pepper stir fry

Peppery garlic asparagus stir fry

Yep, it’s asparagus season!

And after a visit to the local Farmers’ Market I had enough asparagus to just get creative with - which is really what I love to do with food: get great ingredients and then just have fun, playing around and trying out new ideas.

First I made a Thai soup with coconut milk, a tom kha - I’ve usually had this with chicken or seafood, but I made it with asparagus and really liked it.

Next up this peppery, garlic stir fry.

In my head I’d wanted fresh green peppercorns but I was definitely too lazy to go out and get the bus up to the Thai supermarket to buy some, so I tried a mix of black, and pink peppercorns (that I had whole and ground) and some white pepper (ready ground).

I’ve since made it again with just white pepper to see what it was like, and it was still good.

Quantities are kind of vague (as they often are!) but here’s what I used to make this super simple peppery asparagus stir fry.

A teaspoon of cooking oil - sunflower, rapeseed or grapeseed will be best

Just over a teaspoon of ground peppercorns - your choice as to what you use but on the first occasion I used a mix of black, pink and white and on the second just white pepper on its own

1 garlic clove, minced

1 red chilli, diced finely (the chilli is optional and when I made this a second time I didn’t put one in and probably preferred it without - instead I had the asparagus as a side dish with a spicy chicken stir fry and rice)

A handful of asparagus spears - I LOVE how when you bed the asparagus it just KNOWS where the right place is to snap off - woody stalk snapped off and sliced

2-3 tablespoons water

2 teaspoons fish sauce

1/2 teaspoon sugar

Fresh coriander leaves, chopped (if liked - if not just leave out)

Put a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, add the oil and swirl to cover the pan.

Add the pepper and garlic (and chilli if using) and cook for 20-30 seconds, stirring all the time, until it smells good. Add a splash of water if it looks like it’s going to stick or burn - it needs to keep moving.

Rachel Redlaw peppery garlic asparagus
Rachel Redlaw peppery garlic asparagus

Then tip in the sliced asparagus and stir to cover with the lovely oily peppery garlicky mixture and then add the water, fish sauce and sugar.

Do adjust the amount of water if you’d like more of a sauce or if at any point in the cooking time it looks like it’s run out of water and is going to stick.

Cover and simmer for about four minutes until the asparagus is cooked but still has a crunch - or to your liking of course. If you prefer it softer, cook it a little longer.

Add the coriander leaves if using and stir to mix it all together.

Rachel Redlaw peppery garlic asparagus
Rachel Redlaw peppery garlic asparagus

Serve on its own with rice for a delicious light lunch or supper, or have alongside other dishes in a multi-dish meal.

Rachel Redlaw peppery garlic asparagus
Rachel Redlaw peppery garlic asparagus


Crispy peppery seafood stir fry

What I was thinking of was lovely crunchy deep fried prawns in a light batter ... and then what I was thinking was that I wanted something similar but also not deep fried.

Oh and ALSO what I was thinking was that usually those deep fried prawns have the batter around the shell - and I just don't like eating the shell plus I have a bit of a horror of un-de-veined prawns.

So the combination of prawns with veins in, and the shell on AND deep fried .... just wasn't going to work.

(OK ... when I say a 'horror' of not having de-veined prawns, if I'm throwing them in the food processor to make something like my prawn balls, then OF COURSE I don't de-vein them first, I just throw them in and mix with the other ingredients. I just don't like to SEE the vein. Just to clarify :) )

I tried this a couple of times and I was a bit too heavy-handed with the white pepper at first, but yesterday I got it right ... right being just how I like it ... and so I want to share.

I always have frozen seafood in the freezer as it means there's always going to be something good to eat and for this I decided I wanted a variety of seafood, not just prawns after all.

I have prawns, defrosted and de-veined. And I have squid - I much prefer the tubes of squid I can then score and cut into smaller pieces that roll up - but my online grocery shop delivered rings, so I kept them.  I also usually have beautiful big scallops - but again the grocery shop this time delivered these tiny ones and actually I'm a bit smitten with them.

While defrosting all the frozen seafood in a bowl of cold water, I made a little Vietnamese-style dipping sauce and cooked my rice as the cooking of the seafood itself is really quick.

Rachel Redlaw crispy peppery seafood
Rachel Redlaw crispy peppery seafood

I made an easy little kind-of-batter with:

2 tablespoons cornflour

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1/5-1 tsp (to your taste) ground white pepper

1-2 birds eye chillies (to your taste), very finely sliced (I prefer red, but the grocery shopping .... you get it)

Just mix it all together and when the seafood is defrosted and rinsed, tip into the batter and mix with your hands to cover the prawns, squid and scallops (or whatever you're using).

Then put a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, add some sprays of oil or pour a little oil to coat and when good and hot add the seafood.

It should sizzle immediately - so maybe try one piece to see if it's hot enough before tipping it all in.

Space it out so that nothing is on top of anything else and if there's extra batter add that on top of the seafood - it goes lovely and crisp.

Cook for about three minutes, turning a few times, until cooked and browned.

Rachel Redlaw crispy peppery seafood

And that's it!

Serve with the cooked rice and I like to top this with some sliced spring onion and chopped fresh coriander leaves.

Drizzle over some of the dipping sauce, pour a glass of something cold and good ... and eat.

This is now a favourite 'storecupboard' meal for me - I really love making 'something from nothing - when it looks like there's nothing in the cupboards or fridge and then I can make something as quick and easy - and delicious as this!