Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A tasty way to get your 5 a day


Lame, I know...

But seriously eating enough vegetables should be everyone's top priority (or second priority depending on how important you rate snagging that dress from topshop since everything online seems to sell out in a milisecond).

Vegetables are SEVERLY underrated by so many people I know and I kinda get it, especially from a student's point of view - huge, $3.50, densely satisfying chocolate muffin OR ridiculously overpriced salad from nearby food chain or cafe. But honestly, at $1.50 a kilo carrots are as cheap as chips (although maybe not as immediately tasty but you'd be amazed at the things you can do with them) so instead of feeling bad about spending your life savings on a store bought salad, make one at home instead (you so saw that coming, didn't you?).

Seriously, vegetables don't have to be boring. Try roasting a batch of pumpkin, carrots, capsicum and eggplant to eat with cous cous and tzatziki, or thinly slice zucchini into strips, grill for a few minutes, place on a plate and drizzle with olive oil, lemon and thinly diced chilli. Even make a delicious sweet potato, spinach and chickpea curry or a lentil tabbouleh. Grab a bunch of mushrooms, slice them up, saute them with parsley, olive oil, salt and pepper and garlic and serve over thick slices of sourdough bread for a freeeeeeeaking good breakfast. The options are, as they say, endless.

Whether I'm at uni or at work I tend to always bring with me some sort of homemade lunch. At first this was purely out of habit (think back to pre-packed lunches for school days) and stingyness (as I'm constantly saving for some sort of expensive plane ticket or other and can't afford those overflowing wrapped rolls from the local deli) but now I do it also for the fact that I know exactly what I'm consuming on a daily basis. This is important to me, especially as a young woman. I'm completely addicted to the idea that food is medicine (as well as delicious) and am convinced of the healing powers of a good, nutritious diet. I love thinking that because I make a habit of eating yoghurt and drinking milk every day that when I'm 80 years old I'm going to be running marathons and enjoying my strong bones still, because of all the dedication I put in in younger years.

So, on that note here's a recipe for Thai Beef Salad, a favourite in my house not only for its amazing spicy Thai flavours but also for the lovely feeling you get after a filling healthy meal.


Thai Beef Salad
Serves 4 - I'm lucky enough to have a huge herb selection in my garden and at the moment the vietnamese mint and thai basil are growing like crazy but if you cant find vietnamese mint or thai basil then don't worry normal mint will do fine

500g rump steak
200g rice vermicelli noodles
1 cucumber
1 carrot
200g tin water chestnuts (in asian section of supermarket)
1/2 a spanish onion
Handful of whole coriander, mint and if possible, thai basil and vietnamese mint leaves
1 lemongrass stalk (optional)
1 baby cos lettuce, leaves broken off into sections
2 medium ripe tomatoes, cut into 8ths
1 long red chilli
1/2 a cup of cashew nuts
1 clove of garlic
1 small knob of ginger
1 lime
1 1/2 tablespoons kecap manis
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar (or palm sugar)

To get the salad prepared, place the washed cos lettuce in a big bowl. Add in each of the herbs, keeping the leaves whole as they are part of the salad, not just as a garnish. Drain the water chestnuts and chuck into the bowl. Peel the carrot, cut in half and julienne into thin strips. Halve the cucumber and chop into small half moons. Cut up the tomatoes. Add all of these to salad.

Thinly slice the spanish onion (I do this with a mandolin), place in a separate bowl
and squeeze a few drops of lime over it to steep for a few minutes to remove any of the phwoar power and to sweeten the raw onion. Leave aside until adding to salad just before serving (the colour of the onion will run all over the salad if you do it any earlier).

In a separate bowl place the vermicelli noodles and immerse in recently boiled water and cover with a plate or lid. Leave to soften for about 5 minutes before draining and setting aside.

Drizzle over a little vegetable oil on the steak and season with pepper and the lemongrass (bash up the stalk to remove the tender heart that is just down the bottom of the stalk and mince with a knife). Place steak in a saucepan that is on a medium to high heat. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side or to how ever you like your steak (I like it medium rare).

After the steak has been cooked to your preference, turn the heat of and leave the steak in the pan. In a bowl combine only 1 tablepsoon of the kecap manis with the minced garlic and ginger, stir and pour over the steak as it rests in the pan.

Now get the dressing ready for the salad - combine the rest of the kecap manis, 1 half of a lime, brown sugar, fish sauce and soy sauce in a bowl and stir to dissolve sugar. Taste for seasoning (sometimes I add a bit of sweet chilli sauce - major faux pas I know - if the sweetness isn't right).

When ready to serve, remove the steak from the pan and slice into 1cm strips. Pour the juices from the pan into the dressing. Spoon some of the vermicelli onto a plate, place a generous handful of the salad ontop and then the steak. Add on a few thin slices of chilli, a handful of cashew nuts and a tablespoon or so of the dressing. Delish.

For more vegetable ideas, heres a link to just some of the recipes by one of my favourite pro-vegetable cooks, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.


Vietnamese mint


Thai basil


  1. Yum that salad looks delicious! I don't really eat beef, but my bf would love this!Thanks for sharing the recipe, I'll have to try this soon :-)

  2. This dish looks amazing. If I can find the herbs I'm definately going to make it.

  3. Thanks and it's my pleasure.
    Yeah definitely although you can use normal mint and basil they aren't quite the same match as the real stuff!

    Maria, I'm not the biggest meat eater either but theres something about thai beef salad that gets me every time