ALMOST exactly 300 years ago Londoners could buy the first English Language Book on how to make a salad called 'Acetaria' it being the old word for salad greens, it instructed that only the freshest leaves straight from the garden should be used they should be sprinkled with fresh water not soaked in water, drained in a colander and then dressed with a pallid olive oil with vinegar of the best quality, infused with flowers and herbs and with the finest crystals of sea salt.

Looking at it nothing could be more up to date.

The word salad comes from the ancient Roman practice of salting leaf vegetables 'Salad' literally means salted.

The ancient Romans and Greeks enjoyed salads generally defined as mixed greens with dressings, as time progressed salads became more complicated, recipes vary according to place and time, composed salads assembled with layers of ingredients were enjoyed in the 18th century they were called 'Salmagundi' today it is known as a 'Chef's Salad'

Different countries have their own different variations of salad like last weeks French recipe 'nicoise salad' 'Greek salad and many many more, but today we have gone east with a 'Spicy Thai Beef Salad' the most important ingredient in this recipe in 'Nam Pla'. This is fish sauce that is made with anchovies, and other fermented fish such as squid that ferments for up to 18 months its spells disgusting but don't let it put you off as the flavour is amazing.

INGREDIENTS (4 people)

4 tbsp long grain rice

juice of 2 limes

4 tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp granulated sugar

½ tsp chilli powder

2 shallots finely sliced

2 garlic cloves finely chopped

2 tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves

1 red chilli thinly sliced

1 tbsp groundnut oil

400g sirloin or rump steak (cut into fine strips)

1 heart of Romaine lettuce

1 cup bean sprouts

1 cup fine green beans (blanched and cooled)

½ pkt salted peanuts crushed


1. Heat a large frying pan and cook the rice for a couple of minutes, stirring until the grains start to turn golden and begin to pop. Transfer to a pestle and mortar and grind to a coarse powder.

2. Arrange the salad on four serving plates.

3. In a large bowl, stir together the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and chilli powder, mixing until well blended. Stir in the shallots, garlic, mint, fresh chilli and ground rice.

4. Heat the oil in the pan and when very hot add the beef and stir-fry for 30 seconds until browned on the outside but still pink in the centre. Stir into the dressing bowl then while still slightly warm, spoon over the salad. Sprinkle with the ground peanuts. Serve immediately.

This is a delightful summer supper, light but tasty, a meal in itself.