It’s all in the detail in this delicate Thai surf and turf combo: seek out a speciality type of cucumber for the beef salad, make your own pungent chilli jam and carefully wrap bundles of noodles, prawn, lettuce and mint for fresh spring rolls.
Equipment and Preparation: You will need a standard Australian measuring cup (1 cup = 250ml) for this recipe.
1 head garlic, cloves peeled
6-8 long red chillies, roughly chopped
3 thumb-sized pieces (200g/7oz) fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 double kaffir lime leaves (with two connecting leaves), deveined (optional)
2½ cups caster sugar
½ cup water
4 limes, finely grated zest only
½ cup rice vinegar
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp soy sauce
2 small bundles (100g/3½oz) bean thread or rice vermicelli noodles
½ large iceberg lettuce
½ tsp sugar
1 large carrot, coarsely grated
200g/7oz cooked prawn meat, chopped
handful fresh mint leaves (about 60-70 leaves), torn into pieces
3 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
30 small or 20 large rounds rice paper (also known as spring roll wrappers, available from Asian food stores)
small handful roasted peanuts, chopped (optional garnish)
splash fish sauce
1 tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil
1 small red onion, halved and finely sliced
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
24 cherry tomatoes, halved
40 mint leaves, torn
4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
2/3 cup chilli jam (see above)
4 tbsp lime juice
For the chilli jam, sterlise a screw-top jar (with a volume of two Australian cups: 1 cup =250ml), and its metal lid.
Blend the garlic, chillies, ginger and kaffir lime leaves (if using) to a coarse paste in a food processor or pestle and mortar.
Place the blended mixture in a saucepan with the sugar, water, lime zest, rice vinegar, fish sauce and soy sauce.
Stir over a medium heat until the sugar dissolves, then boil for about 10 minutes, or until the volume of liquid has reduced by one-third. It will bubble up like jam.
Spoon the hot chilli jam into the warm sterilised jar until it is filled to within 3mm of the top. Seal with the screw lid. It will keep for months while sealed. Once opened, store the chilli jam in the fridge.
For the prawn and mint finger rolls, place the noodles in a bowl, cover with boiling water and soak for five minutes. Drain the water off and then cut the noodles with kitchen scissors in several places to create shorter lengths.
Very finely shred the lettuce and place in a mixing bowl with sugar, carrot, prawn meat, mint and coriander. Mix through the noodles.
Dampen a clean tea towel and lay it on a clean work surface. Dunk the rice paper rounds into a dish of warm water one at a time for a couple of seconds each (don’t soak them or they will become too sticky), then place them separately on the damp tea towel. Wait for a minute for the rice paper to soften and become flexible. They are ready to work with when they are dimpled and softened. If you try and roll them before this they will split.
Place a small handful of the prawn mixture in the centre of each wrapper. Wet your hands to stop them sticking to the rice paper and then roll the wrapper up tightly around the filling, tucking in the sides as you go. Transfer the rolls to a plate, seam side down and cover with a damp paper towel. If not serving immediately, they will hold their shape in the fridge for 24 hours. Garnish with chopped peanuts if desired.
For the beef salad, rub the steaks with the fish sauce and season them with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the steaks for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until they are done to your liking.
Remove the meat from the pan and set it aside, covered to rest for at least five minutes after cooking. Slice the meat thinly across the grain. If preparing the meat ahead of time, slice the steaks just before serving.
Place the sliced meat and any cooking juices in a mixing bowl with the prepared cucumber, red onion, spring onions, tomatoes, mint and coriander.
Measure out the required amount of chilli jam and mix it with lime juice in a bowl. Pour this over the salad and toss to combine. Serve the beef salad with the rolls and more chilli jam in a dipping pot.
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James is joined by chefs Paul Rankin and Nigel Haworth, plus actor Bradley Walsh.
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