That’s How I Roll.

When thinking of your favourite typical Chinese food, spring rolls will probably come to mind. However, the Western take on spring rolls is to submerge it in oil and hope for the best. If you have not tried spring rolls in a reputable restaurant (not a Chinese take-away) or from an old Chinese grandma (all old Chinese people are great cooks), you have not come close to the real thing. I have always been a bit snobby when it comes to Chinese food, but I think it is to be expected as I am of Chinese descent.

I hope to one day become a fine cook and connoisseur of Chinese cuisine, so I thought I would tackle my first hurdle and try my hand at making spring rolls.

Ingredients:

 800g of pork mince

20 king prawns

4 spring onions

2 grated carrots

100g cornstarch sticks

40g black fungus

8 seafood sticks

1 clove of garlic

1 tsp of cornflower

A splash of soy sauce

pinch of salt

ground pepper

1 pack of spring roll pastry sheets (usually 30 sheets in a pack)

egg white

vermicelli noodles (optional, to eat with your spring rolls)

Vietnamese fish sauce (optional, to eat with your spring rolls)

shredded little gem lettuce (optional, to eat with your spring rolls)

What’s next?

An hour before you start making the spring rolls, soak the black fungus and cornstarch sticks separately in boiling hot water. This will help them soften and it will be quicker to cook later on.

Prepare the king prawns and add them to the food processor with the pork mince, spring onions, chopped garlic, cornflower, soy sauce, salt and ground pepper. You may have to do this in batches, as I found I had too many ingredients to fit the bowl.

Shred the seafood sticks and grate the carrots, or get your husband to do it… After soaking the cornstarch sticks, boil for a few minutes until they become soft and transparent. The longer they are immersed in water, the better, however I only soaked them for an hour.

Add the cornstarch sticks, black fungus and grated carrots to the prawns/pork mixture and stir well until fully incorporated.

Now you are already to start wrapping. Place the mixture onto a sheet of pastry in a long rectangular shape and fold the bottom corner over the mixture.

Fold in both sides to envelope the mixture.

Roll pastry tightly to ensure the mixture is compact. When you reach the end of the pastry, dab a small amount of egg white to make sure it sticks.

Repeat thirty times until you have used up all of the mixture and pastry sheets…

Cooking the spring rolls requires lots of oil and a big pan, if you do not own a deep fat fryer. My grandma cooks them in a wok but we settled for a large saucepan instead. Do not question the use of the potato masher below, I am only an amateur cook!

If you use a large wok or a deep fat fryer, you will most probably shorten your cooking time. It took us quite a while to get through all thirty!

We ate our spring rolls with vermicelli noodles, little gem lettuce and Vietnamese fish sauce (known as Bún Chả Giò in Vietnam), but of course you can eat them with anything you desire.

Wonton Soup.

I finally invested in a food processor (my previous handheld mixer died) and inevitably this was going to result in another food post. I decided to make Wonton Soup without following a structured recipe, but instructions from my Grandma which is near enough the same thing.

Ingredients:

For the dumplings:

20 king prawns

200g pork mince (half of the small box)

1 clove of garlic

2 spring onions

1 tsp of cornflower

1/2 tbsp of oyster sauce

pinch of salt

ground pepper

1 pack of wonton sheets (usually 30 sheets in a pack)

egg white

For the soup:

Water (use your judgment for how much you need)

Dash of soy sauce

1/2 vegetable stock cube

What’s next?

Start off by preparing the prawns – You will need to de-shell them and remove the intestines (as shown in my previous post). Once this is done, add the prawns, pork mince, spring onions, chopped garlic, cornflower, oyster sauce, salt and ground pepper into the food processor. You can add other ingredients too, so do not feel restricted.

Blend the mixture until it turns into one clump.

Place small scoops of the mixture in the centre of the wonton sheets. Dampen the corners of the sheets with water and bring two of the corners together to a point. Then bring the other two corners together and wrap them around. There are various techniques to folding wonton sheets, the key thing is to make sure the filling is fully concealed and the sheet is wrapped tightly.

Thirty wonton dumplings is an excessive amount for me to eat, so I have stored them in boxes of ten in the freezer.

To cook the dumplings, all you need to do is place them into boiling water for approximately five minutes; they should float to the top once they are done. To make the soup, simply boil the water, add the soy sauce and vegetable stock and simmer for a few minutes. Pour into a bowl and wonton dumplings once they are cooked, sprinkle some spring onions as a garnish and there you have your wonton soup!

Icing on the Cake.

I was given The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook a while ago but have only used it as a picture book, not daring to actually make one of their magnificent cakes. A few days ago I decided I would try a simple recipe (you can follow the same recipe as the book on the websites I found) and make vanilla cupcakes, but instead of the vanilla frosting they suggest, I made chocolate.

Here are my ingredients. For a detailed list, please refer to the websites I have linked above.

After mixing the  flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and butter together, it looked something like this.

Once the egg, vanilla extract and milk have been incorporated, I spooned the mixture into paper cases.

Whilst they were baking in the oven, I prepared the chocolate frosting. When beating the icing sugar, butter and cocoa powder together and adding the milk, it may appear that the mixture is too dry. It is deceiving you and after a further few minutes beating the mixture together, the frosting will form perfectly.

After the cupcakes are cooked through and have cooled down, spread the chocolate frosting on top and sprinkle the hundreds and thousands.

Quick Fix.

As you know, I am rather pernickety when it comes to DS’ diet. Pizza is not something I would usually allow, however when it is homemade you know exactly what goes in, and what stays out. I am not a big fan of pizza bases, so I use ready rolled puff pastry. You can also buy ready rolled pastry especially for pizzas if you prefer. These can generally be found in the same aisle as butter in the supermarket; it took me quite some time to figure this out.

Making a pizza only takes ten minutes and it is self-explanatory so I will avoid going into too much detail. The main parts are the base, tomato purée, toppings and cheese. I use this as a great opportunity to add healthy toppings DS would not normally eat; as it all fuses together into the melted cheese, DS is oblivious of what he is actually eating. It is not that he dislikes the taste of certain food, but he finds the colour or texture most peculiar. If he was a talking child and you asked him whether he liked red peppers, he would probably say no. Little does he know, he eats these on a regular basis. I am not convinced when children say they dislike particular foods. Fussy eaters start from an early age, especially when parents make a point of avoiding certain foods.

Before

After

I also made roast potatoes and peas to accompany the pizza. Depending on how you chop the potatoes, you can also make wedges. Once chopped boil until soft, then add a generous dash of olive oil, a pinch of salt and black pepper. I sometimes add herbs such as basil, sage or parsley, when it is fitting. When all the seasoning has added, put the lid on the pan and shake; this makes the potatoes fluffy once cooked. Place in the oven at gas mark 7 (200 degrees Celsius) for 30-40 minutes, or until golden.

A whole new ball game.

I decided to be adventurous yesterday and push myself to the limits. This resulted in prawn balls.

If you remember, not long ago I tried my hand at various Chinese/Thai/Vietnamese (or if you prefer, Asian) dishes, which were generally a success. This time, I attempted to make prawn and pork balls on skewers to be cooked on the barbecue. This was pretty adventurous because 1) I am quite nervous about cooking prawns because I never know if they are still raw, 2) I had only ever eaten these at my Aunt’s barbecues and had no idea how they were made. After a few phone calls to my Grandma (an expert in cooking) and my Aunt (who has previously made and cooked prawn balls) and a little research on the internet, I set forth for my big experiment.

Ingredients:

20 king prawns

400g pork mince (the small box)

1 clove of garlic

1 chilli

1 green pepper

1 tsp of cornflower

pinch of salt

pepper for seasoning

So what next?

First you need to prepare the prawns. This is long and tedious, but must be done to ensure they are thoroughly cleaned. Assuming you have bought prawns that are headless, to begin with you need to de-shell the them. The next stage is to slice them right in the middle – I find it easiest to go from the top to the tail downwards. Inside you will find a string, the intestines, which can easily be pulled out from one end of the prawn. It is not life threatening if you decide not to do this, but it will taste gritty otherwise.

Once you have done this, slice them into small pieces. I slice and de-poo each prawn as I go, but do whatever is easiest for you. You may want to wash them after, but to be honest, they have been in a shell and should be fine.

Place the mushed up prawns in the food processor with all of the pork mince, a generous pinch of salt, 1 tsp of cornflower (to make it stickier), pepper (add as much or as little as you feel necessary), chopped up garlic and chilli. I tend to remove the seeds from the chilli, but if you are feeling particularly daring leave them in.

Chop your green pepper into small chunks and get your skewers ready. Roll the prawn and pork concoction into a medium sized ball on a flat surface using the palm of your hand. Make sure the prawn balls are not too big, as this will take longer to barbecue and be at risk of being undercooked. Then slot the balls onto skewers, with peppers in between; this may get tricky as time goes on as the mixture becomes stickier. I also found that they would fall off the skewers, in which case I would re-roll the ball and delicately slot them back in between the peppers.

Lastly, place them on the barbecue to cook. It is not necessary to cook them on a barbecue, you can also grill or fry them (obviously without the skewers for the latter). If you do decide to cook them on a barbecue, be wary that the prawns will be cooked quicker than the pork; it is best to place them on before the barbecue gets too hot, or perhaps as the last thing you cook.

All in all, my experiment was a success! It took a while to cook on the barbecue, probably because of my constant paranoia that they were underdone, but it was definitely worth the wait. They were very tasty and DH loved it.