After the over indulgence of the festive season has passed and our groaning literal belts have unnaturally tightened, it’s time for many of us to try to get back to, or perhaps even into, healthier eating habits. The term “healthy eating” can have a joy vacuum response in many of us if our reactions are about a perceived denial to ourselves. Healthy eating should never be about denial and this recipe for chilli beef stir-fry is the perfect way to return to or enter the fold of being kinder to our waistlines.
Before the recipe I’ve explained some ingredients that you may not be familiar with (and the preparation of others perhaps more familiar). Also there are a couple of major points to consider when it comes to stir-frying:
- Don’t overload the wok/pan: The biggest problem with stir-frying is that there are many ingredients that go into it that cook in different times. We might be tempted to through everything into the pan at once. The result will most likely mean overcooked vegetables and boiled meat. The solution? Cook in stages. Start with your meat. When nearly cooked, remove from the wok and set aside, ready to return towards the end of the vegetables frying. Wipe the pan clean, and then proceed with the rest of the cooking. If you wanted to be incredibly particular you could stir fry each component individually and bring all together in the wok at the end. You will end up with each part cooked to perfection but of course will take time and effort that is not necessary for this recipe. The other reason to not overload the pan is that it will bring down the heat significantly, which leads me onto my second point.
- Heat is vital: Stir-frying is designed as a high heat, quick, cooking method. Heat your wok until smoking (and turn on your extraction fan) to ensure that the heat is retained when ingredients are added. However it’s always important to have a small jug of water at hand to add a splash to the wok if it is too quickly cooking an ingredient.
- Preparation is key: Because the cooking time is so quick in stir-frying it is essential to have everything ready to go before you start cooking. The French term “mise en place” means putting all your individual components in place, ready to use them as needed. Cooking time is so quick that trying to slice a spring onion or chopping any other ingredient is not feasible once you have started stir-frying.
Dark soy sauce is richer in flavour, slightly thicker, and tends to be sweeter than light soy sauce due to the addition of molasses. It also has a lower salt content than light. So think of light soy sauce as seasoning, and dark soy as a flavour enhancer.
Sriracha is a Thai chilli sauce that is ever increasing in popularity. If you haven’t tried it yet you’ll know why when you do. Frequently used as a dipping sauce and a more commonly seen condiment in restaurants, it is made from chillis, vinegar, sugar, salt, and garlic. Like all good Thai cooking it gives a wonderful balance of flavours leaving a tingling, lingering heat, rather than an overpowering smack of chilli, with the other ingredients providing that acidity, sweetness and flavour to produce an excellent sauce. It is definitely starting to appear in larger supermarkets but if you can’t find it there you will pick it up with ease any Asian supermarkets.
Pak choi is a Chinese cabbage and another ingredient that has become hugely popular as interest in Asian cookery increases here. It also grows extremely well in Irish soil and most, if not all that you buy here, is Irish produced. It has a leafy green and crispy stalk. The problem in stir-frying is the leaf can become very limp easily so to counteract when preparing remove the leaf from the stalk, slicing both thinly. The stalk will be added to the stir-fry earlier with the leaf just at the end to ensure both are not overcooked and still retain its lovely freshness.
Tenderstem Broccoli is a wonderful vegetable to add to stir-fries but sometimes the stems can be quite thick. If that’s the case prepare the broccoli like this; cut the floret ends off the spears and leave whole. Slice the spears thinly on the diagonal.
For the vegetables there is a reasonable freedom of movement and substitution. The important thing to remember is whatever ingredient you use consider how big you slice it in relation to the other ingredients. If it’s significantly larger then perhaps consider cutting it smaller or stir-frying separately. Don’t have mangetout? Use sugarsnap peas. Add a handful of bean sprouts or bamboo shoots. The guidelines I’ve given here are relative to any stir-fry so don’t be afraid to experiment with different meats and sauces.
Chilli Beef served with rice
Chilli Beef Stir-Fry
For the sauce
- 2 tbsp. chilli sauce (I use Sriracha Sauce)
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce (1 tbsp. light soy and 1 tbsp. dark soy)
- 2 tbsp. mirin or Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing) or sherry
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 2 tsp. cornflour
- ½ tsp. sesame oil
- 1 tsp. chilli flavoured oil
For the Stir-Fry
- 2 tsp. groundnut or vegetable oil and 2tsp chilli flavoured oil
- 450g approx. lean beef steak such as fillet or striploin, cut into thin strips
- 1 thumb sized piece root ginger, peeled and sliced into matchsticks
- 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 4 spring onions, (ends trimmed) and sliced on the diagonal
- ½ celery stick, sliced into thin matchsticks (optional)
- 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
- 1 pak choi, (see note about preparation)
- Handful tenderstem broccoli (see note about preparation)
- Handful of mangetout
- Handful of babycorn, sliced in half lengthways
- Thai Jasmine Rice (or noodles), coriander, and 1 red chilli, deseeded (if desired) and finely sliced
- In a bowl blend together the ingredients for the sauce and set aside.
- Prepare the other stir-fry ingredients, placing in bowls for
- Heat a wok or large frying pan until smoking point. Add 1 tsp. groundnut oil and 1 tsp. chilli oil, then add the steak and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, adding the chilli for the final minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm.
- Wipe down the pan with kitchen towel and return to the hob, again heating to smoking point. Add the remaining teaspoons of groundnut oil and chilli oil to the pan. Add the ginger, garlic, spring onions, and celery and stir-fry for about 30 seconds to 1 minute, adding a splash of water if the garlic is becoming too brown. Add the carrot, pak choi, mangetout, and babycorn, and stir-fry for 3 minutes adding a splash of water if necessary.
- Add the sauce to the vegetables along with the steak and stir-fry for another minute until the sauce has thickened.
- Serve the stir-fry topped with coriander leaves and slices of chilli, with rice or noodles on the side.