I’ve spent this weekend visiting with a good friend in the country. In addition to the sheer delight of escaping London for a couple of days, I love visiting with this particular friend because (a) she’s simply the best company anyone could ever wish for (b) she has an idyllic lifestyle living in a chocolate box thatched roof cottage in a picture-perfect English village with her hubby, their giant breed dog and their dapper, showbiz, cat (jealous? me?) and finally (c) she is as passionate about food as I am and we relish in cooking/eating together.
There’s something about being in a country kitchen that immediately makes me ‘go all Beeton’ and I’m overwhelmed with a longing for a well-worn apron to wear and an urge to start baking. As my friend and I often share/swap recipes, and as I was dying to be let loose to crash about in her kitchen, she agreed to let me cook the meal on the first night.
I decided that I’d share my Vietnamese Summer Rolls recipe with her. First acquired from my wonderful friend Peter, I’ve slightly adapted the recipe over time, purely to introduce elements such as garlic and ginger.
We’re pretty lucky living in London (especially East London) as it means we’re surrounded by decent Asian supermarkets so rice paper pancakes are relatively easily obtained. Unfortunately they’re not so easy to come by in the countryside so I arrived armed with ingredients.
This meal is incredibly low maintenance. It’ll be ready in about 30mins, and as well as tasting delicious, looks utterly fantastic and will always impress friends who’ve come to visit.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 pack of cooked, peeled prawns (or you could use chicken/white fish if you’d prefer)
3 cloves of garlic
1 dessertspoon of fresh ginger
1 bowl of vermicelli rice noodles
1 red pepper
1 head of chinese leaf lettuce
1 cup of fresh coriander
8-10 rice paper pancakes
Sweet chilli sauce/soy sauce for dipping
(serves 2 – prep time:20mins, cooking time: 10mins)
Take the cucumber, red pepper and mango and slice each into thin julienne strips. Put each into its own little serving dish and leave aside. You’ll be serving these ingredients raw.
Roughly chop the coriander and put into its own serving dish and repeat the same for the chinese leaf lettuce.
Soak the rice noodles as per the pack instructions and then transfer to cold water to cool, before draining just before serving.
You can serve the prawns plain and cold but I prefer to warm them up in a pan with a few drops of oil, stirring through the garlic and ginger. Fresh chilli is also a nice addition/alternative if you fancy.
Boil up some water and pour it into a fairly deep, wide rimmed bowl. This is what you’ll be using to dunk the pancakes in so it needs to be wide/big enough to do that.
Lay all of the bowls of ingredients out on the table and then get rolling…
Start by dunking your pancakes in the hot water (be careful not to burn yourself of course). They get soft very quickly so mind that you hold them out and straight to avoid them rolling themselves up and sticking together. I liken holding them to when you hang a tshirt up on a washing line and you hold it up by its shoulders for pegging. That’s the way I hold the pancakes. Dunk a few times, rotating them round in your hands so the entire pancake gets dunked.
Then, lay the softened pancake out on your plate, and like making fajitas, start piling in the ingredients.
Once you’ve got a bit of everything in there, carefully lift one side and wrap it around the contents before tucking in the ends and rolling up the rest. You’re aiming to a nice, enclosed, cigar-shaped roll.
Dunk the pancake in your chosen dipping sauce and get scoffing. These pancakes are incredibly moreish so I normally expect people to eat about 4-5 pancakes each. Really healthy, low fat and delicious, these Summer Rolls are too good to only enjoy in summertime.