Recipe: Vietnamese-Style Caramelised Pork Mince & Rice Noodle Salad, with Homemade Sweet Chilli Sauce

And the award for the longest recipe title goes to….

Yep. I could have just said “Asian Pork Salad” or something similar, but it really wouldn’t have sounded quite so delicious. In fact, despite me making a royal mess of cooking the rice noodles (I still can’t even fathom what I did to them), this was one of the most delicious date-night meals I’ve cooked in a while.

This is perfect for a light dinner, yet it still feels like a big treat. Of course the sugar quantity isn’t exactly small, so best not to have it too often, but it is delicious enough for me to overlook occasionally! To make it even easier and quicker you could use bought chilli-sauce, but the results are so much better with homemade.

And, okay, so this probably isn’t strictly authentic. But it is delicious. Sweet, but with deep savoury flavours. A real hit of spice. Freshness from the salad. Definitely one I’ll be making again and again.

Recipe – Homemade Sweet Chilli Sauce (makes enough for 2x quantities of the pork dish, freezes well)

  • 4 red chillies, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 stick lemongrass
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 60ml cider vinegar
  • 75ml water

Making this sweet chilli sauce is surprisingly simple, and it tastes SO much better than bottled shop-bought stuff. Simply pop all the ingredients in a blender (I used a mini-chopper) and whizz until smooth. Pour into a small saucepan and bring to the boil, then lower the heat and reduce until the sauce is syrupy – stirring constantly. Mine took around 15 minutes, and the fumes are quite potent so pop your kitchen fan on! Set aside to cool, probably best to transfer to a bowl as it will stick to your saucepan.

Recipe – Caramelised Pork & Rice Noodle Salad (serves 2)

  • 250g pork mince
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • Juice and zest 1 lime
  • 100g vermicelli rice noodles
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • ½ cucumber, peeled into ribbons (discard the really watery middle)
  • 2 small carrots, cut into matchsticks (I use a julienne peeler as it’s SO much easier) 3 salad onions, cut into thin rings
  • 1 small handful chopped, fresh coriander

Heat a small amount of oil in a large wok, and fry the pork mince for around 10 minutes, or until cooked through and golden. Meanwhile you can prep the veg, and toss it together with half of the lime juice, the lime zest, fish sauce and half of the coriander. Cook the rice noodles via the instructions on the packet.

When the pork is nearly ready, addd the ginger, garlic, soy sauce and half of the sweet chilli sauce. Stir to combine, then add the lime juice to taste. Season well with salt and pepper, then served sprinkled with coriander, along with the salad and rice noodles.

Are you a fan of Vietnamese Food? What other recipes would you recommend?

Recipe: Bacon, Feta & Lentil Salad (warm or cold)

This is an absolute staple in our household. We make a big batch at least once a month, usually doing me for a week of lunches, one evening meal for the two of us and possible W’s lunch group (for 5) too. It’s tasty, filling and healthy – a portion or so of veg, plenty of protein and just general yums.

What’s even better is that it works hot and cold. W in particular loves it warm, with sausages and steamed green veg. I love it cold of a lunch time, with plenty of spinach. It’s also great with a spot of extra stock, turned into a bit of a soup with leftover roast chicken. Mushrooms work well too, as does a spot of roasted kale. It’s so, so versatile. If we don’t quite have the ‘right’ ingredients we can switch things up – leave out the celery, use a different kind of stock, different herbs, add mustard, add white wine vinegar. Be luxurious with a splash of cream. Leave out the feta. Leave out the bacon. Ad different cheeses, extra bacon. The possibilities are pretty much endless, and that’s why we love this recipe so much.

Recipe – makes around 5 big portions

  • 200g dried brown lentils
  • 4 rashers thick streaky bacon, or equivalent rate of lardons
  • 2 onions
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Herbs – I like a combination of thyme and tarragon, but rosemary also works well
  • Chicken stock
  • Handful of Greek feta, crumbled
  • Optional – dijon mustard, white wine vinegar, mushrooms etc…

Fry the bacon in a little oil until starting to crisp. Meanwhile, chop the veg finely, before adding to the bacon and frying over a low heat until soft. If you’re using dried herbs, add with the veg. Add the lentils to the pan, then add chicken stock until they are just covered. Stir in any fresh herbs, if using, then simmer for around 30-45 minutes, or until the lentils are cooked to your liking. If adding them, stir though a teaspoon of dijon mustard and a scant teaspoon of white wine vinegar, tasting to adjust to your liking. Season with salt and plenty of black pepper, before serving warm or cold, scattered with feta. I also find it goes really well with baby spinach leaves.

Do you have any similar recipes that are good for batch-prepping lunchboxes?

Recipe: Summery Orange & Red Onion Salad

Sweet and savoury combos are something I have always been suspicious of until fairly recently. I’d go as far as sweet chilli sauce, but apple butter on my Pork & Co cob was one step too far. That’s pretty much all changed now (though you can keep your apple butter to yourself!). Be it watermelon and feta, pear and blue cheese, or even the slightly-intimidating cod and pineapple combo at Skosh (full review) I’m on board these days.

 photo Watercress Orange Salad_zpsp6u3ozgt.jpgThis is one of the combos I really, really enjoyed. It’s not even a recipe, more a preparation and assembly of ingredients, but it’s so much more than the sum of it’s parts. Red onions, chilli, watercress, orange – it all comes together to form a really delicious salad that I just couldn’t get enough of.

This made the perfect side to our grilled whole mackerel. We’re trying to get more oily dish into our diets, however salmon is a tad pricey to add into our menu every week. Mackerel on the other hand is a total bargain – two whole ones from Waitrose is under £2, with an extra 20% off on a Friday for cardholders (totally recommend getting one, if purely for the free monthly magazine). If you’re squeamish (*ahem* like W!) then just get the guy/gal at the fish counter to chop the head of for you, and obviously gut it – because no-ones got time or inclination to play with fish innards *shudders*. Simply whack under the grill, flip after around 8-10 minutes and you’ve got great fish. Whilst we did press some spices onto it here, it’s not a fish that absorbs flavour easily so next time I’d just squeeze with lemon/orange and season well.

 photo Orange Chilli Watercress Salad 3_zps9k6cbn3l.jpg photo Orange Chilli Watercress Salad 6_zpssjnte96m.jpgSalad ‘Recipe’ – made enough for two (this one won’t keep well so make right before serving!)

  • 1 bag of watercress (I also like a mix of watercress and spinach)
  • 2 large oranges
  • 1 red chill
  • 1 large-ish red onion

Segment the oranges (we followed this guide – it’s messy!), finely dice the chilli and finely slice the red onion. Toss the onion with the watercress, then scatter with the chilli and top with the orange. Serve with fish, though I imagine it would be great with some grilled chicken too.
 photo Orange Chilli Watercress Salad 5_zpshqbuvcp0.jpg

Are you a fan of sweet/savoury combos? What’s your favourite fish dish?

Recipe: Satay Veggie Salad

I’ve become a real lover of salads this summer. Don’t get me wrong, serve me up a bowl of the classic leaves, cucumber, onion combo and I won’t exactly be toooo impressed, but a bowl of this? I’ll be one happy girl! A substantial bowl of crisp veggies, dressed in some kind of yummy sauce, can make the tastiest of dinners. It needs a mixture of tastes, textures and colours, a dressing that will make it sing.

 photo Radish Salad_zpshtzieibl.jpgI tend to prefer Asian flavours to my salads – chilli heat, lime zing, saltiness from soy or fish sauce. Here I’ve added peanut butter to the mix – because peanut butter. Pretty much anything is made better with peanut butter. Based on this recipe from Waitrose, it’s crunchy, spicy, creamy, salty, zingy and totally fresh and flavourful. Delicious!

It’s also super simple to whip up – and I’ve made it even easier using Very Lazy pastes. These are perfect for stress and hassle-free cooking. I’ve previously only really used them in curries and stir-fries, but they actually work perfectly in salad dressings too. A win in my book, there’s little I hate more than peeling and chopping ginger!

NB: this does work out well as a lunchbox dish, but I’d leave out the cucumber and keep the dressing separate until you’re ready to serve.

 photo Satay Veggie Salad 15_zpspwl1xu1e.jpg photo Satay Veggie Salad 13_zps3xcs4eoo.jpg photo Satay Veggie Salad 8_zpszhg4k9lk.jpg photo Satay Veggie Salad 6_zpsbyk3rnbk.jpgIngredients (Serves 3 generously as a main, or 2 dinner & 2 lunch portions)

  • 3-4 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 2 limes, zest and juice
  • fresh ginger (about the size of your thumb), grated or finely chopped (or use the everso useful Very Lazy paste – you could even do the same for the chilli too!)
  • 1 fresh red chilli (remove the seeds if you’re a little scared of heat!)
  • 1 tbsp runny honey (I’d get some cheaper stuff, anything ‘nice’ tastes too much of honey in this)
  • 1 pack of radishes
  • 1 chinese leaf lettuce
  • 1 bunch salad onions (around 5-6)
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1/2 cucumber (I didn’t include this in the one I photographed, but it adds a nice freshness!)
  • 1 pack coriander

Prep the veggies – finely slice the radishes and onions, then shred the lettuce. Use a julienne peeler to cut ribbons of the carrot (peel first), then use a veg peeler to gain fine slices of cucumber (discard the watery middle). Chop the coriander.

Then make the dressing. Pop the peanut butter into a small bowl with the lime zest and the finely chopped chilli, then gradually beat in the soy sauce – I find using a fork best for this. Add in the rest of the ingredients, mixing well. Toss together with the veggies, then serve immediately.

 photo Satay Veggie Salad 3_zpsurchabcb.jpgIt makes an amazing side to grilled satay chicken (I have a recipe I need to photograph and blog), but I also love it with cold prawns, or even some baked salmon. Or if I’m having it on it’s own, I like to add some extra nuts for a little additional protein, possibly some blanched and cooled soy beans too.

Yum yum!

*Some products were received from Very Lazy in exchange for a recipe, though all opinions are (as ever!) my own.

Are you a salad fan? What’s your favourite combo?

Recipe: Herby Quinoa Salad with Nuts, Feta & Pomegranate

This is one of my favourite salads at the moment. Quick and fuss-free to make, goes with most things, travels well in a lunchbox. It’s also full of fresh ingredients and pretty damn good for you. No oily dressing, just a spot of feta cheese (which could be removed if you wanted the veganise the recipe – though as a cheese fan I think I’d miss it too much!). Plus it looks super pretty and is really rather Instagrammable – what more could you want in a recipe?!

 photo Quinoa Salad_zpshgf1hlnd.jpgWe quite often serve this with grilled meat (turkey and lamb work particularly well, especially in a harissa-style marinade) or some homemade falafel, but I also love it on it’s own, perhaps with some carrot sticks and hoummous to snack on later in the afternoon. The only thing I will say is it’s best to serve it at room temperature – when fridge cold I find the quinoa can be a little stodgy in texture.


  • 250g quinoa (I prefer to use a mix of white, black and red quinoa – it seems to have a better flavour and texture)
  • 1 small red onion
  • 50g feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 small pack of pomegranate seeds (I find them cheaper than prepping your own)
  • 50g toasted flaked almonds
  • 50g pistachios (unsalted)
  • 1 pack each of coriander and mint
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 pinch each of sugar and salt

Cook the quinoa, following the instructions on the packet. I tend to pop it into a pan with twice the amount of cold water, bring to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes until the water is all absorbed. Let it cool completely.

Finely chop the onion and the herbs. Mix the citrus juice with sugar and salt. Mix everything together with the quinoa, adding more feta if you’re greedy like me. This keeps for a good 3-4 days in the fridge, in fact I find it tastes better the day after being made.

 photo Herby Pomegranate Quinoa Salad 8_zpsoewoohnx.jpg photo Herby Pomegranate Quinoa Salad 7_zps9e8wr6ui.jpgPS – in the photos on this post I’ve drizzled it in a simple yoghurt dressing (1tbsp yoghurt, black pepper, pinch of salt, pinch of cumin) as we’d miscalculated the amount of lemons we needed to buy and it was a little dry. It’s not entirely necessary so no worries about adding a dressing.

I’ve already earmarked this as my go-to recipe for picnics and barbecues this summer – I can imagine I’ll be making it lots!

What’s your favourite summer salad recipe?

Recipe: Blue Cheese & Pear Salad

Hands up who is fed up of the weather we’ve been having lately? Humid, very wet days alternating with very sunny days. Coupled with my office air-con being set to Arctic mode (I genuinely took a scarf in last week!) it’s left me confused about what to wear and, more importantly, what to eat.

 photo Blue Cheese Pear Salad_zpsjeu2m2q4.jpgTypically in warmer weather I crave lighter food. Salads, zingy flavours. Less of the carb heavy meals I love in winter. But the grey skies together with coming home dripping wet (because BBC Weather told me I didn’t need an umbrella) have got me craving comfort food. I’ve been turning to warm salads recently – the perfect combination of comforting and lightness – and this one is one of my favourites.

The pear provides a subtle freshness to the dish that, as long as it’s no over-ripe, just avoids being too sweet. The toasted walnuts give crunch. Fresh peppery leaves (I like a combo of spinach, rocket and watercress but most generic bags of salad work well). A punchy balsamic dressing. And lots and lots of blue cheese. We went for dolcelatte – it’s both strong and creamy which just the right amount of smelliness for me. AKA it tastes good and strong, but doesn’t make my fridge stink to high heaven. I also have a major love for slightly softer cheese in my salads. All the ingredients come together to make a big bowlful that’s heavy, light and fresh, but with enough cheese to be comforting. If I’m being naughty I love this served with some really good bread, lightly toasted, and a glass of chilled white wine.

Oh, and it you’re not a veggie, I highly recommend a rasher of bacon, finely chopped, and fried until really crispy. Blue cheese and bacon is another of my favourite combos…

 photo Pear Blue Cheese amp Walnut Salad 9_zpstlok4l3x.jpg photo Pear Blue Cheese amp Walnut Salad 11_zps6aakhlb7.jpgIngredients (Enough for 1)

  • For the dressing – olive oil, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard
  • 1 large pear – I found blush pears to work best
  • A knob of butter – goat’s butter* works really well
  • A bowl of salad leaves
  • A good handful of crumbled blue cheese
  • Another good handful of walnuts

Pop the walnuts on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile throw the leaves in a bowl and season with a little black pepper. Mix up the dressing – add the ingredients to a small jar and beat. Taste and adjust as you go to make it to your liking. I’m a massive balsamic fan but W’s not so keen so I’ve deliberately not given any qualities. The only thing I will say is you really do only want a tiny, tiny bit of mustard. And don’t use English mustard here, I speak from experience when I say it really doesn’t go well!

Slice the pear (no need to peel). Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the pear. Fry for 30 seconds before adding the dressing and warming through – you want the pears to be in the pan for no longer than around 90 seconds or they will go too soft. Add the pears to the salad bowl, and scatter over the walnuts and cheese. Enjoy!

 photo Pear Blue Cheese amp Walnut Salad 12_zpsqnuup0kq.jpgAlthough I haven’t tried it, I’m also told that this works just as well with cold sliced pears as part of a lunch box. One I’ll be giving a go very soon…

What’s your favourite salad recipe?

Recipe: Beetroot & Goat’s Cheese Salad

Ah, beetroot. My new favourite thing. I know I probably say that an awful lot when it comes to food, but I do think this is my absolute favourite. For now at least. I love the vibrant colour, the earthy yet slightly sweet taste, and how it goes so well with some of my most lovely ingredients. Pair it with black pudding, mix it up with goat’s cheese, use as a pizza topping, even whip it up into a brownie. Oh, and it makes the best ‘tomato’ sauce substitute I’ve tried, but more on that another day…

 photo Beetroot Black Pudding Salad 4_zpsh4lfhiuw.jpgThe only bad thing? Ringing your mum in a panic one weekend, thinking you have a serious medical issue. Then realising you’ve eaten beetroot six days out of seven…

This salad has become a bit of a go-to when we’re planning meals. It’s pretty quick, nice and light, but still filling. I’m finding it’s the perfect February balance between healthy and comforting.

 photo Beetroot Black Pudding Salad 3_zpsl2wknelb.jpg photo Beetroot Black Pudding Salad 1_zps6hgnzjpo.jpgIngredients (for 1)

  • 2 beetroot, either fresh or vac-packed
  • 50g goat’s cheese (or less if you want to be healthier)
  • 2 handfuls of salad leaves
  • Dressing (makes several servings) – 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon djion mustard
  • Optional – black pudding, green lentils, nuts (hazelnuts and walnuts work well)

If using fresh beetroot, wash, peel and chop into 2cm cubes. Drizzle with a teeny bit of oil, season with salt and pepper and roast for 45 minutes. If using vac-packed, chop, season (you may not need oil) and roast for 20-25 minutes. Mix together the dressing in a small jar; taste and adjust if you like. Cube the goats cheese.

Toss the roasted beetroot with the salad leaves, drizzle over a little dressing and scatter over the goat’s cheese and nuts. If you want to eat it cold, let the beetroot cool before adding it to the leaves (no one wants a wilted salad!). To add black pudding to the mix, simply cube and fry until crisp, and toss together with the beetroot. Green lentils are lovely warmed up with some of the dressing stirred through, and taste even better the next day. Basically, it’s a pretty versatile salad!

 photo Beetroot Black Pudding Salad 2_zpsxvm17aqr.jpgThis has fast become a favourite meal of ours, it’s so quick to make after work, doesn’t break the bank (you can often get 4 beets in a vac-pack for around 50p) and is just so tasty. I know beetroot is a bit of a ‘ew’ vegetable, so if you’re not sure about it, I’d recommend trying a different recipe first – I’ve got a great one scheduled for in a few weeks!

Are you a fan of beetroot? What’s your favourite salad recipe?

Recipe: Asian Steak Salad

When I’m trying to be healthier, my go-to flavours are Asian; Thai, Vietnamese. Fresh, vibrant and aromatic. They instantly brighten up what should be a dull plate of veg, add life, and make things ten times tastier. I always find they fill me up a lot more too.

 photo 2015-01-10 20.10.13_zpsn6lc6hz5.jpgThis salad was inspired by wandering around the aisles of Morrisions (seriously, the one kinda near me is amazing!) for nearly an hour. Their fresh produce was amazing, and after a carb-laden lunch (read more on Saturday) we wanted to lighten things up. The steak came about because chicken  (free range, that actually tastes of something) is expensive. Turns out that with the right ingredients, the thin cuts of cheaper frying steak are more than delicious. I’ll definitely be picking up more of these.

 photo 2015-01-10 19.54.37_zpsenqrwzl9.jpgSteak is also a lot, lot quicker to cook than chicken. These only had a minute on each side, and to be honest I wouldn’t even give them that next time. You can have this salad ready within about 15 minutes of walking through the door. And the dressing? Add noodles and leftover salad – there’s lunch for tomorrow. It also works perfectly to add extra zing to a noodle soup.

Ingredients (for 1, but makes extra dressing)

  • Frying steak
  • 1/2 thumb-sized piece of ginger
  • 1 red chilli (check the heat by tasting a little bit, and adjust the amount accordingly)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • A splash of soy sauce
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Squeeze of honey
  • Coriander
  • Salad – we went for julienned carrot, watercress and a small amount of onion
  • Sesame seeds – optional, only to top the salad, but we really enjoyed them

 photo 2015-01-10 19.54.57_zpsupq9ewg4.jpgBegin by making the dressing. Finely chop the ginger, chilli and garlic together. Add to a small bowl or mug, then pour over the sauces, lime and honey. Mix together, taste, and add more of an ingredient if you think it needs it.

 photo 2015-01-10 20.01.22_zpsith0jknh.jpgToss your salad together with your coriander.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over a high heat, with a teeny amount of oil. Season the steaks with salt and pepper, and flash fry extremely quickly until just cooked.

Cover the steaks with foil to rest briefly, and tip any sauces from the pan into the dressing.

 photo 2015-01-10 20.08.46_zpsqci8hzwi.jpgToss the salad in the dressing, top with the steak, sprinkle over sesame seeds and serve. I added a teeny bit of rice to mine (and a lot of rice to W’s) but it honestly didn’t need it.

 photo 2015-01-10 20.09.54_zpsyk0ey3wo.jpgThe perfect diet meal!

What’s your favourite healthy recipe?