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Back to basics: Stir-fries

Here’s everything you need to know about a basic – and healthy – cooking technique.

Stir-frying is a very healthy method of cooking as it uses very little fat. It’s a great way to include lots of vegetables in your meals. Once you know the basic secrets for success, stir-frying is simple and quick. You’ll be able to create endless tasty dishes for any night of the week.

For successful stir-frying, the food needs to be moved about constantly over the entire surface of the pan by using a wooden spoon or wok ladle. You need to scoop, flip and push the food continuously. Most foods need no more than 5 minutes cooking, less with intense heat. Stir-fried vegetables should be crisp and the meat tender and succulent.

  • A wok is ideal for stir-frying because its spherical shape spreads heat upwards from the base of the wok to cook all the ingredients evenly.
  • If you haven’t got a wok, use a large non-stick frying pan.
  • A long-handled wooden spoon, wok ladle or spatula is essential to stir-fry the ingredients without scratching the non-stick surface of your pan.
  • A large straining spoon is ideal for straining marinated meat.
  1. Have all your ingredients prepared before you start cooking. Measure all sauce ingredients, prepare onion, garlic and ginger. Chop all vegetables and meat or chicken. This is important as successful stir-frying needs quick, continuous cooking. Thorough preparation means a dish can be cooked and ready to eat in 15-20 minutes. This will ensure you have a fresh tasting meal that is evenly cooked.
  2. Heat the wok or frying pan over a high heat for a few minutes before adding your ingredients. Stir-fry meat, chicken or fish in batches over a high heat, making sure the food has enough room to be turned. Once each batch is cooked, remove from the pan before adding the next batch. The meat should sizzle as soon as it is added. If you add too much meat at a time, it will stew in its juices and become tough.
  3. Once all the meat is cooked, return it all to the pan. Add your chosen vegetables (with the harder veges blanched or briefly microwaved first) with any oil and stir-fry until cooked. Add any marinade and sauces for a final few minutes of cooking before serving.

Heat the pan slightly before adding the oil or other ingredients. Make sure any oil used is very hot before adding any ingredients. To keep the fat content as low as possible, try a spray oil available from supermarkets.

  • Choose lean cuts of meat and poultry.
  • Always use very fresh produce as cooking food quickly won’t disguise the taste of stale ingredients.
  • Prepare all stir-fry ingredients before you begin cooking.
  • If marinating meat or poultry, try to allow at least 2 hours for the flavours to develop. Marinate meat or chicken in a non-metallic dish, covered, in the fridge.
  • Always make sure leftover marinade is brought to the boil and cooked thoroughly before serving.
  • Cut stir-fry ingredients into small pieces of equal size, so they will be cooked in the same amount of time and evenly.
  • When stir-frying vegetables, always add the hardest ones first and cook a little before adding the softer ones. Or blanch the harder ones for a few minutes before stir-frying. The microwave is great for this – just cook for 1-2 minutes on high.
  • Leafy green vegetables and chopped herbs are best added to an almost completed stir-fry, just taken off the heat.
  • Stir-fry sliced lean pork, add your choice of stir-fry vegetables with a tablespoon of oil. Once cooked, add 1 cup of Teriyaki marinade (I like the Masterfoods one) with 3 tablespoons orange juice and heat through.
  • Stir-fry lean chicken or pork. Add 1-2 tablespoons of curry paste and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 cups of mixed vegetables and stir-fry with a little oil. Pour in a can of light
    coconut cream. Bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes and serve this curried stir-fry with rice or noodles.
  • Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan. Add some fresh prawns and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add a diced red capsicum and sliced spring onion and stir-fry for a further minute. Add a tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce. Heat through and serve immediately.
  • Try our Spicy beef stir-fry or Ginger and lemon chicken recipes.
  • A traditional sauce for stir-frying is simply a blend of seasonings, soy sauce and a little sesame oil. You can add oyster sauce and Chinese sauces such as black bean and a selection of flavouring ingredients such as ginger or lemongrass. Here are some useful finds to help you create stir-fries easily:
  • Ready-prepared ginger, garlic, lemongrass and chilli pastes are ideal to keep in store for quick stir-fry solutions.
  • Look for Kikkoman Less Salt soy sauce for a healthier option.
  • Chinese five-spice seasoning is great to sprinkle over stir-fries for an instant flavour of the Orient.

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