Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Vietnamese Spring RollsMy Christmas consisted mainly of something I like to call ‘chain snacking’. No sooner was my right hand picking the last of the mince pie crumbs off my expanding belly, I would find my other hand ferreting tentacle-like in the box of salted caramels nearby.  My right hand, not to be outdone, would then search out a cube of Turkish delight and be ready to shotgun it before the caramel had even had the chance to cling to one of my teeth. I suspect I looked like a combination of Homer Simpson and Vishnu, each of my 8 hands tossing the next treat into open jaws while a bowling ball sized lump expanded steadily at my midriff.

So now it is time for penance, and it will take more than holding of the breath and prodding of the belly to loosen these trousers. But the depths of winter is no time to turn to salads, so we must instead make comfort foods that are satisfying and wholesome, yet light. Most importantly, we cannot sacrifice flavour, otherwise our snouts will be back in the biscuit box before you can say oompa loompa. Continue reading

Using Dried Chillies

Dried Guindilla and Nora Chillies

A friend who makes chilli sauces once gave me a jar full of various exotic dried chillies, then gave me a concerned look and said “You do know how to use dried chillies, don’t you?”. I snorted and rolled my eyes a few times to imply that, yes, of course I did, how could anyone not know, but then sheepishly admitted, “No”.

And to be fair, most people would probably look at a dried chilli and make very little connection between this and a finished meal, but using dried chillies in cooking gives you a great resouce that unlike fresh chillies is always available.  Some chillies such as Chipotle (dried and smoked jalapeno chillies) can just be thrown in the pot whole with other ingredients and removed at the end, but traditional Spanish chillies such as the Guindilla and Nora from Brindisa Spanish Foods in the photo above require some simple preparation before use, as follows: Continue reading

Quick and Convenient Fresh Pesto Cubes

guindilla chilli pesto
There’s not better topping for pasta than fresh pesto, it’s a whole lot better than the stuff you get in jars that the Italians call ‘dead pesto’. Unfortunately, it can be a hassle to make and tends to only last for a few days in the fridge, and you hardly want to eat it for several days in a row… A great tip is to make a quantity of fresh pesto (or any intense pasta sauce) and put it into an ice cube tray.  When it’s frozen, pop the cubes out and keep them in a plastic bag. When you need one, take it out of the freezer and throw it in the still warm cooked pasta. Stir round the pan a little to help it melt, and voila, fresh pesto in no time at all! The flavour is retained by freezing, and you can toss in as many portions as you require. Continue reading