Easy Thai beef salad: a cheap cut of beef, a simple dressing and a bed of crunchy, leafy, sweet and refreshing vegetables.
Ottolenghi, Nigella, Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver were all my consultants whilst preparing and researching this recipe. But to be honest, there isn’t that much to it. Thai style dressing is easy to concoct: nam pla (fish sauce) in combination with a little sweetness, a bit of heat and some lime juice is the magic dressing that involves no skill to produce.
But the star of the show is the meat and it might surprise you that I used one of the cheapest cuts of beef.
How bad really is red meat?
I know, I know – we should all eat less meat, and especially red meat, for the sake of our health, the planet and the militant vegan activists. But the first could actually be argued with, as Dr Tim Spector says that a little red meat occasionally is good for our health. Iron, nutrients and that kind of thing.
The second point is also debatable, as perhaps all those farting cows are not quite as bad as our cars and central heating boilers. What is more, and much overlooked, the methane that the poor cows burp out breaks down within a year, it gets absorbed by the soil and the plants, thus contributing to the plant-based supplies!
Everything leaves a trace, and every human activity has an adverse impact on the environment but I tend to agree with opinions that the deadliness of cow farts and burps is over-hyped.
How to cook cheap cuts of meat?
So beef is on the menu, and a little beef goes a long way. The money also goes a long way if you follow my advice and buy bavette, flank or skirt as it is also known, a cheap and lean cut of beef that is capable of producing a gorgeous feast.
The first point, which I’m eternally grateful for to Samin Nosrat, is to generously salt your meat virtually the moment you see it (and a salt pot is at hand). Salted meat can sit in the fridge happily for a day (chicken), a couple of days (lamb or pork) and as long as a week (beef and game).
Salt tenderises the meat, especially the cheaper, tougher cuts, and it increases the meat’s own flavour. It isn’t marinating in fancy spices and pastes that makes a good dish – it’s simply salt.
Once you are ready to cook your flavoursome, tenderised bavette steak, the second point needs to be observed: do not cook it too much. Cheap cuts of beef and lamb can be cooked either for ever or barely at all; falling apart or rare. Anything in between is going to be tough – trust me.
How long to cook a bavette steak?
A cast iron pan is a must for a true beef lover and a sturdy frying pan is second best. Only just before it heats the pan, I rub the meat a little with oil and soy sauce, so the seared outside is nicely charred and caramelised with the sugars that soy sauce contains.
A slab of bavette is usually 2 inches/5cm thick so unless yours comes from a spectacularly huge cow, two to two and a half minutes on each side will be adequate cooking time. Don’t be tempted to keep it on the pan longer – if you’re worried about bloody juices, the resting process will take care of those and ensure the meat cooks a little further.
Once it has rested, it’s ready to be sliced and arranged over the salad – and the choice of salad ingredients is anyone’s preference. Something crunchy, something leafy, something sweet and a crispy topping works ideally in my view.
The dressing, as said at the start, is easy to mix and the whole dish is unbelievably tasty. I honestly would pick it over a prime steak a lot of times.
A note on the toasted seed topping
This is something so easy and so gorgeous to have on salads, yoghurt, savoury smoothies and all sorts of other things that I cannot but share this no-recipe recipe with you.
Mix as much and as varied seeds and roughly chopped nuts as you like in a bowl. Eyeball the amount and add 1 tbsp. of light soy sauce per half a cup/70g; of course if you’re me, you’ll weigh the amount precisely.
Set the oven to the lowest (80 – 100C), spread the seeds over a parchment-lined baking sheet and slip into the oven for 2 hours. Cool, break up and store in a jar.
I usually use sunflower, pumpkin, chopped blanched almonds, chopped pistachios, raw peanuts, pecans, cashews, and a small amount of pine nuts too. Any combination, any mix works.