*And breathe*.
That’s better – I can take a proper, cleansing breath. My annual leave is here and I have time to spend with my family, my friends, with Hungry Hubby and myself as well. Whilst I genuinely love my work and feel that it fulfils me in a way no other job could, “me time” is absolutely mandatory. If you want to be the best at what you do (or, as I should say, your best) you must factor in some time away to replenish your soul, spend a little time doing exactly what you please and please, forget all about the job.

One can become a tad jaded even in ideal employment if you don’t rediscover the who you are, as opposed the what you do. So cue some nourishing, flavourful, leisurely prepared home cooked meals which as much culinary therapy in the shopping, preparing and cooking for me but nutritious and delicious for me and The Hungry One.


I’ve recently watched and rewatched the whole series of “Cook Yourself Thin” with Gizzi Erskine on 4OD – Channel 4’s online TV catch up site (in the UK anyway – apologies to readers in the rest of the world if you cannot view it wherever you are).  

I’ve been captivated by the stunning, sassy, retro-styled, confidence but somehow understated Gizzi and her incredibly diverse and interesting recipe vault.  She seems to understand how to cook everything from hearty British beef and ale pies to delicate Japanese dishes and moves from cuisine to cuisine effortlessly.

The recipes I have tried of hers so far have all been winners and this is most assuredly at the front of the race for her best recipe yet.  Let us start with her soul-soothing, vivacious Vietnamese pork bun xao.  Or bun cha, depending on where you are reading her recipe (her book Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts has a variation on the recipe seen in Cook Yourself Thin).

I’m really loving lemongrass at the moment as my recent post will attest to and here it is again, forming the marinade for the tender meat together with garlic, turmeric and fish sauce amongst other things. Yes, it did come in a jar already minced up for me but I was struggling to find fresh and can assure you this particular one is an excellent stand-in!


Battered almost wafer thin, the pork tenderloin lives up to its name and carries the flavours of the marinade extremely well. As I don’t have a meat tenderiser I used the pestle of my pestle and mortar to bash the living daylights out of the pork. Pent-up tension from being stressed at work begone!


A simple sweet and sour, fiery and garlicky sauce of sorts are next up. This will be drizzled over the finished dish which brings together the meat, noodles and vegetables beautifully. There is something about foods with chilli in which really make me feel like I’m revving up my metabolism.

Addictive in the extreme, I must remember to buy more fresh chillies on my trip to the grocers tomorrow (which is barely a mile away but it is up the steepest hill I’ve come across so far in our new hometown and it too feels like it is doing my metabolism wonders to toddle up with an empty tote to fill with fresh produce!).


Rice stick noodles only came into my life in recent years and I am ever thankful for discovering them. The ultimate fast food, it takes only as long as the kettle did to boil for these pure white noodles soften and cook. If I was forced to pick only one starchy carbohydrate to eat for the rest of all time, rice would be my choice, no question. I would, of course, mix it up by using these slippery flavour conveyors when I tired of all those grains of rice.


The meat takes barely as long as the noodles do to cook so you need to work relatively quickly to prepare your vegetables to serve with. You could, of course, do these ahead – do whatever makes your cooking life easier. Chargrilling provides an extra layer of smoky flavour to this wonderfully balanced dish.


Serve the extra dipping sauce with your assembled final dish or cover and pop in the fridge to use as a salad dressing tomorrow. Or indeed our over some steamed rice – it is absolutely compulsive eating and the whole dish will most definitely be gracing the old oak table at the Apple Chapel again soon.  As will, a lot more delicious dinners and beguiling bakes than usual whilst I’m enjoying recharging during my leave at home 😀


Pork Bun Xao
Servings: 2
Author: Just Jo
For the meat
  • 1 tbsp minced lemongrass one stalk
  • Zest of one lime or 3 lime leaves shredded finely
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp caster sugar or palm if you can find it
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 200-300 g pork tenderloin (cut into 4-5 pieces and pounded thin under some cling film
For the sauce
  • 1 clove of garlic minced
  • 1 fresh red chilli use more if liked!, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp caster/palm sugar
  • Juice of a lime
  • 30 ml rice wine vinegar
  • 30 ml fish sauce
To complete the rest of the dish
  • 100 g rice stick noodles soaked in boiling water until soft then drained
  • 1 carrot julienned
  • 1/2 a cucumber seeded and cut into matchsticks
  • 4 spring onions julienned
  • 1/4 – 1/2 a cos lettuce finely shredded
  • Fresh mint and coriander – as much as liked – chopped finely
  1. Mix the marinade ingredients up and rub into the pounded out pork – cover and pop in the fridge for 30 minutes to 2 hours.
  2. Mix up the sauce.
  3. Griddle the pork on a screaming hot grill pan for barely two minutes each side.
  4. Lay your cooked noodles in two large bowls then top with the prepared vegetables and two slices of pork per bowl then spoon over as much of the sauce as you like – more can be added at the table.
  5. Sprinkle with as much freshly chopped mint and coriander as liked.
Recipe Notes

Adapted from Gizzi Erskine's Skinny Weeks and Weekend Feasts

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