A few years back we took our kids on a six-week adventure around France. It wasn’t quite the trip I had romantically imagined – the first house we rented belonged to a friend of a friend who was really short. As in not tall. I never thought about it till we arrived and found the stud height came to below Ted’s shoulders. He and the kids had to crawl around for 10 hellish rainy days! And it kind of carried on like that for pretty much the whole 7000 kilometres. Say no more.
The funniest thing (luckily it's always funny when you look back on it) was that near the end when we finally arrived in Paris, all any of us could think about and talk about was eating Asian food. Here we were in one of the gastronomic capitals of the world and instead of fantasising about croissants or gooey cheese or some slow-cooked succulent French chicken, we were salivating over the idea of eating fresh sushi. And if not sushi then anything just anything Asian to eat, please mum please… It made me realise how big a part of our diet had become Asian, and how much we missed those vibrant, clean tastes.
The fresh flavours in Asian meals offer the perfect antidote to winter stodge and, best of all, they can be whipped together in a snap so I've included some of my favourite weeknight Asian dishes in my new winter annual.
To streamline Asian cooking at home, I have developed a fabulous Winter Stir-Fry Sauce you can make in bulk and keep in the fridge. It just zings with flavour and is the springboard for dishes such as Black Pepper Beef and Broccoli and Chicken and Water Chestnut Cups – both of which can be made in mere minutes.
I’m a big fan of Japanese flavours in particular so I’ve come up with delicious recipes for Sticky Japanese Chicken and Osaka Prawn and Cabbage Pancakes, and with a nod to the Indian subcontinent I've included a Stovetop Chicken Biriyani that pretty much cooks itself.
Discovering new flavours and ingredients and learning to cook with them is like learning a new language in the kitchen. Cooking this way makes me feel part of the world. I can take familiar meats, poultry and seasonal vegetables and with exciting flavours like lemongrass, fish sauce and dashi make them new again. In this simplest of ways, I open the door to a new culture.