The good news, at least as far as I’m concerned, is that the bug is starting to lose its grip. The bad news is so is the good weather. Blue sky has given way to grey clouds, a drop of ten degrees and a likely drop of another ten by Friday. All very seasonal but there was something extraordinary about the long-awaited heatwave; how odd to sear in such summer temperatures all day and then experience the autumn early darkness in the evenings.
In terms of the bug I’m not sure if it has just about run its course or whether my overdosing on ginger, garlic, chilli and lemon juice (and that’s only for breakfast…no, just kidding) has actually had an effect. For the last few days I have been shoving grated ginger and lemon juice into every morning smoothie and eating this Vietnamese salad, adapted from Mr Bill Granger’s new book, every evening, partly to boost my immune system but partly because, although it’s been salad weather, I have wanted a different sort of taste, free of oil or cheese or summer veg. And, since I love both Vietnamese food, that lovely mix of mint, sugar, chilli and peanut crunch, as well as dishes that take very little energy or time this is a marvellous recipe.
I made two main changes. One, the recipe suggests using a 1.5kg ready-roasted chicken but, having made it a couple of times, what that means in practice is about 150g of cooked chicken per person. And I couldn’t find crispy shallots, even in my Chinese supermarket, so I missed them out. Be aware that this isn’t a salad that will keep for long; its virtue is its crunchy freshness so don’t be tempted to make it too far in advance.
Vietnamese salad (adapted from Bill’s Everyday Asian)
For two you will need:
Cupboard (or things you may already have):
sea salt, ½ teaspoon
caster sugar, 3 teaspoons
ready-roasted or leftover chicken, 300g (obviously you can roast it yourself if you prefer!)
Chinese leaf/cabbage (if you can’t find this, use plain white cabbage), 90g
fresh mint leaves, a handful
fresh basil leaves, a handful
rice vinegar, 1½ tablespoons
fish sauce, 1½ tablespoons
lime juice, 1½ tablespoons (about ½ lime I find)
soft brown sugar, 1 tablespoon
small bird’s eye red chilli
fresh ginger, a thumbnail’s worth (about a teaspoon when grated)
roasted peanuts, a handful
1, First pickle the carrot. Put 3 teaspoons of caster sugar, ½ teaspoon of sea salt and 1½ tablespoons of rice vinegar into a bowl and stir to combine. Peel, top and tail the carrot then cut it in half, then quarters then thin matchstick-size pieces and mix the pieces with the dressing. Leave for about 20 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, wash and shred the Chinese cabbage, rinse the beansprouts, mint and basil leaves, drain thoroughly and mix together in a roomy bowl.
3. Shred the chicken and add to the rest of the salad ingredients.
4. Peel, top and tail and crush the garlic clove, peel and finely grate the ginger, top and tail and chop the chilli, juice the lime and roughly chop the peanuts. Put the garlic, ginger, chilli and half of the peanuts into a bowl with the fish sauce, lime juice and brown sugar, mix together and tip over the salad.
5. Finally tip over the now pickled carrot (I tend to include the juices too) and the rest of the chopped peanuts and serve.