Category Archives: USING UP LEFTOVERS

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.

Curry Pie with Leftover Filo Top

filo_crumble1pDo you ever have leftover filo pastry bits? As a filo addict I have those all the time (especially with my individual rolls). Now that I discovered genuine (though expensive) frozen Greek filo, they started to worry me much more than before. A heap of unused small bits of filo suddenly reminded me of a very unusual chicken “pie” spotted in Hairy Bikers’ Perfect Pies: chicken in a creamy sauce topped with crushed filo pieces. It looked original and delicious enough to stay engraved in my memory. I decided to use their idea of filo top, suspecting it would be perfect for any leftover strips and I was right.

I didn’t follow Hairy Bikers’  filling recipe since I happened to have some other leftovers (curry sauce and unused broccoli stalks from Pork and Broccoli in My Favourite Indian Curry). In fact, my filo rescuing plan became a triple leftover dish! I added some chicken meat, mushrooms and a carrot and the result, though looking quite messy, was a meal of delightful creamy and crunchy goodness. The airy crushed filo topping is so good, I am ready to destroy some whole pastry sheets to make it even if I don’t have leftovers!

As I have mentioned, I didn’t use the pie filling recipe from Hairy Bikers’ book, but it seems absolutely delicious, as well as all the other imaginative pies and tarts this huge source of recipes contains, so make sure you check it whether you are a fan of open tarts, British-style covered pies, mini tartlets, pasties or other similar dishes.

TIPS: You can, of course, make the curry from the scratch (see the recipe here) or use any other sauce of your choice (tomato sauce, for example). I had only 250 ml (about 1 cup) leftover curry sauce, so I have stretched it with some additional coconut milk.

Any vegetable or mushroom can be used here, but I’d advise pre-cooking briefly the mushrooms and the tough vegetables (carrots or broccoli stalks) but not broccoli florets or courgettes, for example.

Preparation: about 1 hour

Ingredients (serves two hungry people; fills a 16 x 16 cm baking dish):

1 chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

stalks and branches from one medium brocoli, cut into bite-sized pieces

5 rather big cultivated mushrooms (I have used ones called cremini in US and Canada), cut into four

about 400 ml (about 13.5 fl oz) leftover curry sauce (I had only 250 ml, so I added some coconut milk)

1 medium carrot, cut into thick half slices

about 3 sheets of filo/phyllo (can be whole or leftover strips)

oil or butter or coconut fat to brush filo

Preheat the oven to 200°C (392°F).

Heat the leftover sauce (adding more liquid, such as coconut milk, if needed).

As soon as it starts boiling, add the chicken, the carrots, the brocoli stalks and the mushrooms.

Let it simmer until the chicken is done.

If you use softer vegetables, such as courgette or brocoli florets, put them into the sauce about two minutes before the end (unless you like them rather mushy).

Taste the sauce, adjust the flavours and pour everything into a baking dish (you should have roughly 2/3-3/4 of the height filled; I have used here a 16×16 cm dish.

Spread the filo sheets or torn pieces flat and brush them slightly with the fat of your choice.

(If you use whole filo sheets, not leftovers, cut them into six or more squares).

Crush the filo in your palms and place on top of the curry making sure you cover well the whole dish.

Bake until golden (about 15 minutes).

Filo Rolls with Bok Choy Leaves and Feta

bokchoyrolls_Bok choy (or pak choy) is one of the rare autumn and winter vegetables I always look forward to. As much as I love its stir-fried crisp stalks, I have never liked the texture of warm limp leaves, so if my bok choy had abundant leafy part (sometimes half of its height), I used to cut off about 3/4 of the leaves and throw it away. I hate wasting food, so I kept on experimenting with this unwanted part until I found a dish where its softness would be more than welcome. It worked perfectly as the spinach replacement in the famous Greek Spanakopita filling I have been making for some time according to Katerina’s excellent recipe. The result is equally delicious, though of course not  strictly Greek…

Instead of a whole pie I have made individual filo rolls, the form I prefer and find easier. I have slightly modified Katerina’s Spanakopita recipe, mainly adding garlic, so make sure you check her original recipe on Culinary Flavors where you will also find homemade filo pastry instructions.

TIPS: If you have less bok choy or less feta, feel free to change the ratio. I think that increasing the bok choy’s amount is less risky (feta is very salty).

The chopped dill is not obligatory here. If you use it, either use it fresh or frozen (not dried).

Preparation: about 1 hour

Ingredients (makes 6 rolls):

6 sheets of filo pastry

150 g feta cheese, crumbled

1 egg

3 big handfuls of chopped bok choy leaves

1 big clove garlic, crushed

(2 heaped tablespoons fresh chopped dill)

1 flat tablespoon cracked wheat (you can use semolina instead, but I prefer cracked wheat)

black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Put the chopped leaves into a bowl and squash them with your hands until the volume is reduced. Crumble the drained feta into a bowl. Add the chopped leaves, dill (if using), cracked wheat and some ground black pepper, stir well and with a spoon divide into 6 equal portions (this will make the filo sheets’ filling process much easier).

Spread one filo sheet on a big chopping board.

Place horizontally, about 2,5 cm/1 in. from the filo sheet’s shorter edge which is closest to you, a portion of feta and bok choy mixture.

Roll tightly but delicately, starting from the edge which is closest to you, folding the two lateral edges into the roll, so that the filling doesn’t leak during the baking process (I have folded here about 3 cm/about 1,2 inch on each side).

Proceed in the same way with the remaining rolls.

Brush the top of the rolls with some oil or melted butter, place on a baking tray or baking paper and bake in the oven until slightly golden (about 30 minutes in mine). Watch them often as they tend to burn quite quickly.

Drying Aubergine (in the Sun, over the Stove or in the Oven)

aubegine_driedAs you might have noticed, I am regularly drying fruits and vegetables. Thus, not only do I save slightly withered  produce from the bin, but above all I obtain better quality cheap homemade products. I prepare my own vegetable stock mixture, dried apples, pears and mushrooms, powdered garlic, half-dried tomatoes… Nonetheless, I must admit aubergine was one of the last vegetables I would think of drying (on the other hand, I was sceptical about dried daikon and discovered harihari zuke, one of my favourite pickles). When I read in Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton Hachisu about the author’s mother-in-law aubergine drying process, I was so excited to try it, I prepared a small batch practically the following day. Once rehydrated and used in a soup, the aubergine tasted so good and acquired such a nice texture, I decided to carry on drying it throughout the summer.

From what I read in Japanese Farm Food and on internet, once rehydrated, aubergine can be added to soups, stews, sauces, pickled in vinegar… which already makes quite a list to experiment with. After the above-mentioned soup test I can say aubergine acquires a slightly “mushroomy” aroma, its flavours get concentrated and it becomes soft but slightly chewy without becoming mushy and it will certainly add an original touch to many slowly simmered winter dishes.  Aubergines are now delicious and cheap, so it’s the best moment to stock up our pantries. Look out for new ideas to eat dried aubergine I will certainly post in near future!

If you want to discover Japanese countryside eating habits and to learn Nancy Singleton Hachisu’s creative ways to handle local culinary traditions, I strongly encourage you to buy Japanese Farm Food, one of the most inspiring cookery books I know.

TIPS: Nancy Hachisu Singleton recalls her mother-in-law drying aubergine outside. If you don’t have conditions to do it (I don’t), I have explained below other drying options.

Obviously your dried aubergine will be more Japanese if you use Asian smaller variety. I don’t have access to those, so I have just used standard Western aubergines and it worked too.

You can dry the aubergine either cut into thick slices or into thick short strips (for example 2 cm x 6-7cm). The former is the quickest and easiest way to do it, but the small strips will save you the cutting steps when you use them dehydrated.

When you want to use your dried aubergine pieces, place them in a bowl of hot water and wait until they become soft. If you have big slices, I advise cutting them into bite-sized pieces before cooking or frying or pickling.

Preparation: one day – several days, depending on the drying method

Ingredients:

aubergines, leaves and stalks removed

Cut the aubergines into thick (2cm/about3/4 in slices) or thick strips (2 cm thick and 2cmx6-7cm long (about 3/4inx2,5-3in)).

You can dry them either in the sun or above the stove or in the oven. The oven method is the quickest (you will dry them in one day) but it’s the only one which costs money.

———DRYING IN THE SUN:

Place the aubergine pieces on a piece of baking paper making sure they do not touch each other.

Put the baking paper sheets in the full sun either outside (balcony, porch, garden table…) protecting them from the wind and animals or inside of your house, for example on a window sill.

Taste them every day to check the dryness and texture. They must be completely dry.

Put the dried, cool aubergine pieces in a jar with a lid. They will keep at least for a year (no need to refrigerate).

———DRYING IN THE OVEN:

Preheat the oven to 50°C (122°F).

Place the aubergine pieces on baking paper, making sure they do not touch each other.

Taste them every 4-5 hours to check the dryness and texture. They must be completely dry and hard.

The drying process can be divided into several days.

Put the dried, cool aubergine pieces in a jar with a lid. They will keep at least for a year (no need to refrigerate).

———DRYING OVER THE STOVE (works best with gas stove):

Put the aubergine pieces on a thick thread and hang high above the stove.

The aubergine slices will dry while you cook, so of course this process should be divided into several days.

Taste them every day to check the dryness and texture. They must be completely dry and hard.

Put the dried, cool aubergines in a jar with a lid. They will keep at least for a year (no need to refrigerate).

 

Sichuanese Chicken Salad with Chilli Oil

chickenchillioilI always like being positively surprised by recipes I don’t expect much from, particularly if they are as simple as this one. You steam or boil a chicken breast, slice it, add some green onion, drizzle it with chilli oil sauce and you obtain a light, cooling summer dish with a spicy kick that completely transforms the delicate white meat. When I took the first bite I couldn’t believe such a complex taste can be obtained in such a short time, with so few ingredients and with hardly any effort.

This cold chicken dish that I have allowed myself to call a salad is another discovery from Sichuan Cookery by Fuchsia Dunlop, a book written with a huge passion for the culinary heritage of this Chinese region and full of fascinating recipes that always give delicious results. Sichuan Cookery contains several cold chicken dishes and I want to try them all this summer, so I simply started with the first on the list. I have slightly changed the amounts, so check her book to read the original recipe. Fuchsia Dunlop’s recipe doesn’t contain lots of oil (I still have reduced the amounts a bit…), but from what I see on internet, this Sichuanese cold chicken is often served literally drowned in oil. If you like this dish more greasy, feel free to adapt the oil sauce’s amount.

TIP: Since my homemade chilli oil (Japanese, but definitely Chinese-inspired Taberu Rayu) is made partly with sesame oil, I have used only chilli oil, but if your hot oil is different, make sure you add some sesame oil too. It makes a huge difference in taste.

If you don’t have chilli oil with sediment, it’s very easy to prepare its simplest version: pour very hot oil (not boiling!) over chilli powder or flakes and let it cool down. The oil with have more taste every day, but you can use it as soon as it is cold.

You can used here either boiled or steamed chicken breast or sliced meat from a whole chicken.

I find this salad very flexible: it is as good served with rice as it is with bread or any carb you choose (cold noodles, tortillas, crêpes…). It works perfectly as a “topping” in a bowl of green salad leaves and as a sandwich filling.

Fuchsia Dunlop says the chicken and onion bits should be equally sized, but as you can see, I haven’t managed to do it.

Since the oil goes immediately down to the bowl’s  bottom and you are left with sediment on top of chicken pieces, I would advise serving this dish on a flat plate or adding oil at the table.

Preparation: 5 minutes

Ingredients (serves one):

1 small chicken breast (boiled or steamed) or the equivalent of parts from a whole chicken, cooled and sliced diagonally

Sauce :

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

1 teaspoon sugar (agave syrup or honey)

1 teaspoon chili oil with sediment (but if your oil is without sediment, just use your clear oil)

1/2 teaspoon sesame oil (or double the chilli oil amount if it contains sesame oil too)

1 spring onion, cut into bite-sized pieces

Combine the sauce ingredients in a small bowl stirring until the sugar is well dissolved (if using sugar).

Combine the sauce with the chicken and spring onion and serve.