Courgette flowers continue to be a joy. Cheering my mornings with their generous wide open petals reaching for the sky with happy abundance. Greeting bees and then once the bees have had their turn, they come into the kitchen for me. Such a versatile ingredient, cooked until wilted just so and still retaining texture, they taste a little of courgette and mostly of themselves.
I can’t get enough pastry this week. I just can’t. Sweet tarts, savoury, small little leftover bits crisped with peanut butter and a drizzle of maple syrup, to have on top of sweet raspberries mixed with coconut cream. That was awesome. Today, I decided I wanted a tart for lunch, with a whole meal in it. Pastry as a plate, a crisp flaky gorgeous one.
I have made puff pastry before, but not today. And not often. It is a faff. (I respect, admire and worry about home cooks who frequently make it). I used shop bought which made this speedy and not very challenging at all. One of the first of the seasons bright tomatoes, a joyful yellow one bursting with sunshine. Some stout asparagus spears in pancetta straight jackets, crisped to submission, a pert egg and a light cover of cheese with the intention of gently covering the yolk so that it didn’t blister in the heat and giving it an extra layer of magic. A little chilli just to wake it all up. On top of that some crisped kale, because you have to.
Very simple and it looks impressive. Give it a blast!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 18 minutes
Yield: per person
The perfect summer tart!
- 1 x sheet shop bought puff pastry (all butter if you can get it)
- 1 large tomato (I used a gorgeous yellow one)
- 2 eggs
- 3 asparagus spears
- 3 x slices pancetta (or ham or bacon - sliced thin if you can)
- a little grated cheddar or parmesan
- a handful of kale, torn from the stem
- a little light oil like rapeseed or sunflower oil
- 1 egg for egg wash
- sea salt and a little mild chilli
I am summer roll crazy right now. When at home I have made them at least twice a week, and always with different fillings. Sometimes prawns, sometimes tofu, and yesterday, with chilli and lime salmon and samphire, and then the ultimate pork belly & crackling. Crunch, swoosh, zing.
A summer roll is really just a beautifully packaged noodle salad. And a very portable one. Hello, lunch? Rice noodles (vermicelli) and friends, all neatly packaged in a water softened rice paper wrap. They seem complicated but they are not all that difficult to roll, with practice. After 3 or 4, you will have the knack, and they will take over your summer. I keep the noodle content low, as I find they get a bit rubbery if there is too much. I like to keep them packed with colour and freshness, grated carrot, fresh coriander and mint, and the zing of a fresh fruity not-so-hot chilli.
The wraps are fairly easy to source, I buy them in Chinatown usually but my local health food shop and supermarket stock them also. You can buy different sizes, I go for the bigger one, they are just easier. You can put whatever you want in your summer roll, I love these flavour combinations, and any leftover filling, should you have any, is perfectly good as a salad on its own.
Recipe: Vietnamese Summer Rolls Two Ways; Chilli Salmon & Samphire Rolls and Pork Belly & Crackling Rolls
Makes 12 – 16 depending on how big you make them
Vietnamese rice paper wraps – 12-16 to start but I suggest stacking up
50g vermicelli rice noodles, prepared according to packet instructions (mine needed to be soaked in boiling water for 12 minutes)
a handful of chopped fresh mint leaves
a handful of chopped fresh coriander leaves
1 mild fruity red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
1 carrot, grated
4 spring onions, finely chopped
good dried chilli
fresh cracked black pepper
a handful of fresh samphire
Pork belly filling
750g pork belly with skin on (allowing some for the cook to nibble on while they work ;) )
1 tsp sea salt
2 tsp fennel seed
1 tsp black peppercorns
Pork belly – score the top using a sharp knife (or stanley knife – really, that skin is tough!) cutting through the skin until before the flesh. Don’t cut through to the flesh as it will lose moisture while cooking which affects the crackling making it rubbery, and also makes the flesh dry. Put the pork on a wire tray (like a grill pan) skin side up and pour boiling water over it to puff the skin up. Drain and dry the skin with kitchen paper. Leave at room temperature for half an hour.
Preheat the oven to 220 deg C. In a pestle and mortar / spice grinder combine 1 tsp sea salt / 1 tsp black peppercorns / 2 tsp final and grind until a rough powder. Dry the pork belly skin again, completely, if you own a hair dryer this works well (again, really), I use kitchen paper, and rub the fennel mixture all over the pork – skin and flesh. Place in the oven at 220 deg C for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 170 deg C and cook for a further 45 minutes. Check the skin, if not puffed up, blast at high heat for 5 minutes or place under the grill and keep a very close eye on it – it will burn quickly. Remove and leave to cool down a bit.
I cooked the salmon in the same oven for the last 20 minutes. Squeeze the lime over the salmon and top with a little sea salt, some chilli and pepper. Place on some greaseproof paper, enough to make a parcel (about 3 times the length and width) and fold the greaseproof paper tight on top to secure it. You can tie it with string but mine was fine like this. Cook for 20 minutes at 170 deg C. For the last two minutes add the samphire to the parcel, just to soften it. The samphire is also lovely raw so you can just put it in raw too). Remove from the oven and allow to cool down.
Combine the rest of the ingredients for the rolls – noodles, herbs et al.
Put about an inch of water in a bowl or deep plate large enough to fit the wraps (one at a time). Soak each one for 30 seconds or so, until just soft and pliable but not too soft (they will tear). You will get a feel for it.
Place a small amount of pork belly and crackling or salmon and samphire in the bottom centre third leaving an inch at the end (see photo). Place some of the noodle mixture on top. Fold each side over, then roll from the bottom (see photos).
Leave on a plate while you roll the others. Leave space between them or they will stick.
Eat immediately or store covered in cling film in the fridge.
You know how it is. You have leftovers, and you need to use them. Or you are tired, and all you want to do is use the leftovers. Either way, this is leftover city and we have to use them up. Leftovers get a bad rep but they are the best thing in a kitchen. Flavours are usually at their best the next day, at the very least they can be livened up quickly and you can have a terrific meal in minutes.
Take a chicken. Say, leftover roast chicken. So good on its own, wonderful with mayo and stuffing in a sandwich, but what about looking East and giving it a little heat, then pumping it awake with some aromatics, some nuts for texture (I am putting peanuts in everything at the moment) and you have a dish that will make you want to roast a chicken and not eat it, but save it for this. Of course you can just roast a chicken thigh for one person to order, which I also did today.
Plus, isn’t it hot? I want something refreshing, bright and quick. This takes 10 minutes to put together and I have eaten this three times since I came up with it last week. Rice noodles with shredded chicken, fried peanuts, spring onions, a little hot chilli, a pinch and punch of garlic and ginger, tickle of fresh coriander, lick of fish sauce and sprinkle of fresh lime.
Sounds good, right? Here is how.
Recipe: Chicken Rice Noodles with Peanuts, Chilli & Coriander
100g thick rice noodles (thin will do fine too)
300g leftover chicken, shredded
1 chilli, as hot as you like, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 tbsp peanuts (peeled or unpeeled are fine)
4 spring onions, chopped finely
a handful of fresh coriander leaves
juice of one lime and extra lime wedges to serve
2 tbsp good fish sauce
sea salt to taste
light oil for frying
1 tbsp fresh mint leaves (optional – they give another fresh layer)
Cook the rice noodles according to packet instructions (mine needed to be soaked in boiling water for 12 minutes).
Sauté the chicken and peanuts in a little light oil for a few minutes. Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and sauté for a further 2 minutes. Add the spring onions, stir through, then add the noodles. Mix until well combined. Add the lime and fish sauce and taste for seasoning. The fish sauce acts as a salt (it has a lot of salt in) so you may not need any. Adjust lime and fish sauce for your taste if required. Finish with the coriander and mint (if using), stirring through, and serve with an extra lime wedge on the side.
Enjoy! This eats really well hot or cold. Perfect lunch or picnic food too.