been living in Sydney for a little over a year now and hasn't been back in London since August. It's been ages, and he's assembled a group of lovely people, some who I've met before, some of whom I haven't. It's getting on for 10pm. I know that we have an early train to our secret Easter destination the next morning and it's going to take me at least 40 minutes to get home. I'm chatting away and trying hard not to check my watch, because I'm having a good time with all of these great folks, but I'm also keenly aware that at home the Mister is already packed, waiting to get an early night so we can wake up refreshed for our adventure, and that as usual, I'll burst in late, shattering any semblance of peace and throwing the house into turmoil, as I look for clean clothes and make myself instant noodles.

I say my goodbyes and rush to the tube, thanking the Victoria line for its efficiency (when it works, it's the best line. Really.) Without too much of a frenzy, I pack, shower, and we're in bed by 12.30. We're tired and fall asleep almost instantly. My body braces itself for the 6.30 alarm on Good Friday.

Good Friday...

We're up early and we have some pastries for breakfast warming in the oven. I've been instructed that our train leaves at 8.30am and that there's a taxi booked for 7.30 to collect us. We move around, fuzzily-headed, gathering our wits about us, and checking for the taxi at every 10 minute interval. All of a sudden there's a horn tooting outside, the pastries are hastily bundled into foil, and our bags are over our shoulders. We leave a little late, but finally, we're off!

Halfway to the station we realise breakfast is still on the kitchen counter. Bugger. Oh well, we're on the move! We'll get something at the station! Maybe even something fatty, sugary and loaded with additives in an international coffee super-chain! I'm giddy with excitement. The minicab sails through West London. I slowly come to realise that we're heading for Paddington.

'The West!' I think. Where could it be? It must be far, if it warrants such an early train. We pull up and it's nearing 8.10am. Perfect, I say. We've got 20 minutes to grab some coffee and a croissant. Then we can get the scrabble out and start this bank holiday as we mean to go on! So where are we heading then? Which platform is it?

The Mister gives me a sly sideways glance as he wriggles his bag out of the car. He smiles. He looks at his watch and says, "It's platform 8." Then with a giant smile, he adds, "We're going to Cornwall. We're going to St.Ives!"

I couldn't have been more overjoyed. St.Ives was one of my family holiday destinations between the ages of 12 and 21. The last time I had been there was my 21st birthday. It's a gorgeous seaside town of artists and surfers, famed for its incredible views, ever-changing light, marvellous seafood, beachside Tate gallery and quirky boutique shops. We'd discussed going back there a few months previously, as the Mister had some memories of being on a holiday there with some friends when he was 18 or so, all wide-legged surfer dude pants, badly-rolled joints and acid jazz records.

Then I noticed the information board for platform 8. The train wasn't due to leave until 9.20. We had a full 40 minutes. He'd allowed lots of extra time for me, and my notoriously late, lazy arse. Suddenly my early morning caught up with me all at once and I became very, very petulant and childish at having my morning begin earlier than necessary. Much earlier. I think I may even have said, 'You got me up this early to have 40 minutes to wait here in the station?!' How very ungrateful of me. I shudder a little as I write this. But yes, my sleep on a day off is sacred, I'm afraid. I sat down and faux-sulked a little next to the statue of Paddington Bear.

Well, after that little moment of infantilism, I saw sense. Paddington Bear sorted me right out. We went and got some fatty sugary goodness from Starbucks and waited it out.

And here is what awaited us when we arrived.

Of course, it was all totally worth it.