Last Saturday, I got drunk. It was my brother’s fault, he was up visiting and *forced* me to drink until 3am and then go to bed without any chips. Terrible stuff. Anyway, as a result, on Sunday I was pretty sorry for myself, to say the least. Instead of staying in bed with a supply of crisps and fizzy juice, which is my preference when I have a hangover, I got up, showered and shambled into town to catch a train to Edinburgh, as we had arranged to go on an adventure to the east coast. I was quite upset to discover that nobody else was suffering as I was, it just didn’t seem fair – not that I would wish suffering on my family, of course, but misery loves company, as they say. A breakfast of diet Irn Bru and cheese and onion crisps left me in ravenous hangover mode, which at least is preferable to nauseous, can’t look food in the face hangover mode. When we arrived in Edinburgh, our first port of call was lunch, and I wolfed down a plateful of steak pie with cheese and onion mash. It was really delicious, but I attacked it too vigorously and as a result was left with a combination of the meat sweats and the hangover dry sweats. You know, the ones where you feel like your internal organs are approximately the temperature of the sun but you’re not sweating, so you might explode? Maybe it’s just me. Anyway, the double sweats sent me to a very bad place for half an hour or so, and while the feeling that you might be able to use me to heat one of the smaller European countries did wear off after a while, the feeling that I might never want to eat again did not.
Knowing that it wasn’t a sensible option never to eat again, I instead opted to have something fresh and light for dinner. My gentleman friend (who had not been through the horror of the hangover sweats and had managed a two hour long nap in the afternoon, of which I was most jealous) suggested a stir fry and/or some miso soup. This seemed like exactly the kind of plan I could get behind and on my return from Edinburgh went accordingly to the shops to get the necessary. My stock cupboard’s pretty well filled so I really just needed the fresh bits. I didn’t really have a concrete plan of what to buy, as I still felt like my brain may or may not be made of cotton wool, so I did start by looking at the pre-packed stir fry veg. Those packs annoy me a lot of the time though, as they place two slices of pepper one water chestnut and a bamboo shoot right at the top of the pack to lure you in, and when you get home you find yourself eating a plate of what is essentially beansprouts, carrot and cabbage and wondering why you paid two quid for it. So the rage overcame the lethargy and I went on the hunt for real vegetables – it would cost a bit more, but the volume and quality of food I’d end up with would be far greater. I squinted blearily at the shelves in the produce department for a while, letting my brain absorb the available items at its own pace, and decided in the end to try radishes and pak choi for a start. I also bought baby sweetcorn and a red pepper, thinking that the sweetness of the pepper and the earthiness of the baby sweetcorn would balance with the peppery radishes and slightly bitter pak choi. I’m glad to say that I was right, and the recipe for both stir fry and miso to make a light meal for two follows. Miso is easy to make if you have the ingredients, although they are not always readily available in the local shops. It’s also not particularly photogenic.
Ingredients for miso:
- just boiled water to fill a large cooking pot
- 1tsp miso paste
- one large clove of garlic
- one thumb-sized piece of ginger
- a dash of light soy
- a quarter of a 350g pack of firm tofu
- dried, roasted seaweed
Make the miso first, as it will simmer happily while you make the stir fry. Thin the miso paste down with some boiling water in a small bowl or ramekin before adding to a pot full of simmering water over a low heat. Add the garlic and ginger, not peeled but CRUSHed as described in the recipe for ramen. Add a dash of soy, just enough to barely change the colour of the soup. You want the soup to be very pale and delicately flavoured. Once you’ve done this, cube the tofu, tear the seaweed and stir both in, then leave to simmer. Remove the garlic and ginger before serving, or leave them in as a ‘surprise’ for whoever you’re feeding.
- groundnut or other flavourless oil
- one inch-long piece of peeled ginger
- one green chili
- half a pack of babycorn
- half a red pepper
- four radishes, topped, tailed and washed
- one pak choi, with the base of the root sliced off
- ume plum seasoning
- sesame oil
- light soy
- sesame seeds to garnish
- one block of rice noodles
- just boiled water
Finely chop the ginger and slice the chili into rings, removing the seeds as you prefer. Then pour the very hot water over the rice noodles in a bowl, and leave to sit. The rice noodles will absorb the water as you cook the rest of the dish, without getting over saturated and mushy as they would if you put them on to boil. Next, slice the pepper, chop the babycorn into chunks, and thinly slice the radishes. Then slice the pak choi from top to root, put in a colander and rinse through.
Now, heat a little oil in a wok over a medium high heat and, once hot, add the ginger. Stir fry until fragrant, then add the chili. Continue stirring, and after another minute add the babycorn, and after yet another minute add the peppers, pak choi and radishes. Add a good dash of the ume plum seasoning, which can be used instead of a vinegar and has a bitter, salty taste with a hint of sweet aftertaste, a splash of light soy and a good dash of sesame oil. Stir the seasonings through the veg, then drain the noodles and separate with a fork – you may want to take the wok off the heat briefly while you do this to prevent burning. Once drained, add the noodles to the wok and stir everything together, then taste. Adjust the sesame oil, plum seasoning or soy as necessary then serve up, sprinkled with sesame seeds. Look how happy the stir fry and miso look together:
Miso is good hangover food. It hydrates you without hitting your stomach hard like a pint of cold water does. It has very clean and subtle flavours, and the slippery softness of the tofu adds texture while the seaweed adds flavour, but neither are too challenging to the hungover mouth. Also, anything with ginger in it is good for you on days when you feel a bit rough, or a bit poorly, as it settles the stomach – you could try ginger beer or pickled ginger, too, but miso delivers the same ingredient without any fizz or sharp vinegar hit. Tofu can be a bit of an acquired taste, I think, if only because of the texture which is unlike anything else I can think of. It can be used in most dishes to add bulk, and can be marinated to add flavour or deep fried to change the texture – one of my next adventures is going to be deep fried tofu in batter with wasabi sesame seeds – watch this space.
Tunes: I had on The Cure’s greatest hits album while I was making this, for no reason other than I love it and I can sing along while the wonder that is muscle memory guides me through the preparation and cooking process. Close to Me is one of my all time favourites, so much so that I’m often driven to strum out my own gentle and vastly inferior version. Here’s the real thing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79Oirr6Y0KA
Movie: We sat down to watch Slumdog Millionaire while we ate the stir fry and miso, as much because that’s what was on the TV as anything else. That’s not intended as a slight on the film itself, which I enjoyed, but it was entirely unrelated to the food in front of us. If I was to recommend a more appropriate film, it would be A Bug’s Life. It’s colourful, like the stir fry, soothing and easy to consume, like the miso, and it once cured me of a hangover. As if more recommendation was needed, it contains the epic phrase ‘I’m asking you with my brain’, which has long since entered the family shorthand. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWZk7dPJ2W8