Updated: Aug 22, 2020
Food is not just fuel or nutrients. It is deeply related to our experiences and emotions. Food can symbolise celebration, joy or consolation. The taste or aroma of a simple dish can suddenly evoke memories of special moments shared with family and friends.
Chow mein was a family favourite when I was a kid. I can remember dutifully assisting my parents to prepare the rice in a rice cooker, collecting it from the microwave and anxiously peeking under the lid to see if the rice and water had successfully transformed into soft, fluffy rice, ready to devour. Granted, at the time I ate far too much of the rice and not enough of the beef and vegetables! More than a decade later - and after a self promotion to head chef - I cooked my take on this recipe for my Grandpa. I demonstrated my trick to chopping the cabbage into long, thin pieces to create 'noodles', and he light-heartedly made fun of me for my left handed placing of the utensils on the dinner table. These is just one of the many memories I have around food.
The basic recipe I know and love remains the same, but I’ve made some minor changes so that it’s a little more health friendly and easier to adapt to suit different goals. I use homemade Chicken stock rather than pre-made sauces. I emphasise plenty of vegetables rather than rice or noodles. I also cook it on a medium heat to reduce the stock and vegetables, rather than stir fry.
And if you haven't tried folding a dollop of creamy Persian feta through shredded cabbage simmered in silky stock, it's a game changer.
Beef chow mein with Persian feta
A low carb and sauce-free take on this classic Chinese dish with a dollop of creamy, marinated feta to finish
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 35 minutes
Portions: 8 meals @ 26 g protein per serve
1 tbsp butter
1 large brown onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 large carrots, finely sliced
2 celery stalks, finely sliced (optional: include leaves too)
1 red capsicum, finely sliced into strips
1 kg quality beef mince
2 tsps curry powder
A quarter of a large or half a small green cabbage (any variety, I usually use plain), finely sliced into long, thin 'noodles'
600 ml quality chicken stock (try my easy home made stock recipe)
Large cast iron casserole pot or braiser - you'll need a pot that has a bit of space to fit the raw cabbage noodles before they wilt.
Heat 2 tsps butter in pot and cook onion, garlic, carrots, celery and red capsicum on medium high heat for 5 to 8 minutes, until softened and aromatic. Add a splash of water if needed - don't let it burn! Remove the cooked vegetables from the pot and put to the side.
Add a tsp of butter to the pot and cook mince for 5 to 8 minutes, until it browns. Use a wooden spoon to turn and break up chunks of mince.
Sprinkle the curry powder on the mince in the pot.
Return cooked vegetables to the pot and use spoon to combine.
Add cabbage to the pot so that it sits on top of the mince and vegetables.
Pour the stock over the cabbage into the pot. Reduce to low or medium heat, cover and allow to simmer for 10 minutes, until the cabbage starts to wilt.
Uncover and stir the cabbage through the mince and vegetables to combine.
If desired, add more curry powder to the pot for extra flavour (optional).
Cover again and leave to cook for another 10 minutes. If the pot is too dry, add more stock or water.
To serve, distribute an even amount of mince and vegetables into a bowl. Add a dollop of Persian feta and season with a quality salt and pepper. Fold the feta into the cabbage and let it melt slightly as you eat.
I am a fan of Keen's Traditional Curry Powder - it's not all that fancy, but it's the brand and taste that holds memories in my family. You could use any curry powder - look for one that contains all natural ingredients.
Instead of feta, try sour cream or Goat's cheese for a similar mouth feel and creamy taste.
The recipe itself is relatively lean, especially if you use a 90/10 beef mince. You can easily transform this recipe into a higher fat or a higher carbohydrate meal to suit your activity demands. For example: Carbs for energy? If you'd like to include more carbs but still want to keep you total calories for this meal in check, replace the feta for jasmine rice, a baked jacket potato or noodles and adjust the portions to suit your desired macros. Prefer fats for fuel? Boost the quantity of cabbage noodles, add coconut milk, cheddar cheese or a hard boiled egg.
Mix and match your veggies. Cook this in bulk, and then make a different plate each day using other roast vegetables (like pumpkin or carrot) or steamed or lightly fried greens (like bok choy).