Where do you do your best thinking? Are you the type of person that can drift away while sitting at your desk at work? Or on the train? Though I wish I were sometimes, I have come to accept that I am just not a sit-and-thinker. Perhaps that’s why writing my Masters degree dissertation was such a struggle for me. I’ve found that my best ideas come to me when I am moving; when I’m out running, scrubbing my hair in the shower, or busy in the kitchen. By nature I am a planner, a doer, someone who needs to feel as though something is always progressing in some manner. By chopping or running or scrubbing my brain is satisfied by the motion, the feeling of progression or movement and can begin to fully relax and create.
This fairly simple recipe is a combination of many things that I love. Firstly, the ingredients are some of my favourites (rice noodles, soy and honey flavoured chicken, avocado and other crunchy veggies). Secondly, more times than not the girls seem to enjoy this relatively mess-free meal. And thirdly, between the meticulous rhythmic chopping and folding and rolling, my brain gives a giant sigh of relief, and comes up with some seriously kick-ass ideas.
The rice papers I got look like this.
Eventually I would love for the girls to be able to join in and make their own rolls, but it’s still a bit too delicate for chubby forceful fingers.
You could fill these with whatever you wanted really. Our combinations have included some or all of the following; vermicelli rice noodles, rotisserie chicken (such a good cheat on a weeknight!) mixed with a bit of soy sauce and honey, sliced ripe avocado, thinly sliced carrots, cucumbers, peppers, fresh mint leaves, fresh chillies, basil leaves, hoisin sauce…I highly recommend adding in some raw veggies, if for nothing else than a mix of textures and a good satisfying crunch.
You could also add cooked prawns, thin strips of beef, or salmon, deep fried tofu, edamame, peas, peanuts, blanched beans, blanched asparagus…. there are endless possibilities! It’s a wonderful way to get some veggies neatly tucked in among any leftover bits of meat you have in the fridge and some fresh herbs for a good bite. There’s no cooking involved, just prep, so although it’s a bit tedious, if you’re like me your brain will freaking love it! Plus, they look seriously pretty on a plate.
Chicken and Veggie Summer Rolls
vermicelli rice noodles (either white or brown works well) prepared, drained and cooled
chicken, marinated with soy sauce and honey
avocado, thinly sliced
carrot, cucumber, peppers- all thinly sliced
blanched asparagus or green beans
baby spinach, washed and dried
Dip your wrapper in a bowl of hot water, making sure to wet it completely but don’t leave it in there for more than a few seconds, then place it on your clean work surface. Beginning with your noodles (if using) or fresh baby spinach, then add a sparing amount of each ingredient into the centre of your wrapper, creating a long sausage, about 1/2 inch shorter than your wrapper on either side. Remember it has to close and wrap up tightly so less quantity and more variety is key in this situation. Also keep in mind as the wrapper is translucent, you can arrange your brightly coloured veg on the very top for a nice presentation affect at the end.
Gently, using your thumbs and index fingers, bring the bottom centre part of your wrapper over the top of your filling ingredients, using your remaining fingers to tuck the wrapper under the filling slightly and gently pull towards you, making sure there are no bubbles or slack spots in the wrapper. The rice paper wrapper should stick to itself at this stage, which makes it a bit fiddly, but also ensures your filling stays well in place.
You may want to fold the entire roll over once to ensure all the filling is really tucked inside, before folding in each side. For me, it varied entirely from roll to roll, which I did. Trial and error is a given, just remember you want to have a tightly rolled wrapper at the end, as it’s the most effective way to keeping the roll in tack when you eat it. Once you’ve folded in both sides, continue folding the roll over again until the entire wrapper is tightly wrapped around the filling. Think burrito, but tighter and more delicate. Cut the whole roll in half at a diagonal and arrange on a serving plate. You can serve with a dipping sauce if you like.
Your end result will look like this (hello rogue carrot strip):
And taste like this