Say it with flowers or a Thai beef salad.

A post Valentine’s Day post.

Picture1Roses are red, violets are blue…and blue is exactly what I’m feeling this Valentine’s. My husband has gone away for three weeks to the North Pole – OK not exactly the North Pole but it’s around -20°C where he is at the moment. While he is freezing away in icy cold Canada I’m basking in the warmth of the beautiful winter sun in Dubai, and as a virtual Valentine’s Day surprise, I thought of making one of his favourite dishes – a Thai beef salad. 

I love Thai salads. They fall into 4 main categories based on the way they are prepared, which are Yam, Tam, Lap and Phla (trust me, I didn’t know this till I started writing this post. Follow this link to Wikipedia to read more about it). I particularly like the Lap salads – crunchy veg and morsels of juicy, tender meat tossed in a perfectly balanced sweet-sour-salty dressing, light and refreshing yet bursting with flavour. I won’t call myself a connoisseur of Thai food (my interest in the subject hasn’t gone beyond shovelling the delicious stuff into my mouth) but I do make two killer Thai salads, if I do say so myself – the beef salad and a chicken salad in peanut dressing. I have my doubts about the origins of the latter but it doesn’t really matter because it tastes so good.

And here’s my Thai beef salad, in pictures…

DSC_1905It all starts with fresh ingredients…

DSC_1868And my five year old who insisted I put this pic in my post.

DSC_1870Mise en place…shredding fresh papaya. There’s an easy way to do this, all you need is a sharp knife and a vegetable peeler (check out this video on how to get perfect, crisp papaya strips).

DSC_1901A beautiful sirloin steak which has been marinating overnight…

Picture9Freshly roasted peanuts and fresh mint from my balcony garden…

Picture12

Picture8After some shredding, chopping, pounding, grilling and mixing…voilà!

DSC_1947My Thai beef salad, bursting with colour, flavour and freshness! This one’s for you honey! x

Celebrating Valentine’s Day is not at the top of my To-Do list but I do miss my husband. After the first couple of years of your marriage your spouse becomes very much a part of you. I wish I had a better reference, but it’s like your favourite sweater – familiar and comforting and something you simply cannot live without. We are on our ninth year now so I do feel his absence, even though he’s gone for only three weeks.

Well…here’s to our ninth Valentine’s together and many more to come! Chin-chinOh, and hubs please don’t be offended by the favourite sweater reference – the one I’m talking about is gorgeously luxurious and cashmere xx

PS: Valentine’s Day was not so bad after all as I still had my other Valentine to celebrate it with. And boy did we celebrate…we made heart shaped cards and went out for Italian and had his first taste of lasagna (he’s been pestering me for lasagna after watching Garfield wolf down copious amounts of it on TV). The day ended with my Valentine saying ‘Mummy I want to give you a ‘Balentime’s Day’ kiss’ and planting a big sloppy one on my cheek.

PPS: Hubs came back from the cold bearing loads of maple syrupy goodies and something quite unusual – Icewine tea (more on that later). Happy days!


Thai Beef Salad
adapted from a recipe by Darlene Schmidt

1 to 2 sirloin steaks, depending on the amount of meat you prefer.
Marinade:
2 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp lime or lemon juice
2 tbsp brown sugar

For the salad:
1 large bowl salad greens
1 cup bean sprouts
handful of fresh mint or basil leaves, lightly chopped or torn
1 cup fresh coriander
1 cup fresh papaya, cubed or cut into spears (see video above on how to shred papaya)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, left whole or sliced in half

Dressing:
1-2 tbsp fish sauce (available at Asian food stores)
3 tbsp lime or lemon juice
1+1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp brown sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1-2 fresh red chillies, chopped
2 tbsp toasted and ground sticky rice,or 2 tbsp roasted, ground peanuts (I used peanuts)

Mix marinade ingredients together in a cup or bowl, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour over the steak(s), turning meat to coat. Set in the refrigerator to marinate (you can leave it overnight).

For the ground sticky rice (if using, instead of peanuts): Place 2 tbsp uncooked sticky rice in a dry frying pan over medium-high heat. Stirring continuously, dry-fry the rice until it starts to pop and is lightly toasted. Remove rice from the pan and allow to cool slightly before grinding it up with a coffee grinder, or pounding into a powder with pestle & mortar.

Combine all dressing ingredients together in a cup or mixing bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves (adjust fish sauce and lime juice according to your desired taste). Then prepare the bowl of greens and other salad ingredients.

Grill the steak over a hot grill, turning only once or twice to retain the juices (meat should still be pink in the centre).

While steak is cooking, toss the salad with the dressing. Taste-test for salt, adding more fish sauce if not salty enough, or more lime juice if too salty for your taste.

When ready to serve, portion out salad onto serving plates or bowls. Slice the steak as thinly as possible and top each portion with a generous amount of sliced sirloin and a sprinkling of ground rice or peanuts.

Picture11

A delightful discovery and a bunch of radishes.

DSC_1326

Having been born and raised in Sri Lanka, a country abundant in all things green (think of lush verdant forests, tree-canopied foot paths, blue mountains, endless paddy fields… I can go on forever..) it took me a while to get used to the flat, sand-hued landscape of Dubai. I love the green stuff, so much so that when I was a kid I used to imagine myself living in a flower-bed. For someone with this kind of ‘green’ obsession, like me, a visit to the local park is always a treat, especially when there is a bonus thrown in (which you shall soon find out)!

Gallery 1

The parks in Dubai are beautiful – little emerald oases where one can escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The mercury drops towards November (it used to be as early as August – effects of global warming methinks?) and the temperatures remain a pleasant 18-23 degrees till mid-April. The moment Dubai bids goodbye to the hot desert sun, out come the BBQ grills, the beach towels, the bicycles, the picnic blankets and my most recent finding – farmers’ markets. They sprout all over the city in various places – from parks to hotel gardens to more spectacular spots like the Dubai fountains. From delicious baked goods from artisan bakers to fresh veg and fruit from local farms, these markets have something for everyone and are a foodie’s paradise.

DSC_1193

Last weekend I paid a visit to the Foodie Friday Market in Safa park (it’s hosted by Ripe, an organic food store in Dubai). The park itself is one of the most beautiful in Dubai, complete with sprawling lawns, a pine grove and even a duck pond! For those who live here, the market is near Gate No. 5 and is held every Friday from 9 in the morning till 2 in the afternoon.

DSC_1222

A mélange of delightful sights, sounds and smells welcome you as you walk towards the market…the aroma of sizzling burgers and pancakes wafts through the air making your mouth water and breezy tunes from a solo guitar dance their way into your ears while little orange, green and white flags flutter overhead.

We spent hours browsing around the stalls sampling delicious titbits – from juicy sausages and crusty bread to freshly squeezed lemonade and gooey brownies.

Picture3

Gallery 11

Gallery 12

Gallery 9
I also bought this beautiful bunch of organic and locally grown radishes from the Ripe stall (they were so gorgeous that I wrote them a little poem). For lunch that day I made a simple radish salad which tasted amazing and oh-so-fresh! They say food tastes better when you know where it came from and who grew it, well I couldn’t agree more.

Gallery 8
DSC_1449

DSC_1404

Arugula & Radish Salad with Lemon and Parmesan
adapted from Lemon Tart Recipes by Tami Moritz
Serves 4

8-10 radishes, sliced
1 green apple, cut into matchsticks
Arugula, washed, spun and dried (I couldn’t find arugula so used baby lettuce instead )
Zest and juice of half a lemon
1 tbsp + 2 tsp olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
4 pinches coarse salt
Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano-Reggiano)
Crispy fried shallots

Add the lemon zest into a large bowl. Pour olive oil over the top. Leave to sit about 15 minutes or up to 2 hours for the lemon zest to infuse the oil.

Just before serving toss arugula into the oil and zest mixture and toss gently with your hands. Allow each leaf to become coated with the oil. Add more oil if necessary, do not overdress. A coating is all that’s needed. Sprinkle on the lemon juice, gently tossing. Season with salt and pepper. Give another toss and then pick up a leaf and taste. Add more lemon juice if required.

Scatter over the radishes and apple. Using a vegetable peeler shave off curls of Parmesan and scatter liberally over the top of the salad and sprinkle over the crispy fried shallots. Serve at once.

Poem