Super Light Spring Rolls with Cucumber, Shiso and Chicken

springrolls_cucshisoA plate of raw spring rolls is one of the most cooling, heatwave-adapted meal I can think of, so I make tons of them every summer. My dexterity doesn’t improve in what comes to the aesthetics, but I’m getting quicker every year and spring rolls have stopped being a special time-consuming and tiring dish. Since I treat them as an ordinary meal, I’ve been experimenting a lot with different fillings based on what I find in the fridge.

In recent years I realised I don’t always need glass noodles inside; I simply add more vegetables instead. Such rolls are quicker to prepare and become really super light! Normally I use fresh herbs to add an aromatic touch  but since I have plenty of shiso/perilla on my balcony, this time I used it both as an aromatic herb and also instead of salad leaves. Its slight pungency is particularly refreshing and goes perfectly with cucumber. In short, one more delicious shiso dish to add to my growing list of recipes!

If you look for spring roll ideas, you might like some of these:

Spring Rolls with Leftover Roast, Carrot and Mint

Spring Rolls with Leftover Roast, Carrot and Mint

Soba Noodles and Cucumber Spring Rolls

Soba Noodles and Cucumber Spring Rolls

Mizuna, Carrot and Chicken Spring Rolls

Mizuna, Carrot and Chicken Spring Rolls

Spring Rolls with Asparagus and Chicken

Spring Rolls with Asparagus and Chicken

TIPS: Obviously, you can use any fresh herb you like, but avoid those which might be too strong, hiding all the other flavours (I think of coriander, for example; I’d use salad leaves as a second wrapping layer and some coriander leaves only as an aromatic touch).

When preparing spring rolls I usually broil or bake spicy chicken breasts or legs, but you can use leftover chicken from any dish you have made before (if your chicken isn’t spicy, you may add some hot sauce into the rolls).

You can skip mayonnaise if you don’t like it.

I think this shiso and cucumber version goes particularly well with Japanese ponzu (slightly tangy sauce), but you can serve it also with a mixture of rice vinegar, soy sauce and chilli oil.

You can use both red or green shiso. Green shiso has a slightly more delicate taste.

Preparation: about 40 minutes

Ingredients (makes 10 medium spring rolls):

10x medium rice paper sheets (22 cm)

10 big shiso leaves or 20 smaller

1 small chicken breast, baked, steamed, boiled or leftover from any chicken dish…

10 small shiso leaves, chopped or cut into threads

half a long cucumber

1 big avocado, cut in two lengthwise and sliced

(mayonnaise)

Cut the cucumber into rather thin strips (their length should be equal to the rolls’ length you aim at).

Cut the chicken breast in two horizontally and then into thin strips.

Fill a big wide bowl with warm (not hot) water.

Divide the filling ingredients into ten equal portions.

Dip rice paper sheets one by one in the water, immersing them delicately so that you don’t break them.

As soon as the sheet softens (after about ten – twenty seconds), put it onto a big chopping board.

Place first one big or two smaller shiso leaves in the middle, then horizontally horizontally (at the edge which is closest to you) the cucumber, a piece of chicken breast, mayonnaise, the avocado and finally the chopped shiso.

Roll tightly starting from the edge which is closest to you.

Proceed in the same way with the remaining rolls.

Serve them immediately as they are or cut in two horizontally with ponzu or with a mixture of soy sauce, chili oil and rice vinegar.

If you wish to serve them later, wrap them individually in cling film or cover them because they dry out very quickly.

Indian Mashed Stir-fried Aubergine (almost Baigan ka Bharta)

mashed_auberginepIndia – Cookbook by Pushpesh Pant is one of the biggest cookery books I own and I’ve ever seen. Its impressive almost 800 small print pages are filled with an impressive number of recipes collected by the author from different regions during twenty years. Contrary to other Indian cookery books I have and appreciate, this one is the only one where I know I will find a recipe for practically every vegetable known in India.

Last week I bought several beautiful aubergines, making first Baba ganouj, then Japanese miso-glazed aubergine… and then I needed spice, so obviously I turned to Pushpesh Pant’s collection. This is how I found baigan ka bharta, a dish I couldn’t compare to anything I have ever had or seen in an Indian restaurant. Its combination of buttery, spicy, slightly tangy and incredibly dynamic flavours make it one of the most fantastic vegetable dishes I have ever made. I call it “almost Baigan ka Bharta” because I have changed the ratio of ingredients (especially ghee), left the aubergines rather chunky (not completely mashed) and seriously simplified the roasting process, so I encourage everyone to check the extraordinary India – Cookbook.

TIPS: Do not replace the ghee (clarified butter) with anything else. The buttery taste plays a huge role in the final taste. At worst, you can combine neutral vegetable oil with normal unsalted butter instead. (Apart from Indian grocery shops and internet, ghee can be found in organic shops, at least in Europe).

The author doesn’t say anything about tomato skin removal and I didn’t do this. The taste was amazing, so if you have good quality aromatic tomatoes, don’t remove the skin.

The aubergines should be mashed, but I preferred to leave them slightly chunky and loved it this way. Both versions can be treated as a side-sidh or as a thick dip/spread too.

Preparation: about 1 hour

Ingredients (serves 2 as a side dish):

2 medium aubergines

2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)

1 flat teaspoon cumin seeds

1 small onion, chopped

1 big garlic clove (chopped)

about 1 cm grated or finely chopped fresh ginger

1 hot green chilli pepper, sliced or chopped

1/5 flat teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon medium hot chilli powder (I have used Kashmiri chilli powder)

1 medium tomato, diced

salt

chopped coriander leaves

Roast the aubergines over flame, grill or under the oven broiler until the skin is black.

Let them cool down. Remove the flesh and chop it roughly, mashing a bit (or mash it completely if you prefer).

Heat the ghee in a frying pan at medium heat and fry the cumin until it starts popping.

Add the onion and sitr-fry until soft.

Then add the garlic, the chilli and the ginger and stir-fry for about 20 seconds.

Add the aubergine, the chilli powder and the turmeric and stir-fry for about 5 minutes.

At the end add the tomato and let them until they heat up.

Add salt to taste, sprinkle with coriander seeds and serve. (I liked it a lot only slightly warm).

Anchovy Vinaigrette, or Anchovy Salad Dressing

anchovy_vin_A big part of my summer meals consist of bowlfuls of salad leaves, topped with tomato, sometimes other raw vegetables, and proteins, such as cheese, egg, ham, bacon, canned tuna…. I often change both the toppings and the vinaigrettes, but none of the dressings I have tasted produces the effect comparable to this anchovy vinaigrette: it has this irresistible je-ne-sais-quoi characteristic of umami-packed food.

Canned or salted anchovy is hated by many people, but if mixed and used in correct amounts, it improves flavours in a very discreet way and thus can be enjoyed by all. I am a big fan of anchovies on their own (anchovy pizza is the only one I’ve been ordering for years!), so I’d like to propose also an “anchovy lovers” option. The latter, apart from mixed anchovy, has an additional amount of chopped anchovy added to the sauce  for a double anchovy taste (this is the one you see at the photograph above).

As for the source – or rather inspiration – of my recipe, I once saw an anchovy vinaigrette mentioned on a British tv cooking program, but don’t remember where exactly and didn’t write down the recipe. A couple of weeks ago I simply added anchovies to oil, vinegar and garlic and… it worked!

If you are an anchovy fan, you might also like this Spanish salad:

Egg, Pepper and Anchovy Salad

Egg, Pepper and Anchovy Salad

TIPS: This dressing is perfect for both salad as a full meal or as a side-dish (only leaves and maybe tomatoes). If you want to try the above salad version, I’ve put there a boiled egg, capers, mini tomatoes, dill and ground pepper. The tomatoes are dark because it’s the black Crimean variety.

Obviously you can use here both canned and salt-preserved anchovies. I never see the salted ones, so cannot tell you what difference in taste they make. If you are not a huge fan of anchovies and simply curious about the taste of this vinaigrette, start with half of the anchovy amount I wrote.

You can replace a part of olive oil with the oil from anchovies (if you use anchovies in oil), but don’t skip olive oil.

Preparation: 5 minutes

Ingredients (serves two): 

2 slightly heaped tablespoons of finely chopped drained canned anchovy (+1 more if you want the “anchovy lovers” version)

4 tablespoons olive oil (or a part of olive oil and canned anchovies’ oil)

1 big clove garlic, squashed or grated

6 (or more) tablespoons wine vinegar

Mix everything in a food processor (a baby food processor is very useful here) or mash well the anchovies with a fork, then mix well with the remaining ingredients. (Afterwards, add the chopped tablespoon of anchovies, if making the strong-flavoured version.) Taste and add more oil/vinegar, if needed.

This vinaigrette will keep for at least a week in the fridge, so it’s a good idea to make a bigger amount.

Asparagus and Streaky Bacon Rolls, or the Quickest Asparagus Dish

asparagus_bacon_rollspAfter a particularly cold spring, we’re having  impossibly hot days (28°C at 9 pm is not my favourite weather in the city…), so my body and mind have had a thermal shock. As a result I’ve been utterly lazy in the kitchen. The asparagus bought with the intention to make chawan mushi (Japanese steamed savoury custard) ended up in these simple rolls because suddenly chawan mushi (which otherwise I prepare practically every second week) seemed too messy, too long, too tiresome… I know they are far from being original, but I thought it’d be a good idea to remind my dear readers of such a quick and easy asparagus treat many of us tend to forget about (at least I do).

The rolls are perfect as they are, served with rice or bread or on their own, as a snack, but since I always try to smuggle an egg into every asparagus meal, here is the same bowl with a fried egg (the egg is not the best looking, but it was another quick shot with my camera because I was simply too hungry and exhausted after 15 minutes spent in my sauna-like kitchen):

asparagus_rolls_bacon_egg

(If you are curious about the ugly-looking powdery stuff on the rice, it’s my homemade spicy furikake with prune (a Japanese rice topping).

TIPS: I hate mushy green asparagus, so here it’s practically half-raw and very crunchy, but feel free to precook it if you like it soft.

Preparation: about 15-20 minutes

Ingredients (serves one):

8 thin (I prefer about 5 mm/ about 1/5 in thick in the middle) green asparagus spears, the lower tough 1/4th or 1/3th discarded (the thinnest the spear, the smeller the tough discardable part)

4 super thin (transparent, cut thinly like cured ham) slices of smoked streaky bacon

Cut the asparagus spears into pieces a bit longer than the bacon’s width.

Divide the pieces into four groups (make sure you have at least one asparagus top in every group, since it’s the most delicious part).

Roll tightly into the streaky bacon and stir-fry on medium heat until crisp, starting with the sealed part of the rolls and then turning once (you can also grill the rolls).

Since my asparagus is raw, I like to cover the rolls during the first half of the frying process (thus they cook a bit, but not too much).

Serve with rice or as a snack with toothpicks.

Indian Mint and Yogurt Chutney/Sauce

mint_yogurt_chutneypI hope my dear readers aren’t bored yet with all my recent herb-centred posts because there will probably be more to come. With its abundant crops, my humble balcony garden has recently been dictating a big part of my meal choices and since I love fresh herbs, I certainly don’t complain, especially when it comes to mint. This chutney (or sauce, as it would probably be called by most non-Indians) is perhaps the best and quickest way to transform a big bunch of mint. It’s obviously refreshing (yogurt+mint) and the presence of fresh chillies gives it a nice fiery kick all the hot food lovers will appreciate. I imagine it with ethnic cuisines from all around the world, also as a dip, but it tastes best with grilled meats.

The recipe comes from Meera Sodha’s “Made in India. Cooked in Britain” and is a huge upgrade of the Mint Sauce I posted several years ago. As usually, I have adapted the amounts to my taste, so I encourage you strongly to check this wonderful collection of Indian home recipes to see the original and much much more.

TIPS: The choice of green chillies is not accidental here (in my opinion) because they have a sharper and livelier taste than red ones and suit much better this chutney. At worst you can replace them with red chillies, but make sure they are fresh.

The amounts below are very versatile; especially the yogurt’s amount plays a big role: the more yogurt you add, the creamier, the more refreshing and the milder the chutney will be. If you reduce it, the chutney will be sharper and hotter… I have already made it several times and each time the ratio between ingredients is different, but I love it every single time.

If, like me, you are regularly confronted with abundance of fresh herbs (or simply have a habit of buying them in huge bunches at farmers’ markets), here are some ideas you might find useful:

Meat Patties with Dill

Meat Patties with Dill

Indian Coriander Chutney

Indian Coriander Chutney

Kenyan Coriander Chicken

Kenyan Coriander Chicken

freshchradish2p

Fresh (Cottage) Cheese Spread with Chives and Radish

Bulgarian Dill Salad (Dry Tarator)

Bulgarian Dill Salad (Dry Tarator)

Polish Brined Cucumber Soup

Polish Brined Cucumber Soup with Dill

Udon and Spring Onion Burger

Udon and Spring Onion Burger

 

Preparation: about 5-10 min.

Ingredients:

125ml/about 1/2 cup natural yogurt

2 big handfuls of fresh mint leaves

1-2 fresh green chilies (the heat level is up to you; I prefer medium hot chillies here, but it can also be made with mild peppers)

2 teaspoons sugar (or more to taste)

juice of 1/4-1/2 lemon or 1/2-1 lime

salt

Chop roughly the chillies (remove the seeds if you don’t want too much heat) and mix in a food processor with the remaining ingredients (add the lemon or lime juice gradually and taste as you mix to make sure your chutney is not too sour). Add salt to taste.

Keep in the fridge for several days.