On a recent Friday night my beloved had a hankering for Ramen. We were a few weeks into first-time parenthood, and she was thinking simple, easy, fast and tasty comfort food.
On the other hand, I was thinking that this particular Friday would be my first opportunity to reclaim our kitchen! Our parents had come to town for the birth of the little one. My mother-in-law in particular had taken over the housework for us, including the run of the kitchen. That was awesome for us in the extreme during those first weeks. But now we were getting into the swing of things on our own. With our parents decamped, it was time for me to sort out the kitchen – return the sugar can to where it belongs, and all that little stuff – i.e. return stuff to where we can reach them though Grandma can’t.
And, I wanted to clear out some items from the Fridge and Freezer – all still good, but ready to use and go. So when my Beloved said Ramen, it was an opportunity to improvise and achieve two goals in one.
In the food cupboard I had:
- Organic Ramen Noodles – plain wheat, dried not fried
And, in the fridge I had:
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/3 of a red bell pepper
- 5 medium carrots
- 1 basket of champignons (~250g)
(Yup – that is the extent of the vegetables that were left in the house…)
Plus in the freezer I had;
- IKEA Swedish Meatballs – about a quarter bag (~250g – say about 20 balls), and
- Roast Ox-tail broth (~1 L)
Now the last was special – I’d made a bunch of broth before the birth to keep in store for just such quick meal occasions. It had taken the best part of a Saturday, and two kilos of Ox-tail, plus a whole Daikon and half a garden of vegetables to make this broth. I could’ve used a ready-made broth from the store, but this was the perfect occasion to dive into the prep I’d done.
So, I chopped all the veg and rough cut the mushrooms, and then in our large wok heated a tea spoon of coconut oil. I sequence-tossed the veg in (carrots, onions, mushrooms, garlic, then bell pepper) and sautéed them all at a high gas mark.
It’s at that point that I was thinking of some form or protein, and perversely couldn’t imagine a better flavor than IKEA Meatballs… They’re a strange delight that – full of guilty pleasure, but ultimately just that right blend of flavor for an instant meatball. So in went the remaining bag from a visit to that infernal Store a year ago.
Now everything in the wok was getting truly well acquainted, and I then sacrificed one of our pouches of ox-tail broth, letting the semi frozen block melt right into the vegetables and meatballs. And once this has blended with the liquid from the mushrooms, the broth was a rich dark brown that with a pinch of salt released all sorts of earthy notes.
Finally, rather than cooking them separately in water, I simply added the ramen noodles right to the broth, slowly stirred them in, and cooked them until they just had a bit of bite left.
I was equal parts embarrassment and excitement as I dished up for my beloved. Ramen are such a precious type of food to us (and so many around the world) I suddenly had a foolish fear this would be an insult to all things that go into that revered bowl. But no, the flavors were rich, and well balanced – it was slurped and gone in minutes.
So Swedish industrial meatballs from IKEA, fine long-cooked roasted ox-tail broth, and ramen – it’s a multi-mix that works!