Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Nigella's Thai Crumbled Beef Bison in Lettuce Wraps--Fully Loaded for Good Taste & Good Health

"Resolutions" is our theme this week at "I Heart Cooking Clubs." I have mixed feelings about resolutions, mainly because I, like others have made many a long list of them for the new year in the past and they generally don't last through the spring. On the other hand to not have any resolutions/goals/commitments (or whatever you like to call them) set for yourself and expect to actually see any changes in your life is an exercise in futility. So for me it is not about making annual "resolutions" but more about periodically taking stock of where I am, decide where I want to be and then setting small achievable goals or action steps will that get me there --whether that be in January, at the start of a new season, or whenever I feel the need. Last year about this time (see post here), I set a goal of cleaning up my food act and focusing this blog and my cooking and eating on healthier food choices the majority of the time, with the occasional indulgence thrown in. (I give myself a B+ for the year. Overall I kept it pretty healthy but the indulgences snuck in a little more often than I wanted!)

This past October, I recommitted to that earlier goal and I added a few additional action steps to help achieve a happier, healthier me. More manifesto than resolutions! ;-) I won't share them all for fear of boring you but a few that pertain directly to this blog are:
  • I will put my focus not just on foods that I love but on foods that love me back, that nourish me and fuel my body.
  • I will eat as much locally-grown, whole, and organic food as possible utilizing my CSA box, farmers markets, my co-op and natural foods stores for the bulk of my groceries.
  • I will create my own healthy recipes or make healthy changes to the other recipes I make and load them up with healthy and nutritionally dense ingredients.
  • I will continue to prove to myself & others that healthy food can be delicious and fun.

On that note, I chose Nigella's Thai Crumbled Beef in Lettuce Wraps, not a bad recipe as written by Nigella, but easily improved in healthiness and taste with a few additions. Lean, grass-fed bison replaces the beef, adds more protein and reduces the fat, local Manoa green leaf lettuce replaces the yellow/white iceberg lettuce, red bell pepper, carrots and cucumber add color, texture and nutrients, and a small sprinkling of unsalted peanuts add extra protein and crunch. I also added some thin rice noodles drizzled in a little hot chili-garlic oil to bulk the wraps out a bit and make them more of a meal. There is nothing boring or flavorless about these lettuce wraps!

This recipe can be found in Forever Summer (pages 10-11) or on Nigella's site here. My changes / additions are in red below.

Nigella says: "Given that I made this out of my head rather than out of a book, I don't know how authentically Thai it is, but I do know it's authentically wonderful. What I was going after was that first course (among many) I always order in Thai restaurants, of crumbled meat, quite dry, soup-sharp with chili, which you eat by scooping with crunchy, boat shaped lettuce leaves.

You may need to be rather brutal with the lettuce as you tear the leaves off to provide the edible wrappers for the beef, which is why I specify one to two icebergs. If you wan to perk the leaves up a little, making sure they curve into appropriate repositories for later, leave them in a sink full of very cold water while you cook the minced beef, then make sure you drain them well before piling them up on their plate."

Thai Crumbled Beef Bison in Lettuce Wraps
Nigella Lawson
(Serves 6--as appetizer)

1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 red birdeye or other small, hot red chillies, finely chopped
3/4 lb (375g) ground beef (Used buffalo / bison instead)
scant tablespoon Thai fish sauce
4 scallions, dark green bits removed (and set aside), finely chopped
zest and juice of 1 lime
3–4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1–2 small heads iceberg lettuce (Used green leaf lettuce)
8 ounces thin rice noodles prepared to package instructions and drizzled with chili oil
1/2 red bell pepper julienned
1 medium carrot, julienned
1/2 cucumber, julienned
chopped green scallions

Put the oil in a non-stick frying pan on medium heat and when warm add the finely chopped chillies and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring occasionally. It’s wiser not to leave the pan, as you don’t want them to burn. Add the beef, turn up the heat and, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon or fork, cook for 3 or 4 minutes till no trace of pink remains. Add the fish sauce and, still stirring, cook till the liquid’s evaporated. Off the heat, stir in the scallions, zest and juice of the lime and most of the cilantro. Turn into a bowl, and sprinkle over the remaining coriander just before serving.

Arrange the iceberg lettuce leaves on another plate – they should sit one on top of another easily enough – and let people indulge in a little DIY at the table, filling cold crisp leaves with spoonfuls of sharp, spicy, hot, crumbled meat, noodles, vegetables, and peanuts.

Notes/Results: I forgot how much I really love good lettuce wraps and how quick and easy they are. I should be making/eating them more often! These were delicious--spicy, savory, tangy and had great texture with the warm meat and noodles with the crunchy, cold veggies. The green leaf lettuce worked well, even if a bit messy with all the toppings--for even more nutritional value kale, collard greens or chard could be used as the wrapper. Although I used ground bison because I really love the taste and the leanness, lean ground beef, ground turkey breast or minced tofu would work equally well. I served these with Sunday's Curried Yellow Pepper Soup for a healthy dinner. These are way better than the ones at my local Thai restaurant and I will make them again. And if you compare these wraps to the picture of Nigella's version on the website--with all the healthy additions I think they look even tastier! (Come on--eat the rainbow Nigella!) ;-)

Nigella's Original Version

Fully Loaded Wraps from Kahakai Kitchen

You can see what recipes the other IHCC participants selected to represent their "resolutions" by going to the IHCC site here and following the links.

So what do you think about resolutions? Do you make them or have another process to set goals for yourself?


  1. yours does look tastier and more colorful!

  2. I'll take em from Kahakai kitchens for sure...
    love ur color-briten and perk my day ,that too with elciousness...

  3. You totally rocked the lettuce wraps! They look so fresh and crunchy and delicious. I really want to make them now.. which is what I say after seeing most of your IHCC selections. Awesome!

  4. I am not SO big on resolutions either. I just try to tackle every day as best I can. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't but at least this way I never feel like a complete failure. And it just seems easier to manage.

    I like my foodie resolution this year though. (No more storebought bread.) That's a resolution I can contend with.

    These wraps look awesome. Yours definitely seem tastier than Nigella's. You've done an excellent job this year on the health front Deb!

  5. I think you deserve an A+ for being healthy this past year. I love lettuce wraps and would love to have this meal at any time. You really kicked it up a notch with the noodles, the peanuts and added veggies and it looks beautiful.

  6. I've toyed with making this recipe over and over again. I love your additions to it. Also, in addition to lettuces wraps, cabbage makes a wonderful wrapper too and even more nutritious. In the summer my CSA gave me adorable little mini cabbages, they were perfect!

  7. Love those goals! You are going to do great and I can't wait to see the posts that result!

    I've had lettuce wraps on my mind lately and these look great. I really like bison and need to buy it more often. It is becoming more readily available in KY so that makes it nice.

  8. This is certainly a must try recipe !! wonderful !

  9. I would most certainly try these lettuce wraps, especially with the changes and additions you have made. Here's wishing you a great Twenty Ten.

  10. I love your goals Deb, and I think your creation looks amazing! :) Happy New Year!

  11. Deb- This looks excellent! I admire all of the great ideas you have! This is all at once hearty, delicious, healthy, filling and refreshing! Great job!

  12. Your healthy resolutions will make all the difference. It's easy to eat well and eat healthy at the same time.

  13. This is a post that I absolutely NEEDED to read and print off....I share your desired resolutions for a heathier way of eating and started this week. I can't get enough Thai recipes and thanks for sharing one from Nigella. I hope to get back to the I Heart Cooking group very soon and miss you all! Thanks again, Roz

  14. I don't make resolutions. When I see the need for change I think about the steps I should take to get me to that goal. If it's a big change I take baby steps until I get there.

    These wraps look delicious! You reminded me of how long it's been since I had one. I definitely need these in my life more often!

  15. What a gorgeous looking dish. You've made me want to make them - like yeaterday!

  16. These sound delicious! I love the changes you made

  17. I love your version of lettuce wraps with bison! It's our red meat of choice, so definitely I will be making these soon!

  18. I've been meaning to try that recipe for years! And when I do it'll be with your improvements.

  19. Bison looks to be a good choice, Deb.

    I have made goals rather than resolutions...probably the same thing though. I will post mine tomorrow.


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