Flying solo

Alone in the house. Work work work. Scribble scribble scribble. Okay, work, and watch Breaking Bad, since no one I lives with really approves, and I can catch up when they’re gone.

But a girl’s gotta eat, right? Catch is: she doesn’t want to cook every time her belly growls. 

And so I lit on this noodle salad which I saw in The New York Times before I left Noo Yawk —  from the wonderful Martha Rose Shulman; her version adapted Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid’s from Hot, Salty, Sour, Sweet

I thought I’d make the full recipe — which says it serves four — and store it in the fridge, and snack on it when I desired. This has worked a treat. If I don’t remember to spoon out a bowlful half an hour before I actually want to eat it, I zap it in the microwave for 30 seconds just to take the chill off. 

1/2 small green cabbage, shredded very fine (about 4 cups or so)
200g cellophane noodles (NB, gluten-free!), soaked for 20 minutes in warm water
1/3 cup chopped roasted peanuts (or cashews, if you like them better)
1 cup chopped fresh coriander
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
fresh hot chili pepper, like Thai chili or jalapeno — to taste, which is about a teaspoon, chopped, for me…
2 eggs
2 tsps sugar
salt and pepper
3 tbsps sunflower or peanut oil
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsps minced or grated ginger
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3 tbsps rice vinegar
1-2 tbsps ponzu citrus seasoning (this is a citrussy soy sauce you can buy in Asian markets; if you can’t find it, regular soy sauce is fine).
1 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp fresh lime juice

Put the cabbage in a bowl full of ice water while you prep the other stuff. Keeps it nice ‘n’ crispy. 

Bring a pot of water to the boil and cook the noodles for about 1 1/2 minutes; drain and rinse with cold water. Drain again. Using a scissors (it’s easier than a knife) chop the noodles roughly while they sit in the colander. Don’t do this and you’ll be sorry — you’ll have big old clumps of noodles that won’t play nicely with the rest of your salad, but sit on their own and sulk. Put your drained, chopped noodles in a bowl. 

Drain the cabbage and add to the bowl, add the peanuts, coriander, mint, basil and chopped chili pepper. Toss together. 

The secret to really excellent tossing when it comes to something like this? Get yourself a box of latex gloves. Yes, the kind they use at the doctor’s office. Snap on a pair and just lift and toss your salad with your gloved mitts: you won’t look back, I promise. Also good for tasks like forming meatballs. Trust me. Who needs big spoons? Not me. I’ve got my gloves. 

Beat one of the eggs in a bowl with one tsp of sugar, add salt and pepper. Heat one tsp of sunflower oil in a nonstick pan of 15cms or so, get it nice and hot and add the egg, swirling it round until you have a wide flat round pancake of egg. After a moment or so — it will cook fast — flip it over and cook the other side, briefly. Remove from heat to cutting board; repeat process with other egg. Roll up the egg-pancakes, slice into thin strips and set aside. 

(NOTE: Only do both eggs if you plan to serve this to a bunch of folks; if it’s just going to be you and you’re planning to keep this in the fridge for later, I’d cook a new egg for yourself next time you’re ready for a bowlful. Simples.)

Put garlic, ginger and a pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle and pound to a coarse paste. Heat 1 tbsp of the sunflower oil in the pan in which you cooked the eggs, medium heat; add the paste and red pepper flakes and cook for about a minute. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool a little. Now add rice vinegar, ponzu, tahini and your fresh lime juice, whisk it all together and pour over noodle mixture. Toss well again. 

Serve yourself a tasty bowl; scatter over your sliced egg pancake. I also went a little crazy and scattered over some frozen shrimp I had; I just thawed ’em in the microwave and gave them a quick saute in sesame oil in the same pan I’d used for the egg and ginger/garlic mix. That said, I just read this piece in Harper’s Magazine about the evils of farmed shrimp: I may not buy another bag of those little pink fellas ever again. Wicked shrimp or no wicked shrimp: this is one tasty salad. And it’s interesting and satisfying enough that you won’t mind having it a few meals in a row, if you are by yourself and can’t be arsed to make anything else, like I was. That I guarantee.