Vietnamese Summer Rolls & Dipping Sauce

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Summers rolls are a simple, delicious & light dish – reflected in the name it really is more of a summer dish but at the moment I like to cling onto summery dishes & try to put a bit of sun in my day with fresh tasty dishes like this. I’m all for comfort food & stodge atm but this is also v simple & comforting in its own way. Its requires a bit of prep but so quick to assemble & eat once everything is ready. This is the lighter non fried equivalent of the spring roll if you haven’t tried this before.  Its a perfect recipe to attempt in Jan if you want something a bit healthier.

This is my first blog for a loooooong long time. I figured a post holiday themed post was a good excuse as any to get back into this. I am still in post holiday blues, I visited Vietnam & fell in love. It’s a beautiful & amazing country, the food is so tasty and the people so friendly. I would love to return one day. I’ve returned with a lot of food inspiration too.

Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Dipping Sauce (Makes about 8 rolls – serves 2-3)

Combinations of fillings for the rolls are endless, this is what has appealed & worked for me but you can easily omit any ingredients for different crisp veggies, swap the omelette for sliced belly pork or shredded chicken & many more combos

Ingredients

– Handful of blanched and cooled beansprouts
– Half a nest of rice noodles, boiled, cooled in cold water & drained
– 3 eggs
– 4-5 inch of cucumber finely sliced
– 1 small carrot, sliced into matchsticks
– 1 small pack of cooked prawns (roughly 200g)
– Bunch of fresh coriander, mint & thai basil
– Rice paper rolls

Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham)
– 2 part warm water
– 1 part rice wine vinegar
– 1 part fish sauce
– 1 tablespoon caster sugar
– 1 garlic clove finely chopped
– 1/2 red chilli, deseeded & finely chopped
– 1 Tbsp lime juice

To prepare, boil some water and pour over the rice noodles in a bowl, allow to soak for a few minutes. Drain, cool in cold water and drain again.

Beat the eggs, add 1 tbsp of vegetable oil to a small saucepan and make an omelette. Allow the omelette to cool on a plate and slice into thin strips after

Blanch the beansprouts, submerge into cold water and drain. Prepare the veg. Halve the prawns lengthways & roughly chop the herbs together. The thai basil has a very distinct & aniseedy ish flavour, its well worth trying to get if you can, its available in most chinese markets. If not just stick to coriander & mint.

Grab a plate and soak a cloth napkin if possible – or slightly soak kitchen paper. Drain slightly and lay on the plate. Place a paper roll on the soaked napkin or kitchen cloth and press gently for a few seconds. This will soften the roll to make it more pliable to make the summer roll.

The summer roll has a distinctive look with the prawn appearing most prominent – this is achieved by the way you layer the roll. First a the top of the roll, add the raw sliced veggies, beansprouts, herbs, noodles & sliced omelette. Just a sprinkle of each. Roll tightly till half the paper is rolled. Place 2 or three of the halved prawns into the crease of the paper, continue to roll so that the prawn appears on the outside more.

Repeat.

For the sauce, measure and prepare the above dipping sauce ingredients into a small bowl and mix together.

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Peanut Butter & Strawberry Jam Cupcakes

Any recipe that incorporates peanut butter in, sweet or savory, is a winner for me. The sweet salty combination works really well here and the hidden later of strawberry jam beneath the buttercream peanut butter frosting makes me happy!

 

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Ingredients (Yields 12-14 cupcakes)
75g Butter
130g Smooth Peanut Butter
100g Soft Dark Brown Sugar
90g Caster Sugar
2 Eggs
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1 Tsp Baking powder
120g Plain flour
A pinch of salt
200ml milk

Ingredients For Frosting
115g Unsalted butter
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
415g Icing sugar
130g Smooth Peanut Butter
4-5 Large Tbsp Strawberry Jam

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 6. Cream together the butter, peanut butter and sugar is a bowl till fluffy. Weigh out the flour, salt and baking powder in another bowl. One at a time beat the eggs into the butter sugar mix. Add a tablespoon of flour alongside each time to prevent curdling. Add the vanilla extract and stir again.

Carefully fold the flour mix into the butter-sugar-egg mix, a third at a time. After you’ve added and folded in the first third of the flour, fold in a third of the milk. Do this till all flour and milk is used up.

Spoon mix two thirds of the way into the cupcake cases and bake for 25 mins or till golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.

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Allow the mix to cool. Once cool, using a sharp knife cut at a shallow angle into the top of the cupcake. Make a circular shape and remove this circle of sponge. Beat the strawberry jam in a small bowl to loosen it up. Using a teaspoon carefully fill the hole, not all the way up, in the cupcake.

 

To make the frosting, beat the butter, peanut butter and vanilla extract together till smooth. Carefully sift in the icing sugar about 1/4 at a time. This helps to remove any lumps. Add a couple of tablespoons of milk if the mix is too stiff.

Add roughly a tablespoon dollop of frosting to the cupcake filled with jam, spread as desired. You could always pipe for a neater effect but I guess I am just lazy like that! It gets it the way of the time I could spend eating leftover frosting :)

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Chocolate Mousse with Honeycomb

Chocolate mousse is a classic, you can’t go wrong. Its so simple and smooth with a lovely rich flavour. The bubbles lighten it and stop it being too sickly. Honeycomb works great with this, the sugariness counters any bitterness of the dark chocolate and adds crunchy contrast.

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The mousse recipe is one of Delias.

 

Chocolate Mousse

Ingredients (Makes 6 servings)

200g Dark Chocolate (min 70% cocoa content), broken into pieces
120ml Warm Water
3 Large Eggs (yolks and white separated)
40g Golden Caster Sugar

 

In a heat proof bowl place the broken dark chocolate and warm water together. In a small saucepan bring water to a boil, once boiled keep at a gentle simmer. Place the heat proof bowl of water and chocolate above the water, melt this at a gentle heat till all the chocolate has melted, keep stirring towards the end to make sure no chocolate sinks and catches at the bottom.

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Once melted, place the chocolate/water mix to one side to cool slightly.

In another large bowl, add the egg whites and start to whisk into stiff peaks with an electric whisk. Ensure the bowl is completely clean and dry before whisking to get maximum peakiness (the official whisking term!). Once the egg whites hold their own shape and take a glossy look on, gradually add the caster sugar, whisking throughout to incorporate it evenly.

Beat the egg yolks into the slightly cooled chocolate mix.

Using a large metal spoon, add a heaped spoon of the egg white mix to the chocolate mix. Fold gently till lumps have disappeared. This will help to loosen the chocolate mix. At this point you can pour the chocolate mix into the remaining egg whites, patiently fold the mixture as gently as you can till no white remains and lumps have gone.

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Pour into your selected ramekin/cocktail glass or other serving dish and cool for at least 4 hours. This can be made the night before but won’t keep much long than about 2-3 days, the air starts to escape and you lose the whole moussey effect!

 

Honeycomb

This takes about 10 mins maximum from start to finish. Timing is key. I love how the mixture bubbles up when the bicarb is added. This is a dangerous recipe to master cos you are never more than a few mins from crunchy, golden honeycomb.

Ingredients
80g Butter
80g Golden Syrup
160g Caster Sugar
2 Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

This is a really sticky messy mix so I find it easier to just get a medium heavy set saucepan out that you will cook it in and measure everything in there on the scales.

First lightly grease a baking tray of roughly 20cm using vegetable oil.

Cube the butter and sprinkle in the pan, add the sugar and syrup. On a medium heat gently melt till bubbles emerge and the sugar has dissolved completely. Don’t be tempted to stir at any point. If the mix looks over dark or as if its burning on one side, swirl the liquid ever so slightly in the pan to even this out. Once all sugar has dissolved, bring to a rapid boil. When the mix takes a dark golden colour and bubbling up take off the heat. Very quickly add all the bicarb and whisk very fast to make the mix even more frothy and bubbly.

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Pour out evenly as you can onto the greased tray. The pan and mix will be extremely hot so allow both to cool completely. The honeycomb should set within half an hour/hour kind of time. You can then break it up easily.

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Enjoy on its own or its great sprinkled on mousse, ice cream or as someone suggested to me when I brought it into work – coated in chocolate!

To assemble with the mousse, place the shards of honeycomb in a sandwich bag and bash into teeny pieces using a rolling pin, alternatively use the shards as spoons for a fondue kind of thing.

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Cauliflower Crust Pizza – GF, Veggie & healthy!

 

This is very filling and perfect summer recipe. Takes less time than you would think and tastes very fresh and delicious! First things though, I don’t think you can take it as a pizza crust substitute but see it as another meal in its own right. The egg and cheese make for a denser, eggier kind of bread hybrid but tasty nonetheless. No carbs in the crust and a great veggie dinner recipe or one for those allergic to gluten.

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Ingredients

  • 450g Raw Cauliflower
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 75g Mozzarella Cheese (grate 50g and slice the remaining 25g for the topping)
  • 2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese (finely grated)
  • 1/2 Tsp Dried Basil
  • 1/2 Tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 Tsp Garlic Salt
  • Sea salt & Fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 Beef Tomato (finely sliced and deseeded)
  • Handful of Asparagus stalks
  • Pinch Red Chilli Flakes
  • Mushrooms
  • Baby Sweetcorn

 

Preheat the oven to 210C/Gas mark 7. Line a pizza tray if possible, or other baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Take the raw cauliflower and blitz in a blender till a crumb like consistency is achieved.

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Place the crumbs in a microwave safe bowl and cook for 5-6 mins, stirring halfway through. If you don’t own a microwave you can steam it but you have to squeeze all the moisture out afterwards otherwise the ‘dough’ won’t work and will fall apart.

In a large bowl, crack and whisk the egg. Add the dried herbs, salt, pepper. Add the cooked cauliflower and grated cheeses, mix till well combined.

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Once everything is mixed enough, using your hands work the dough into a ball. It will be quite loose so don’t worry about this! Flatten this onto the lined baking tray and push out till about 10 inch in diameter and half an inch thickness. Bake for 15-20 mins or until golden and bubbling.

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Sprinkle the chilli flakes onto the base. Thinly slice the remaining mozarella. Assemble all the veg onto the pizza leaving the cheese till last.

 

 

 

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Bake for 5 mins or till cheese has melted and veg has crisped up nicely. The base may be a big fragile so spatula was needed in my case anyway!

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Raw banana ice cream – 1 ingredient – GF, DF, vegan & healthy

This is so simple I toyed with even making it into a whole post. But the deliciousness I think warrants one. It is so sweet, thick, creamy and refreshing but virtuous at the same time!

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This has to be one of the quickest standby healthy desserts at your fingertips.

Slice up roughly 1 banana for each scoop. So 1 banana will be a small but adequate portion for one. Place in a sandwich bag or some freezer safe storage container. Pop in the fridge till frozen.

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Remove and place in a deep fill bowl or jug. Using a hand blender, go at it till it has a creamy ice cream consistency or alternatively use any form of blender, if you are blenderless (is that a word) then mashing with a fork ia longer but same effect is achievable!

I served mine with raw cacao nibs which added a lovely bitter and crunchy contrast. I will be making this very soon again, experimenting with swirling in peanut butter or fruit compote of some sort.

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Zesty Carrot Cake with Raisins and Walnuts

The plump raisins, nutty wholemeal flour and crunchy walnuts worked beautifully with moist grated carrot sponge and mild cinnamon flavours running throughout. It has been a long time since I’ve made a carrot cake. I had a glut of carrots to use from a weekly shop and decided now was the time! This is easily my favorite cake or at least makes top 3. Its a classic! There is something so wholesome and filling about it. Not just a sugary indulgence but the spices, carrots and wholemeal flour make it into something more special, a hybrid moving more towards dessert territory perhaps?

Maybe it stems from being a child when my mum used to walk with me down to the local shops at the weekend and me always picking the slice of carrot cake with fondent carrots decorating the top, delicately peeling the carrot off, savouring the slice and saving that carrot till last. It is a proper comfort food for me. Unfortunately this version has a rather less exciting topping – but nonetheless delicious.

Now that I have the more traditional version out my system, I want to experiment with a vegan recipe next so watch this space….

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Ultimate Zesty Carrot Cake with Raisins and Walnuts

Ingredients

  • 1 Large Orange
  • 100g Raisins
  • 125ml Vegetable Oil
  • 125g Wholemeal Flour
  • 1 Tsp baking powder, plus a pinch
  • 1 rounded Tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Tsp All Spice
  • 100g Dark Soft Sugar
  • 40g Light Brown Soft Sugar
  • 240g Grated Carrots
  • 2 Eggs
  • 100g Self-Raising flour
  • 60 Walnuts, Roughly Chopped

Icing

  • 175g Icing Sugar
  • Squeeze of Juice from an Orange
  • 12 Whole Walnuts

Preheat the oven to 160c/140C Fan Oven/Gas mark 3. Grease and line a 20cm Square Tin. Firstly zest the whole orange. Measure the raisins and squeeze out 3 Tbsp of juice from the zested Orange, pour on the raisins to soak up the juice. Save the rest of the orange to make the icing later.

Grate the carrots and set aside. Measure the dry ingredients in a bowl and stir together.

Get two bowls. Separate the first egg, put the yolk in one bowl and the white in another. Crack the other egg into the bowl with the yolk. Whisk the bowl with the egg and the yolk. Add the sugar to this and continuing whisking till thick and foamy. Slowly pour in the oil, whisking as you go along, then add the orange zest.

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Rinse and pat the whisk dry. To the bowl with the egg white, add a pinch of baking powder.Whisk till you get soft peaks. Fold into the bowl containing the egg yolks, sugar, oil & zest.

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Add to this half the bowl containing the dry ingredients. Stirring gently till mixed well. Then add the other half of the dry. Finally, add the grated carrot, raisins with juice and walnuts. Fold till incorporated evenly.

Pour the mix into the tin and level it out.

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Bake for an hour, check with a skewer.

After the cake has fully cooked, in a medium bowl measure the icing sugar. Using 3-4 Tbsp of water and 2-3 Tbsp of Orange juice, thoroughly mix the icing sugar and liquids into a thick icing. You want it at a consistency where it doesn’t even drip off a spoon when tilted slightly. Add liquid or icing sugar to adjust accordingly.

Spread evenly across the top and place walnuts in whatever pattern you desire! Finish with a fine sprinkling of cinnamon (optional, I just really love cinnamon!)

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Speedy No Prove, No Yeast – Olive Bread (5 Ingredients)

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This is so quick to mix up and is great when you have a craving for fresh bread. The fresh rosemary is so fragrant and compliments the olives well.

This is one of the lovely Lorraine Pascales recipes, officially named an Aussie Damper bread originally made on camp fires. I made this one for a dinner party I hosted for my good friends :) This acted as a starter with some mussels cooked in wine and parsley. Works great on its own with a serving dish of balsamic and olive oil also.

Ingredients

450g Self Raising Flour, plus extra for dusting
3 Sprigs Rosemary, leaves only, roughly chopped
1/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
75g Pitted Green or Black Olives, roughly chopped

Preheat the oven to 200c/Gas mark 6. Put a baking tray in to warm up.

Measure the flour in a large bowl. Add salt. rosemary oil and 225ml of cold water. Mix with a spoon until the dough forms into a ball. Then get stuck in with your hands and mix in any other fallen bits of dough till there are no flour streaks.

Dust a clean dry surface lightly with flour. Squish the dough into a flat round and sprinkle the roughly chopped olives on top. Fold the outer edges into the middle to cover up the olives. Turn the dough over and begin kneading. Keep kneading the olives back in, a few will fall out all over the place adding flour if its just too sticky and wet.

Don’t over knead, just do so till you have incorporated the olives evenly ish! Flatten the dough again into a large round about 8 inches diameter. Flour the end of a wooden spoon. Use this to press and mark the dough in half. Mark it in half lengthways and widthways. Rotate and do again till you have roughly 8 segments. Or leave in 4 if you want larger pieces.

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Bake for 35 mins or till it sounds hollow when tapped at the bottom.

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This was a lovely starter. For mains that night I had my bfs dad to thank for catching and filleting a delicious rainbow trout which I baked and served with roasted butternut squash marinated with grated ginger and some petit pois braised with pancetta.

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