Sometimes I daydream about roasting a chicken on Sunday, then using the leftover meat for a curry on Monday and then boiling down the carcass for chicken soup on the Tuesday.  The reality is that I barely have the time to Hoover the stairs, let alone pluck scraps of meat from a chicken carcass.


When Paul and I moved to Hackney I imagined myself pottering up to Broadway Market and buying our weekly groceries from a nice market stall.  I’ll probably get to know the stallholders by name, I thought.  But I think I’ve been once, and brought over priced cupcakes.


I like the idea of making my own bread or rolling out my own pasta, but who actually does this?! I work 9am – 6pm, Paul about the same.  For us toast and pasta are the things you cook when you don’t want to cook.  But chefs and food writers have laden them with guilt for me.  I feel anxious about my foodie credentials when I pour dried pasta in boiling water, and then stir in ready-made pesto and call it tea.


Our kitchen has one work surface, which is the size of a chopping board. We have two pans; one saucepan and one frying pan.   My blender is tucked in a corner; it shines at me optimistically every now and again, but I’ve only ever used it to make pesto, once. And it takes a long time to clean. And our dishwasher doesn’t work.


We don’t eat ready meals.  If I ever fancied lasagne or fish pie, I could knock one together. But they take bloody ages and pan and space issues make more complex dishes a bit of a pain. Chefs and food writers give me great pleasure, but I can’t imitate them. I don’t have the time or the resources.


Anyway, what I’m coming to realise is (and Paul is a great help here) that we can still eat healthy, fresh meals without spending a fortune or taking an age.  I love that these meals come together quickly and don’t need fancy ingredients. We buy most things from an online supermarket, topped up by our local corner shop. This salmon stir fry was one of the first meals I made when I realised I didn’t have to be slave to the stove to make inventive and delicious meals. It takes 15 minutes, using one pan. It also doesn’t matter if you don’t have all of the ingredients. I once reached for the wrong bottle and added balsamic vinegar instead of sesame seed oil. It tasted fine.



Salmon Stir Fry

You’ll need to chop everything first. You’ll need one frying pan or wok. This serves two hungry people.


2 salmon fillets

Thumb sized piece of fresh ginger

2 garlic cloves

2 red or green chillis (the ones corner shops sell)

2 teaspoons Chinese five spice

Soy sauce

Sesame seed oil

Vegetable/sunflower oil

2 packets ready to wok noodles (the thin or ribbon ones, we once tried it with Singapore flavoured ones and it was a bit weird)

1 bundle of spring onions

Enough vegetables for two people; I tend to use green beans, baby sweetcorn and a green pepper

1 lime

  1. Start by putting your salmon fillets in a bowl, finely chop one half of the ginger, one garlic clove and one of the chillies and add these, with one teaspoon of the 5 spice, to the bowl. Add a generous tablespoon of the soy sauce and the sesame seed oil, stir everything round and put the bowl in the fridge.
  2. Chop all the vegetables into similar sized batons. Chop the remaining ginger, garlic and chilli.
  3. Heat a tablespoon each of sesame seed, soy sauce and vegetable oil in your frying pan.  Add the ginger, garlic, chilli and 1 teaspoon of 5 spice. When it’s really hot add the vegetables. Cook until they look nice (about 4 minutes). Add the noodles and two tablespoons of water, maybe a splash more soy sauce. Cook until the noodles are cooked.
  4. Plonk all of this onto a waiting plate (good idea if it’s heated but don’t worry if not) then add the salmon fillets and all the nice marinade to the still hot pan. Cook on each side for 2ish minutes then split the noodles across two plates and add a salmon fillet on top of the noodles with a wedge of lime.