recipes for a healthy life

Thai beef with Nam Jim & pickled vegetables

IMG_1162February temperatures, hail sleet and morning frosts. It can only be April! Get some heat in with this delicious spicy beef with Nam Jim and pickled veg. These pickles work well with any hot Thai dish and will keep well in the fridge for a couple of weeks. The Nam Jim is great with lots of meat not just the beef as well as over a delicious raw veg salad.

Thai beef with Nam Jim and pickled vegetables
Serves 4
700g beef – sirloin, flank, flat iron or bavette all work well sliced into strips
Couple of handfuls of peanuts roasted
2 red chilies

Nam Jim Sauce
1 thumb sized piece of ginger peeled and chopped
3 cloves of garlic peeled chopped and mashed
4 chilies red preferably but not critical
juice of  3 limes
2-3 tbsp each of fish sauce and palm sugar or more to taste
1 bunch of coriander including root and stalk

To make nam jim, trim roots from coriander and rinse well. Pick leaves and reserve. (You can use a pestle and mortar if you want to do it the authentic Thai way but I usually throw everything into the processor when I am in a hurry).
Process coriander roots, ginger, garlic, the chillies, lime juice, fish sauce and brown sugar in the processor until well combined and finely chopped.
Combine half the nam jim with beef in a large bowl, cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to marinate.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pan or wok over high heat. Add half the beef mixture and stir-fry for 3 minutes or until beef is browned and just cooked through. Remove from wok and repeat with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and beef mixture.
Mix remaining chilies, the leaves of the coriander, the cooked beef and remaining nam jim into a bowl and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, put onto a serving platter, scatter with roasted peanuts and serve with rice or noodles, if using as well as a little bowl of the pickled vegetables. This is chock full of goodness with fresh raw veg and spices making up the dressings and if you want to keep the calories down you could simply toss the picked veg through the beef, add loads of fresh coriander and mint leaves and simply serve as is.

Pickled Veg
A selection of carrot batons, deseeded cucumber, spring onion, slices of cauliflower.
Pack into a jar for which you have a lid.
Pickling juice
Pour 100ml each of water and white wine vinegar into a pot
Add 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, few black pepper corns, some mustard and cumin seeds.
Add 3 tbsp sugar and then heat the mix gently to dissolve together
Take off the heat and let cool. Add your veggies and set aside in the fridge until needed.

Homemade Spicy Tomato Sauce

I still remember the surprise and joy on one of my first holidays abroad, when a plate of tomatoes covered in oregano was served up to me and I properly tasted a tomato for the first time – properly by which I mean the sweet and juicy flavour of a tomato what has grown on a vine smothered in sunshine as it develops. I love the idea of locally grown but I think a tomato which hasn’t grown outside in the sun is an insipid affair. Instead I tend to make sauces with them which I use on the side or as the base of some of my recipes. This little gem of a recipe is like a ketchup but so much more delicious in my opinion – use it for meat or chicken dishes, stir it into lentils beans or vegetables and store in the fridge and it even passes muster with Eva as ketchup for chips.

Homemade Spicy Tomato Sauce
250gr cherry tomatoes halved
1 tbsp olive oil
3 pinches of thyme leaves

1 tbsp seasame oil
1/2 onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp celery salt
1 tsp cayenne
150 ml white wine vinegar
2 tbsp tomato passsata

Oven at 170
Place tomatoes on a tray, season, sprinkle over the olive oil and thyme leaves and roast for about 30 minutes until slightly charred. Let cool.
Tip into a blender, add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Add the glug of water if you need to thin out.
Pour into a kilner or other sealable jar and store in the fridge.

Chickpea Curry with Spinach & Cashew Cream

It has become a habit for Monday to be meat free, a day of eating lighter and today was no exception and actually really welcome after what was a busy weekend of eating and drinking. (If you saw the lump of beef we shared yesterday I think you’d understand:-) )

Chickpeas are a staple in our house – I usually make a lot of dips and veggie burgers with them, today I decided on some heat and this chickpea curry was perfect for what I wanted. Filling, full of flavour with a great bang of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from all the spices as well as an extra boost of protein thanks to the cashew nut cream. I have been making this for quite a while either as a staple in my vegetarian cooking or as a cream base in chocolate tarts- if you don’t have it don’t worry , it’s not essential but I do include how to prepare it below.


Serves 4
2 tbsp coconut or rape seed oil
1/2 red onion finely chopped
2 tins of chickpeas – drained and rinsed
1 tsp each of finely chopped garlic and ginger
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cayenne
1 tsp degi mirch or other chili powder of choice
1 tin chopped tomatoes drained of half the liquid
5 large handfuls of spinach, washed dried and destalked

Heat the oil and add the red onion , garlic and ginger and a splash of water and cook gently until the onion is softened.
Stir in all the spices and cook for a few minutes until they loose their rawness.
Add the chickpeas and tomatoes and season well and cook for about 10 minutes. over a gentle heat – this gets the flavours nicely developed.
If you are using the cashew cream stir 2 large tbsp in well to incorporate and then add the spinach leaves and fold through to allow them to wilt fully.
Cook for a final 2 minutes, season well to taste and serve. This is also great the next day with a poached egg on top.

Cashew Cream
Cashew cream is made by soaking the cashew nuts overnight with cold water (enough to cover them) or by boiling the cashews until they are soft and leaving them to cool. Drain the water.
Tip them into a blender and blend really well until smooth and like a thick paste, Add some water to help this along.

This can be stored in the fridge or frozen until you need it. Stir it into vegetable stock for a lovely creamy sauce, into lentils or beans or indeed use it as the base for ice cream – simply blend it with your fruit of choice and freeze or add melted chocolate for a vegan ganache which you can pour into a chocolate tart base  – recipe coming soon!.



Eggs Bacon and Beans


Almost a Full Irish but healthier – not dripping in grease but a simple dish full of good fats, complex carbohydrates, protein and B vitamins full of great flavour and packs a real energy punch. This is so easy to make and can be knocked up in less than 12 minutes.

Serves 2 as a main or 3-4 for lunch.

Eggs, Bacon and Beans
100gr lardons
1 400gr tin each of butter and cannellini beans drained and rinsed
1 clove of garlic peeled chopped and mashed
1 tsp chopped thyme
1 tbsp tomato passata
1 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp rape or coconut seed oil
2 eggs per person

Heat a pan over a gentle heat and add the oil
Add the garlic and cook for a minute until it starts to soften
Tip in the lardons and turn the heat up and cook for about 2 minutes until they start to release their fat and become crispy
Add the remaining ingredients and a splash of water and cook for about 10 minutes.
Season to taste.
Just before serving, fry 2 eggs per person and serve on top of the beans,
Season and serve.

Cauliflower Alla Primavera


Spring Vegetables full of colour make this dish a feast for the eyes and the taste-buds. Usually made with spaghetti but I fancied using some cauliflower instead just to keep it chock full of veggies. For the people in the house who don’t think they have been fed if there isn’t meat or fish then throw an oven baked salmon darne on top to keep them satisfied. I love this for all the goodness and flavour of the vegetables and its easy to prepare once you have your veg blanched.

Cauliflower Alla Primavera
Serves 3-4
1 head of cauliflower stalked and whizzed to ‘rice’
1 small head of broccoli cut into stalks and blanched and refreshed
1/2 courgette washed and cut into batons, blanched and refreshed
3 oz peas cooked and cooled
A handful of cherry tomatoes halved
1 oz toasted pine nuts
Herb oil to serve – see below
4 tbsp rape seed oil
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp dried oregano

Peel chop and mash the garlic.
Heat 3 tbsp oil and tip in the garlic and cook over a gentle heat until it softens then tip in the cauliflower and the oregano- keep it at a medium heat for about 10 minutes until it softens. Keep warm while you prepare the rest of the vegetables.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan and tip in the broccoli and courgette , season and gently cook until it is warm – about 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and peas and cook for a further minute.
To serve, spoon some of the cauliflower rice into a bowl, spoon over a selection of the vegetables.
Sprinkle over the pine nuts and a few tbsp of herb oil.

Herb Oil (Perfect over salads, meat, quiches)
2 handfuls each of flat leaf parsley coriander and mint
Enough good olive oil to cover the herbs by at least an inch
Whizz in the blender and season with a drop of salt and a glug of apple cider vinegar.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 425 other followers

%d bloggers like this: