Vietnamese salad

We spent the half term in Dorset on a huge family holiday. 17 people across 3 generations. The Gs had an absolute blast – spending time with cousins is good for the soul. We had glorious weather for the most part, and the perfect mix of beach, swimming pool, rockpools and Monkey World.

Did you know you can hire a beach hut if you’re a National Trust member? It’s such a great perk. We found the hut was a godsend with kids – if it’s a bit wet or windy you can go inside for a cup of tea; if the kids are over-sunned you can have lunch inside for a bit of respite.

Catering for 17 is no mean feat. You have to factor in small kids who want to eat early and grownups who have a sundowner or two and would be happy with bread, cheese and another G&T. Not to mention a range of likes and dislikes. So we ate delicious but fairly straightforward dishes: chicken pie, lasagne, pizzas. And the requisite BBQs, of course. Proper holiday food!

When we got home, though, I quite fancied some meals to suit a more grown up palate. Plus, the last weekend of the half term had glorious weather, and I didn’t want to cook much in the heat.

This Vietnamese salad was perfect. Cold and juicy, and sour and spicy. It takes just minutes to prepare and there was enough left over for lunch the next day. It was so good I made it again a few days later.

Vietnamese salad

This salad is perfect just as it is, but you could add all kinds of protein: shredded poached chicken breast, grilled prawns, fried tofu or finely sliced rare steak.

You don’t have to deseed the chillis but I didn’t recently and found it quite burn-y…and I love chillis.

What you need

For the salad

  • Big handful of bean sprouts
  • Half a pack of mange tout, julienned
  • 3 or 4 spring onions, finely sliced
  • A carrot, julienned
  • Half a green cabbage, finely sliced
  • Half a cucumber, julienned
    A handful of fresh mint, finely sliced
  • A packet of fine rice noodles, softened in boiling water.

For the dressing

  • Equal parts sesame oil, rice vinegar and fish sauce
  • Juice of a lime
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 red chillis, deseeded and finely chopped (keep some back to garnish)
  • 2 crushed cloves of garlic

To top

  • Crushed peanuts
  • finely sliced red chilli

What you do

  1. Slice all the veg and throw it in a bowl with the noodles. I use one of these julienne peelers for the carrots and cucumber – life’s too short.
  2. Add any protein you fancy, if you’d like
  3. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing together; amend to taste. I like mine quite sour but you may want it a little sweeter.
  4. Toss the salad in the dressing and chill in the fridge for half an hour.
  5. Scatter over peanuts and sliced chillis. That’s it!

What do you like to cook when it’s too hot to cook?


The ten worst people to meet on holiday 

Ah, holidays. Time to relax and unwind. Get away from demanding colleagues, the seat hog on your commute, that weird sweaty guy  at the gym. Just a lovely week of you and you family.

Except there are always other people, aren’t there. At the airport, on your flight, at the resort, right next to you on an otherwise empty beach. And they’re all freaks.

Be afraid – this lovely lot will be coming to a sunny destination near you soon.

The performance parent
What’s that? Little Sophie is doing tiger arms? And blowing bubbles? Wow! So great that we can all hear her mum bellowing updates across the pool. Endless narration at top volume definitely  = best parent ever.

Captain UV
This guy wears a long sleeved UV top, legionnaires cap, wrap around sunglasses and greases himself up every 15 mins while sitting under his umbrella. I mean, no one wants skin cancer, but maybe Turkey in August is not the holiday for you, dude.

The nervous woman
No one needs a holiday more than this woman. But instead of sitting quietly on a sun longer with a cocktail and a book, she’s endlessly up and down, flapping around her kids, angrily doing early morning yoga, fussing with towels and food and clothes, bustling back and forth to the buffet for joyless wholemeal rolls and weak tea, haranguing her husband into booking a boat tour. SIT. DOWN.

The dutiful son
Middle aged, post divorce. Thought he’d do the right thing by bringing his mum along for a week to reduce costs and give her a trip away. But now she’s complaining about the heat, and he can’t eye up the women around the pool in peace. He spends a lot of time in the pool with his head under water.

The drunk parents
Clearly I’m not judging any parents who raise a toast to kids club with a beer at 10am. I mean, I couldn’t parent without booze. I’m talking about the parents on the wrong side of pissed by midday, semi conscious by the bar as their kids,  unsupervised by the pool with a full nappy, burn to a crisp.

The pervy dude
Usually with his wife, not that that stops him. Leering at the teens on the beach, standing a bit close at the buffet, staring at the aerobics class, harassing the bar staff. Inevitably has a giant belly.

The racist grandma
Lovely old lady, helping out with childcare. And loudly decrying the ‘foreign muck’ being served at meals, making gross generalizations about the sexual proclivities of the local women and accusing the cleaning staff of theft.

The horrendous teen
Too old for kids club, too young to pay for their own bloody holiday. Jaw-droppingly rude to parents, cruel to younger siblings, sulky and entitled. Needs a proper slap.

The plane shitter
What is with these people? Who thinks that a short haul flight on a packed plane with only one loo is the best time to to have a massive dump? As soon as the seatbelt sign is turned off, off he goes. You’ve had two hours at the airport, mate – do it there.

Distant work contact
Someone from another office location, or that you met on a course, or who worked with your brother. You’re obliged to acknowledge them every time you see them, which is all the time, and you’ll have to have at least one evening at the bar with them. Their partner will inevitably be a wine snob.

I sincerely hope you have a lovely holiday. But I’d suggest using the loo before you get on the plane, taking giant sunglasses and a hat to serve as a disguise and wearing headphones. And remember, if you can’t identify the holiday weirdo, it’s probably you. Happy holidays!

LATE ENTRY: I had this post drafted and ready to publish when who should appear at breakfast but a friend of my ex. That’s just super. At least his kids are ugly.

Carry on for kids

Holidays! Sunshine, swimming pools,  cheap local beer, kids club every morning (very important).

But first, the flight. 4 hours, 4 people but only 3 seats. How do you keep kids entertained on the plane? Here are the toys and games I packed for the Gs.

I bought a stack of small, cheap new toys for the holiday. Hawkins Bazaar has a selection of “pocket money toys” and I started there. I added a few bits from Tiger and B&M Homestores. It’s not all the highest quality but if it gets lost or covered in sunscreen, it doesn’t matter. 

Here’s what I packed for G Major in her carry on bag:

  • Colouring book and pencils – colouring is a new obsession and  she’s surprisingly neat, although she uses a LOT of black
  • Wipe clean fairy faces book – helpfully reusable
  • Mini stamp set – ideally for paper but if it descends into tattooing, so be it
  • Tic tac toe game – the concept of placing the little wooden is a more concrete idea to grasp than drawing them on paper 
  • Ball and cup game – something physical but doesn’t require leaving her seat 
  • iPad and Headphones – because everyone loves a quiet child on a plane. She can m watch four hours straight of Angelina Ballerina for all I care.

And this was G Minor’s:

  • Ball
  • Tolo figurine. If you haven’t seen the Tolo toys, check them out. They’re a little bit bigger than Playmobil and Duplo, great for toddler hands, and all of the limbs, hair, hats etc move
  • Book – name the sea creatures before we get to the beach
  • Crayons – she’s loving mark making 
  • Pop up puppet – if G Minor isn’t interested I bet any kids in the seat behind me will be 
  • Wind up train

Not that it really matters what I put in G Minor’s bag – she!only wants whatever G Major has and perhaps Mummy’s empty gin mini. 

Plus snacks and sweets and G Minor’s dummy – usually for bed time only but again, quiet children = happy passengers so I don’t care. 

What will you be taking away with you this summer?