Skink in the bedroom (and Thai peanut, ginger and lime salad)

IMG_2029I’ve been on holiday for the last week or so. My very old friend Sally came to stay, so we had a few days away before heading back here, and managed to cram in shopping, walking, sunbathing, swimming, a day trip to Greece and quite a lot of news ‘downloading’.

Thankfully, the weather was kind to us, but has since taken its usual May direction – showers, storms and high winds, interspersed with patches of hot sunshine. Up here on our high ridge above the sea, we are still having cold evenings and nights, so although we’ve put the log baskets away for another year, we’re well and truly snuggled up under the duvet with at least two cats on the bed, just in case the temperature plummets.

Our poor basil bush took another battering in the wind, but seems to have survived with only one or two damaged limbs – he’s a hardy little chap, having been savaged by our sub-zero January temperatures (looking sad in the photo below left), but living to tell the tale (and looking defiantly verdant when I took this photo yesterday).

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This week, I happened to walk into our bedroom just in time to catch sight of the wiggling back end of a reptile disappearing beneath a chest of drawers. Eeek. I’m quite fond of reptiles, but our furry chums have a habit of chasing them into the house, or into the empty swimming pool if it is winter. I can’t tell you how many vipers I have rescued with the aid of a long-handled dustpan this spring – I always hope they know I am their good Samaritan and don’t decide to reward me with by sinking their fangs into my leg. We have several species of viper around these parts (they love our stone walls), all of them venomous, some of them potentially deadly. When we hadn’t lived here for very long, I walked into the kitchen one morning, to find an enormously long brown (harmless) snake wound around the leg of a wicker chair – presumably it had taken refuge there the previous evening and we hadn’t noticed it. Having no idea if it was venomous or not, I dealt with it by depositing the entire chair, with its occupant, on the grass verge opposite our house, retrieving the chair once it had been vacated.

So, I decided we needed to find out exactly what kind of wriggling creature we had in our bedroom, so we sealed all the other doors with towels and very gently moved the chest of drawers. Our little guest turned out to be a skink – they are actually lizards, but look like snakes with toes – very sweet. The long-handled dustpan was called into action again, and Mr (or Mrs) Skink was released into the undergrowth. Here’s a photo of the same species that I found on the web:

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With things moving in the general direction of summer, we’ve made a minor purchase of a new barbecue. We rarely use our big kettle barbecue, as it’s too big when there are just the two of us and the racks don’t fit into the dishwasher, so one of us has a horrid cleaning up job to do. So I splashed out a few lira on a little table-top barbecue that I found in Migros – perfect for the job. We tried it out last night and, as I had managed to secure a packet of beansprouts, I decided the barbecued chicken was in need of a crunchy Thai-style salad as accompaniment.

We are almost at the end of our mange-touts season here and they are pretty big, so I blanched mine in boiling water (refresh in cold water immediately) for 30 seconds, then halved them lengthways. If you have nice baby mange-touts, you can leave them raw.

This salad ticks all the boxes – crunchy, sweet, sour, salty and punchy all at the same time. A combination of peanut butter, ginger, lime juice, soy sauce and sweet chilli gives it a delicious Asian flavour. If you wanted to make this more substantial or serve it as a main course, you could just toss in some cooked noodles. The sauce would also be perfect to use in a stir fry – I intend to test that out later in the week and will report my findings in due course (difficult job, but someone has to do it). I used hot chilli sauce as I had no fresh chillis, but substitute a fresh chilli, finely chopped, if you prefer. Toss the sauce into the salad just before you are ready to serve, so that everything stays crisp.

Thai peanut, ginger & lime salad

Serves 2 – 3 as a side dish

For the salad:

1 carrot, washed and coarsely grated
1 small cucumber (or a chunk of a larger one), halved, seeds removed and sliced
1 small red pepper, cut into strips
2 spring onions, sliced (save some green parts for sprinkling on top)
A handful of mange touts, blanched for 30 seconds and refreshed
A couple of handfuls of beansprouts
1 Baby Gem lettuce, shredded
1 tablespoon roasted peanuts, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves

For the dressing:

1 x 2cm knob of ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 clove garlic, finely grated or minced
1 teaspoon brown sugar (optional – only add if your peanut butter is not sweetened)
1.5 tablespoons soy sauce
1.5 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce (the dayglo orange stuff you can buy in any supermarket)
½ tablespoon rice vinegar
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
A few shakes of Tabasco/Sriracha or a generous pinch of hot chilli powder


First make the sauce – put all the ingredients into a bowl and whisk until smooth. Taste and adjust the balance as you like.

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Set aside the chopped peanuts, 1 tablespoon of the coriander leaves and the finely chopped green parts of one of the spring onions.

Put all the other salad ingredients into a large mixing bowl.

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Just before you are ready to serve, toss with the sauce.

Tip into a serving bowl and scatter the spring onion greens, the peanuts and the rest of the coriander over the top. Serve immediately.

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