Minced Korean-style turkey in lettuce boats

In Recipes by Elena Langtry

Turkey seems to be synonymous with this time of year but this recipe uses different flavours to what you might expect. You could adapt this recipe to use leftover roast turkey in place of the mince.

Turkey is lower in saturated fats than pork or beef, and a good source of amino acids, being especially rich in tryptophan. It can be quite bland, but the flavours and smells of this dish are wonderful and the lettuce ‘boats’ add a satisfying crunch.  I serve it with brown rice or quinoa which may aid the absorption of the tryptophan into the brain.

Ideally, you need to marinate the turkey for 40 minutes, so this isn’t our speediest dish. It’s difficult to know when turkey mince is cooked as, unlike beef mince, it doesn’t change colour. I check it regularly from 10 minutes into the cooking time.

Find this recipe in my book, The Happy Kitchen: Good Mood Food.

If you do try it out I'd love to know what you think, feel free to post your images on Twitter or Instagram and tag me.


-Serves 2-
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
  • Large handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 11⁄2 teaspoons Chinese five spice
  • 1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 500g minced turkey
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 21⁄2cm root ginger, finely chopped
  • 100g mushrooms, finely chopped (use shiitake if you can get hold of them)
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • 4 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 2 baby gem lettuces
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame or pumpkin seeds to garnish (optional)
  • MSG-free hoisin sauce (optional)

1. Mix together the toasted sesame oil, coriander (setting aside a little for the garnish), Chinese five spice, soy sauce and honey in a bowl, and marinate the turkey mince in it for at least 40 minutes.

2. About 25 minutes before you are ready to eat, heat the coconut oil in a pan and lightly sauté the garlic, ginger, chopped mushrooms and chilli for 5 minutes, then add the turkey. Cook for 5 minutes, adding a little water if needed, before stirring in the spring onions, maple syrup and a little more sesame oil.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the baby gem lettuces by removing the outer leaves, giving them a quick rinse and separating the rest of the leaves. Pat them dry with kitchen paper.

4. After another 10-15 minutes, check if the meat is cooked, taste it and add more soy sauce if desired.

5. Spoon the turkey mixture into the lettuce leaves. Sprinkle over the sesame or pumpkin seeds, a few more chopped spring onions and the rest of the coriander. You can drizzle a little MSG-free hoisin sauce into the lettuce leaves for extra sweetness, but don’t go overboard as it contains sugar. Serve the boats with quinoa or brown rice.


Together, over 5 years, Alice Mackintosh and I developed recipes that put around 150 nutritional studies into practice. They’ve helped me to become more energised, less anxious, clearer thinking, more balanced and a better sleeper. Our conversations and experiments led to our book The Happy Kitchen: Good Mood Food.

In it, I share in detail what I have learnt about eating for happiness. By harnessing the power of food to boost my mood, not just on melancholy days, I have been able to stabilise my feelings. Nutrition has become an important element in my holistic approach to staying well.

“My grace is sufficient for thee; my strength is made perfect in weakness”