OK so this is neither French nor English, but with ‘The Chinese New Year’ at the weekend, what better way to welcome ‘The year of the Goat’ than with a quick and tasty fried rice………..
As I have previously mentioned, here in France there is a close link with North Africa, whereas in the UK there are close links with India and China, so you are more likely to find a ‘cous cous café’ than an Indian or Chinese restaurant. But, although there is no ‘China Town’ in the city as there is in Liverpool, this is a very multicultural place and there is a large Chinese community in the eastern districts, and most small towns surrounding the city boast a Chinese restaurant.
What is more, on the opposite end of the block to my apartment there is a Buddhist Temple and it was the delightfully tempting smells coming from its kitchen as I walked past, that prompted me to rush home and make my ‘special fried rice’
And what’s more this dish is a big hit on both sides of the English Chanel – or La Manche, depending upon which side you are on………
When I asked my daughter what she would like to me cook when she came to visit from the UK, without hesitation she said ‘your fried rice’
So, woks at the ready and here we go (P.S. not to break with my tradition, I usually make this with left overs and whatever remains in my fridge, but here is the ‘official’ version)
(There is a little philosophical anecdote following the recipe for those who would like some food for the soul as well as the stomach…………..)
50g white rice per person (preferably not Basmati as it is too sticky for this dish*)
2 eggs lightly beaten and seasoned with a little salt and pepper
1 chicken breast pre-cooked and cut into fine strips (or equivalent left over chicken)
2 – 3 rashers of unsmoked bacon chopped into small cubes/ 100g lardons
8 – 10 medium white mushrooms (champignons de Paris)
150g small cooked prawns
3 medium Spring onions
A cup of frozen peas
Soy sauce to taste
Oil for frying
Cook the rice until ‘al dente’ and spread out on a baking tray lined with aluminium foil and allow to cool completely, separating the grains with a fork once cooled (I usually do this in the morning and keep in the fridge once completely cool)
Beat the eggs in a basin
Heat a quantity of the oil in a wok or large frying pan and make a very lightly cooked omelette and set it aside on a clean dry plate, keeping as warm as possible
Fry the bacon/lardons until just brown and set aside on a separate plate and keep as warm as possible
Sauté the mushrooms until just beginning to go golden (doré ) and set aside with the bacon
Add a good quantity of oil to the wok/pan and add the cooked rice (be careful as if it is damp, it my ‘spit’ I use a mesh shield to cover it until it ‘calms down’) stir with a wooden spatula to separate the grains
Once the rice is heated through and nicely separated add the cooked chicken and heat through, then the mushrooms and the bacon/lardons
Chop the spring onions into ¼ inch/ 1 cm slices and add to wok/pan
Add the frozen peas and cook until defrosted
Add the cooked prawns and heat through
Add a good glug of soy sauce and coat all the ingredients until golden brown
Finally chop the omelette into 1 inch / 2 cm cubes and add to the wok/pan stirring until heated through
Serve immediately in deep sided (pasta) dishes – if you are really hungry you can serve this with chips, but I find it filling enough on its own – especially if you intend serving a dessert…
*Brown and Basmati rice are both better for those who are following a low GI diet, but are FAR too sticky for this recipe.
“Happiness does not come from having much, but being attached to little”
‘Venerable Cheng Yen’
When I lived in the UK I had a fairly big house, with a good sized garden and a kitchen with ‘all mod cons’.
When I came to live on the outskirts of Paris, I exchanged my large house and garden for a small apartment with balconies only wide enough to take a window box. My kitchen is a typical ‘Little Paris kitchen’, which is not much bigger than a large walk in larder with an narrower than average cooker, as this was all that would fit inside.
Looking down from my bedroom window I can see the small triangular garden of an equally small house situated just behind our building.
Six years ago, I would have looked at this house and garden and felt sorry for the people who lived there, as they had such a small house and such a small garden with hardly enough room for a little table and two chairs.
But when I moved here I found myself looking wistfully from the window, thinking how lucky these people were to have a house with no-one above or below or at the side of them, and envying them having a place to put a little table and two chairs and sit out on a summer evening and admire their shrubs and bedding plants that they had planted around the edge of their tiny triangle of grass.
Then one day my attention was caught by the sound of wind chimes. I leant out of the window a little and looked to the side, beyond a high wall of bamboo separating the courtyard at the back of our building from the Buddhist temple next door.
There, on a veranda at the back of the temple, two monks dressed in simple grey cotton robes were squatting behind two plastic bowls washing their laundry – no mod cons in the temple then, not so much as a washing machine – They were chatting and laughing and smiling as one doused the dirty laundry in a bowl of soapy water then wrung it out and passed it to the other who then rinsed it in his bowl before hanging it out like prayer flags fluttering in the wind to dry. A third monk was at a table peeling a large quantity of vegetables. Just in front of them was an ornamental pond with large ‘red’ gold fish (poisons rouges)
They all looked so content and at peace, that it made me realise, that they had even less than me, and that it is not what you have that makes you happy, but learning to be happy with what you do have.
I then remembered that when I had my big garden, I had always wanted to plant bamboo and put up wind charms and have a ‘water feature’ with the soothing sound of water. Three things that for some reason I never got around to doing. Now, grace of these monks, I had all three –
How lucky was I
HAPPY NEW YEAR!