Friday, 9 May 2014

Vietnamese duck rolls

Though the climate in Helsinki has put my faith in a serious test, it's got to be believed. You hear it in the birds singing in the morning, getting more and more cheerful each day, in the sun whose rays warm a weary soul and the first flowers, pushing defiantly through the soil. Spring, boys and girls, spring! It's finally here!

A food blogger is particularly excited having survived a cold, dark winter as the days are getting longer and the amount of natural light is growing every day. That, you see, means, that I can finally plan cooking (and eating and photographing it!) beyond that meagre 2-hour-window on weekend mornings! (yes, that's how obsessive the hunt for a good photo is...)

And spring, that is the time for starting a lighter life. And if you're anything like me, it's about time, too. Those slow roasted chunks of meat and sturdy stews sure have left their mark - not just in my memories, but around my waist too..! Don't get me wrong - we're not swearing off meat in my kitchen (ooooh nooo!) - animals simply taste best when they're dead! Over the recent months I've reignited my love for duck, which people often tend to find too fatty and robust (for absolutely no reason!) You've already seen it being confited, roasted, fried, dressed in salads and even shoved into burgers.

With spring I find myself (counting days to summer and summer holidays) turning more and more to Asia for inspiration. Their use of fresh veggies and aromatic herbs is just something I can't get enough of. And so even a duck gets a spring-time makeover and a whole new wardrobe as it gets wrapped in rice paper. We used the last of our lovingly stored duck leg confits, but the recipe below yields every bit as delicious results. I warmed the legs under the broiler as I did with that scrumptious pear and duck confit salad.

Light and warmth do wonders to my Northern psyche. I actually seek the company of others, find myself smiling for no reason and the energy levels are through the roof! Sure, I could claim I spent my winter months in the light of hand-made artisanal scented candles, on my Chesterfield sofa at my library, feasting on vintage Barolo... but let's face it - you wouldn't believe that for a second. So yes, the truth is closer to hiding under a duvet, wearing every single pair of woolen socks I own in the company of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills- marathon. 

But now it's time to chuck aside both hiding and woolen socks (and while at it, casually ignore the need for a spring clean up that the spring sun so ruthlessly tends to reveal) and get your friends together! These Vietnamese duck rolls can be made in advance, which makes them fantastic party food. And if you hold on just a little while longer, you can pack these in a picnic basket! Just think - the scent of freshly cut grass, a blanket spread in a sunny park, the best friends in the world, chilled rosé, screams of the seagulls and the laughter bubbling in the air long into the evening.

These take a bit of work, yes, but a cunning lazy hostess turns that into audience participation number! You just prep the ingredients and everyone gets to stuff their own rolls exactly the way they like them!

According to what's available you can use just about any veggies in these. Boiled and cooled glass noodles work too. Nuts on the other hand lend the rolls lovely crunch. Another thing that makes these so perfect for parties is the way they suit most of the dietary restrictions: you can skip the meat and make these entirely vegetarian and these are dairy- and gluten-free!

makes about 18

1 packet rice paper sheets


2 carrots
10 cm piece leek
1 smallish cucumber
1/2 packet (about 75 gr) mange tout
1 bunch of coriander
2 duck breasts (or duck leg confits)

To serve: Hoisin sauce


1/2 dl soy sauce
1/4 dl honey
a couple of cm piece of fresh ginger finely minced
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced

Combine the ingredients for the marinade and pour into a plastic bag with the ducks. Let marinate for at least 4 hours or until the next day. Turn around a couple of times.

Pat the duck, score the fatty side almost to the meat but not quite and place on a cold pan. Then turn the heat on and continue frying until the fatty side is nicely golden brown. Turn over and brown the other side too. There's no need to add oil as the duck fat takes care of all that. If there's too much seeping out, pour some of it out (worth keeping though - it's great for frying!)

Finish cooking at 180 for about 8 minutes. Let cool and cut to thin strips. 

Peel and julienne the veggies (that's Cheffish for match sticks). If you cut them to same length you don't need to worry about them poking through the fragile rice paper either which makes rolling them easier.

B oil some water and keep the water hot throughout the rolling process - hot water helps soften the rice paper so it becomes more pliable. Soak the sheets in water one at a time and then spread over parchment. Smooth it and place the desired amount of filling on the bottom.

Roll the lower edge tightly over the filling and then lift the sides on top and then finish rolling. As the rice paper gets wet, it becomes pliable but also sticky which enables the roll to stick together.

Store the rolls covered. Dip in Hoisin sauce and enjoy!





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