Thai Crumbled Beef in Lettuce Wraps with Cucumber Carrot Salad and Mango Fool

by Kristin on August 5, 2009

I don’t know what tempted me to try making something with nam pla for the first time — a sauce made from fermented fish doesn’t exactly get your mouth watering. But now if I see a recipe that calls for it, especially when combined with lime juice, chances are good that I’m going to make it. If you’ve never had it before, do try it. (If you’re still not convinced, check out what this couple has to say about fish sauce.) The flavors in this menu are cool, crisp and perfect for summer.

Thai Crumbled Beef in Lettuce Wraps
from Forever Summer by Nigella Lawson

Serves 6 as an appetizer or 2 to 3 as a main course

If you want to perk the lettuce leaves up a little, making sure they curve into appropriate cups for later, leave them in a sinkful of very cold water while you cook the minced beef, then make sure you drain them well before piling them up on a plate.

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 chilies, finely chopped
13 oz (375 g) beef mince
1 scant tablespoon Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
4 green onions, dark green bits removed, finely chopped
zest and juice of 1 lime
3–4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 iceberg lettuce, leaves broken off

Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan on medium heat. Add the finely chopped chillies and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally, taking care not to let the chillies burn.

Add the beef, turn up the heat and, breaking up the mince with a wooden spoon or fork, cook for 3 or 4 minutes, until no trace of pink remains. Add the fish sauce and, still stirring, cook till the liquid has evaporated. Off the heat, stir in the spring onions, lime zest and juice and most of the cilantro. Turn into a bowl and sprinkle over the remaining cilantro just before serving. (Note: If your meat is very fatty, strain it into a serving bowl with a slotted spoon.)

Arrange the iceberg lettuce leaves on another plate — they should sit one on top of another easily enough — and let people serve themselves at the table, filling the leaves with spoonfuls of the meat and wrapping it in the lettuce like you would with a burrito.

***

beef wraps with cucumber carrot salad

Cucumber Carrot Salad
adapted from Gourmet, June 1994

Serves 6

The salad can be made up to 4 hours ahead and kept chilled and covered, but the cucumber will wilt and give off liquid.

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tablespoons Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 chili, or to taste, seeded and minced
2 cucumbers, deseeded
1 carrot, coarsely grated
1/4 cup peanuts, chopped

In a bowl, stir together the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and chili until the sugar is dissolved.

Thinly slice the cucumbers (a food processor makes short work of this) and add to the chili mixture along with the grated carrot and peanuts. Toss the salad well.

***

Mango Fool
adapted from Gourmet, April 2000

Serves 6

The Gourmet recipe says that canned mangoes are excellent in this dessert if ripe fresh ones are unavailable. Use a drained (1 lb 14 oz/850 g) can of mango slices in syrup. If the canned fruits you buy are Alphonso mangoes (their favorite variety of mango), add an additional 1/2 cup (120 ml) cream. If you don’t want to bother putting the purée through a sieve, it won’t suffer for not having a perfectly smooth texture. I think you could also get away with not adding the gelatin, which would make this more of a traditional fool recipe of just sweetened fruit and whipped cream, though the gelatin elevates this into more of a mousse.

1 1/4 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 large very ripe mangoes, flesh coarsely chopped (4 cups)
1/4 cup sugar (55 g), or to taste depending on sweetness of mangoes
3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy cream

Sprinkle the gelatin over the juice in a small heatproof cup and let it stand 1 minute to soften. Purée the mangoes with the sugar in a blender until very smooth and force through a sieve into a large bowl.

Melt the softened gelatin in the cup in a pan of simmering water or in a microwave and stir into the purée. Beat the cream with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks and gently fold into the purée.

Transfer the purée into 6 ramekins, small glasses, etc., or 1 large serving dish. Chill the fool, covered, for at least 8 hours.

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