Vietnamese Lettuce and Beef Wraps

Vietnamesse Wraps closeup

Finally for this week one of my favourite sorts of recipe. It is one of those when you manage to somehow conjure up a delicious dinner from almost nowhere. All I had left in the box was a green Batavia lettuce, some carrots and a cucumber. All I had in the fridge was one fillet steak. We can learn a lot from Asian recipes as they have long understood that meat and fish are costly and they know how to make expensive ingredients go along way. This is of course a healthier way of eating too and the idea that the vegetables should be as important as the accompaniment is very trendy at the moment. Although the list of ingredients often looks long and complicated, it really is store cupboard stuff and it really could not be quicker and easier to make.

Just time for “Kitchen Kit of the Week” – a microplaner is a grater reinvented. The story is, a Canadian housewife decided to use one of her husband’s favourite woodworking tools and discovered that it was the best orange zester she had ever used. There is a whole range available now but I suggest a fine one, for effortlessly grating ginger and lemongrass like you have never seen. Pick one up on Amazon or at Lakeland.

Vietnamese Wraps

Vietnamese Lettuce and Beef Wraps

You can make the dipping sauce and marinade the meat the day before.

For the marinade

1 fillet steak

2 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce (Nam Pla)

1 tsp caster sugar

1-1½ tsp toasted sesame oil, to taste

For the dipping sauce

1 tbsp. rice vinegar, to taste

2 tsp. caster sugar, to taste

1 tbsp. Fish sauce (Nam Pla)

1 stick lemongrass

1 lime, juice only

1 fresh red chilli

For the wraps

1 carrot, cut into fine julienne strips or grated

½ cucumber

3 sprigs mint, leaves picked and chopped

½ small bunch coriander, leaves and stalks roughly chopped

1 lettuce such as Batavia or baby gem

Lime wedges, to serve

For the marinade, put the steak into a large bowl, add the remaining ingredients and mix until coated evenly. Cover the bowl with cling film and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least two hours, or overnight if possible.

Meanwhile make the dipping sauce. Mix the rice vinegar, sugar, fish sauce and lime juice together. Finely chop the red chilli. If you like it hot then leave the seeds in, if not remove them. Remove any tough outer leaves from the lemongrass and trim the bottom. Grate using a microplaner starting at the bottom and grating until nearly three quarters of the way up. (If you do not have a microplaner, chop very finely). Add with the chilli to your dipping sauce and taste. Adjust the flavours as necessary – adding a little more sugar if it’s too sour, or more rice vinegar or lime juice if too sweet.

Next peel and grate your carrots and cut your cucumber into julienne. A mandolin is good for this. Separate and wash the salad leaves and leave to drain. Pick the leaves off the herbs.

In a large heavy-based frying pan, heat a dash of oil. Shake off any excess marinade from the steaks and cook for 2-3 minutes on either side – depending on their thickness and how rare you like your steak. Tip over the marinade and remove and rest on a plate for five minutes.

To serve, arrange the lettuce leaves on a serving plate. Fill the lettuce leaves with carrot and cucumber. Add a small handful of herbs. Slice the rested steak, and top each leaf with a slice or two of steak, tipping any resting juices over the top. Serve with the dipping sauce and lime wedges on the side.

Lettuce

Fattoush Salad with Radishes and Broad Beans

Box week 5

Tempted once more but the promise of broad beans, radishes and home-grown mini cucumbers, none of which are quite ready at my allotment, I opted this week for a small vegbox (less roots). It did not disappoint with some of the fattest radishes I have seen, albeit a little dirty, but nothing a quick wash did not fix. Straight away one of my favourite salads came to mind, which I am pretty happy to live of all summer if needs be. This is a basic Fattoush, the famous Arabic bread salad, with a few extras thrown in, namely radishes and broad beans. Remember all these recipes are flexible and you can add what you please including feta if you wished to make it more substantial.

The knack of a good Fattoush is that it should be very juicy and not at all dry. The pitta however should remain crunchy and therefore it must be beautifully crispy before adding, so that it does not become soggy in the salad. If you are not eating the salad straight away, then don’t add the toasted pitta until serving. Don’t forget to top-up from Riverford with all the extras you might need such as red onions, lemons, mint and olive oil.

Fattoush Salad with Radishes and Broad Beans

Fattoush Salad with Radishes and Broad Beans

2 pieces of pitta bread

Extra virgin olive oil

1 bunch radishes

1 baby cucumber

2 large tomatoes

100g broad beans in pods

1 small red onion

1 lemon

Small bunch mint

Sumac (optional)

Sea salt

Pre-heat the oven to 180⁰C. Put a small pan of water on to boil. Rip the pitta into small pieces and toss generously in olive oil and a pinch of salt. Spread out on a baking tray and toast in the oven for about 20-30 minutes. You will need to check it regularly and each time shake the tray. Move any well done pieces to the centre and less done pieces to the outer edges, where they will cook quicker. The pitta should be golden brown all over and totally crisp. Meanwhile cut your tomatoes into eighths and put in a large bowl. Wash your radishes and cut them in quarters and add to the bowl. Cut your cucumber in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds. Cut both halves into 1cm slices and add to the bowl. Shell the broad beans and add to the boiling water. Get a large bowl of cold water ready and once the broad beans have boiled for a minute, remove them with a slotted spoon straight into the cold water. This will help retain their lovely bright green colour. Squeeze the juice from half the lemon into another small bowl. Add a teaspoon of salt and stir until dissolved. Add about 2-3 times olive oil to juice. Stir very well and taste. The balance of the dressing is important. If it needs more lemon or salt, then adjust. Peel and very thinly slice the onion and add straight into the dressing. Remember to check your pitta and remove once done. Drain your broad beans slip them out of their skins and add to the salad. Chop the mint and add that too. Finally add the toasted pitta and dress generously. Toss everything together well before serving. Dust with Sumac if you desire.

Bunch of Radishes

 

Grilled asparagus & baby gem salad with feta & mint

I couldn’t wait to get started with a Grilled Asparagus & Baby Gem Salad with Feta & Mint. Grilling your veg keeps them lovely and crisp whilst adding a delicious hint of smoke. This is a great salad to make if you are having a BBQ at the weekend, as it is so quick and easy, especially if you already have the BBQ lit. Mint is everywhere at the moment. One of the first signs of summer in my garden is when the mint reappears from nowhere, green and lush.

Herbs_mint

If you don’t have any in your garden, be sure to add some to your Riverford order. Like all my recipes you can easily adapt the ingredients and this super salad would have worked just as well with grilled courgettes or even whole spring onions. It occurred to me that a few delicious broad beans would have been lovely scatted on top as well. If you are looking for a good olive oil for this recipe, I would like to recommend Riverford’s Italian Extra Virgin at £5.95 for 500ml. I like the one from Giancarlo in Puglia best – it has a lovely peppery taste.

grilled asparagus_baby gem salad with feta and mint

Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side

Bunch of Asparagus

One or two Baby Gem Lettuces (depending on size)

100g Feta

½ a Lemon

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sea Salt

Few Sprigs of Fresh Mint

 Snap any woody ends off your asparagus and drizzle with good olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Trim the very end off the baby gem lettuce and then cut in half lengthways through the root, taking car to keep it in tack. Cut each half into three wedges. Again drizzle with good olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Heat your griddle or BBQ until smoking. Lay the flat sides of the lettuces on the grill, turning as soon as they have a clear char mark. Do the same with the asparagus making sure they are just cooked through. (It is imperative that your asparagus is very fresh.) Make a dressing with the juice of half a lemon, whisked up with a good pinch of salt and some extra virgin olive oil. Arrange the baby gem and asparagus on a plate and crumble over some feta. Roll up your mint leaves and finely slice to create a chiffonade. Sprinkle over the top and drizzle on your lemon dressing.