Jet lag hit hard and so did a salmonella relapse, something that I didn’t even know could happen. Roll on Sunday morning where I finally felt nearly human, and decided to embrace the world by heading to gorgeous Columbia Road Flower Market in East London with a friend.
If you have not been, Columbia Road Flower Market is a joyful place and a London landmark in the East End. It is a small street, lined now with cafés and restaurants, and packed with flower sellers known for their enthusiasm and high spirits as they attempt to engage the heaving mass of passers by. It gets very busy. Thronged.
We got there early and picked up some flowers and courgette plants which I have been talking about planting for way too long now. I want lots of courgette flowers but I dread battles with sneaky slugs. I really hate slugs and have held a strong resentment since they devoured my pea plants when I was 8 years old. Little gits. I am not proud but I would patrol after with table salt looking to dissolve any that I could find.
On the way back we spotted a wonderful faux field of cotton in the park. Dried cotton sticks enthusiastic with bursting balls of cotton all arranged in lines. Jubilant and full of promise. When we first arrived it was quiet but it wasn’t long until it was selfie city. We did partake, of course.
After, I lumbered home with my flowers (random guy in shot there before you ask me questions!). Sunday paper in hand in the sunshine savouring the joy of my oversized bright hydrangeas and orange brain flowers (not the name, but you know, that is what I want to call them). Sneezing too, and pumping my nose with anti-histamines. I will sometimes just indulge as hay fever will always have its way.
Later that evening, my appetite peaked by a Sichuan lunch earlier that day, I concocted a simple and very tasty new dish. Using some Sichuan broad bean chilli paste (doubanjiang) as a base, an ingredient I suggest you fireheads seek out. It is a great ingredient, another awesome flavour bomb that lends much with just a little. If you don’t like that much chilli heat, try using it but a little less as the fermented brad beans lend it something punchy too. If too fearful, a little chilli is fine instead.
There is something about minced pork cooked until just crisp. Add peanuts to that, browned just a bit, the chilli paste, a little extra garlic punch, some rice noodles to spread it out, and you have a lovely speedy summer meal. I used fresh garlic stalk which is aromatic and gorgeous and in season too. Use a garlic clove if you can’t source it.
Recipe: Rice Noodles with Chilli Pork & Peanuts
Takes 15 minutes
150g minced pork
1 tbsp sichuan cbilli bean paste
30g raw peanuts (skinned or not – it doesn’t matter)
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh garlic stalk / 1 clove garlic
50g thick rice noodles
2 tbsp torn coriander leaves
light oil for frying
Soak the noodles in boiling water off the heat for 10 – 12 minutes until tender (or whatever your packet instructions say). Drain.
Fry the peanuts in a little oil over a medium heat until starting to brown. Remove from the pan.
Fry the minced pork in a little oil until starting to crisp. Add the chilli paste and garlic and cook for a further few minutes. Return the peanuts to the pan with the pork, stir through, then add to the noodles and stir until all is warmed through.
Season to taste and finish off with some fresh torn coriander.
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