Nasi Goreng (Indonesian Fried Rice)

I’m a poor blogger. I’m sorry, it has been a long time since I last wrote anything, I can only blame it on life getting in the way.

Life does get busy, sometimes even thinking about what to make for dinner is too much. What you need in these cases is a quick, easy and delicious meal. Nasi Goreng is it: it is endlessly adaptable – all you definitely need are the sauce ingredients and some pre-cooked rice, for the rest of it you can use what you’ve got in the fridge and any leftover meat or fish. You can also top it with a fried egg if you like.

It’s all about the sauce. The quantities given below are for two people, so scale it up to suit however many people you are serving – and make sure you scale up the quantity of the sauce or it will be too widely dispersed and lose its impact.

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RECIPE serves 2

a quantity of rice, pre-cooked and allowed to cool completely

2 tbsp groundnut oil

1 tbsp unsalted butter

2 shallots, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, sliced

2 red chillies, seeds left in, finely chopped

100g button mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 medium carrots, finely diced

your choice of soft vegetables: mange tout, fine beans, bell peppers, peas, sprouting broccoli, baby sweetcorn – whatever takes your fancy or that you have waiting to be used up. Chop them into bite-sized pieces.

For the Sauce:

2 tbsp kicap manis (Malay soy sauce)

1 tsp hot paprika

2 tsp tomato puree

2 tbsp chilli bean sauce


METHOD

First, cook the rice and leave it to cool. I don’t give quantities for the rice because everyone differs in what they believe to be a serving size, so cook what your own experience tells you that you will need. If serving rice for dinner, I always cook much more than I need so I can make this, or other fried rice dishes the day after.

Tip: Back in the days when I could only manage to cook a small handful of simple dishes, the one and only thing that I could cook well was rice. In my hands it always had perfect bite coupled with softness, each grain was distinct and separate from its neighbour and there was no hint of stodginess. Then it all went wrong.I learned that the way I cooked rice was incorrect. I convinced myself that I should be using exact volumes of rice and water, cooking for exact times, sealing pan lids, leaving it to sit for ages, using tea towels as steam absorbers – the more instructions I followed, the more I got away from the simple pleasures of cooking rice simply, the worse my rice got.

My wife was in despair; “you have lost your rice mojo” she told me. Eventually I did the sensible thing and went back to cooking my rice the wrong way, and now it’s perfect again.

In my world, you put your rice in the largest pan you have and cover it in a lot of cold water, at least an inch of water over the level of the rice. Season the water with a very little salt and over a high heat bring the water up toward boiling point. Before it actually boils, turn the heat right down so that the water settles into a very gentle simmer. This will prevent the rice grains from bursting.

The time it takes your rice to cook can differ greatly, so check your rice after 3 or 4 minutes at the simmer and check it every minute thereafter. Your grains should be soft but with a definite firmness to the grain. Overall, your pan of rice should emerge as clean, distinct grains that will be a pleasure to eat.

Now make the sauce, simply combine all the ingredients in a small bowl with a little vegetable oil, stir well and set aside.

Prepare all of the ingredients you will be using. This is a stir-fry so everything happens quickly when the heat is on, you need everything ready to just tip into your wok.

In a large wok, melt the butter with the groundnut oil over a high heat. When it is hot (not quite smoking), add the shallots and garlic and – keeping everything moving all the time – cook for about a minute until the garlic is just starting to colour. Add the sauce, then immediately add all of your vegetables. This will cool the oil a little, so the danger of burning the garlic is minimised. Keeping everything moving, cook for a few minutes more until the vegetables are just cooked, hot through but retaining their bite.

If you are adding pre-cooked meat or fish, now is the time to add it and give it a quick flash of heat.

Now add the rice and, keeping the heat on, stir and fold it all around until all of the rice is coated in the sauce and has turned a pleasing red.

Serve immediately, topped with a fried egg if you like.

I like to make this with raw king prawns, which I put into the wok with the sauce, but before the vegetables go in. I give them a minute or two in the heat, until they just turn pink, then I take them out and set them aside while I complete the dish. The part-cooked prawns go back in with the rice, and they finish cooking while the rice takes in the heat.

To make it vegetarian or vegan, forgo the butter and use tofu (or just the veg!).

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