I’m going to start off by saying that I know the rolls have split, but it seems appropriate considering Man-thing and I are on a Walking Dead binge. With that out the way, onward ho! :p
Here’s a secret: I don’t always like baking. Ok, that’s actually a lie – what I mean is that it sometimes stresses me out. My being vegan can be a pain in the butt for some friends and family, despite my trying my best not to impose on others and to be as self-sufficient as possible. What I’ve noticed, however, is that other people also have kitchen “control” issues, and also want to be able to be completely responsible for providing meals or hosting guests, and appear affronted if I offer to bring my own food. I try and get around that by offering to make bigger dishes that everyone can then taste from and I can plan my meal around, but that lingering feeling that I’ve just stepped up the level of douche doesn’t easily disappear.
Anyway, cooking, but especially baking, stresses me out because I know my food mostly gets compared to “normal” animal-laden foods such as puffy, egg-y cakes, or milk-drenched puddings, and often friends and family find my stuff lacking in adequate sweetness or heaviness. I’ve essentially given up trying to bake in those situations because I know it will just be a super awkward tasting session, and I don’t want my veganism to be the centre-point of any visit, but rather just something that should impact me alone.
As much as I bemoan the lack of ready-made vegan food in South Africa, especially of the pastry and cake variety, it’s probably for the best, and it actually pains me to buy something that I could probably make myself under my own terms (and with a lighter sugar hand!). Still, sometimes it’s better to buy than to have a fuss, which is why Man-thing bought us hot cross buns for today’s visit with my family. It doesn’t mean I’ve given up forever on trying to bake for them or for others who may not like my style (and honestly, not everyone on planet earth has to!), but that I might pick my battles with a bit more care, and work on creating truly sensational dishes for them; not just the run-of-the-mill sort of stuff that comes out the oven to tide us over at home. I guess my point here is that I’ve learnt that, just as with everything else one does, one has to read your audience, and if you love them (especially if you do, and perhaps even moreso if you don’t) you need to consider their comfort zone as well as your own, and try and create a space where everyone can co-exist. With food it is especially important because it happens to be the epicentre of social situations, and people are very serious about food, even if they’re not eating serious food.
In the meanwhile, hot cross buns! *glee* Such items are total luxury and indulgence, and sometimes there really is nothing that satisfies than something you know isn’t a regular food item, and that you haven’t had to make from scratch. My little sister and I were talking today about our favourite junk food, and we both agreed burgers and chips are on the top of our list (she was adorable and asked how it is that I can eat burgers because they’re meat, and looked very skeptical when I tried to explain how vegan patties are made).
What I really put on the top of my indulgence list, however, even far above burgers & chips, is Asian cuisine. Not because it’s always necessarily unhealthy or wild, but just something about the utter decadence of all the rich, intense flavours that permeate every inch of food just delights me on another level. It’s just a pity I ‘m really pants at that form of cuisine, but sometimes one is suckered into trying, despite all odds being rather shoddy of true, 100% authentic-mimicry success. Case in point is these baked rice paper rolls I decided to whip up yesterday – they may not taste anything as they should, but oh man are they fun and delicious in their own way!
A very long while ago I was trolling around summer rolls, and stumbled across this concept of baked rolls. I’m not a fan of the summer rolls usually because of the gumminess of the uncooked rice paper, but when baked they are pretty pimp, and look shiny to boot, so that’s how this happened (many months later!). When I made these I worked on memory and didn’t actually go check the recipe again, which is why you’re left looking at my very, very sad folding skills. Luckily taste is always my main happy-trigger, and I sort of space out when eating anyway, but with a bit more patience these lovelies could really be elegant and striking as a pre-dinner taster. I ate one with lunch today, stuffed between my stir-fry salad, and it was sooo good all heated and delicious. Fun? Check! Nom? Check check!
Ingredients (makes 16):
- 1/2 head medium broccoli, steamed
- 1 cup pumpkin chunks, steamed
- 1/3 cup sundried tomatoes, soaked
- 1 TBSP apricot jam
- 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp curry powder
- splash lemon juice
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 8 sheets rice paper
- In a food processor mix together your filling until broken down (there can still be little green bits, but nothing chunky).
- Lay out a clean dish towel on a large surface/cutting board.
- Get out an 8″x8″ square pan and fill it with hot water.
- Preheat your oven to 180C and prepare a baking sheet with sprayed baking paper. Do NOT use silplat or that gummy malleable plastic-type baking sheet because it will stick to the baked roll and gut it open once you try lift it (which happened to mine!).
- Soak each rice paper sheet in the water, one by one as you make each roll, moving it around to get the edges, until it is malleable in your hands (approx 5 seconds).
- Place it on the towel and cut down the middle.
- Place 1 TBSP of filling in the middle of your half moon and fold the sides across, closing at the top (or roll it like a wrap, which is what I tried to do!) – either way make sure the filling can’t escape.
- Repeat for all 16 half-moons, and place face-down on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake for 30 minutes, or until slightly hard to the touch.
- Turn it over and bake for another 5 minutes. Serve hot or cold with a dipping sauce of choice (next time I’ll fork out the bucks for some Chinese barbeque sauce!).
Well, somehow I’ve managed to eat quite a few more during the process of writing this post, and I can honestly say they are pretty frakkin tasty cold too! Next time I’ll try cut down my excess rice paper, or just improve my folding skills, but as far as fillings go, I’m very happy with it. I tried another version for Man-thing with pumpkin and other stuff, but it was just too soggy. I think a nom sweet potato base filling could also work wonders with some marinated mushrooms and cashew bits, or even some cranberries…oh yum!
Anyway, today was a good day! Family, hot cross buns, being acknowledged by name by my little brother (he even knows Man-thing’s name) – bliss! Man-thing and I are taking a post-dinner hour-long break by ourselves to play games and then hopping under the covers to indulge in two hours of Walking Dead to round off the weekend in style.
Gatsby approves because it’s the only place where he can sit on my lap without fearing that I’ll jump up to undertake some little task at every moment – he’s slowly getting back to his normal self now that all the foster kittens have been adopted and are out of his favourite space: in the computer room by the heater pointed straight at my feet. We’re going to give him a little break before we foster again, but the whole weekend (ok, since Friday!) I’ve been missing those kittens rather fierce. Then again, I’m so blessed that we have Gatsby as our companion, and so excited for the lives of love those kittens have ahead of them! Gatsby, at six, still paw pumps into me and Man-thing and purrs like a crazy thing when he’s all contented and stuff, so in that way he’s even better than a kitten – “self-sufficient”, but still with a ton of purrs to dish out to his very grateful humans. :p