Stir fry

Stir fry is your friend when you need a low-effort meal that's also tasty and healthy. They're also a great easy way to boost your vegetable intake.

People who say they don't like vegetables might enjoy stir fry as you can keep the vegetables slightly crunchy and full of flavour - many people are put off vegetables because they're used to boiled, soggy vegetables and it's the texture that puts them off. Using a stir-fry sauce also makes them taste more interesting than plain vegetables.

To make stir-fry, chop your vegetables (or buy pre-prepared ones), heat a bit of vegetable or groundnut oil in a frying pan or wok, fry your ingredients until they're cooked and add stir fry sauce or seasoning of your choice. In the meantime, cook some rice or noodles to go with it.

For a tasty stir fry, you will need:

Vegetables

For an 'instant meal' stir-fry you can buy packs of pre-prepared stir fry vegetables from the supermarket, which often come with a sachet of stir-fry sauce.

If you have a bit more time, use fresh vegetables and chop them yourself - it doesn't take long even then and it means you can choose your own combinations. Plus fresh veg usually tastes better than the packaged ones, especially if you use organic vegetables as they tend to have much more flavour.

Good vegetables for stir-frying include peppers, courgettes, mushrooms, carrots, broccoli, mangetout, sugar snap peas, baby sweetcorn, okra, spinach, aubergine, kale, and leeks. You could also add beansprouts, bamboo shoots or water chestnuts for more of a Chinese flavour. Pick a range of colours to make it look more appetising, for example red pepper, carrot and courgette is a simple but attractive combination. I tend to go for three or four different vegetables in a stir-fry.

Other ingredients

Cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds or tofu pieces are great ingredients for adding to the flavour and nutritional content of stir fries. Cauldron make marinated tofu pieces which don't need to be cooked, you can just throw them in to heat through at the end. Look for them in the chiller cabinets at the supermarket, usually near the chilled vegetarian sausages and ready meals. If you prefer, buy a block of firm tofu (again, Cauldron is the main brand sold in supermarkets), drain off the water, cut it into chunks and marinade it in soy sauce and sesame oil before cooking. Have a look at the tofu page for more detailed instructions.

Noodles or rice

If using noodles, choose wheat or rice noodles rather than egg noodles. Many stir-fry noodles only take about three minutes to cook and there's usually a good selection in supermarkets. If using rice, go for the 10-minute brown rice for a speedy meal.

Sauce or spices

Use either a ready-made stir fry sauce or just throw some spices or soy sauce in.

Many ready-made stir-fry sauces are suitable for vegans (check the ingredients though). Blue Dragon label their vegan sachets of stir-fry sauce as suitable for vegans, which makes life easier.

Alternatively, for a lighter meal you can add flavourings such as soy sauce or tamari, sesame oil, chopped fresh chillies, garlic and ginger, ground coriander, ginger or chilli powder, tamarind paste, spice grinders with a combination of dried spices - whatever you fancy really!

For a really quick stir-fry I just use a bit of soy sauce, sesame oil and ground ginger.