It is only at the end of January that I finally feel like life resumes a normal pace. The sheer volume of December’s celebrations (Year end! Christmas! New Year! Weddings!) takes some undoing, but January has its own set of burdens: new resolutions that aren’t always easy, a renewed commitment to one’s health that often veers on the frenzied, and also, winter. The first month of the year is designed for hibernation, for retreat, and for rest, and so it is only once this seesaw from full-on festivities through to hermit-like retreat wraps up that the pace of the new year actually begins to reveal itself.
For me what’s started to unfurl is more and more time spent in the kitchen, making bone broths or Asian bowl meals, lots of roasted vegetables, and extremely (sometimes luridly) green drinks. It’s sort of meditative; what I once regarded as a chore has taken on a lovely sense of ritual, and I love rolling up my sleeves to tinker with new recipes (to, I must admit, varying degrees of success). On days when I don’t sit down to meditate, this feels like a stand-in, in that it helps me switch off from my day in a way that only a few other things do. It’s the sort of ritual that turns the “don’t just sit there, do something,” natter of one’s head and flips it into “don’t just do something, sit there,” aka chills me the fuck out, aka is – suspend your disbelief – a genuinely pleasurable thing.
A disclaimer though: I have not, as yet, graduated to the sort of involved cooking that necessitates extensive shopping and/or many, many steps. If the end result is special enough, perhaps that is something I’ll endeavour, but my kitchen time is, at present, of a more succinct sort. There’s beauty in brevity you guys. Also, bowls. If it’s in a bowl, I am into it. Ooh, also coconut milk. I frickin’ love that stuff.
This noodle bowl is half comfort, half nutrition, and all flavour. It combines many of my favourite things into one bowl: creamy coconut milk, crisp veggies, and bright herbs. I get our cook to chop these for me, so it is literally a matter of assembling the thing when I get home in the evening, but even if you get stuck in with the chopping, it is still an obscenely quick affair.
Top marks for making your own curry paste; it’s not as complicated as you think. In fact, you can pack loads of aromatics and spices into a paste and freeze for use. Or you can just use the readymade stuff (I do). There is a freshness and vibrancy that you’ll get if you’re blitzing lemongrass, lime, ginger, coriander and garlic instead of squeezing it out of a packet, but there is a convenience associated with that squeezing that no amount of zing can match, particularly at 8pm on a Monday evening.
- Soak rice vermicelli in hot water for ten minutes. Drain and set aside.
- In a wok, fry loads of garlic, ginger, rough-chopped onion, and red chilli peppers in sesame oil until it starts to go sort of golden brown. You don’t have to cook this very long but I like it to caramelize because it makes the end result richer.
- Add in sliced chicken, and then a minute later add in one sliced red pepper and pak choi.
- Mix a hefty tablespoon of red curry paste with coconut milk, a pinch of sugar, and generous splashes of fish sauce and then chuck all that into the pot.
- Simmer for a minute or three.
- Serve in bowls atop the rice vermicelli, and top with chopped celery, spring onion, coriander leaves, and lime.