Happy Chinese New Year everyone! Gone is the year of the dog as today marks the beginning of the year of the pig. The pig is the final of the twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac and represents the traits of wealth, diligence and amicability. Despite its diligence, the pig came last in the mythical race held by the jade emperor to determine the order of the zodiac, as the pig is said to have stopped to eat and take a nap mid race!
As a significant cultural event, Lunar New Year is at the centre of the largest human migration that occurs each year. Known as ‘chunyun’, this mass travel dwarfs all other pilgrimages and gatherings with around 3 billion trips expected to be taken as part of chunyun this year.
Regardless of whether you like to be active and travel or rest like the zodiac pig, there is no better time to chow down on some chow mein.
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Cut the asparagus and zucchini into small chunks, and slice and halve the leek. Dice the onion and finely dice or crush the garlic.
Heat 1tbsp of the butter in a pan over a medium heat and add the asparagus, zucchini and leek. Cook, stirring regularly until softened, around 3-4 mins, then remove from pan and set aside.
Add the remaining butter and oil to the pan. Soften onion 2-3 mins, then add garlic, cook another 2-3 mins until onion starting to brown slightly.
Add the rice and cook briefly to ensure well coated in oil/butter mixture. Mix through about half of the grated lemon zest, some salt and pepper.
Add the stock a bit at a time (around ½ to 1 cup at a time), adding more as the last is absorbed. Stir frequently and add liquid slowly as it is absorbed initially, but then add a little more stock towards the end when it tends to stick to the bottom more. In all it should take between 20 and 30 mins.
Once all the stock is absorbed, check rice is cooked (if not then add a little more stock) then add the remaining lemon zest, lemon juice and add back the asparagus, zucchini and leek.
Add parmesan and stir well.
Don’t like asparagus or zucchini? Swap them for other light vegetables such as peas, baby green beans or snap peas.
For an extra protein boost, dice some steamed salmon or chicken breast and add at the end of the cook when you add back the vegetables.
Need a high energy boost? Stir through cream cheese for a delicious creamy lift.
Serve with a crisp green arugula, pear and parmesan salad to round out the meal.