Warm or cold, salads are a fantastic light meal but can become something more substantial with the addition of protein. Thai beef salad is a favourite, the one I often take to a friend's place. It's so easy – make the dressing, sear the beef and wash the salad and you are practically done. More adventurous types can try using wallaby or kangaroo instead of beef, they have a lovely gamey flavour that works well with the Thai dressing.
600g beef fillet
50ml vegetable oil
1 Lebanese cucumber
60g peanuts, roasted
1 tbsp coriander stalks
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp palm sugar
4 tbsp fish sauce (check gluten-free if required)
6 tbsp lime juice
1 bunch watercress
1 handful Vietnamese mint, washed
1 handful coriander, washed
1/2 handful mint leaves, washed
3 tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 tbsp crispy eschalots
1. Lightly salt the beef fillet, heat the vegetable oil in a heavy-based frying pan and seal the meat, colouring it well. Put in the fridge for later.
2. Thinly slice the cucumber and three eschalots and set aside. Roughly chop the peanuts and the remaining eschalot.
3. In a mortar and pestle, crush the chopped eschalot, garlic and coriander stalks to a paste, add the palm sugar and mash with the pestle. Add the fish sauce and lime juice and mix. Taste to check the balance of flavours – add palm sugar for more sweet, lime juice for sour, and fish sauce for salty.
4. Thinly slice the beef and put in a large bowl. Add all the other ingredients except the crispy eschalots, pour some of the dressing over and mix gently with your hands to work the dressing into the meat. Taste the salad to check if it needs more dressing, then pile it gently on a serving plate and shower crispy eschalots over the top.