Pulled Pork Spring Rolls

My daughter in law Gao Shan and I have a good thing going on now that she’s my neighbour down the road in Bray. At least once a week she cooks a meal for us in her house and at least once a week I cook for her, Shane and Dermot. While I experiment with new banneton baskets and shawarmas, she cooks wonderful Chinese meals for us and increasingly tries her hand at preparing western dishes. Meanwhile Dermot wanders around under all our feet, “helping” and giving his two year old views on hao chi – good food. He is already a determined carnivore and has become fascinated with my Big Green Egg, helping me sprinkle rub on cuts of meat, salivating as we check at regular intervals to see how the internal temperature is coming on and proclaiming that the Egg is “hot”. He loves his “big egg”.
Last Friday night Shan served us a fabulous dinner of a starter of grilled prawns with mushrooms followed by a main course of spatchcocked quail to celebrate our wedding anniversary. I have never attempted to cook quail – I’m a bit squeamish about the finicky work of preparing them – but Shan found information on line that taught her how to do it and the result was delicious. I wondered what to do for a reprise.

Shan's spatchcocked quail
Shan’s spatchcocked quail

The glorious weather over the weekend encouraged me to fire up the Big Green Egg again and try out my Chinese take on pulled pork on her. Although pulled pork had taken off among the ex-pat community in Beijing before they left, this was the first time Shane and Shan had tried pulled pork cooked at home and served with Chinese pancakes, apple sauce and hoi sin sauce. They and Dermot gave it an overwhelming seal of approval. Dermot seems to have decided that apple sauce is his new favourite thing.

I’ve finally cracked the secret of cooking pulled pork – low and slow for about 9 hours and the time it takes is so worthwhile. You will find my recipe for Duncannon pulled pork and the story behind it here in the blog archives. Yesterday I didn’t bother with injecting the meat but the five spice rub and spritzing it frequently with the apple juice and cider vinegar spray infused the pork with plenty of melting flavour.  A €12 shoulder of pork cooked like this goes a long, long way.
We were wondering what we could do with the leftovers and Shan suggested that I could use them in a variation on my recipe for duck spring rolls. So that is just what I did. Although tired after a long day at work, I enjoyed the calming ritual of preparing the ingredients. The result was Monday night flavour bombs that got this weeks cooking off to a good start.
Now my next trick is to teach Dermot and his Mum how to make ginger biscuits although Shan is ahead of me on that one having made her first ever batch of cookies this weekend. Competitive? Me? Never… 🙂
Pulled Pork Spring Rolls

(Makes about eight spring rolls serving eight as a starter or four as a tasty weekday supper.)
2015-03-23 20.47.35

  • About 200 – 300 g of shredded pulled pork – simply bulk out the mix with more of the shredded vegetables if you have less pork)
  • 1 large carrot cut into thin julienne strips
  • 1 large red onion thinly sliced
  • 150g bean sprouts, washed and patted dry
  • 2 tbs oyster sauce
  • 2 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 30g pickled sushi ginger, finely chopped
  • A lage handful of chopped coriander plus additional coriander to garnish
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • 12 sheets of spring roll pastry 215 mm/10’’ square*
  • Sunflower oil for deep-frying
  • Sweet chilli jam to serve

*available in the freezer section of your local Asian market
2015-03-23 20.50.23

  1. Shred the pork shoulder or cut it into thin matchsticks and mix with all the other prepared ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasoning to taste.
  2. Take  1 ½ sheets of pastry for each spring roll. Place a full sheet down and a half on top from one corner.
  3. Fill the doubled-side, near the centre with some pork mix. Starting at the doubled corner, roll to half way then fold in the sides and continue rolling to the end.
  4. Brush some water on the far corner to stick the pastry together if necessary.
  5. Fill a wok about a third full with sunflower oil and heat until a cube of bread turns golden in a few seconds. Deep fry the spring rolls two at a time until golden.
  6. Slice each spring roll in two on the diagonal and serve with chilli jam and garnished with coriander.


When two met one over a summer BBQ and Duck Spring Rolls

We’ve a little thing going on my four month old grandson and I. We dance around the bedroom to the same song, “Tiny Dancer”, each day of this his brief visit home. He joins in the fun as I sing along out of tune.
We converse. I tell him what I think is important, how I feel about him, what it’s like to have him snuggle against me and chew my shoulder with his teething gums, how I will never forget these moments. He stretches his legs, bounces on my lap and answers with intense concentration, with burbles and giggles and smiles as he struggles to articulate … He seems to understand….
I thought of that tonight as I listened to the writer John Banville in conversation with Olivia O’Leary. What distinguishes humans from animals, he said, is the ability to use words, the capacity to create sentences. I wonder what sentence Dermot will speak first and in what language…
We had our own little Gathering last Sunday, one of those days from which memories are carved.
We were joined for a BBQ in our garden by my Italian friend Solange, her Argentinian husband Agustin and their identical twins, just 10 months old.
The last time we adults had all been together was for Christmas 2011 when Shan came to visit us for the first time. That was very special as Claire and her Welsh husband Mike were also able to be with us from Australia for part of the time, an event described by one wit on Twitter as a cross between the Davos Convention and an international rugby tournament.
This time we were feeling the absence of Claire and Mike but the sun was beating down from a cloudless sky, and it was still a day to savour.
While she has attempted to teach me Italian, I have kept company with Solange through her journey into motherhood and she has supported me as I adapted to being a long distance granny, sharing hugs from her little boys. It felt important to introduce these three little people to one another with the hope that some day “i cugini” might become friends.

When two meet one

Well “introduce” might be pushing it a bit but they all got to eye one another up with varying degrees of interest while one set of parents remembered what it was like to cuddle a snuggly little person and the others imagined a day when their little man would be taking off on all fours at a rapid pace to explore a small urban jungle.
Between us we had at least 6 languages – English, Mandarin, Italian, Spanish, Romanian and Irish  – and 5 nationalities, but the 3 little boys all hold Irish passports and are set to be multilingual citizens of the 21st century.
Ni hao Fred and Oli, or is it Oli and Fred…

Ciao Dermot!

Go n’eiridh an t’ádh libh Shane & Shan

In all the circumstances it seemed appropriate to have a barbecue that was a bit Irish, a bit Chinese and a bit Italian so a big thank you to Rozanne Stevens for the inspiration in her new Relish BBQ book.
From it I chose:

  • an Italianish main course of Norman’s butterflied leg of lamb with lively salsa
  • an Asian mushroom, pak choi and potato salad and
  • a Chinesish dessert of lychee jam jar cheese cake.

All were a resounding success.
For starters I recreated an Irish take on a Chinese classic – confit duck spring rolls from Chef Tom Walsh of Samphire at the Waterside in Donobate who gave me this recipe for a post I did for Taste of China during this year’s Chinese New Year Festival. Tom was one of the nominees for chef of the year in the Dublin regional finals of the Restaurant Association of Ireland Awards this week. Pay his restaurant a visit and enjoy his great food.
Tom Chef’s Confit Duck Spring Rolls

Solange’s photo of our duck spring rolls

1. Confit Duck Legs:

  • 2 duck legs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 jars of duck fat or goose fat
  • A few sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme
  • A few whole cloves garlic
  • 2 star anise


  1. Allow the duck legs to dry out at room temperature and season well with salt and pepper.
  2. Place in a small oven proof dish along with the rosemary, thyme, garlic and star anise.
  3. Melt the duck or goose fat and pour over the duck legs making sure they are covered completely. (Top up with light olive oil or sunflower oil if necessary.)
  4. Cover with foil and confit slowly in the oven at low temperature until the duck meat is falling away from the bone – at least 1 ½ hours at 130 degrees C, or you can cook at 110/120 degrees C for several hours.

2. Duck Spring Rolls:

  • 2  confit duck legs (as above)
  • 1 carrot cut into thin julienne strips
  • 1 red onion thinly sliced
  • 100g bean sprouts
  • 1 tbs oyster sauce
  • 1 clove garlic (crushed)
  • 20g pickled ginger*
  • 25g chopped coriander
  • 25g chopped chervil
  • 6 sheets of spring roll pastry 10’’ square
  • 1 egg white
  • Sunflower oil for deep-frying
  • Chilli jam* to serve
  • Corander and/or chervil to garnish

*See below

  1. Shred the confit duck leg and mix with all the other prepared ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasoning to taste.
  2. Take  1 ½ sheets of pastry for each spring roll.
  3. Placing a full sheet down and a half on top, from one corner, fill the doubled-side, near the centre with some duck mix.
  4. Starting at the doubled corner, roll to half way then fold in the sides and continue rolling to the end.
  5. Brush some egg white on the far corner to stick the pastry together.
  6. Fill a wok about a third full with sunflower oil and heat until a cube of bread turns golden in a few seconds. Deep fry the springrolls until golden.
  7. Slice each spring roll in two on the diagonal and serve with the chilli jam garnished with coriander and/ or chervil.

3. Pickled Ginger:
You can buy pickled ginger but I love Tom’s homemade version which keeps for weeks in the fridge.

  • 200g fresh ginger
  • 250g white wine vinegar
  • 125g still mineral water
  • 125g sugar
  • 2 star anise
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Good sprig of thyme


  1. Weigh all the ingredients, except the ginger into a saucepan.
  2. Bring to the boil all and leave to chill.
  3. Peel and slice the ginger and steep in the chilled pickle.
  4. Store in a sealed container in the fridge.

 4. Tom Chef’s Chilli Jam

Tom Chef’s Chilli Jam

Since Tom gave me this recipe, I have served it as a dip with everything from crisps to barbecued chicken wings and my guests rave about it. Bottled chilli jam will never again cross our threshold. It keeps indefinitely in a Kilner jar in the fridge. It is very simple to make, just take a little care to cook it slowly so that  it doesn’t burn.

  • 6-8 red chilli peppers chopped roughly
  • 300g castor sugar
  • 300g white rice wine vinegar (ordinary white wine vinegar will do)


  1. Place all the ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to the boil and  cook gently to reduce to a syrupy, jam-like consistency being careful not to burn.
  2. Blend with a stick blender.
  3. Store in a sealed container in the fridge.

5. Homemade Chilli Oil

Hutong Cuisine Homemade Chilli Oil

And while I’m on a roll, here’s another store cupboard condiment that transcends western and Chinese flavours and is great for barbecues. I picked up this recipe at cookery class in Hutong Cuisine in Beijing. It is simple to prepare and, once savoured, you will never want a shop bought version again. In recent weeks I’ve brushed this over prawns and crab claws and sizzled them on the BBQ, painted it on to fish fillets to be baked in the oven and drizzled it over Italian pizza, even though it was originally just intended to accompany this Sichuan Spicy Chicken Salad.

  • 200g rapeseed oil (or sunflower oil, groundnut oil or vegetable oil)
  • 2 pieces star anise
  • 2 thumbnail size pieces of cinnamon (preferably the wider Chinese type)
  • 1 tsp of Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 large cardamom pod, crushed to release seeds (preferably the large black Chinese cardamom pods)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 4 tsp Pixian broad bean paste (Lee Kum Kee Toban Djan chilli bean sauce, which is readily available in Ireland can be used instead)
  • 2 slices of ginger
  • 1 spring onion, white part only, cut in two
  • 4 tbs crushed chillies
  • 2 tsp sesame seeds


  1. Heat the oil in a wok over low heat and add all the ingredients except the chillies and sesame seeds. Stir slowly over gentle heat for at least 8 to 10 minutes until the spices have begun to turn brown in colour, released their fragrance and infused the oil.
  2. Sieve the oil and discard the spices. By this time it should have turned into a gorgeous warm red colour. Return it to the wok with the crushed chillies and sesame seeds. Stir over a very low heat until the chilli has turned light brown in colour.
  3. When cool, pour the oil into a glass container and keep over night before use. Store unused oil indefinitely in an airtight jar.

Yes when Chinese meets Irish meets Italian, who knows what fun things can happen.
Grazie Solange, Agus, Oli e Fredi per la giornata indimenticabile 🙂

On learning, goodbyes and Chao Bing

When I talk to women about leadership I quote Dee Hock who said, sometime late in the last century, that the problem is never how to get new, innovative thoughts into your mind but how to get the old ones out.
I was reminded of that over the past few weeks when I was on what a friend of mine calls a “learning spree” absorbing new information about cooking Chinese food and working hard to weed out the bad habits I had fallen into while trying to teach myself from cookbooks. It was such a privilege to learn from Chun Yi and Chao in Hutong Cuisine and from Chef Zhang and the team in Black Sesame Kitchen and I look forward to integrating new ingredients and techniques into the kitchen back home.
I’m writing this post on the flight home from Beijing, in between reading Jen Lin-Liu’s “Serve the People” – Jen is the founder of Black Sesame Kitchen where I attended cooking classes on Cooking with Colour and Imperial Dishes – and Sheryl Sandbergh’s “Lean In – Women, Work and the Will to Lead” – multi-tasking as always, that’s women for you. A quote from Chairman Wang, Jen’s mentor, caught my eye “These are the things that make me happy,” she says – “What does it mean to be wealthy? To be able to eat, drink and move about. That is my definition of wealth.”
I thought about how lucky I am to be able to do just that, especially when, in my case, “moving about” means moving across three continents if I want to spend time with my children and their families.
I’ve been learning about other things apart from food on this trip – about what it is like to be a woman, a daughter, a mammy and a granny in the 21st century. I’ve had the privilege over these past three weeks of spending time with three wonderful women – my daughter Claire, my daughter-in-law Shan and my qing jia mu – Shan’s Mum.

Dermot with his other Nai Nai

I have talked to my daughter and daughter-in-law about how they cope with the world of work, the pressures that assail young women who are contemplating or have just started a family and how much and how little has changed since I started on the same road more than 30 years ago. The challenge of balancing the demands of home, work and family are still there.

I’ve developed strong ties of affection with Shan’s Mum. We still have only a handful of words in common (although her English is progressing faster than my Mandarin). But that didn’t stop us making a trek to the local Lotte Market and Jiang Tai wet market in search of utensils and ingredients. Armed only with a shopping list in pinyin, to which she carefully added the Chinese characters, and Google Translate on the iPad for emergencies, we had a very successful shopping expedition.
Jiang Tai market, Beijing

There is only a year’s difference in our ages but our life’s experiences are worlds apart. From her I’m learning about Chinese frugality and the pleasure of a bargain – in the supermarket she dismissed rows of utensils, which to me looked like excellent value, as being “tai gui le”, “too expensive” and instead drove a hard bargain in a small hardware store at the market and got me the hoard below for less than €5.

Choosing vegetables and meat was an exercise in negotiation skills and careful scrutiny of the offered goods. Each potato was turned over and selected individually. Cuts of chicken were inspected. Spices were carefully weighed.
No rush in choosing vegetables

Shopping for spices at Jiang Tai market

When I purchased a very good cleaver at cookery school, she was shocked at the price I had paid (100 rmb, about €12), she could have got me one for 40 or 50 rmb. But then I’m learning that the first thing a Chinese person asks you when you’ve made a new purchase is how much it cost “duo xiao qian?”, inevitably to tell you you’ve paid tai gui le. That’s of course after they have asked you “have you eaten yet?”
Choosing chicken for Da Pan Ji

Shane says that since MaMa came to live with them their grocery bill has plummeted. I’m not surprised. Each day she produces tasty and nutritious meals – her famous Xinjiang da pan ji – big plate chicken with wide flat noodles served to Claire and Mike as soon as they arrived yesterday, beef stew with a Sichuan kick (Shane’s favourite, I think because it reminds him of his granny’s stew), pork rib stew – often with side dishes such as stir-fried cabbage with chillies, black fungus or bitter melon. And of course there are the home-made jiao zi dumplings and finally, a family favourite pancakes with eggs and cabbage, chao bing. As soon as you arrive in the door she puts out a platter of fresh fruit – pineapple, dragon fruit, apple slices. Food and pots of tea are always on the go.
The pancake man at Jiang Tai Market

My qing jia mu is also great fun, easy-going and has a bubbly sense of humour. I love it when she breaks her sides with laughing about some shared private joke with Shane. She has not always had an easy life and has worked hard inside and outside the home from a very young age – Shan has told me some of her back story – and I look forward learning more of it and to getting to know her even better as the years go by and her English, and perhaps my Mandarin, improve.
Hard to keep up with a woman in search of a bargain!

She is generous to a fault. She trekked the market alone yesterday to find me long kuai zi – chopsticks – for cooking and a particular pickled chilli used in Hunan cooking. She sent me home armed with dragon fruit and Chinese treats for my own Mum and a Beijing pancake for me so that I can recreate chao bing at home.
And then there was learning to know my grandson Dermot.
Saying goodbye after this trip was never going to be easy, especially to Dermot. I’ve got used to connecting with Claire and Shane on an almost daily basis by Skype, text, phone, Facebook and even Twitter. But with Dermot so much of the relationship at this stage is the feel of the weight of him as he dozes on my shoulder, his new baby scent, the way he grips my finger in his tiny hand, his fascination with the world around him and the way he can hold your gaze for minutes as he experiments with a tentative smile. I will miss all that and the way he will change over the next two months before his feet get to touch Irish soil for a visit.
Goodbye Nai Nai

As I’m writing, I’m also listening to music on my iPod to drown out airplane noises. It’s a random “Genius” mix and up pops Tir Na n’Og’s “Dance of Years” with the line “The baby sleeps, his hands are still”. That’s what I notice most about Dermot (apart from his huge eyes), when he’s awake his hands are never still. He has the most expressive hands I’ve ever seen.
Saying goodbye was made easier because we had a precious 24 hours with the family united in Beijing. We finished up with a farewell Easter Sunday morning breakfast in Feast at East where we had been staying just down the road from Shane and Shan. Breakfast was great fun with loads of photo opportunities and I enjoyed my qing jia mu’s evident pleasure in getting good value from the excellent breakfast buffet. The Chinese know how to attack a buffet with relish.
Dermot, our own little Teng Teng, seemed completely enthralled with his new surroundings. At nearly 8 weeks of age, his approach to the outside world is one of rapt attention and wide-eyed wonder. It was a joy to have that last hour with him awake and alert and to watch Claire fall in love with him the way I did – you think you know what it is to love a baby before you meet him but the physical bonding process really is like tumbling into love.
Well hello first Auntie

Just before we left for the airport, we asked if one of the restaurant staff would take a group photo of all 8 of us. A super-charged emotional moment was eased when it turned out that the photographer, Assistant Director of Restaurants and Bars at East, Leo Liu, had lived in Ireland for 6 years, working for part of that time in Ely Wine Bar and studying for a Masters in Tourism in University of Limerick. That helps explain the excellent service standards in Feast. His broad Dublin accent when he spoke English made me feel as if I was already home.
A rare Shananigans family photo

So I left Beijing a bit teary and choked up but content in the knowledge that I had left my grandson behind in the company of three strong and very special women and a Daddy who adores him. I’m very proud too of the way Shane has adapted to fatherhood and I’m confident that he will be the kind of “real partner” in child-rearing that Sheryl Sandbergh talks about.

The next special moment to look forward to is to Dermot’s visit to Dublin in June and to introducing her first great grandchild to that other strong woman in my life, my own Mum who I know has been following our adventures closely on her iPad. Hi Mum 🙂
Meanwhile I will leave you with this simple recipe as taught to me by qing jia mu:
Stir fried cabbage and shredded pancakes – Chao Bing
Continue reading On learning, goodbyes and Chao Bing

Shredded Duck Pancakes with Sichuan Flavours

Christmas is coming and 0ur culinary adventures have been continuing on three continents.
Claire has an annual ritual of watching Love Actually in December, no matter where she is in the world and what the temperature is outside. For her it marks the true start of the Christmas season. On Friday night she watched it with friends and served them her most elaborate Chinese meal yet. She prepared five fabulous Chinese dishes from Fuchsia Dunlop’s Every Grain of Rice including her first attempt at using tofu and her first buckwheat noodles dish. I’m very proud of my daughter’s growing culinary expertise and maybe she will even write it up for the blog (big hint Claire!!). I just wish I could watch Love Actually with her.

Claire’s Aussie feast

Meanwhile Shane and Shan were out to dinner with his good friend Steve who was visiting Beijing for a few days. They went to Jing Zun restaurant which specialises in Peking Duck and where we had a lovely meal with them and with Mike and Claire early in July. They didn’t sit outside this time though as the temperature is dropping as low as -12C in Beijing these nights.
Shane’s local for Peking Duck

Peking Duck cooking at Jing Zun

We also had friends to dinner on Sunday and I cooked up my own Chineseish feast with a lot of help from friendly chefs on Twitter. These same friends had participated in my dim sum experiment a few months back and this time I wanted to be able to sit down and enjoy the meal with them. So the menu went like this:

Here is how I went about an Irish take on the classic Peking Duck Pancakes. These have five essential ingredients:

  • Shredded duck
  • Thin wheat flour pancakes
  • Sauce
  • Cucumber
  • Spring onions

Cooking a whole duck Peking style is quite an undertaking and one I haven’t got around to yet but I have discovered that P.M. O’Loughlin Foods in the Barbecue Centre in Shankill, County Dublin can supply a box of really tasty duck legs from Monaghan, frozen and vacuum packed in pairs. Twenty packs of duck legs cost €60 and I split the box with friends. These are a very handy freezer staple for €1.50 a duck leg and a convenient way of preparing the shredded duck meat.
As for the pancakes, Ive had one disastrous attempt at making my own with flour, hot water and a little oil (the phrase “lumps of lead” spring to mind), so I picked up a freezer pack in the Asia Market which are reliably skinny. But the treatment below gives these shop bought pancakes an extra lift.
I was going to do a traditional Peking sauce but a recipe from Ken Hom in Exploring China – A Culinary Adventure caught my eye. In it he used a sauce with Sichuan flavours inspired by Beijing Chef Da Dong who is widely regarded as one of the best chefs in China for his skill in re-interpreting regional Chinese dishes. Da Dong prepares shredded pig’s ears in a sauce similar to the one below. Note to self – must ask Shane to take us to Da Dong’s restaurant the next time we are in Beijing.
Shredded Duck Pancakes with Sichuan Flavours

Assembling Shredded Duck Pancakes

Serves 4 – 6

  • 4 duck legs
  • Salt and white pepper

For the sauce:

  • 1 tbs dark soy sauce
  • 2 tsp Chinkiang vinegar
  • 2 tbs Lee Kum Kee chilli bean sauce (Toban Djan)
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp roasted  and ground Sichuan peppercorns

To serve:

  • About 24 wheat flour pancakes
  • Sesame oil
  • 1 cucumber
  • A little white rice wine vinegar and a pinch of sugar
  • A bunch of spring onions

Duck legs

  1. Preheat your oven to 200C.
  2. If your duck legs have been frozen, ensure they are fully thawed and dry them out, uncovered, at room temperature for about an hour, then give them a final pat dry with kitchen paper.
  3. Score the skin of the duck legs in a cross hatch pattern, season well with salt and white pepper and place in the oven in a roasting tin, skin side up.
  4. Roast for about one hour or until the skin is crisp and golden and the fat has run off (you can save the fat for making delicious roast potatoes) and place on a wire rack to cool.
  5. When cool, finely shred the meat and most of the duck skin and set aside in a serving dish. (Thank you Derry for excellent shredding skills.)


  1. Assemble the pancakes in pairs by brushing a pancake on one side lightly with sesame oil and placing another on top of it.
  2. Preheat a large flat, non-stick frying pan until smoking hot and then reduce to medium.
  3. Place a pair of pancakes onto the dry pan and turn them over with a spatula as soon as brown spots begin to form on the underside. Repeat on the other side then remove from the pan and gently peel apart and fold the pancakes, cooked side in, onto a plate.
  4. Repeat the process until all the pairs of pancakes are cooked and stacked. Cover them with a damp tea towel, ready to be steamed briefly before serving.

To serve

  1. Mix all the sauce ingredients together in a bowl and divide into small dipping bowls, one for each diner.
  2. De-seed the cucumber and julienne it. Place on a rectangular serving dish and drizzle with a little white rice wine vinegar and a pinch of sugar. Try to do this about 30 minutes ahead of time so that the flavours mingle.
  3. Julienne the spring onions and serve on a separate rectangular dish.
  4. Just before serving place the wheat flour pancakes in a small bamboo steamer over a wok or pot of boiling water and steam for 4 – 5 minutes at most. If you have stacking bamboo steamers you can also reheat the shredded duck at the same time.
  5. Alternatively you can re-heat both briefly in a microwave or steam oven.
  6. Serve the pancakes and the duck on a platters to share.

These taste like more

Your guests can help themselves at the table. Just spread a little of the sauce on a pancake with the back of a spoon, place some shredded duck on top, followed by some spring onions and cucumber. Fold and eat. These taste moreish and were a very big hit with our friends – definitely set to be a household favourite.

Spring Rolls and Roller Coasters

This is where the roller coaster comes in. The emotional roller-coaster that is. Our daughter Claire (@ClaireB-Oz) breezes in and out of our lives like a whirlwind leaving a tangle of images and memories in her wake.
Yesterday Claire and myself met up with my friend and Italian teacher Solange who recently gave birth to identical twins. I get to see these gorgeous little boys once a week and there is nothing more delicious than nuzzling the baby-soft skin at the nape of their necks. This morning at Dublin Airport I tucked in a stray label in the back of Claire’s hoody just before she passed through security and suddenly the image of her as a tiny baby who I could wrap up and protect came flooding back. Once a Mammy always a Mammy I guess.
Anyway we had a fantastic few days including a wonderful send-off meal in China Sichuan last night where Kevin did us proud with a “no menu” spread that included whole Irish lobster and Sichuan rabbit. Claire has gone back saying she ate more Chinese food here than when in China and armed with Gok Cooks Chinese and Fuchsia Dunlop’s Every Grain of Rice and lots of good intentions to cook and contribute to the blog.
Of all the memories of Claire’s visit, one of the nicest is of Claire and her friend Diane filling spring rolls on the butchers block in my kitchen, glass of wine at hand, chattering ninety to the dozen as they caught up on all the news and gossip.
From the day I started this blog Pat Whelan (@Pat_Whelan) of James Whelan Butchers has been asking me when I am going to make spring rolls. There’s not much point making them unless you have an excuse to prepare a batch of 20 or more, so having a gang in for the wagyu hotpot the other night was a great opportunity to experiment and serve them as an appetiser. Then I realised I had taken on far too much for a mid-week dinner party after a long day’s work so I was very glad when Claire and Diane rolled up their sleeves and got stuck in as very competent sous chefs.
I never had a spring roll in China and I find the stodgy versions you get from Chinese takeaways here very off-putting so I searched around all my cookbooks to find a recipe that might have a fresher, lighter taste. The recipe below is in The Food of China – A Journey for Food Lovers and the homemade plum sauce is from Gok Cooks Chinese.

Spring rolls served on a slate

I made them with free-range pork from James Whelans Butchers and vegetables and fruit supplied via Superquinn by Donnelly Fruit & Veg, with the exception of the Chinese cabbage and garlic chives which I picked up at the Asia Market where you can also get the spring roll wrappers.
So specially for you Pat, and with thanks for the wagyu beef, here goes Continue reading Spring Rolls and Roller Coasters