Tofu and vegetable summer rolls


These Vietnamese summer rolls are light and silky on the outside and a tasty tangle of textures on the inside. 

They’re the perfect option for a fun, healthy dinner party starter, an impressive party snack or a light summertime supper.

Crunchy tofu pieces cooked in a creamy, peanut sauce sit atop sleek pan-fried vegetable ribbons and fine, cooked egg noodles. All wrapped up in silky softened rice paper.

Vietnam is a country I’ve wanted to visit for years. Of course for its colourful history, amazing landscape and sandy beaches, but  mostly for its cuisine.

London’s Vietnamese restaurants

The Vietnamese restaurants on Kingsland Road in Dalston, east London, are my go-to for a fail safe, delicious meal. From Vermicelli noodles and claypot curries to stir-fries and pho, there’s a wealth of amazing dishes to try, made with fresh herbs and vegetables, seafood and satisfying carbs.

These summer rolls are a little fiddly to make, but only in their assembly. If you’re a dab hand at rolling a burrito, then you’ll get on just fine with these delightful little wraps.

They’re really versatile, so you could easily swap out the vegetables I used for whatever you’ve got in the fridge. Though I would recommend using veggies that you can slice into long, thin strips. Also, if you have some fresh herbs, like mint or coriander, pop them in for a lovely flavour addition.

Traditionally they’re served cold, with raw vegetables and cold fish or meat, but I wanted to cook my filling to crisp up the tofu and soften the vegetables. I served them lukewarm with the indulgent satay dipping sauce, and some sriracha chilli and plum sauces for a bit of variety.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1 small courgette
  • 8 rice paper wrappers
  • 200g firm tofu, drained
  • 1 fine egg noodle nest
  • 1 green pepper

For the satay sauce:

  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 3 drops rice wine
  • 2 tbsp cold water

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves 2 as supper or 4 as a starter

Method

  1. Pop the noodles in a large bowl and pour over boiling water to cover. Leave to soften.
  2. Place all of the sauce ingredients into a measuring jug and whizz up with a hand blender. The consistency should be fairly runny. If it’s a little thick, add a drop more cold water and mix in.
  3. Put a large frying pan on a medium to high heat and pour in the oil.
  4. Slice the tofu into slim rectangular pieces and add to the frying pan. Cook until browned up, stirring every few minutes. Half way through cooking, add a tablespoon of the satay sauce to coat the tofu pieces. Stir.
  5. While the tofu is cooking, slice the onion, courgette and pepper into very fine slices.
  6. After about 10 minutes the tofu should have crisped up. When it’s ready, set it to one side on a small plate.
  7. Add the vegetable ribbons to the pan and cook until softened, stirring often. This should take roughly five minutes. When they’ve softened, take them off the heat.
  8. Drain the noodles and put them back in the bowl.
  9. Pour some near-boiling water into a large shallow bowl or deep plate. Take one sheet of rice paper and dip it in the water until it softens all over.
  10. Carefully place the paper onto a chopping board. Time to assemble the rolls. Place a small amount of noodles on the bottom third of the paper, then layer some vegetables on top, followed by three pieces of tofu. Tuck in the ends and then flip the long edge over the filling, rolling it over until all of the paper is used up. Place the roll on a chopping board or plate to serve. Repeat this process until all of your rolls are ready.
  11. Transfer the satay sauce to a small sauce dish along with any other sauces you may like to dip your rolls in.
  12. Serve your rolls with a salad garnish on the side if you fancy it. Enjoy!

This recipe was inspired by Minimalist Baker.

 

Review: Boceto, Hackney


If you’re looking for a hip Hackney hangout where the cocktails are as tasty as the sharing plates, then you have to try Boceto, a delightful little tapas bar smack bang in the middle of the bustling metropolis of Mare Street.

I stumbled across Boceto while browsing eateries on Google Maps (I often can’t find what I want on review websites), as I was in the Hackney area and wanted somewhere new to try on a date night.

When we arrived the place was dead, which wasn’t a reassuring sign, but we were hungry and the idea of £5 cocktails appealed.

Because of how quiet it was we could choose where we wanted to sit, which gets a big thumbs up from me. I’ve been to restaurants of a similar size and with the same lack of punters in the past, where the waiting staff have been pernickety about where we could and couldn’t sit. Puts me right off, that does.

The decor

The decor is industrial chic with a DIY twist: exposed brick walls, green hanging plants, big bags of coffee and limited edition Estrella on display, spirits hanging from chains at the back of the bar. There’s loads going on in a relatively small space.

A really interesting detail that I only noticed later on in the night was that two pence pieces had been stuck all over the bar front, giving a really stylish, brassy look. I also appreciated the selection of light-up globes towards the back of the restaurant. A nice touch, hinting on the imported feel and cuisine.

The cocktails

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We ordered cocktails to start us off, of course.

I went for a cherry and coconut crush, a rich and decadent mix of cherry brandy, Koko Kanu coconut rum (a more refined Malibu), Wray and Nephew rum, coconut milk and lime. It was served in a coconut, with a lime on top that had a flaming sugar cube inside (the lime in de coconut). Unfortunately I didn’t get a snap before the fire had gone out, but it was fun while it lasted.

We were brought and hydrated with complimentary mint-infused water, which was a nice touch.

NB: apologies for the ghostly hue of the photos.

The tapas

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I was pleasantly surprised at how veggie-friendly the menu was. My other half, Dom, is vegetarian; unlike myself, I’m a fishy fraud.

Half of the options on the menu were vegetarian, which meant we had loads of choice. I’ve been for tapas in the past where the only meat-free options were potatoes and bread, which makes for a rather beige spread, so we were really pleased with this selection.

Six dishes were recommended between two. We opted for:

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Toasted sourdough topped with chopped tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil. The tomatoes were well-seasoned and lusciously slathered in garlic, and the sourdough soaked up the oil beautifully.
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Croquetta. Up there as one of my favourite plates. Homemade breaded croquettes filled with creamy chopped shiitake and chestnut mushrooms. Divine.

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Padron peppers; a classic. Though they were big and juicy and covered in crisp rock salt, they were a little underdone for my liking. I like my padron peppers well-cooked and shrivelled.

Spanish tortilla. Another staple choice. Cheesy, potatoey, eggy. Ticked all the boxes but wasn’t a knockout.

Orange-stuffed olives. Huge green olives, filled with dainty orange slices and rolled in oregano. I’ve never come across this flavour combination before, but it works really well. The tarte taste of the olives and oregano were offset by the citrusy sweet orange slices. Definitely order these.

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Patatas bravas. Crisp potatoes topped with a rich and spicy tomato sauce and the satisfyingly creamy and garlicky aioli. You can’t not order patatas bravas when having tapas.

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And of course, there was room for dessert. We shared a plate of cinnamon-doused churros with a warm chocolate dipping sauce. A delicious end to a top meal.

The staff were friendly, unpretentious (it is in Hackney after all) and chatty. The only thing missing was more people. Having opened up in after Christmas 2015, the place was very quiet. I hope it remains as it’s a fantastic spot.

Check it out: Boceto Hackney, 171 Mare Street.

Review: Mildreds, King’s Cross

Well, this is my first blog in some time. Having had a wedding to plan and execute, followed by a lovely two-week break in Sri Lanka, cooking and blogging has been on the back-burner for a while. But after an amazing wedding and honeymoon, I’m back in the game!

Last night I went to Mildreds in King’s Cross. I went to the flagship Soho branch a few years back, but the lack of opportunity to book a table in a tiny restaurant put me off going back. The no-booking policy still applies to their new branch, however, the restaurant is much bigger so the wait to be seated is less of an issue for those of us easily hangered. In fact, as we got there just after 6pm on a Tuesday, we were seated straight away.

Having opened its first Soho restaurant in the 80s, Mildreds has been serving vegetarian food to the capital for almost 30 years. When I moved to London seven years ago, it was the go-to place for vegetarians. It is something of an institution. Serving an array of dishes from across the globe – everything from curries and tagines to burgers and pies – there is something for everyone.

Earlier in the day, I’d made a feeble resolution with myself that I would order something healthy, but despite my well-to-do mental note, I couldn’t resist the classic smoked tofu burger.


Now this is a proper veggie burger. None of that ‘cheese-and-vegetables-in-a-brioche-bun-posing-as-a-burger’ malarky, but a full-on brick-sized patty made up of smoked tofu, lentils and piquillo peppers, topped with melted cheese, rocket, relish, red onion and tomato. It was hearty and tasty. My only criticism is the raw onion; it’s not worth the lingering smell on your breath.

I ordered chips and basil mayo on the side. The chips were fat and crisp, and as a salt fiend, they were served well-sprinkled with rock salt. The basil mayo was creamy and dreamy, and made an excellent dipping sauce for both the burger and chips.


I opted for a more virtuous drink option to wash it all down with; a strawberry, pineapple and apple juice. It reminded me of the room temperature juices Wagamama serve. Thick, fruity and sweet. A little on the pricey side for £4.25 perhaps.


If you’re after a less carby option, my friend opted for the chickpea, cauliflower and apricot tagine, which was presented beautifully with a side of quinoa tabbouleh and green harissa. And a side of every foodstagrammer’s favourite, smashed avocado with blue corn chips.

For a return visit, I think I’d opt for a couple of small plates. The chilli, lime and mirin fried tofu with mango soba noodle salad sounds delicious, as do their dips.

The staff were friendly and attentive and the atmosphere was relaxed. The place was packed and buzzing by the time we left.

I’d definitely recommend giving this newer branch of Mildreds a go.