In cooking club this week, I did a bit of a Jamie Oliver myself – I presented the boys with a number of ingredients and asked if they knew what they were. To be fair, the ingredients weren’t tomatoes or potatoes, but much more unusual: peas in a pod (someone guessed edamame!), zucchini (squash or cucumber were the guesses), jalapeno and banana peppers (the boys knew these were peppers, just not what kind), garlic and ginger (both guessed correctly), water chestnuts (most had never seen these before), Enoki mushrooms (NOONE knew what they were but they were intrigued!), coriander (correctly guessed) and bok choi (also correctly guessed).
Once I showed them the noodles, chicken and soy sauce, they were all very excited to realise we were making a stir fry – Jamie Oliver’s Chicken Chow Mein, to be exact! Now not all those ingredients appear in Jamie’s original recipe but I had the peas and zucchini at home and thought it would be fun to add those, and I couldn’t find shitake mushrooms anywhere so went with enoki – also a fun addition.
Whilst I busied myself with the noodles and chicken, the boys got chopping:
Check out that technique!!! I demonstrate how I would like each vegetable cut and have everyone observe so they are learning all different chopping and cutting techniques. I am also trying to impress upon them the importance of keeping a clean and organised cooking space and you can see they are doing a great job at that too. We always do the mise en place before we start cooking/ assembling the meal and then make sure our stations are clean and the dishwasher is packed so we can just cook, pack the food and go – I find that usually after the cooking has taken place, there is little interest in cleaning up (hey – that’s just like me!) so I am trying to teach them useful habits to get into in the kitchen.
Once the noodles were cooked, we splashed a little sesame oil on them and covered them up to keep warm. I also stirred in the coriander to impart some flavour whilst they were resting:
Then we got cooking:
Many hands make light work, right?
At the end, when we stirred the veggies and chicken into the noodles, we added some torn bok choi leaves for some good crunch:
Did they like it? The picture below speaks for itself!
This smelled absolutely amazing but I actually didn’t get a chance to taste it as I was preoccupied with one of the little chefs who inadvertently rubbed his eyes after cutting the jalapeno – ouch! He was very brave about it, not really making a fuss which must have been hard – I know what it feels like to rub your eyes with chili fingers. He’s fine, thankfully and I am so sorry he had to learn the hard way but you can bet that all the boys will be busy washing their hands and reminding each other to at the next session! It’s also a lesson for me – sometimes the boys are so accomplished, both in my class and in cooking club, that I forget how little they are – 9 and 10 year-olds still need to be reminded to wash their hands – just because I remember to, doesn’t mean they will too! In any case, onwards and upwards, and as I always tell the boys, we learn from our mistakes.
Below is the original recipe with my notes in red italics.
Jamie Oliver’s Chicken Chow Mein
• a thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger
• 2 cloves of garlic
• ½–1 fresh red chilli, to your taste (we used a whole banana pepper and half a small jalapeno pepper)
• 1 large skinless chicken breast, preferably free-range or organic
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 2 spring onions
• a small bunch of fresh coriander
• 1 bok choi (I used 2 baby bok choi)
optional: 4 shiitake mushrooms (I used a small packet enoki mushrooms)
• 100g (2 bundles) medium egg noodles
• groundnut oil (I used sesame oil)
• 1 heaped teaspoon cornflour (Actually did not end up using this)
• 1 x 220g tin of water chestnuts
• 2–3 tablespoons soy sauce
• 1 small lime (whoops – forgot this!)
Jamie says: This dish makes use of a tender, juicy Asian cabbage called bok choi, which is simple to cook and really tasty. You should be able to find bok choi (also known as pak choi, Chinese white cabbage or hakusai) in your supermarket but if not, then a nice little gem lettuce or a handful or two of baby spinach would work well instead
To prepare your stir-fry
• Put a large pan of water on to boil
• Peel and finely slice the ginger and garlic
• Finely slice the chilli
• Slice the chicken into finger-sized strips and lightly season with salt and pepper
• Cut the ends off your spring onions and finely slice
• Pick the coriander leaves and put to one side, and finely chop the coriander stalks
• Halve the bok choi lengthways
• If using the mushrooms, either tear into pieces or leave whole
To cook your stir-fry
• Preheat a wok or large frying pan on a high heat and once it’s very, very hot add a good lug of groundnut oil and swirl it around
• Stir in the chicken strips and cook for a couple of minutes, until the chicken browns slightly
• Add the ginger, garlic, chilli, coriander stalks, (I added the coriander to the cooked noodles as mentioned above) mushrooms (if using) and half the spring onions
• Stir-fry for 30 seconds, keeping everything moving round the wok quickly
• Add your noodles and bok choi to the boiling water (since I was using baby bok choi, I added this to the stir fry pan instead – it was cut small enough that I knew it would cook fast) and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, no longer
• Meanwhile, add the cornflour (didn’t need the cornflour), water chestnuts and their water to the wok and give it another good shake to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom
• Remove from the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
• Halve the lime, squeeze the juice of one half into the pan and mix well (as I said, I forgot this step!)
• Drain the noodles and bok choi in a colander over a bowl, reserving a little of the cooking water
• Stir in the noodles and bok choi, with a little of the cooking water to loosen if necessary, and mix well
• Have a taste and season with more soy sauce if needed
To serve your stir-fry
• Use tongs to divide everything between two bowls or plates, or to lift on to one large serving platter
• Spoon any juices over the top and sprinkle with the rest of the spring onions and the coriander leaves
• Serve with lime wedges