A few summers ago I developed a bit of an odd fixation. Food blogs are always part-confessional, aren't they? I think it's supposed to be charming. Well, here's a weird one for you. A few summers ago when it was really hot, I couldn't pass by a nice leafy shrub without a semi-compulsive desire to crawl underneath it and have a little rest in the dirt. I had a vision of lying on the cool, soft earth underneath, totally hidden, like a labrador trying to find solace from the sticky, humid air. Maybe it was heat-induced-fever, maybe some kind of freudian escapist fantasy. Make of it what you will.
Anyway, the weather is warming up again, and while the bizarre compulsion hasn't properly returned, I can't help but occasionally notice the nasturtiums growing wildly in my backyard and thinking that their underbellies would make quite a nice little daytime bed...
I've also noticed that they are good for making things pretty and tasty, which is comparatively much more normal.
Today I shall be explaining how to make rice paper rolls. Have you made them before? You should because it's easy and requires basically no recipe! Just a little airy-fairy arm waving and a good tub of peanut butter in the cupboard. Although... you do also need all these other bits and pieces:
Bok Choy or some other tasty green (I used Nasturtium leaves)
Vermicelli rice noodles
Rice paper sheets
Tofu (get a nice firm tofu, I swear by one we have in Australia called Garlic Tofu it's like tofu-crack)
Other bits you can throw in (if you are so inclined)
Chopped up peanuts
For the dipping sauce
Half a cup of peanut butter (I like crunchy!)
3 tbsp Hoisin sauce
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil
Juice from 1-2 limes (or lemons)
4 tsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 fresh chilli, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
What to do
Boil a kettle and pour hot water into a bowl, all over the vermicelli noodles. They should cook through in about 5 minutes. Once they're soft and taste cooked, drain them and toss through a bit of soy sauce to give them some extra flavour.
Chop up your cucumber and capsicum (and whatever other crunchy vegetables you have) into little matchsticks. Wash your mint leaves
Fry your tofu in some soy sauce (sweet chilli would be nice too) until it's crispy on the outside. Chop it into little long nugget-sticks. Chop your avocado into little long nugget-sticks too.
Now for the rice paper rolls! These look fancy, but don't be intimidated. The key is not getting greedy and overfilling them like I usually do.
First get a clean tea towel and wet it completely with water. Squeeze it out and lay it flat on your kitchen bench - this is your fancy rice-paper-rollin' workspace!
Now boil up a kettle of hot water, and pour it into a saucepan (or some vessel that you can dip your rice paper sheets into while keeping them flat). Take the sheet out once it's softened, but don't let it soften too much or it will crumble in your hands - you want it to still have a little give. This may take a few times experimenting, but once you've got the hang of it you are set. for. LIFE.
When your first sheet is nice and soft, spread it out onto the wet tea towel (this stops it sticking while you fill it with goodness).
Pile up your fillings. I like to start with a wad of vermicelli noodles, then layer all the veggies and mint, putting the green leafy bits on last so they help hold it together while you roll.
Now, take one side of the sheet and wrap it around the filling, so you're encasing it lengthways. Wrap it over and around the filling, until it touches the rice paper on the other side and sticks (god this is hard to explain!). Now tuck in the side end bits of the rice paper, like you're making a little envelope for your filling. Once you've got that all tucked, roll your rice paper roll up lengthways, kind of...wrapping it in on itself, until it's fully encased. I really hope that makes sense!
Anyhoos, the only really tricky part is the rolling, and evidently it's near-impossible to explain how to do it with words. I hope I've managed to convey the general impression to you. Once you've mastered the art of rolling you can mix and match ingredients and fill these tasty little morsels up to your heart's content!
To make your sauce, just mix all the sauce bits up with a whisk, then taste it, and adjust the proportions if you want it runnier/saltier/sweeter/more peanut-y
Now hop under your favourite leafy shrub with your rice paper rolls, dip them in your peanut sauce and off you go! Happy spring fever!