Thursday, 24 March 2011


I am returning again to Nigella Lawson and make no apology for it. Yes, I am being lazy. Since my last blog post, I have started several about more interesting books and not finished them. This, I can bash out in a few minutes before I have to cook the thing. The prep is done, I just need to grill some meat.

How to Eat was a book which really excited me when it first came out. It's the kind of book I hope I end up writing eventually, it seamlessly unites food writing with recipe writing in a similar way to Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries. I love its informality, the chattiness and, of course, the food. I've already talked about Nigella's inauthenticity and will no doubt return to the subject again in a more general way. There was probably a time when I was too precious to cook her "Cambodian Beef Salad", preferring to find a proper Cambodian recipe, but that was silly of me. Most of our best food writers write about cuisines other than their own and the roll call is impressive - think Elizabeth David and Jane Grigson on France, David Thompson on Thai Food, Fuchsia Dunlop on Sechzuan Cookery, Colman Andrews on the Riviera and Spain. Do we dismiss these people out of hand? Of course not. We as a nation are magpies, hoarders of other people's recipes - my specialist cusine is the Caribbean and because I've been collecting recipes from all the islands, I feel as though my knowledge base is probably much wider than many Caribbean chefs, as I am not hampered by island and family custom, but can learn wherever I go.

I digress. What I meant to say is that I am sure that if Nigella Lawson decided to focus on one particular cuisine (I imagine it would be those states in the Deep South USA, judging by her books to date), she would do it just as well as those mentioned above. As it is, she prefers to generalise, and there's nothing wrong with that. I have made this particular salad countless times, because it is very quick, exceedingly tasty and also very adaptable. Here's my adapted version, which, simply due to the fact I always have scotch bonnets in the house, always ends up a bit of a Cambodian/Caribbean hybrid:

Cambodian Hot and Sour Beef Salad

lettuce leaves (I ususally use little gem)
225g tender steak (I usually use a big piece of sirloin or rump)
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp sugar
1 shallot, finely sliced (I subsitute spring onions)
1-2 red chillies, deseeded & chopped finely (I use between 1/2 - 1 scotch bonnet)
handful mint (I will also add coriander leaf and sometimes basil too)

Tear the lettuce onto a serving dish. Grill the steak - I make sure mine is bloody in the middle. Mix together the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, shallot and chillies. Cut the steak into long, slender slices and add these to your sauce, along with any juices. Add the herbs and turn out onto the lettuce.

I have been known to combine allspice and anise (a very Caribbean combination) and rub it over the steak before grilling it, but generally, I prefer without - the flavours are much, much cleaner that way.


  1. I agree about Nigella. Stylish, anecdotal, tasty recipes which you felt she had cooked herself for her family...

  2. This salad sounds great, and quick so a double bonus. I ADORE cookbooks and find Nigella great to read. And she has a "normal" figure so she actually eats what she cooks!