Summer’s here, and my herb garden’s doing really well. When we moved here a couple of years ago, we found an abandoned butler sink in the garden. While they look lovely in the kitchen, I wouldn’t want one in the house; they’re much less practical than a double sink with a waste disposal unit, and it’s surprisingly easy to drop and break crockery in an something as deep as a butler sink. We used it as a herb trough instead – it’s just the right size, comes with instant drainage (the plug hole), fits nicely into the space by the back door, and you can get a good depth of compost in there.
Mint (back left in the photo) is a herb that I only ever plant in containers, because if it gets going in the garden it spreads and spreads and spreads until you’ve not got a garden any more, just a minty carpet. This recipe uses the fresh leaves in an unusual non-lamb application – it’s fresh, clean-tasting and an excellent hayfever season dish – the curry clears your nose out and the mint gives you something to smell. To serve four, you’ll need:
450g (1 lb) chicken breasts, cut into cubes
1 egg white
1 tablespoon cornflour
2 red peppers, cut into large dice
1 handful mange tout peas
4 cloves crushed garlic
150 ml chicken stock (a stock cube is fine here)
1 tablespoon curry paste
2 teaspoons Chinese black bean sauce
2 teaspoons soft brown sugar
1 glass Chinese rice wine
2 tablespoons light soya sauce
1 small handful fresh mint leaves
Flavourless oil for stir-frying
Put the chicken pieces in a bowl with the egg white and cornflour, and leave aside for half an hour. Stir-frying chicken marinaded in this way is called velveting, and makes the meat very succulent, but if you’re in a dreadful hurry or simply out of eggs, you can leave this stage out.
Stir-fry the chicken in a very hot wok until it’s turned white and has cooked through. Remove the chicken to a plate, put some new oil in the wok and heat it up again. Stir-fry the peppers, peas and garlic for two minutes, then add all the other ingredients except the chicken and mint. Cook for another two minutes, then throw in the chicken, coating it with the sauce. Remove from the heat, add the mint, stir thoroughly to mix and serve immediately with rice.