STORR CUPBOARD: Leftover celery stir fry

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Last weekend I was a little worried about what leftover celery recipes would show how versatile celery can be; not another cream of celery soup (though I love it) or coleslaw.  Like the rest of the wealthy world I’m a cookbook junkie. Because buying them is the same as cooking from them, right? Ergh. I’m as mature as I was, 20 years ago, photocopying endless essays in the corner shop, imagining some Johnny-5 type powers of speed inputting were transmitting themselves up through the photocopier lid as the light slid over the text.


So last Saturday night I sat, cross legged on my childhood bed, glass or 2 of Merlot in hand, surrounded by Thomasina MiersJane GrigsonMandy Aftel and Ching-He Huang(Why yes I rock the party). As I turned the pages of Huang’s ‘Stir Fry’, I realised I’d forgotten how amazing celery is in a stir fry. D’uh you may say. You would be right.

Yet another of my many culinary blind sides has been tofu. I tried it years ago and just no.  Just tasteless and spongy.

In January I was off to Cambridge, leaving from King’s Cross. Happily for me, it was lunchtime. A friend with an unholy knowledge of top restaurants had long advised a meal Supawan, and good god he was right. One bowl of spicy noodles with pork, seafood and tofu (I like neither seafood nor tofu) later, I got it. The soft, slight blandness against stronger flavours such as celery, oyster sauce and chilli. Perfect.

I did think twice about including this recipe as it does call for Shaoshing rice wine, or sherry; I’m sure a white wine vinegar will be nice, though not quite the same flavour. But £3 is £3, whichever way you cut it. I’d love to hear what would be a cheap alternative.

Your leftover celery can be less than sterling for this recipe, but with a little crunch is best. The peppery celery blends with the peanuts and Chinese flavours for a meal that, well – well I ate the entire portion. For two. By myself.

By Sunday afternoon I had got through Huang, Miers, 2 Grigsons and half of Aftel. Happily, osmosis hasn’t ever quite worked as well as the unadulterated luxury of quiet, good wine and good books.

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Recipe:

Leftover celery stir-fry

Adapted from 'Stir-Fry' by Ching-He Huang, p150

Prep Time10 mins

Cook Time15 mins

Total Time 25 mins


Ingredients

• 1 packet smoked tofu

• pinch sea salt

• grinding pepper

• 1 tablespoon cornflour I used plain & it was fine

• 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

• 2 garlic cloves

• 1 tablespoon Shaosing rice wine

• 2 large leftover celery sticks

• 1 tablespoon light soy sauce/shoyu

• 1 tablespoon oyster sauce

• pinch dry chilli flakes

• small handful roasted peanuts

• 1 tablespoon sesame oil

• Jasmine rice, to serve


Tools

• Knife & chopping board

• Garlic crusher (optional)

• Saucepan, for rice

• Wok/large frying pan


Instructions

1. Put rice on to cook as per packet instructions.

2. Slice celery on the diagonal. Dice the tofu and sprinkle with seasoning and place to one side

3. Finely chop or crush the garlic

4. Place the wok on a high heat until smoking and add the vegetable oil. Add the garlic and toss for a few seconds ONLY. Add the tofu and leave for a minute to set and brown. Toss the tofu and garlic a couple of times, leaving around 30 seconds between, until the tofu is browned.

5. Add the rice wine or dry sherry, then the celery and cook for just under a minute until softened but still crisp.

6. Season with soy sauce, oyster sauce and chilli flakes and mix well.

7. Add the peanuts and sesame oil. Remove from the heat and serve immediately with the jasmine rice.