I am one of those rare women who does not go all gooey at the mention of the word chocolate. It’s not that I dislike it, it’s just that I’m more of a savoury girl and I simply can’t see how chocolate is going to make it all better. But don’t let that make you think I have annoyingly health tastes, like Nick who considers a tomato sprinkled with black pepper a valid mid-afternoon snack… Oh no – my tastes run more to things like cheese or mayonnaise or crisps. Or preferably all three of these together in some form 😉 So, frankly, it always comes as a surprise to me when I find myself really liking something that’s actually good for me.
One of the things that I have pretty much always been fond of is the wonderful brassica family. I am led to believe that the genus brassica contains a larger percentage of important agricultural and horticultural crops than any other genus, so it comes as no surprise to find that it encompasses things like kohlrabi, swedes, turnips, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli and seeds such as oilseed rape (canola) and mustard seeds. It turns out that the members of this happy genus are exceptionally high in vitamin C, soluble fibre and a raft of nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties (diindolylmethane, sulforaphane and selenium). And, of course, it goes without saying that they are low in fat. Even as a kid, I liked them all – even brussels sprouts! What a lot of dinner-time conflict that must have spared my family…
One of the brassicas that I was not really familiar with until later in life is pak choi/bok choy. Now left to myown devices I would probably have translated this as Chinese cabbage (brassica rapa), but apparently this family is just a morass of potential pitfalls when it comes to nomenclature. As I understand it, there are (broadly speaking) two main varieties of brassica rapa, one of which forms a compact head (the Pekinensis group), and one which does not form a head as much as a rosette-like cluster of leaves with white stems and dark green leaf blades (the Chinensis group). It is to the latter group that pak choi belongs. Each baby pak choi is about 6 inches long and a very pleasing tulip shape, from its firm, pale and bulbous base to its nipped-in waist and fanned-out dark freen leaves. Taste-wise, they are crisp and quite mild – far less strident than, say, savoy cabbage.And each one is packed full of all the goodness that is the legacy of the brassicas.
I often have pak choi in restaurants, served with garlic in an oyster sauce, but when I make them at home, I usually stir-fry them with onions and soy sauce. However, this week I tried something a little different: I added some sliced peppadews to the pan. I have written extensively elsewhere about peppadews, so I won’t repeat that now. Suffice to say that these sweetly spicy piquante peppers will not only add zing to your stir-fries but their bright colour is also irresistible. And (here’s the best part) as members of the capsicum family, they are also superfoods, packed with capsaicinoids which have anti-inflammatory properties and are good for your heart.
I’m submitting this recipe to this month’s edition of Heart of the Matter, hosted by fellow-UK foodie Joanna as it’s packed with good-for-your-heart ingredients, big on taste and low on fat. Eat well. Be well.
BABY PAK CHOI WITH PEPPADEWS (serves 2)
4-6 heads of baby pak choi, depending on size
1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
4 Peppadew piquanté peppers, drained and sliced
1 Tbsp Extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp brine from the peppadews
sesame seeds (optional)
Rinse the baby pak choi and halve lengthways (or quarter if large). Rinse again to get rid of stray dirt trapped between the leaves and pat dry.
Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and add the onions and garlic. Cook over medium high heat, stirring constantly until the onions begin to brown. Add the pak choi, cut side down if possible, and allow to brown a little as well.
Add the soy sauce, brine and peppadews and continue to stir-fry until pak choi is as soft or as crispy as you like it – for me, this is usually only about 3-4 minutes.
If you like (and if, unlike me, you have some in your cupboard!), sprinkle some sesame seeds over the vegetables before serving. Mine paired well with honey, ginger & soy roasted salmon steaks.
For another delicious brassica recipe, check out my broccoli and toasted sunflower seed salad!