Vietnamese chicken noodle salad

I got a bit obsessed with Vietnamese food in 2005 after discovering the Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road. My dad worked in Vietnam so luckily we had Nicole Routhier’s ‘The Foods of Vietnam’ at home. There are loads of great recipes in this cook book and my favourite is this crunchy noodle salad (I wooed Lewis with this dish!!). It is seriously good!

viet book

Noodles are symbolic in Chinese culture for a long life and this morning at 3 am a new addition to the family arrived – a little red head baby girl! Lexie’s cousin and my niece. I can’t think of a better dish to make today so Lex and I celebrated by going to the market to get all the veg – I couldn’t resist buying the mini cucumbers!

lex buy

mini cues

I used roast chicken leftovers but this dish is equally nice without meat or perhaps with prawns. It is a cold salad and fantastic in summer but also clean and zingy enough to fit a January detox. It’s even better at this time of year served alongside a pho or Hugh Fearnley’s poached chicken with star anise (recipes to follow). A quick warning: it is faffy chopping up all the veg but it smells incredible – all that fresh mint and coriander. It’s also a very cheap dish once you’ve invested in the required condiments.

If I’m making these noodles for Lexie I do a separate dressing without chilli. And if we’re not eating together I put aside some of the shredded veg and herbs in a tupperware. Then when she’s having it, I’ll cook the noodles and make the chilli-free dressing from scratch before mixing it all together.

Vietnamese chicken noodle salad

Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 5-10 mins

  • 1 cucumber, julienned in a food processor or cut in thin slices
  • 2 carrots, julienned or grated
  • 2 handfuls of shredded white cabbage or chinese leaf cabbage
  • Lots of chopped coriander
  • Lots of chopped mint
  • Fresh lime halves
  • Chopped salted peanuts
  • Chicken slices
  • Rice noodles

For the dressing

  • 3 tablespoons of groundnut or sunflower oil
  • 3 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
  • 1 or 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of white sugar (to taste, I usually do 1 tbsp but recipe is 1 1/2)
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 1 knob of grated ginger
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice (to taste)
  • 1 chopped red chilli – leave this out if making for kids unless they ‘do spicy’ – Lexie’s words – she doesn’t ‘do spicy’.

ingred 2

Start by making the dressing as it’s nicer if it’s sat for a while. Get a bowl and add the oil, vinegar and fish sauce. Mix in the garlic, ginger and chilli then add the sugar and stir till it’s dissolved. A tip for chopping chilli is to either wear rubber gloves or use scissors. That way you don’t need to worry about getting any chilli on your little one. Then cover and set aside.

chilli dressing

To make the salad do all the chopping and shredding then it’s a simple assembly job. Mix the carrot, cucumber and cabbage. Add the chopped fresh herbs and chicken slices. I also use scissors to chop herbs, sometimes like my 97 year old granny-in-law does, with the herbs in a glass so you can chop them very finely with the scissors.


Cook your rice noodles as per the packet then, once done, you can either mix the noodles in with the veg or serve separately. Finish the dressing by mixing in the fresh lime then pour all over the salad. If you won’t eat all the salad in one sitting only dress what you are eating – it doesn’t keep well once dressed. Garnish with the chopped peanuts and some slices of lime and serve! Ideally with an ice cold beer or some jasmine tea.


PS: I love these chopsticks – Lewis and I bought them in Peru from an amazing Japanese restaurant. We were so grateful to all the Japanese immigrants in S America whose restaurants saved us from the ubiquitous meat, rice and beans or ham and cheese toasties.

done done

Easy roast chicken and homemade chips

young mum

We had dinner at my mums after an afternoon at the Science Museum. That photo above is a pic of my mum when she was younger! Va va voom! I bought a thyme and rosemary rotisserie chicken from Waitrose (the easiest roast chicken ever!). Mum lives within walking distance of 5 Waitroses can you believe it? We get one every time we visit her. She made her amazing homemade chips and served it all with green peas and salad.


Such a delicious dinner and it’s a real skill to be able to make homemade chips in a pan. In Spain one of the most popular kids’ dinners is definitely chips with a fried egg. And a staple teatime snack is a chocolate sandwich – either nutella or a nestle crunch in a sweet bread roll. Rice cake anyone?!

PS: Mum served Torres Vina Sol white wine with this meal, currently £5 on offer at Waitrose, a lovely dry wine.

lex chips

My mum’s homemade chips

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

  • Potatoes – mum likes the red skinned desiree ones – they are all rounders but waxy potatoes are supposed to be better for chips
  • Sunflower oil
  • Kitchen roll
  • Salt

Peel the potatoes, cut into chips and pat dry with kitchen towel – something to do with starch. Mum and I cut pretty uneven chips, some skinnier than others. Lewis, who learnt how to make chips off my mum, cannot help but make the most even and perfect chips of all time!

mum peel

Get a deep frying pan and fill with lots of sunflower oil. My mum has a special pan she only uses for chips or tortillas. Heat the oil so its hot and add one chip to test – there should be lots of little bubbles around the chip.

test chip

When ready add the rest of the chips and fry on a high heat for a couple of minutes, moving the chips around a few times. Then reduce the heat and let them sizzle away for a while. Keep checking them until a few chips start turning golden like this.

turning golden

Then you can either turn the heat up and do a final fry until the chips are golden and crispy. Or do what my mum often does, cook the chips until this just turning golden stage, then turn the pan off and leaves them (top chefs remove the chips from the oil then put them back for the final fry but mum never bothers and they always taste good). Just before you need to serve give them a quick blast fry.

final stir
almost done

Either way, once they are done, remove with a slotted spatula and place into a kitchen towel lined bowl. Add more kitchen towel and pat the chips to remove excess oil. Sprinkle with salt and serve! Mum always says that the housewives of Andalucia make such good chips (and fried fish) they can put them in their pocket because they are so crispy and not greasy! You should save the used sunflower oil (we use old jam jars) for the next time you need to make chips or other dishes like tortillas that need fried potatoes.

little bundle




Leek and potato soup

I’m writing this covered in face paint. I painted a lovely rainbow on Lexie’s face.


She did this.

mum paint

Don’t we look nice! It’s a typical January evening – cold, dark and wet so at least we look bright for her supper! Tonight I made my staple leek and potato soup. It’s easy, uber healthy and right now she loooves dipping toast into things.

I love this soup with lots of baguette and cheeses but Lewis isn’t at all keen on it. One boxing day I made a flask of it with wholemeal cheddar cheese sandwiches for a long walk in Richmond park. He huffed: “I like you because you’re Spanish and make manchego and serrano ham baguettes! This is like school packed lunch!” I was gutted!

Leek and potato soup

Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 20 mins

  • 2 small leeks or 1 big leek
  • 1 fluffy potato like a maris piper – medium sized
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 chicken stock cube

This soup is very quick to make and is so healthy. I’ve made it before sauteing the leeks in butter and olive oil but it didn’t taste as nice. Wash and chop the leeks and put into the saucepan. Peel and chop the potato and add to the pan. Add a bay leaf and one stock cube, we use Kallo organic or Knorr. For babies just starting to eat you can leave the stock out or buy special stock cubes for babies with less salt. Top up with water so the potatoes are covered, bring to the boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Once the potatoes start getting mushy, take the bay leaf out and juzz the soup in a blender. Voila – serve with buttered toast or a yummy cheddar cheese toastie.