Golden cauliflower in a glorious sea green bed of ginger spinach

Your powers of multitasking will be required to create this dish of two stir fries. The cauliflower takes a little longer to cook, as the spinach is just being wilted, so start that cooking first. The golden colour comes from a mixture of powdered turmeric, as well as some grated fresh turmeric root.

In the golden cauliflower…

  • half a red onion – roughly chopped
  • 1 cup of cooked chickpeas
  • 1 1/2 cups of cauliflower florets
  • 3 cm length of turmeric root – grated using a ginger root grater
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of spanish smoked paprika
  • olive oil for frying
  • Saute all ingredients together in a heavy based pan – should take between 5 and 10 minutes

In the glorious sea green spinach…

  • a generous colander full of washed and well drained spinach leaves
  • a generous handful of green beans – topped and tailed and halved
  • a cup of chopped shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 cloves of garlic – chopped
  • 4cm length of ginger root – grated
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin powder
  • a splash of tamari
  • olive oil for frying
  • In a large wok, saute everything. Start with the garlic, cumin, mushrooms, and beans, cooking these on their own for about 1 minute. Add everything else and toss to ensure even mixing

Serve, with the spinach arranged in a ring around the plate, and the golden cauliflower in the centre. Squeeze half a lime lightly over the meals before serving.

Simple stir fry – to go with the Thai Fried Rice

The Thai Fried Rice would be a great summer salad, however it was originally made to be a companion to this vegetable stir fry. Put together the two meals include a reasonable range of vegetables (corn, peas, broccoli, mushrooms) as well as tofu, rice and nuts. This meal is deliberately quite plain, by virtue of the fact that the fried rice is made with curry paste, and so carries the heat and the bulk of the flavour in the meal.


  • A large pile of purple sprouting broccoli spears. Cut off the knarly bits from the ends of the stem and roughly chop any really large spears. The VegHead always thinks that the size of any pieces in a stir fry is less important than the fact that all the pieces of any one ingredient are of a consistent size, so that they reach “cooked” at the same time.
  • a slightly smaller pile of mushrooms, sliced. Use either shiitake or standard cup mushrooms, or whatever lovely funghi you can get your greedy little hands on.
  • 1/2 a (standard sized) block of medium/soft tofu. Cube.
  • 1 cubic cm of ginger – grate using a ginger grater
  • tamari
  • peanut oil

To make:

  • Stir fry it all. If you need me to explain how to stir fry, you shouldn’t be trusted near a naked flame and you ought to have cereal for dinner instead. Ask Mum to help you use the scissors to cut the cereal packet open.
  • Serve on a bed of Thai Curry Rice.

The story of my wok

A wok is your friend. Not as good a friend as the Bamix or the Pressure Cooker, but it’s right up there toward the top of the social pecking order. But my goal here is not to convince you of the merits of a wok. Oh no…your path toward understanding is your own to tread. The wok merely serves in this case as a single physical manifestation of the goals we set ourselves in order to move along the path. It is the challenges, false starts, and the lessons we learn through overcoming them that are more important.

It is so in every allegorical semi-mystical load of malarkey.

This is story of my wok, or rather My Current Wok. We did not come to each other both wearing virginal white. I had flings and dalliances with several woks over the years. All of them, like My Current Wok were made of mild steel – I’m not a teflon kinda guy and fancy stainless steel just didn’t seem fit for purpose for a wok. When was the last time you saw a Bangkok street hawker sizzling a battered rat in a stainless steel wok? Exactly my point!

The trouble was, all those woks had let me down eventually. No matter how much I pampered them they’d all eventually developed a mild case of rust and no matter what I did afterward to try and save them they lent a dreary taste of oxidisation to everything they touched. My lesson here was that not all mild steel is created equal.

Some years ago SheWhoMustBeFed and the VegHead spent four years living on Long Island (NY). A few miles down the road was a Thai Restuarant. The soul destroying expanse of the strip mall carpark that was its location belied the cheeriness inside, and more importantly the tasty produce of its kitchen.

All the cooking took place in full view of the patrons, with the chefs busying away behind a chest high divider. Flames regularly leap toward the exhaust fans as the hot oil from their creations splashed onto the gas flames. Their woks were battle hardened – coated black inside and out with the baked on seasoning of endless oily use.

One night…

We noticed that they were selling a dozen or so new woks “The same as we use here in our kitchen”. Mild steel, sturdy varnished wooden handle with a steel rod running through it, ending in a closed hook to hang it. No lid. US$6.50. My heart was filled with the memories of past betrayal as I looked on it’s bright, fresh bowl. But hey…six dollars fifty and I needed a wok so what the hell…

How gloriously seasoned My Current Wok has become. The mild steel of the bowl is The Right Stuff. Even the handle has retained it’s fresh varnished look.

Even better, the perfect wok lid came into our lives about 6 months after we first got The Current Wok. One night I needed a lid in order to successfully cook whatever it was I was doing for dinner. Looking in the cupboards to see if anything would fit I grabbed the largest of our set of nested stainless steel mixing bowls. This one was deeply bowled and at some point it must have been dropped on the floor, as there was a tiny dint inward just at the edge of the flat base – about the size of a little fingernail.

The lid fitted into the bowl of the wok better than Cinderella’s foot fitted the glass shoe.

By mid morning the next day the bowl had officially been paired with the wok, and their union consummated through the act of drilling a hole in the centre of the bowl’s flat base. Through this a small wooden knob type handle was screwed on – a spare kitchen cupboard type knob that emerged from the depths of my tool box. Another smaller hole (1.5mm) was drilled where the dint was, to allow steam to escape.

My Current Wok is not without needs.

Here is how I keep it happy;

  • it likes to be thoroughly seasoned inside and out with olive or peanut oil
  • it doesn’t like too much watery stuff in it.
  • it doesn’t like to be washed with soapy water too much. It prefers to be thoroughly rinsed with very hot water while it is still hot, immediately after cooking. If I dry off any excess water with a quick flick of a towel then the residual heat will completely steam off the remainder. This sounds like a hassle but it takes as long as SheWhoMustBeFed takes to carry the dinner plates to the table.

We’ve been together now for almost eight years, my wok and I. I think that she liked that I made her a bonny lid, so she has remained faithful to me throughout. Love your wok, and it will love you back..

Cavolo Nero and mushrooms in sesame

Cavolo Nero is a cabbage, but oh what a cabbage it is. Nero refers not only to the black verdancy of the leaves, but also points to the place it holds in the Royal Court of Cabbage. No mere, sulphurous, dense ball of pale cabbage commonry, Cavolo Nero’s leaves are long; and the thin, crispy flesh is densly crinkled. If you cannot get any local, organic Cavolo Nero in season, then you can use Kale instead. However your life will be a little sadder for the substitution.

This…is a stir fry. Considering the fact that stir fries are meant to form a solid foundation to the average VegHead’s menu we don’t actually cook that many of them. But hey…you go with the flow of what’s in season and what’s in the larder, and Cavolo Nero is a stir fry kinda guy…

What was in the fridge..

  • One firmly packed cup of chopped Cavolo Nero. Strip the stalk off each leaf as far as the point where it disappears anyway, slice into smallish pieces, wash and thoroughly drain before using.
  • One glove of garlic, crushed
  • A few slices of onion
  • One cup of chopped mushrooms. shitake would have been my first choice, alas the larder was shitakeless. Firm, small fresh champignons therefore gave it their all.
  • Half a packet of firm beancurd; cut into small cubes
  • Chopped fresh coriander
  • Tamari to taste
  • Ground pepper to taste
  • Peanut oil for stir frying
  • Dark sesame oil
  • Crushed roasted almonds
  • Brown rice noodles

What to do..

Stir fry in this order:

  • onion, garlic and pepper
  • tamari, beancurd and mushrooms
  • cavolo nero

Meanwhile….prepare the brown rice noodles as per packet intructions. In my case; soak in boiled water for 5 minutes then rinse in cold water and drain.

  • add the cooked noodles to the stir fry. Toss with gaiety to ensure the noodles don’t form one fat lump all by themselves. Its a bit like a party where there are two social groups – your work friends and your “other” friends – unless you make them mingle they’ll all have a good time but they won’t socialise with each other.
  • Drizzle with a little dark sesame oil
  • Garnish with a generous toss of the coriander, and also the almonds
  • Best served on a prewarmed plate. For some reason noodles go cold on a plate almost quicker than anything else.

Served two..