While I was growing up, my father worked as a food technologist at a gelatine company. The 70s were a hey-dey time for jelly-think aspic topped fish pates turned out of copper fish molds and wobbly, glossy sweet jellies filled with cherries, set aflame with aplomb at the table.
It's kind of a shame that I hated jelly.
Which is probably why I didn't mind that we rarely had dessert. Because jelly was the only option offered, I would always groan out loud, dragging my feet along the kitchen floor.
To get around the omnipresent jelly, I'd something mix up dessert. I would take out ice cream, jelly and every sort of sauce I could find. One time when my parents had people over I mixed up one of these concoctions and topped it with golden syrup, chocolate syrup and strawberry syrup. I stood there watching my parents and their friends take a spoonful, hoping that they would tell me that it was wonderful and that I had invented something that I could call "Lorraine" something else other than quiche. They smiled and pushed it away.
I tried some of my parent's bowl of dessert. It was, as expected, dreadful. But allow me to show you a recipe that seems like you're mixing up a whole lot of things together, but actually turns out well (and yay, there's no jelly involved). It's a classic Thai beef salad, made with tender medium rare beef, sliced thinly and added to a herb laden salad along with sweet tomatoes. I add some deep fried shallots to give it extra crunch at the end. It's a low carb but delicious salad that is one of Mr NQN's favourites - he requests this often. You can serve these as lettuce cups-crisp baby cos is also an idea for individual cocktail party serves.
So tell me Dear Reader, was there always dessert at your place growing up? Is there now?
Thai Beef Salad
An Original Recipe by Not Quite Nigella
400g striploin of beef, trimmed of fat
oil for frying
1/2 iceberg lettuce or baby cos lettuces
200g cherry tomatoes
1 red onion
2x 10cm stalk of lemongrass, white part only, outer layers removed
1/4 cup roasted, salted peanuts
1 bunch mint
1/2 bunch coriander
1/2 cup deep fried shallots
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons white sugar or palm sugar
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Buyer's tip: Deep fried shallots can be found in plastic packets at Asian grocery stores. Striploin is also called porterhouse steak, boneless sirloin, strip steak, shell steak, Delmonico, boneless loin. Confusing, yes! You can also use Thai basil but I couldn't get any and it was delicious without it so I didn't add it to the recipe.
Step 1 - As the beef I used was cryovaced, I took it out of the plastic 24 hours in advance, patted the excess blood and let it air dry in the fridge.
Step 2 - Heat a cast iron skillet on high. Cook the steak for 3 minutes on one side and 2 minutes on the other for medium rare beef. Place on a plate and cover with foil and allow to rest for at least ten minutes.
Step 3 - Make the salad dressing by adding all of the ingredients to a bowl and stirring until sugar has dissolved.
Step 4 - Make the salad. Wash all of the vegetables and herbs and slice the half iceberg in half and into wedges and place on a serving plate. You can also slice up a bit of the lettuce to use in the salad too. Use the outer ones for cups-baby cos is easier but they were out of it when I went shopping.
Step 5 - Slice the tomatoes into quarters and place in a large bowl. Peel and slice the onion thinly and add this to the bowl along with the lemongrass, also finely sliced into thin little rings. Add mint leaves, coriander leaves and peanuts.
Step 6 - Slice the beef thinly on an angle and add to the salad. Add dressing and toss to combine. Place the salad inside the lettuce cups and serve. Top with deep fried shallots for crispiness and flavour. Serve straight away.