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We had a bunch of random ingredients to hand on Tuesday, so Dan did what he does best, and set about thinking up ways to create something delicious out of them. This is his area of expertise (I still maintain that he would ace any Masterchef ingredients challenge) and I’m always confident that he will put it off with finesse. His knowledge of textures and flavours is really quite special. It’s a gift I only wish I had. Perhaps he can teach me one day, but is it really something that can be taught? Or is it an instinct that you either have, or you don’t? That one is still open to discussion and debate.

So, what did he have to play with? Well, a packet of twelve beef meatballs that had been sat in the freezer for a few weeks (purchased for just over a pound – bargain!), a packet of dried egg noodles and some tender-shoot
stir fry vegetables (spring onions, mange touts, broccoli and baby corns). The initial thoughts were to turn this little lot into a delectable hot, broth-like soup with a real kick of chilli, but as the process began, the paste was made and cooking commenced, it evolved into a splendid Thai noodle dish.

To make this meal (to serve four) you will need: twelve meatballs (homemade or pre packed), five/six fine egg noodle nests (depending on appetite), mixed tender-shoot stir fry vegetables (preferably with lots of greenery), two tablespoons of vegetable oil, 400ml of chicken stock, the juice of half a lime and fish sauce to taste.

For the paste you will need: two cloves of garlic, one tablespoon of ginger, one lemongrass stalk, one red chilli, one kaffir lime leaf, two candlenuts, half a teaspoon of cumin, half a teaspoon of coriander and half a teaspoon of shrimp paste.

Method:

– Combine the paste ingredients one at a time in a pestle and mortar, along with half a teaspoon of salt.
– Brown the meatballs in a wok for five minutes.
– Add the paste for one minute on a medium to high heat.
– Add the stock and simmer for twenty five minutes.
– Cook the noodles, drain and rinse under a cool tap. Set to one side.
– Add the vegetables to the wok for the last five minutes of cooking time.
– Remove from the heat. Add the lime juice, fish sauce and a little sugar (if required) to taste.
– Serve immediately.

The results were actually quite surprising. The meatballs really soaked up all of the spicy sauce and Thai aromas, and although I must admit to preferring chicken to compliment these particular vegetables, it worked well. Saying that, perhaps my tastebuds are just well trained to sampling them as part of a Chicken Thai Green curry, and this was something a little different. And change is good – most of the time.

Crisp vegetables, with a little crunch from the candlenuts thrown in, soft noodles and succulent meatballs nestling in amongst all of my favourite Asian flavours. Was it really ever gonna fail!?

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