Beansprouts are sprouted mung beans; use them quickly after buying as they turn soggy within days; beansprouts are good at absorbing other flavours such as soy sauce.
Sprouts have had a new lease of life as a health food bursting with nutrients. In this form they are often added raw to salads and sandwiches. They are even more beneficial when (briefly) cooked, so it seems more than a coincidence that bean sprouts are an essential part of so many of the stir-fried dishes of China and Southeast Asia. The common or garden bean sprout is a germinated mung bean. These have a long crunchy stem. Soya sprouts are stumpy and more strongly flavoured. Even in these days of instant packing and total refrigeration, bean sprouts are not an item to stockpile – forgotten in the fridge they soon lose their crunch and start to taste fermented.
The soups of South-East Asia are all united by their punchy flavours, spicy elements and use of fresh herbs, fish and meat. This laksa is a really authentic version, but if you're short of time, use a ready-made paste.
Serves 4, or 6 as a starter
In Thailand, they use pomelo in salads, which is very similar to grapefruit. I have used pink grapefruit here, but when they're not available, you could ring the changes and use a thinly sliced, medium-sized mango.
Serves 2 as a light lunch
Soba noodles are made with buckwheat and are traditionally served either hot in soups or cold in salads. The salad version is my favourite and you can, of course, use any green salad leaves in this recipe: rocket and young spinach leaves would be ver