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Food, general thoughts, food…

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Vegetable spring rolls

Today I made Spring Rolls. First time ever.

I really like spring rolls, I often buy the boxes of mini ones from the frozen isle in my supermarket to heat up for a quick lunch or dinner. I had never considered making them myself until I looked at the price of them the other day and began mentally slapping myself for spending so much money just for a few quick meals, that and the amount of oil that flowed out of these little snacks while oven baking was crazy! Surely I could make them myself. So I went online and found out about spring roll wrappers, available near the frozen pastry and so much cheaper than the premade rolls. I looked over a few recipes and tried out a pork one first, hated it and realised that I was really after a vegetable spring roll, no meat. So I started to look for good vegetable spring roll recipe. I wasn’t highly enamoured with a lot of the recipes I found so I combined the best of each and then oven baked them, because I hate to deep fry, and came up with the perfect recipe (for me). Just what the doctor ordered. I also made them big, not like the tiny mini ones for cocktail parties, although (if you are patient enough) you could cut the wrappers in 4 and make teeny ones. I am not patient enough.

I put the cabbage and the carrots through the food processor to shred them and hand chopped everything else.

This recipe made 20 spring rolls with a few spoonfuls left over. It could have made 21 but I wasn’t thawing out a full pack for 1 more sheet. I ate the rest of the filling off of a spoon, it was really fresh and light.

Vegetable spring rolls

100g Asian vermicelli noodles
1 Tbls oil
1 tsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 spring onions, chopped finely
½ Chinese cabbage, sliced finely
1 tin bamboo shoots, chopped roughly
3 carrots, peeled and grated
1 tin water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 Tbls soy sauce
Black Pepper, to taste (about 1 tsp I think)
1 packet (20) frozen spring roll wrappers, thawed
Sweet chilli sauce to serve

Boil or soak your vermicelli noodles until soft.
Bring a wok or non-stick frying pan to a high heat, and add oil.
Add garlic, cabbage, bamboo shoots, carrot and onion and cook until soft, about 4 minutes.
Stir through noodles, chopping them as you go, and then water chestnuts.
Add soy sauce to taste and a few good grinds of pepper.
Set aside to cool completely.

Lay a spring roll wrapper on the bench and turn it diagonally to make a diamond shape.
Fill with 1½ tablespoons filling slightly higher than the centre of the wrapper.
Roll the top of the wrapper over the mixture and tuck each side inward.
Roll the wrapper downwards and then dampen the end with water then roll the wrapper to close it.
Continue until you have used all the mixture.

Place completed spring rolls on oven trays with the seam side down.
If using immediately spray with spray oil and place in a 180C oven until lightly browned and crisp.
If storing for later use place trays in the freezer to snap freeze and then remove to bags for extended storage.


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Cheesy Roasted Red Pepper Bread

I wanted something tasty and warming for lunch with my sister. Both of us normally avoid bread but I felt like something a bit different and if you can’t treat yourself when you have guests, when can you? Aside from that I always feel like treats shared are not as bad for you as treats horded, amazing how your brain can justify anything…

Anyway as it was lunch and not a side I used a large rye loaf instead of a French loaf. Frankly I think a French loaf would be easier to deal with, it is smaller to would be easier to both cut and eat, the rye loaf tasted amazing though and I think the messiness kind of added to the charm. I like finger foods.
Also I wasn’t very confident that I could slice a French loaf into 3 layers successfully as I am a bit of a klutz.
The cumin really added something special here and as always I substituted the cilantro/coriander as I just cannot like it no matter how often I try.

Cheesy Roasted Red Pepper Bread

1 loaf  of French bread (I used a much larger and more robust rye loaf)
1 cup  shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup  mayonnaise or salad dressing (I used mayo)
1/4 cup  roasted red bell peppers well drained, finely chopped
1 tablespoon  chopped fresh cilantro (I dislike coriander and so used parsley)
1/2 teaspoon  ground cumin
1 small  onion

Heat oven to 200C.
Cut bread loaf horizontally into 3 layers. Mix remaining ingredients.
Spread half of the cheese mixture over bottom layer. Top with second layer;
spread with remaining cheese mixture.
Top with third layer; press firmly.
Wrap loaf securely in heavy-duty aluminum foil.
Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until hot. Serve warm.

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Hot Broccoli Dip

I am not a good photographer by any stretch of the imagination. This issue is compounded with this recipe because hot dip, in my opinion, is the most un-photogenic food in the world. Despite this I have included this photo because the resulting mess was really delicious and even my vegetable hating husband got tucked into it (there is no better way to promote a vegetable dip than saying ‘my husband ate it’).

I imagine this would have to be one of the most unhealthy ways to include a vegetable in your diet but I choose to rather look at the positive, at least he ate a vegetable today…

Hot Broccoli Dip

1 cup fresh broccoli florets, chopped (I just used a whole head)
2 Tblsp onion, chopped
2 Tblsp red bell, chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream (of course, I used Greek yoghurt, hence the grainy looking texture)
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 180C.
Chop broccoli, onion, and bell pepper; place in a mixing bowl.
Reserve 2 Tblsp of the parmesan cheese and add the rest plus remaining ingredients
to vegetables and mix well.
Spoon into a small baking dish and bake 20-25 minutes or until heated through.
Sprinkle remaining 2 Tblsp parmesan cheese over top and serve with crackers, French bread or pita chips.

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Simple Sausage Rolls

To rescue this blog from becoming a primarily political rant I shall now post a recipe that I made on Friday evening. This ended up becoming Friday night dinner and the rest were polished off on Saturday, a testament to the fact that they were delicious.

Measurements are kind of sketchy as I sort of threw in whatever I found in the pantry at first glance. Primarily the flavouring was thyme from the garden as I have loads of it at the moment.

Simple Sausage Rolls

1kg beef sausage mince
Full handful of fresh thyme removed from stems
1 Tbls BBQ spice (I had an old container of this in the cupboard and just tossed it in as an afterthought, it gave them a nice smokiness)
1 cup bread crumbs
4x sheets of store bought puff pastry
1 egg, beaten to make a wash

Mix together first 4 ingredients thoroughly (use your hands but try to let the sausage mince come to room temperature first else it can be painfully cold).
Cut each pastry sheet into two pieces.
Lay the sausage mince in a tubular shape down one edge of the pastry, leaving a gap of about 2 cm.
Egg wash down this side and then roll the pastry over the mince, creating your sausage roll and using the egg wash to stick the ends. Place seam down on a baking tray.
Repeat until all pastry and mince is used.
Egg wash over each sausage roll and bake in a 180C oven until golden brown.
Try to avoid eating for 5 mins or so, you will burn your mouth but it is almost worth it!

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Going Nuts, in the best way possible

I love nuts. Although this looks like primarily peanuts (which it is) there were quite a few oddments included, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, walnuts and almonds to name a few. I had a few bags of nuts in the cupboard, bits of leftover this and that from various recipes that called for them, and I had a craving for something sweet and spicy to make them just a bit more interesting than a bag of nuts is wont to be. I did some digging and came up with this. I think it could have used a little more spice personally; it had a tiny zing of heat but needed a bit more of a kick to be truly satisfying. Maybe a little lemon juice or cider vinegar for an acidic touch or maybe a little fish sauce for a bit if an Asian bent, if you like that kind of thing, or even cinnamon if you are into that sweet Christmasy touch. It was a good starting point anyway and I ate the whole lot over a stretch of about 3 days.

Sweet and Spicy Nuts

4 cups of untoasted nuts (whatever varieties appeal to you, or you have handy)
1 tsp salt (I used a little less as some of my nuts were already salted)
½ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
½ cup white sugar
¼ cup water
1 Tbls butter

Preheat oven to 175 C. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat with cooking spray. (This might be a good idea, I did mine on the trays and they stuck like limpets)
Combine nuts in a large bowl. Add salt, black pepper, cumin, and cayenne pepper; toss to coat.
Heat sugar, water, and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat until the butter is melted.
Cook for 1 minute and remove from heat. Slowly pour butter mixture over the bowl of nuts and stir to coat.
Transfer nuts to the prepared baking sheet and spread into a single layer.
Bake nuts in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Stir nuts until the warm syrup coats every nut. Spread into a single layer, return to the oven, and bake until nuts are sticky and roasted, about 6 minutes.
Allow to cool before serving. (This IS a good idea, these things are blisteringly hot when straight out of the oven as the scorch marks on my fingers and tongue prove quite conclusively)

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Pizza dough

I love pizza, I have always enjoyed pizza over all other take away food and like all (old) people, I remember it being so much better when I was younger. These days everything is about making it cheaper and making it more cost effective for the establishment, there are not too many places where it is all about the product anymore, to combat this lack of quality in the food that is presented to me, I have simply boycotted take away food.

This decision has opened up an additional world of cooking opportunities as I make food that is both wholesome and tasty and is more of a reflection of food the way that I remember it from my youth.

One thing that I enjoy making is pizza, it is such a simple food to prepare in such a way that it is as tasty as possible, it is inexpensive to do also, to the point that I wonder how it is that the ‘will remain nameless’ pizza chains do it so badly even in the pursuit of an extra dollar.

I have a favourite pizza dough recipe. I have tried several others, including the yoghurt and baking powder varieties that are perfectly serviceable but just don’t do it for me personally. It might just be that I really enjoy bread making and don’t really do it enough so pizza gives me an excuse to knead and pummel dough to my hearts content. I think though that I just prefer the yeastiness of real dough over the other kind.

This was dinner on a Sunday night; I made the dough earlier in the day and let it sit until I needed it. I had the heater on in the living area so my dough sat there for a while to prove but it has been known to co-habit the laundry while the dryer runs on occasion, or sit on the floor near the window on a sunnier day, where ever the warmth is, that is where it gets put.

This dough makes enough for 2 large thin crust pizzas and we top them uncooked, the dough cooks in the oven along with the topping. It cooks beautifully in that time. Usually we do a bacon and pineapple combo as is pictured here, it is everyone’s favourite but we have done lots of different toppings, it just depends what is in the fridge. I cook it at about 180C and just watch until I am sure it is cooked through, I imagine that it takes about 20 mins but don’t quote me, I really have no idea.

Pizza dough

375ml (1 1/2 cups) warm water
2 tsp (7g/1 sachet) dried yeast
Pinch of caster sugar
600g (4 cups) plain flour
1 tsp salt
Dried Herbs (I use an Italian mix)
60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil, plus extra for brushing

Combine the water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes or until foamy.
Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl and make a well in the centre.
Add the yeast mixture and oil. Use a round-bladed knife in a cutting motion to mix until the mixture is combined.
Use your hands to bring the dough together in the bowl.
Brush a bowl lightly with oil. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for
10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
Place in the prepared bowl and turn to coat in oil.
Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draught-free place to rise for 30 minutes or until dough doubles in size.


Lunch Scrolls

The kids are with us again this weekend and, as typical kids will, they would be happiest subsisting entirely on junk food. This being somewhat of an affront to my sensibilities, I am kept on my toes thinking of things that I think they will enjoy eating that are not purchased at exorbitant costs from deeply uninterested conglomerates and are of universally poor quality.

Today, for lunch, I whipped up a batch of bacon rolls, the recipe for which was adapted from a salami roll recipe, I didn’t have any salami. They went down well, and the entire batch was gone before the trays cooled down.

This recipe could be dressed up with almost anything you have on hand. Like I say, I substituted bacon for the salami, I also cooked the capsicum along with the bacon. You could use ham or chicken, BBQ sauce or satay. Anything that tickles your fancy really.

Salami Scrolls
Makes 12

2 cups self-raising flour
30 g butter, chilled
¾ cup milk
¼ cup tomato paste
1 sprig basil, chopped
1 sprig parsley, chopped
100 g salami, diced (I used cooked bacon)
1 medium red capsicum, diced (I cooked this up also)
150 g cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 180°C and line an oven tray with baking paper.
Place flour and butter in a bowl, once blended add the milk gradually
and use fingers to combine together to make a soft, sticky dough.
Knead lightly on a floured surface.
Roll dough into a 30 cm x 40 cm rectangle. Spread the tomato paste over the dough,
sprinkle the chopped herbs on top. Top with salami, capsicum and cheese.
Roll up from the long side of the dough. Using a serrated knife, cut into 12 pieces.
Place cut side up on oven tray and bake for 25 minutes until brown.