Recipe: Shredded Thai chicken, carrot, noodle and chilli salad with fish sauce marinade

As summer blasts into London with a wave of humid, sticky, sunshine-filled days some of the traditional English dishes can seem, well, a touch heavy. Not that we don’t have our fair share of light dishes, particularly in our modern culinary vernacular, but let’s be honest we don’t get that much sunshine. So why not turn to Eastern Asia and the hot, humid climes of Thailand for some inspiration on the few similar days a year we get.

Firstly, I doubt this is particularly authentic, I’ve mashed up a few different cuisines (and the noodles are definitely Japanese) but I think the intention is clear and recognisable as Thai. It has fresh raw ingredients; a clean fierce heat from chilli; and a salty-sweet-sharp warmth from the fish sauce / sugar / lime marinade. I’m sure you could vary the ingredients endlessly, different cuts of chicken or prawns would work well for the protein and some shredded cabbage wouldn’t go amiss. Even better it’s a super quick recipe, start to finish 30 minutes if you work fast. It came out great and looked somewhat like this:

Healthy chicken noodle salad with fish sauce.

Being targeted as a “healthy” recipe I have poached skinless chicken breasts for pure lean protein but feel free to substitute as you wish if that is a tad puritan for you. It also has quite a fierce heat from 2 red hot chillis and a slight pungency from the fish sauce so adjust to taste. I’ve also made use of the carrot greens which are like a slightly carroty parsley and add some greenery, freshness and colour.

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 2 skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 medium carrots scrubbed (preferably with a handful of the reserved greens)
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 8 small radishes
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • Juice and zest of 1 lime
  • 2 birds-eye chillies or other hot chilli
  • 2 tablespoons of castor sugar (golden preferably)
  • 1 portion of noodles (I used Udon)
  • 8 leaves of mint if you have any.

Firstly get the chicken poaching, this is a great way to easily get moist healthy chicken. The most fool-proof method I have found is to place the chicken breasts in a pan of cold water that covers them by 1cm or so. Bring to the boil and simmer for 4 minutes. Then turn the heat off, cover the pan and leave for 20-30 minutes depending on the size of the breasts. You can chuck some whole star anise / peppercorns in although I always wonder how much this really adds.

In the meanwhile you can prep the marinade, simply mix the lime juice / zest with the fish sauce and sugar, adjust to taste. To prep the salad I used a food processer with the grating attachment. I actually used the finest setting but think I’d recommend the coarser one next time. Grate the carrots / radishes / onion / chillis together and take out any big chunks left over. Mix the combined vegetables with the marinade, add the chopped carrot tops / mint if using and combine well.

Once your chicken is nearly ready, cook the noodles (try not to overcook them to avoid them being mushy). Drain and rinse well and mix in with the salad. Your chicken should be ready now, drain, shred with your hands and combine everything. Check for seasoning, adjust if needed with salt or fish sauce and serve. Feel healthy.

Steak and mustard green beans

Cooking fussy dishes and fine dining is all very well, but ultimately food is something we indulge in 3 times a day. That means a repertoire of meals is important to fit around our lives, then even when food isn’t a priority for your day you can still create something tasty in a short time.

This was a last minute lunch I prepared. Start to finish will take under 20 minutes (assuming you’re handy with a knife) which is half the time a pizza delivery takes and less than most ready meals (cooked in the oven at least).

Ingredients for 2

  • 1 quality dry aged rib-eye steak, 12oz (some may prefer 16oz or more, I think this is enough for a light meal)
  • 200g runner beans
  • 4 shallots
  • Wholegrain mustard
  • White wine vinegar
  • Castor sugar

Firstly put a small frying pan on a low-medium heat with a splash of oil. Put the heaviest pan you have (ideally a nice cast iron grill pan) on a high heat. Also start the kettle boiling for the beans. Peel and finely slice the shallots and add to the small pan to gently fry.

In the meantime lightly rub the steak with a high-temp oil (e.g. groundnut / vegetable) and season generously with salt and pepper. If you have some foresight you can season the steak early, but make sure it’s at least an hour before (for the science you can read this fascinating article on salting steaks ). Place in the hot pan and turn once a minute to your taste (for a thick cut rib-eye 4-5 minutes is probably about right). To my mind medium-rare is better for fatty cuts, to allow it to start rendering some fat and crisping up a bit. Take off the heat and let it rest for at least 5 minutes in a warm place.

Top, tail and de-string the beans (I found it quickest just to “peel” the edges off) and chop fairly finely on a slant. Boil for 3-4 minutes in a pan, drain and set aside. When the shallots have softened (6-8 minutes total) take off the heat and add a tablespoon of mustard, a tablespoon of vinegar and 1/2 tsp of sugar along with the beans. Season and mix together well.

Once the meat has rested, it’s vital to cut it the right way. Find the grain of the meat (pull the top a bit and look for long strands) and then cut against the grain (i.e. slice over the long strands). This means the knife does the work your teeth would have and the steak will appear far more tender. Serve up the beans and place the steak slices on top. Enjoy!