Summer rolls are pretty much my favourite starter, they are super tasty and really easy to make, that is once you got past the slight fear of rolling greens in a very delicate piece of rice paper. It actually is not that delicate provided you use cold water and only briefly dip the paper in. Did you know that the Vietnamese name for summer rolls translates into salad in a roll? So you get exactly what it says ‘on the tin’- I always love it when that happens.
Summer rolls are unbeatable when it comes to freshness, the only thing cooked are the rice noodles, everything else is pretty much raw and you have got the free choice of greens, sprouts and nuts available at this time of the year. Though basil, coriander and mint are a must, otherwise you won’t get the distinct flavour going.
Mint is soothing for our digestion and basil & coriander are known to be anti-bacterial, helping to keep our summer rolls fresh. Combined this bright green herb mix not only bursts with flavour, it provides us with some antioxidant goodness of vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, K, C, copper, manganese, magnesium and calcium. The original version adds prawns and pork belly but I prefer to keep it vegetarian with some added nuts for extra protein. They are also faster to make, more economical and keep well if you take them to a pick -nick or in your lunch jar.
These little transparent starter delights are also perfect for dinners with friends- everyone can make their own roll- definitely a fun thing to do- not to mention the dipping sauces, they are just to die for. Homemade Hoisin and chili & ginger sauces are absolutely delicious, made in no time and they keep for a good while, so you can have your summer rolls when ever you feel like it.
Summer rolls – makes 12
12 round rice paper wrappers
100g brown rice vermicelli noodles
1 bunch of fresh coriander
1 bunch of basil or Thai basil
1 bunch of fresh mint- leaves only
1 bag of watercress, iceberg lettuce or bok choy- finely cut into strips
6 asparagus sticks- finely cut into 10cm strips and blanched
1 large carrot- roughly grated and blanched
1 cup of shredded red cabbage – blanched
1 bunch of spring onions- finely sliced
1 cup of fresh or roasted peanuts, cashew & pecan – chopped finely
1 ripe avocado- thinly sliced
50g alfafa sprouts ( or sprout mix of your choice)
Hoisin Sauce – 100ml
1 small cup of organic tamari or gluten free soy sauce
1 tbsp of peanut butter ( you can use tahini if you are allergic to peanuts)
2 tbsp of agave; maple syrup, honey or molasses
1/2 small cup of rice vinegar
1 finely shopped or grated clove of garlic
1 tbsp of sesame seed oil
1/2 tsp fresh hot chilli finely chopped- careful don’t make it too hot
Chili & Ginger dipping sauce- 50ml
2 small cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 tbsp of freshly grated ginger
1 tbsp of maple syrup
3 tbsp of fish sauce ( vegan version use algae blended/soaked with water)
1/2 tsp of hot chili or less careful with the heat
juice of 1 lime
It’s best to start with making the sauces, so you can start eating as soon as you have made your first roll. The Hoisin sauce involves some cooking the Chili&Ginger sauce is made rather quickly, so best to make that whilst the Hoisin is simmering away.
For the Hoisin sauce take a small pot, add all ingredients, bring to the boil,then turn down the heat and leave to simmer until reduced by 1/4- stir well so the peanut butter completely dissolves. Keep an eye so it doesn’t burn. Once you have a nice and thick sauce fill into a jar and leave to cool.
For the Chili & Ginger Sauce, simply add all ingredients into a jar, close tightly and shake well, done.
For the summer rolls start with putting the rice noodles in a glass bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to soak for 5 minutes. Best to cover the bowl with a plate to keep the heat inside. After 5 minutes rinse with cold water and set aside.
Next, cut your greens in a string like way- maximum 10cm length- that way they you can create rolls of a similar length. Blanch the shredded /grated cabbage and carrots, that way they are easier to digest and will not be as hard. Simply cover with boiling water for 2-3 minutes and drain and rinse with cold water, do the carrots separately as the red cabbage will leak quite a bit of colour. Repeat the blanching process for the asparagus and any other cabbage types or broccoli in case you are using that.
It will be best to prepare a plate with all ingredients so you are ready to fill each roll as you go along. For dinner parties prepare a few plates and bowls and distribute across your dining table, so everyone can access what they need for their rolls.
Once you are ready to make the rolls, dip one of the rice papers in a bowl of cold water, no need to move it around or leave for longer, just make sure it has completely been covered by water for a second or two. When lifting the paper out of the water, leave to drain for a few seconds, so it doesn’t end up being to wet in some places and not in others.
Place a rice paper wrapper on a board and at one end of the wrapper put your ingredients. I usually start with asparagus or cucumber, so I get the dimensions right and add more greens, herbs, sprouts, nuts and some noodles on top, then I put red cabbage and carrots just in the next ‘row’ and fold over the left side, then the right side of the wrapper and tightly but carefully roll up to create a complete roll – done next. Please be careful not to overfill the wrappers, they easily break otherwise. Dip the summer roll into your sauces and enjoy !
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