Vietnamise rice paper rolls

Vietnamise rice paper rolls are so vibrant and appetising that it’s hard for them to not impress whoever you have sat around your dinner table. We love adding them to our selection when we’re doing Asian, even if we’re just cooking for ourselves. Well – especially if we’re just cooking for ourselves.
They are a simple extra, which take no time at all but complete your spread; the crunch, the colour, the freshness accompanies some noodles so well, but they aren’t too filling that they tip you over the edge when you’ve almost had sufficient.

You can purchase the papers from any Asian store you have lurking around the corner, or failing that, a very large Supermarket should stock them too. Have a look online beforehand if you don’t live in a city, to save you driving somewhere to find out they don’t sell them. They’re usually pretty cheap – ours are around £2 something for a pack containing around twenty sheets. We cut each roll into two or three, so it wouldn’t take too many to make an impressive platter for a dinner party. Why not try these as canapés when you’re next hosting an Asian feast?

The servings for this are difficult as its up to you to decide how many you think you’ll want, so we’re going to write down what we usually do for two of us for a main dish:

You will need:

  • 3 sheets of rice paper
  • 2 spring onions cut into strips
  • A good chunk of red cabbage, either grated or cut into thin strips
  • 2 inches of cucumber, cut into thin strips
  • 3 radishes
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • A handful of rocket
  • Soy sauce, sweet chilli or hoisin sauce to dip
  • Any other veg you fancy! Water chestnuts are delicious and some red onion never goes amiss
  • Water

Method:

In a large, shallow saucepan pour in some water and bring to a simmer. Once it is hot, remove from the heat and allow to cool down.

Once it is cool enough to touch, take a sheet of rice paper and place in the water for 5 seconds or so. It will collapse and become completely soft so once it has done this, take it out and place on a large plate as flat as possible. It becomes very sticky so try not to let too much of it stick together as this will make it difficult to roll and it may tear!

Now place your veg in whichever order you prefer onto one side of the rice paper. Leave an inch or so above, below and to the side of it so that you can tuck these edges over and roll! We like to stick the top and bottom together in the middle if we can, then bring over the side and start rolling until all the rice paper is compact and held together. Slice in half, choose your dipping sauce and plate up!

Thai portobello

Our first Sunday brunch of vegan lent was not missing anything from our usual meals. Tahini has such a thick consistency and flavour that an almost creaminess was added to the sauce. This, combined with the juiciness of the Portobello mushrooms was such a nice blend; so rich, moist and surprisingly filling, packed with textures, spices and depth – the perfect way to start our Sunday.
This doesn’t have to be a dish solely for brunch though; it would make a great lunch, or even a fairly decadent starter for a dinner party filled with ravenous guests. We love how the dish tastes and looks, as though it is filled with a hundred components, all intricately crafted together, but it really isn’t. It’s simple and quick and will take you about 20 minutes to prep and cook. Enjoy!

You will need… (Serves two):

For the mushrooms:

  • 2 portobello mushrooms
  • ½ red onion, finely chopped
  • 6 cherry tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
  • Half a chilli
  • 1 teaspoon of ginger powder (or fresh ginger if you would prefer)
  • Half a teaspoon of cumin powder
  • A small handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • Sesame seeds
  • A drizzle of sesame oil

For the courgetti with tahini drizzle:

  • 1 courgette, spiralized
  • A handful of babyleaf salad
  • 1/2 medium to large red onion, cut into thin strips
  • A handful of peanuts, crushed and toasted
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons of tahini
  • 1 Tablespoon of miso paste
  • a generous splash or two of water
  • The juice of half a lemon

This is an easy dish that takes hardly anytime at all to knock up, yet the results are delicious.
First turn your oven onto 180 degrees celcius and start by prepping your mushrooms, since these take the longest. Cut the stems off each and chop finely, along with half a red onion, 2 cloves of garlic and half of the chilli. Mix together in a bowl, adding salt, pepper, cumin, ginger and coriander. Of course, as always, please feel free to add any other spices and herbs you like – we tend to use a mixture of what we have lying around, and the cumin you can take or leave if you prefer to use it solely for Indian dishes (it’s probably my favourite spice, so I usually sneak it into any dish if I can)!
Once all the spices are mixed in, split the mixture in half and put half on top of each Portobello mushroom. Squish it down if you need, to prevent it falling out, sprinkle on a generous amount of sesame seeds onto each and drizzle over some sesame oil. Place onto a baking tray with your 6 cherry tomatoes and place into the oven for around 8-10 minutes.

Whilst these are cooking, spiralize your courgette, skin on, and place in a medium-large mixing bowl. Add the other half of the red onion, which you cut into strips, one clove of finely chopped garlic, a handful of babyleaf spinach and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Set aside whilst you turn a pan onto low-medium heat and throw in your crushed peanuts to toast, then whip up your miso-tahini dressing. This really is a staple of ours – if ever in doubt, make a tahini sauce of some kind, and your dish will instantly be lifted; no salad will ever be just a salad, no vegetable dish will ever be just a vegetable dish!
In a cup, glass, mug, small bowl…whatever vessel you choose, put in your tahini, miso paste, the juice of half a lemon, a splash of water, your last finely chopped garlic clove and a pinch of salt & pepper, then mix well with a fork, until it is at a consistency that you are happy with. We like ours more runny than paste-like, but trust yourself and give it a taste and see if you think it needs anything else – more lemon never goes amiss!

Take you peanuts off the heat and into a bowl, then using the same pan, tip in your courgetti mix and put it back on the heat for 2-3 minutes, until the mixture has wilted and warmed up slightly. When you do so, flick your oven setting to grill so that your mushrooms grill for the last few minutes so that the top goes as crispy as possible!

Once your courgetti mixture has heated through, take it off and pour it back into the mixing bowl, drizzle over your tahini dressing and your crushed peanuts, mix well, then split onto two separate plates. Now take your mushrooms and tomatoes out the oven (the top should be slightly golden and crispy from the sesame seeds and the mushrooms should have reduced slightly) and place each mushroom on top of your courgetti, and 3 tomatoes on each plate.

Thai courgetti

Puri

We were always in awe of these starters when we went out for an Indian; they seemed so delicately crafted we didn’t ever think it’d be possible to make even halfway decent ones at home. They look so impressive and unusual that we had to give them a go, and it was fun trying something so new and different to what we usually do.

You can serve these as canapés if you master them so that they all puff up evenly and perfectly, or you can serve one or two as a starter at a small dinner party, or you can just keep them to yourself… You can even make larger ones if you’d rather they accompanied your main dish, but whichever you choose, we’re certain they’ll go down well and burst full of flavour.

You will need… (serves two):

For the chana masala:

  • Half a can of chickpeas, drained
  • Half a red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
  • Half a can of chopped tomatoes
  • ½ mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon of cumin
  • ½ teaspoon of garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon of turmeric
  • ½ green chilli
  • A medium handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper, adjust according to your taste
  • You may need a splash of water to stop it from drying out and a couple of fresh and whole cherry tomatoes add a nice texture too!
  • A splash of sunflower oil or a teaspoon of coconut oil, depending on your preference

For the puri:

  • 1 ½ cups whole-wheat flour or atta
  • ½ tsp coconut oil
  • a sprinkle of salt
  • ½ cup of water or so
  • Vegetable oil to fry
  • Sev and Bhel mixture (dried noodle pieces and puffed rice that can be bought from Indian stores – if you are London based there is a great little one in Euston on Drummond Street, or ‘Taj Stores’ just off Brick Lane in Shoreditch).

Extras:

  • Mango chutney
  • Vegan yoghurt
  • Other dips/sauces of your choice

Method:

We suggest cooking your chana masala first so that your dish can cool slightly and the spices have longer to infuse, so first you want to heat your mustard seeds. Stir these in the saucepan on a medium heat for about 2 minutes, until they have darkened slightly in colour, then pour in your chosen oil.
Once it has heated up slightly, tip in your onion, chilli and your spices. Keep stirring so that the spices are evenly spread and if the mixture starts to dry out, add a splash of water. Next chuck in your garlic and cook for a further 2-3 minutes; if you are adding whole cherry tomatoes, throw these in now too so that they have a chance to reduce.

Stir in your chickpeas, chopped tomatoes and a little salt and pepper and leave for a couple of minutes. Once the chopped tomatoes have broken down, give it a taste and adjust accordingly. You may want to add a dash more cumin and salt, it’s up to you and how tomato-ey or spicy you like your chana masala!
Add a tiny splash more water, chuck in most of your chopped coriander (leave a little to garnish) and give it one last stir before putting a lid on top and setting aside whilst you make your puri’s.

First you want to sieve the whole-wheat flour with some salt, and then add your melted coconut oil.
Next, add a little bit of water at a time and knead until a stiff and tight dough is formed – make sure you don’t add too much water and that it doesn’t become sticky, (you may not need to use all the water)!
Once you are happy with the texture of the dough, divide it into small pieces – the dough should make around ten. Turn these into small balls then roll each ball out into a very small circle, each piece should be close to the size of a two penny coin.
Now get a deep frying pan, or a wok will do, and heat up a very generous amount of sunflower oil until it starts to sizzle. Once it is sufficiently hot, add each puri at a time and gently pat/pressdown on the top of the disc so that it should start to puff up. Flip it over and do the same to the other side until it is a nice golden brown – don’t let it get too dark as it will taste burnt and also won’t be anywhere near as aesthetically pleasing!
Once cooked, transfer to some paper towel on a plate so that any excess oil can be soaked up.

Once your puri’s have cooled, you want to crack a small hole in the top of each so that the inside of the puris can be filled with your chana masala. We usually don’t fill ours until the chana mixture has cooled down, otherwise the bottoms of the puri’s can tend to get a little soggy!

When both are at a temperature that you’re satisfied with, fill a teaspoon or so of chana mixture into each puri, add some mango chutney and sprinkle your bhel and sev mixture on top and garnish with coriander.

We advise putting a whole one in your mouth so that the delicious filling bursts out once the shell has cracked…but of course, it’s entirely up to you – enjoy!

FullSizeRender

This side is a nice way to change up your vegetables. We enjoyed ours in a mixed-veg wrap for lunch, but it also works great as a salad, tossed with oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and served on its own or with fish or another dish of some sort. Whatever you fancy!

You will need (serves two, bearing in mind we had ours in a wrap each. Use slightly more if it will be used as the base to your dish):

  • 1 courgette
  • A drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of chilli flakes
  • Salt and Pepper

Preheat your grill to around 200 degrees Celsius, then peel and ribbon your courgette whilst it heats up.
In a mixing bowl, mix the oil, paprika, chilli flakes and the salt and pepper onto the ribboned courgette so that each spice is distributed evenly. Then place into the oven and grill for roughly 8 minutes, or until the courgette is soft and has started to crisp slightly. So quick, simple and delicious!

Stuffed mushroom

Stuffed Portobello mushrooms are so easy, delicious and are a great addition to any meal. Mushrooms hold so much juice in them that they add moisture and taste to any dish – we love grilling them and putting them in a bun for a great veggie burger, but they can also be enjoyed on their own, stuffed with breadcrumbs and served with a side salad. They make a perfect starter drizzled with a balsamic glaze, or can be enjoyed as a light-lunch or mid-morning snack!

Ingredients (serves two):

  • 2 portobello mushrooms
  • ½ red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 small handful of coriander, finely chopped
  • 1 slice of bread made into fresh breadcrumbs
  • A drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt and pepper
  • Balsamic glaze or balsamic vinegar

Method:

Preheat your grill to a medium heat and allow it to warm up whilst you prep your other ingredients.
Cut out the stalk from each mushroom and chop this up, along with the onion, garlic and coriander. Place these ingredients into a bowl and mix in the cayenne pepper, salt and normal pepper. In a food processor, blitz your slice of bread so that fresh breadcrumbs are made, and add these to your onion and spice mixture.
Divide the mixture into two and put half in each mushroom. Drizzle with olive oil and once your oven is hot enough, place both onto a baking tray and into the oven and bake for around 12-15 minutes. The mushrooms should start to release their own juices and reduce slightly in size, whilst the breadcrumbs begin to crisp up.
Once you are satisfied with how cooked they are (you may want an extra 5 minutes in the oven if you’re grill isn’t that hot), take them out the oven, drizzle some balsamic onto them and serve them how you wish. Delicious!

Note: vegan cheese or non-vegan cheese can be added for a stronger flavour if you so wish, and also, as always, please feel free to adapt the spices to your taste!