I’ve just arrived in London city. The hustle, and chaos of the big smoke.
I’m here for four weeks to work in a Michelin starred restaurant and I couldn’t be more excited (PETRIFIED) at the thought of throwing myself head first into a world class commercial kitchen.
I’ve had a few days here to clear my head and get my bearings around the whole thought of it.
It’s been a gift just to take some time out solo and find my peace and clarity.
This morning I went to the amazing Portobello markets which I’ve been to countless times in the past. On those occasions I could appreciate the quirkiness and diversity of the place, but I just found it so hard pushing through endless flocks of pushy tourists. To the point where the whole experience just wasn’t so enjoyable.
Today however, was different. Maybe it’s the time I’ve been taking out to clear my thoughts whilst here, or maybe this time I wasn’t in such a rush to be somewhere else. Whatever it was, today was peaceful, eye opening and a treat to the senses.
Yep there were definitely hundreds of humans trying to bowl me over, and for every food stand a cue of at least 20 people ahead of me. But wowza the sights and smells for a food enthusiast like myself was a wonder. I stood amongst the crowds and fully absorbed the smokey fragrance of grilled cheese, huge pans of bubbling seafood paella, asian wok stir fry’s and freshly ground coffee beans. There were made to order crepes smothered in nutella, brazilian cinnamon churros, fresh oven baked bread, organic salad stalls, marinated olives, gluten-free cake stalls and my ultimate favourite – The asian stand with steamed buns, vitnemese rolls and mixed gyozas!
One of the things I like most about London is the fusion of flavours. The interesting combinations and exotic blends of different cuisines. I’ve been out for dinner twice now and I cant help but pull my phone out to photograph every menu. It’s such a great learning experience to see how another chef will think outside the box and create mouthwatering, sometime risky flavour combinations that I would never even think of. It’s been the perfect little ‘food research’ experience and motivation I have needed to get me started on my big Michelin adventure!
So in light of this, and the fact that I found some delicious lychees last week. I’ve got a little recipe I made pre – London, but one that ties in beautifully with my morning!
Prawn, Lychee, Ginger, Coriander & Vermicilli Vietnemese Rolls
8-10 Prawns de shelled and stir fried until just cooked.
1/2 a cucumber cut to julienne
1-2 carrots cut to julienne
1 red pepper cut to julienne
1 sprig of spring onion cut to julienne
Small piece of red cabbage thinly sliced
1 handful of coriander
1/2 chilli thinly sliced
thumb of ginger thinly sliced
3-4 lychees, pulped and thinly sliced
1 cup of cooked vermicelli noodles
8-12 sheets of rice paper sheets
Sesame seeds and micro herbs to garnish
A tray of cold water, large enough to immerse your rice paper sheets.
The trick to making great Vietnamese rolls is not to over pack your rice paper. And to keep your fingers extremely light. Theres an art to it and often it takes 2-3 attempts before you get into a rhythm but keep at it. Before you know it you’ll be pro!
The other tip I’d give, is to set up your work station or ‘mis en place’ and have every item chopped and prepped and placed around your work board so you can work quickly without running around your kitchen like a headless chicken as your rice paper gets too sticky and un-manageable.
Take your rice paper. Immerse it in the tray of water until saturated, then place on your board. It will take at least 2-3 minutes to get moist enough to roll so use that time to load your ingredients. You can use all, or just some. It’s really up to you.
Set the filling in a cigar shape about 4 cm from the edge. I always place the coriander down first as it gives a nice effect on top once rolled.
Once the rice paper is ready, roll the 4cm flap over the filling. Fold the sides over, then gently roll the rest until you reach the tip.
You want to be firm enough that everything holds together but not so firm that you tear the paper. It’s not like sushi nori which is much more durable.
Once you have mastered your art and you have a sweet selection of rolls, garnish with a few sesame seeds, some micro herbs and serve with either soy sauce, hoisin or a light ponzu dressing.