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There are some who believe that braised lettuce, boiled lettuce or even barbecued lettuce make an appetising addition to a meal. We are not one of those, we promise.
Lettuce should be enjoyed as it grows in nature, uncooked. That doesn't mean it's boring though as any lover of a well-prepared Caesar Salad will tell you. It can served as an addition on its own to all meats, fishes both hot and cold. Combine it with other other vegetables and dressings and it can be used in an infinitesimal number of ways.
One of they keys to enjoying lettuce is to use the various types in the best way possible. Some lettuce are crisp and crunchy with almost no taste, other are soft and flavoursome and yet others share crunchiness and taste in the same variety. Remember, not only taste is important in eating, texture and visual appearance are also key. Our recipes below are grouped according to the major lettuce types, crisp, cos, butterhead and loose-leaf.
CRISPHEAD / ICEBERG LETTUCE
Don't kid yourself, iceberg type lettuces have absolutely no taste and even less nutritional value. They are however the crunchiest lettuce ever and their white leaves set off darker ingredients to perfection. Perhaps one of their best uses is to hold or scoop up cooked meats - their texture is perfect for this use.
CHINESE PORK AND ICEBERG LETTUCE
A delightful starter for four or a light meal for two, this pork based dish is enhanced with a few choice spices. The iceberg lettuce is the perfect container and gives a delicious crunch.
250g / 9oz of minced pork
8 spring onions finely chopped or a handful of finely chopped leeks white stem part)
6 mint leaves finely chopped plus a few leaves for garnish
3 garlic cloves finely chopped
1 small chilli with seeds removed and very finely chopped (chilli flakes can be used instead)
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
1 tablespoon of dark soy sauce
2 level teaspoons of sugar
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
Juice from a small lime
Sweet chilli sauce
HOW TO COOK
Add the oil and minced pork to a frying pan and cook on a medium heat for five minutes stirring frequently to break up the mince.
Add the garlic, chilli, fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar, continue cooking and stirring for two minutes.
Add the lime juice, spring onions and the mint then stir well for two more minutes.
Turn off the heat. Peel and clean four to six iceberg lettuce leaves.
Serve when the meat is just warm. The meat in one bowl, the lettuce leaves in another. Allow your guests to scoop up the meat with the lettuce leaves and sprinkle on some of the sweet chilli sauce.
Cos lettuce have lots of taste in their outer leaves with inner leaves being more crunchy. Their boat like shape make them ideal for filling with savoury or spicy ingredients. They are famous as the main ingredient in Caesar Salad.
WARM CHICKEN SALAD
A classic salad which is quick to prepare. Cos lettuce, bread and chicken are the essentials with most of the other ingredients being optional depending on what you have to hand. If you have no beetroot then a few small cherry tomatoes add the colour and flavour. The recipe below serves two and can easily be scaled up or down.
2 medium sized chicken breasts cut into bite sized chunks
110g / 4oz of unsliced white bread cut into bite sized chunks, crust removed
1 Cos lettuce with the leaves separated and halved
1 200g pack of cooked beetroot cut into bite sized chunks, alternatively use 8 cherry tomatoes
100g / 4oz of feta or goat's cheese
5 tablespoons of olive oil (normal not virgin)
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
HOW TO COOK
Pour three tablespoons of olive oil into a frying pan on a medium heat. When the oil has warmed through add the bread chunks and fry for five minutes or so until the bread is golden brown. Turn the bread frequently to ensure it is evenly cooked. During the cooking sprinkle some salt and pepper onto the bread to season.
Remove the bread from the pan without removing the remaining oil. Turn the heat up slightly higher then add the chicken chunks and fry on a medium heat until cooked through. This should take five to seven minutes. Remove from the heat and put the chicken on kitchen paper to absorb the excess cooking oil.
To make the salad dressing mix together the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the balsamic vinegar, give a quick whisk with a fork. Add all the ingredients (not the salad dressing) to a large bowl, mix them up well and serve immediately. Drizzle the salad dressing over the top.
Butterhead lettuces have an almost velvety texture and great taste especially the leaves at the heart. It's excellent for all salads and makes supremely tasty soup.
COURGETTE AND LETTUCE SOUP
One of our favourite soups of all time and so cheap if you use garden grown lettuce and courgettes. It serves four and freezes very well.
800g / 1ib 12oz of courgettes - sliced
1 butterhead lettuce with the leaves separated
250g / 9oz of old potatoes peeled and cut into small cubes
1 medium onion peeled and roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
850 ml / 1½ pints of vegetable stock (make with three stock cubes)
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to your liking
4 tablespoons of soft cream cheese (optional)
HOW TO COOK
Pour the oil into a pan on a medium heat and fry the onions for five minutes stirring frequently. Add the potatoes plus five tablespoons of water and cook for 10 minutes. Stir whilst cooking to prevent the potatoes sticking to the base of the pan.
Add all the remaining ingredients to the pan, bring it to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes.
Liquidise the soup in a food processor, pour back into the pan and reheat for a couple of minutes. At this stage you can add the optional cream cheese and stir in well until melted. Serve with crusty white bread.