Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dainty Spring Rolls

Ever since I was little, I had always looked forward to having people over for dinner and there was nothing I liked more than having 10+ people crowded around the table, working towards a meal. Dumplings are a real favourite of mine and spring rolls come at a close second.

The problem with these dainty morsels is that they're quite time consuming to make so they're only brought out for special occasions when there are a lot of helping hands. Being vegetarian, though, they are quite an inexpensive party snack -especially when compared to the store bought ones!

Much of the ready-to-eat variety that I have come across are often too large so the pastry to filling ratio is not quite to my liking so I find myself craving some of mum's dainty ones -with just the right amount of crunch! 

Remember to cool and drain before wrapping!
The greatest thing about spring rolls is that you can put anything you want in it -just make sure you've chopped it up teeny tiny so it cooks quickly and doesn't burst through the skin when you cook your spring rolls. What this means for the hard-set meat eaters is that you can include some pork mince in the filling too! Or chicken, or beef, or fish! 

..Maybe not fish.. 

Pop them in a fry pan until golden and crispy.
So if you are craving some snacks this weekend, why not invite some friends around and make my mother's spring rolls? Check out the step-by-step wrapping instructions below (and then maybe bring some my way?)

1. Cut large sheets into quarters. This one's been cut in half once already.
2. Position a quarter in front of you so it is in a diamond shape and spoon approximately 2 teaspoons of filling in the centre.3.  Bring the bottom corner up towards the middle.4. Bring in the sides and, using your finger, dab some beaten egg on the top edge.5. Roll the rest of it up and repeat above steps.

6. Eventually, you will end up with a nice little heap for frying.

Lucy's notes and tips:

1. Shallow frying spring rolls uses less oil and means that your rolls won't fill up with hot oil if you neglect to wrap them up tight.

2. Getting rid of the moisture in the filling is important! This ensures your wrapper doesn't get soggy and break.

3. Resist the urge to eat them as soon as they come out of the pan. THEY ARE HOT!

Spring Rolls -the ones I grew up with (makes 48 snack sized rolls)

1 carrot, julienned
250g bean sprouts
10 big dried Chinese mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 30 minutes and cut into small pieces
1 spring onion, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon cornflour, mixed with 2 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoon white sugar
Salt and white pepper for seasoning
1 egg, beaten
1 Tablespoon oil, plus extra for frying
12 large ready-made sheets of spring roll pastry, thawed (you can get these from Asian supermarkets)

1. Heat the first measure of oil in a frying pan and add the first 4 ingredients and stir fry for 3-4 minutes.
2. Stir in the cornflour mixture. Season with soy sauce, sugar, salt and pepper and stir well to combine.
3. Take the ingredients off the heat once the bean sprouts have become see through and set aside to cool.
4. Once cool, drain most of the liquid.
5. Cut the spring roll wrappers into equal quarters.
6. Position a quarter in front of you so it is a diamond shape and spoon approximately 2 teaspoons of filling into the centre of the wrapper. Bring the bottom corner up towards the middle and fold in the sides. Brush the top edge with the beaten egg and roll all the way to the top (it's easier if you look at the pictures..)
7. Repeat step 6 with the remaining wrappers and filling.
8. Heat a frying pan over high heat and pour enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan and wait until hot. Carefully place the spring rolls side by side and turn every minute or so until all sides are golden and crunchy. 
(Note: Unless you have a gigantic pan, you will probably have to do this in batches. Allow about 5 minutes for each batch.)
9. Remove and allow to drain on paper towels.
10. Serve immediately with some sweet chili sauce.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Theatre Cafe

Karangahape Road is famous in Auckland for having awesome bars, quirky cafes and dodgy people. Despite hearing many adventures (or misadventures) from my friends, I had rarely wandered up to K'rd myself for fear of meeting "ladies from the night" (re: dodgy people), but mostly because I didn't want to walk up the massive hill which led to it.

The cafe was once the entrance to Mercury Theatre
Now that I've started working in town (and literally 5 minutes away from K'rd), the big hill is no longer an issue and I have found the most fantastic little shops and cafes. 

One of my greatest finds is Theatre, which is a little cafe tucked neatly in between my regular sushi place and what I think is a tattooist shop. I had often found the urge to enter but my fear of being seen eating along had stopped me from venturing within.

My curiosity eventually got the better of me and, let me just say, that this was one of the best decisions I have made this month. Upon entering Theatre, I was immediately overwhelmed by the amazing staircase and ceiling. As the name hints, this cafe was once a theatre and, throughout its life, has seen many transformations from a fruit shop, to a mediocre burger joint before having its ceiling lovingly restored to become Theatre cafe.   

Brain Focus - $6.50 and Banana Smoothie - $6.50
We started off with a couple of drinks while we waited. Feeling a little tired I chose the Brain Focus with the hopes that it would help me concentrate later in the afternoon. This was the perfect concoction of beetroot, carrot, orange and spinach juice which isn't as strange as it sounds, and very very refreshing.

Jason went with his usual banana smoothie and was pleasantly surprised with the drizzle of Manuka honey down the side of the glass which was "simply delightful."

Tuatara Ale Grilled Steak - $17.50, Potato Rosti (side) - $4.50
We had both decided that steak would be the perfect lunch and there is nothing better than steak marinated in ale! This hearty dish was very satisfying and totally hit the spot. The steak was perfectly cooked and cut into bit size pieces, served on super crunchy ciabatta with roast tomato, salad and a punchy horseradish cream. The portion size was very generous with a decent amount of steak (in contrast to other cafes that appear to try and fill you up on bread or fries).

Hakanoa Ginger Latte - $4.50
Berry Smoothie - $6.50
I was so impressed with Theatre cafe (and stoked that it is only a 5 minute walk from work) that I persuaded a friend from work to come with me the following week! This time, I chose a ginger latte as we had just spent the rainy morning out on site while she went with a berry smoothie with the special Manuka honey drizzle.

Grilled Cajun Chicken - $17.50
I ordered the cajun chicken which came with toasted ciabatta, salad and honey roasted carrots and kumara. Again, the portion size was very generous with what seemed like at least a quarter of a perfectly cooked and succulent chicken, with a strong cumin flavour and the perfect amount of spice.

I am absolutely ecstatic that this little gem is so close to work and I can't wait to find another excuse to come back. If you want to admire this fabulous building and enjoy some fantastic food, come to 256 Karangahape Road, Auckland.