Grandma’s Rice Doodle

The sun is beating down swift rays with highs of thirty degrees this week. So I hope to be creating and introducing quite a few beautiful dishes for lunches, dinners, sides and snacks – ideal for any more heat waves over the summer months.

This is a lovely rice salad from my Grandmother’s repertoire that I found handwritten on a little slip of paper tucked away in the back of a book about French provincial cookery. Almost like a simple salad-version of a special fried rice dish, this little plate looks so pretty and has such subtle flavouring it’s lovely hot or cold.

A cup of rice (long grain is better for this recipe)
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 spring onion
Leftover roast chicken (or cooked prawns are a nice alternative)
1 Green pepper
½ cup of raisins
Chopped walnuts
A handful of grapes
Fresh parsley

Steam the rice until cooked and allow to cool a little before tossing the turmeric powder to stain the rice a soft yellow colour.  Finely chop the spring onion and pepper and toss into the rice along with the raisins and pieces of roasted chicken.

Garnish with halves of grapes, fresh parsley and the chopped walnuts.


Cheese Tartlets

Fancy a little tart?

Picnic season is upon this household and I have been making mini tarts to pack away into the picnic hamper. Here is a fantastic cheese tart recipe from my Grandmother’s repertoire complete with a complimenting pastry. There is a perfect balance of sweet and salty in every bite. When you’ve got the hand of one batch you can start to experiment with the different fillings.

For the pastry:
 225g plain flour
115g soft salted butter
1 small egg
3 tsp. sugar
A dash of cold water

For the filling:
200g Gruyere grated
1 cup milk
2 eggs beaten
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. tomato purée

(Quantities make about a dozen)

Start by making the pastry.
Cream the butter to a soft paste and add the sugar, salt and eggs. Mix until smooth. Combine the flour a bit at a time and using a fork, bring the mixture together to make a firm dough. Don’t over mix it.  Add a sprinkle of cold water if the dough is too dry and not coming together. 

If you have time, let the pastry rest for an hour. This allows for more elasticity when it comes to manipulating the dough. When you are ready to bake, roll the pastry out to no more than half a centimetre thick. Use the pastry to line your chosen baking tins – I used some different shapes and sizes for variety – a tart tray (or rather, a large Yorkshire pudding tray) and a muffin tin. You can use anything but just remember the idea is to keep them small and picnic-sized.

Tip: If you cut a square of baking parchment and slip this into the moulds first then line the pastry over it, you will find it easier to pull them out by lifting the paper at the corners. This is especially helpful if you want to serve them warm and they feel a little too delicate to just tip over and knock out.  This is also a good idea if you are using deeper containers like a muffin tin instead of a tart or flan dish.

Now for the filling.
Warm the milk in a pan. Combine the paprika and tomato pureé and whisk in the two eggs. The milk should not be so hot as to make the eggs curdle, so allow the liquid to cool a little if necessary.

Fill the centre of each tart with grated cheese and top it up with a little of the hot milk mixture. The cheese will collapse into the hot milk, so finish with more cheese if you have any left over.

Bake in a moderately hot oven – about 180° for around fifteen minutes or until the custard has just set and you can see the filling wobble a little.  The residual heat in the tart will finish the cooking to a perfect consistency.

Serve warm or allow them to cool for serving later. They can be stored in an airtight container and will keep for a couple of days if refrigerated.

You can have a straightforward Gruyere cheese filling, or mix it up by adding diced onion and tomato. My other tried and tested suggestions are aubergine and pepper, mushroom and asparagus or spinach and artichoke hearts. Leftover roast chicken, crispy bacon or even salmon are nice too. The choice is entirely yours.

Bon Appetit!   ~

Salmon and Crab Cakes

Making fish cakes with a home made tartare sauce is as easy as mashed potato. Prepared in advance summer starter for a dinner party, lunch time snack, or quick and easy main course – these little ocean beauties will give you a healthy little dose of Omega 3 and are a darn site healthier than cardboard fish pockets you get down the local chippy.

New Potatoes (half a small bag or about 1kg)
Crab meat (2 dressed crabs fresh or 1 tin – white and/or brown meat)
1 tin of salmon (tinned often works better in this case – holding the cake together.)
Small bunch of coriander
1 spring onion

2 slices of stale white bread
1 beaten egg

In a pot of salted water, boil the potatoes to a soft mash-able texture. Leave the skins on – they contain plenty of nutrients. Drain.

Finely slice the coriander and spring onion and mash these into the potato.  Add the salmon and crab meat and mix through. Leave to cool.

When the potato mix is cool make small patties; the size that fits comfortably in your hand. Or fill the inside space of a 2-inch diameter cookie cutter and push out carefully onto a plate. Do this until all your mix are in cake form. Cover with cling-film and leave to firm up and chill in the fridge for at least half and hour. (You can, at this point, freeze the patties for a later date – just make sure they are fully defrosted when it comes to cooking)

Reduce the stale bread to breadcrumbs in what ever way you please. Blitz them in a blender or freeze them and bash them out in advance. Place in a shallow dish, next to a beaten egg on a plate.

When slightly firmer, the fishcakes are ready to fry. Roll each side gently in the beaten egg and then turn them through the breadcrumbs to coat them evenly. Fry each side in a little oil for five minutes or until a nice brown, turning gently with a spatula or palette knife.

Set the cakes aside on a baking tray and keep warm in the oven on a low heat (120º) until they are ready to eat.

Serve with home made tartare sauce which is just 3:1:10 ratio of chopped capers to chopped parsley to mayonaise accordingly. Or some Thai sweet chilli sauce is great too.


What Can You Put in a Spring Roll?

I’m on a roll this week, forgive the pun.

What do you like a a spring roll? This is just one example with minced pork but you could try chicken, char sui pork, egg, duck, pure veg – what ever you fancy, the possibilities are endless. If you’re looking for more ideas scroll down.

Spring Roll Wrappers
Oil (to fry in)
500g minced pork
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 cup of cornflour
1 tsp sugar
1/2 head of Chinese leaf cabbage
1 carrot
A cup of fresh bean sprouts
1 inch fresh ginger, grounded
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine
Ground pepper
Preparing the filling
Fry off the pork mince and ginger in a large wok and once cooked, stir in the carrots and cabbage. Add the Chinese rice wine (I used Michiu), soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar,  a good grind of pepper, as well as just a teaspoon of the cornflour. When everything is nicely combined, take off the heat and allow to cool completely. The mixture needs to be drained of as much of the juices that will come out, especially after resting.  The more you drain now, the less likely the spring rolls will be soggy later (especially if you are planning on freezing them to cook at a later date).

When the mixture is cooled, add the fresh bean-sprouts. These, being so delicate, will get enough cooking in the frying phase alone.

Get rolling

The mixture, now drained and cooled, can now be rolled in to the wrappers. Prepare a dry work surface, and mix together the rest of the cornflour with a 1/4 cup of water. You will use this mixture as glue to close each wrapper.

Keep the rolls small – a spoonful at a time is best. It depends on the size of the pastry sheets you have, but consider that the wrapping needs to be tight which is easier with smaller rolls. Lose folds will make for greasier spring rolls, letting the oil collect in the pockets of air.

Place a row of the mixture in one corner of the sheet. Fold over the corner and begin to roll the wrapper towards the centre. At half way, fold in the sides tightly tugging down slightly in the direction of the already folded corner, so that the sides are as parallel as possible. This will ensure neater roll ends. Brush the flour water over the last corner to act as adhesive as you roll to the corner tightly.

To Fry
Heat about one and a half inches of oil in a pan carefully. Test the heat of the oil with a wooden chopstick (or the end of a wooden spoon) – if the oil bubbles steadily around the wood, the oil is at optimum temperature (but not bubbling furiously as this means it is too hot).

Slip each roll in gently and allow to fry for a minute or two on each side or until golden brown. Then remove and drain on a rack or some kitchen towel before serving. If you want to serve many in one go, have a baking tray on standby so that you can place batches of spring rolls onto and place them in a preheated oven to keep warm.

Other Filling Ideas

  • Char Sui Pork, bean sprouts, peas and carrots with a ginger, soy sauce and shaoxing wine seasoning.
  • Chicken and Chinese leaf cabbage with spring onions, shitake mushrooms, carrot, bean sprouts, garlic, ginger, light soy sauce, five spice & oyster sauce.
  • Finely sliced bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, shitake mushrooms, carrot and pepper, with soy sauce and oyster sauce.
  • Duck, Hoisin sauce, brown sugar, dark soy sauce, ginger and spring onion.
  • How about spicy king prawns, vermicelli noodles and coriander?