Saturday, January 21, 2017

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival in China is the most important traditional holiday in China. The date for Chinese New Year changes each year, although it always falls between January 21st and February 20th. This year, January 28th begins the Year of the Rooster on the Chinese Calendar.

In the recipe below, Sambal Oelek is a chunky, ground, chili paste with no other flavors added. This provides the simple, pure taste of chilies. It does pack some heat, so add slowly and adjust to your taste. Sambal Oelek can be found in import shops, at Runge's Delicatessen in Courtenay and some grocery stores in the import aisle. For a substitute, try Sriracha, it is slightly sweeter with a touch of garlic but they are comparable in 'chili heat'. The other difference is the Sriracha is smooth and Sambal Oelek is a chunkier paste.

Indonesian Spring Rolls                  Yield: 24 small Spring Rolls 
For this recipe, use the small, 6-1/2" diameter rice papers, sometimes called Spring Roll Wrappers. These rolls should be prepared no more than 4 hours ahead of cooking. Store them covered in the fridge. They can also be frozen, uncooked, for up to 2 months.

24 dried rice paper wrappers (6-1/2" diameter)
Small, rice paper (Spring Roll) wrappers...
Brush one side with water the other side with egg.
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 pastry brushes
oil for deep frying

1 Tbsp. sesame oil
6 medium, dried shiitake mushrooms
2 carrots, cut into 1/2" long julienne strips
1/2 small suey choy (Chinese cabbage), finely shredded 
1 medium onion, cut into julienne strips 
1 clove garlic, minced 
1 Tbsp. cornstarch 
3/4 tsp. Sambal Oelek, or to taste
1 egg, beaten

Dipping Sauce: 
2 Tbsp. demerara sugar
2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. grated fresh ginger root
1-1/2 tsp. Sambal Oelek

Place dry shiitake mushrooms in a medium bowl and cover them with hot water. Cover the bowl and set it aside for 20 minutes. When the mushrooms have softened slightly, strain the liquid through a coffee filter or several layers of cheesecloth. Reserve 2 Tbsp. mushroom liquid for later in the recipe and the rest for stock, sauces, or discard. Remove the mushroom stems and discard. Cut the caps into thin julienne strips and set aside.
Assembly Step #1
Heat sesame oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and saute until soft, add the garlic and saute until the onion is golden but don't burn the garlic. Add the julienne cut shiitake mushrooms, carrots and shredded cabbage and the 2 Tbsp. reserved mushroom liquid. Stir fry the veg over medium-high heat, just until they are still crispy. Sprinkle over the cornstarch and mix in gently. Remove the skillet from the heat, add sambals, egg and mix well. Transfer mixture to a bowl and refrigerate until cool.
Assembly Step #2
While the filling cools, make the dipping sauce. Measure all ingredients into a small glass or plastic jar with a tight fitting lid. Cover the jar, shake vigorously and set aside. 
Preheat the oil for deep frying to 350F to 375F.

To assemble the Spring Rolls: 
Step #1- cover a clean work surface with plastic wrap. Place rice paper, on the plastic wrap and brush one side lightly with water, then turn the rice paper over and brush the other side with beaten egg. Let stand just until the rice paper softens. Place one tablespoon of cooled filling on each rice paper and fold over to just cover the filling. 
Assembly Step #3
Step #2- Fold the sides in and continue to roll up snugly. 
Deep fry until lightly browned
Step #3- Continue filling and rolling until all ingredients are used. Place finished rolls between layers of plastic wrap on a bakesheet. Cover with plastic wrap and a damp, not wet, cloth. 

Deep fry in preheated oil for about 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot with dipping sauce. 

*CHEF'S NOTE: You can prepare and deep fry these rolls up to 6 hours prior to serving. Cool completely and cover them with plastic wrap. Store in the fridge until serving time. To serve, place in a preheated 375F oven for about 8-10 minutes or until hot throughout.
Indonesian Spring Rolls with Dipping Sauce

Till next time Kung Hei Fat Choi and Bon Appétit!

Recipe and Photos by Sally Rae

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Instant Pot

A few of my friends have been raving about their electric pressure cooker, 'Instant Pot'. Having never heard of it, I did some research. I had 2 small appliances that needed to be replaced and this would replace both, with the added bonus of a stainless steel inner pot rather than a non-stick coating. So, Instant Pot went on my wish list to Santa this Christmas. 
Instant Pot IP-LUX60
Instant Pot is advertised as "the next generation Electric Pressure Cooker designed by Canadians specifically for North American consumers." I have the Instant Pot IP-LUX60 which is a 6-in-1 programmable cooker combining the functions of a pressure cooker, sauté/browning, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer and warmer. Some of the great features are 3 temperatures in Sauté for browning or thickening, and 3 temperatures in Slow Cook to complete the tasks of a common slow cooker. The stainless steel inner pot leaves no health concerns of non-stick coating residual. A Steaming Rack, Soup Ladle, Rice Paddle, Measure Cup, Instructions, Recipe and Cooking time table in several languages are included.

IP-LUX60 - What comes in the box...
All the instructions can be a bit intimidating. I suggested to a few newbies, just put in a few cups of water and run it through a test.
I make big batches of soup, turkey chili etc. for the freezer that I use for lunch when I work ...or otherwise need a quick meal. They are labelled and frozen in 2 cup yogurt containers. Photos of my freezer soups can be found on my post 'Freezer Meals' from last November. These are an easy meal with the microwave to defrost and heat for lunch BUT..... Mom does not have a microwave and she now has an Instant Pot!!

Today I took a Spicy Sausage and Kale Soup, (frozen lump) directly from the freezer to test. Here is what I did and the results...

- Pour in 40ml of water, or enough to cover the base of the stainless steel inner pot
- Remove the frozen item from packaging and place the lump into the pot already coated with water
- Lock in the lid and move the steam releasing handle to 'sealing'
- Press 'Manual' then press the minus sign (-) to program for 15 minutes
- When the cooking time is complete can do a quick release by moving the steam release handle to the 'venting' position OR allow it to do a natural release and let it go to keep warm if you are busy

...I used the quick release method and there was still a small frozen ball from the center. I broke it up and put the lid back down for a few minutes and it was hot and ready. For bigger blocks I would suggest the natural release method, or adding a few more minutes to the original time.

little soup ladle that comes with Instant Pot, fits perfectly to the inside pot to spoon out all the hot liquid. This is only the second try with my new Instant Pot and I have already moved the slow cooker and my rice cooker out of the kitchen!! 

Another way to defrost food is to do a pot in pot where you put your frozen food in a pot that fits inside the Instant Pot. Then add water to the Instant Pot, then the steam rack and then the pot with the frozen food.
I love how fast and easy it is to use and the clean up is fast and simple... watch for more of my Instant Pot success stories and recipes in the future!

Till next time... Happy New Year and Bon Appétit!

Photos by Sally Rae