crispy mince and beans salad
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Pork crumbs borrowed from Sichuan cuisine’s ants climbing trees put to a good and healthy use: a leaf salad with tinned kidney beans.
Pork mince is far too good to be used only for meatballs, as Oriental cuisines know well. Beef mince has a more elevated status being the ingredient of choice for chili and Italian ragu – though the latter in fact should be made from a mix of beef and pork. The best thing about pork mince is that it fries to the most wonderful pork crumbs.
Crispy fried pork mince is the technical term but that’s such a mouthful. Pork crumbs or ants climbing trees, which is the Sichuan dish that inspired my pork mince shenanigans, sounds much more succinct. Ants climbing trees however need said trees (noodles) to climb while pork crumbs – why, you can just sprinkle or pile them on whatever you fancy.
Instead of beef chili, spoon pork crumbs on a baked potato. Sprinkle on pasta or on toast underneath a cheese cover. And if you fancy a boosted salad – which means a salad that provides surprisingly good sustenance while still being a healthy option – look no further. This is a great combination of lettuce, canned beans and those pork crumbs; spicy and flavoursome, totally crispy and terribly moreish.
They need to be cooked for quite a long while to get to the crumb stage, and I find the best technique is to let a layer sit in the pan to fry up till crisp underneath, then toss the pan or wok to turn over the layer. Sit, toss, repeat.
The salad itself is an incarnation of my student days’ one with bacon: crispy bacon, fat and all, poured over a mix of tinned beans and lettuce, sometimes skipping the lettuce as non-essential. Sentiments aside, I much prefer this version as more interesting. Just make sure you get good quality mince – we don’t want gristly bits, however crisp.
crispy mince and beans saladServings: 2Time: 45 minutes
- For the crispy pork:
- 200g (7 oz.) good quality pork mince
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
- 3cm (1 in.) ginger root, peeled and grated
- 1 red chilli, chopped finely
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp black bean sauce
- 2 tsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp. sweet chilli sauce
- 1 tbsp. groundnut oil
- For the salad:
- 1 large head of Romaine lettuce, chopped
- salt and black pepper
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 3 tsp olive oil
- 1 tin (300g or 10 oz.) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 tbsp. mixed seeds, toasted (optional)
1. Mix the pork mince with the garlic, ginger, chilli, salt and the three sauces. Chill for 15-30 minutes.
2. Heat the oil in a wok or a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the meat and cook it, breaking up with a fork, until it’s no longer pink. Turn up the heat and leave it to cook without stirring for about a minute, until all the moisture cooks off and the pork starts to caramelise. Toss the pork in the pan or stir it with a spatula and leave it to cook again for a while. Shake the pan again and repeat until all the bits of meat are crisp and caramelised. Take it off the heat.
3. Arrange the lettuce in a large bowl, add the drained beans and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil and toss well to dress.
4. Spoon the crispy mince on top of the salad, sprinkle with seeds if using and serve.