Prawn and Avocado Summer Rolls

Its been a long, hot summer so far with no signs of it ending anytime soon. For a summertime meal that is light, flavourful but substantial too, summer rolls are a good choice.

Summer roll ingredients

You do need to buy a specialist ingredient to make these, but the rice wrappers are quite readily available in the supermarket, along with the rice noodles and on Amazon too.

Once you have your ingredients ready, they are quick and easy to make and no deep frying required like with spring rolls.

My family really enjoyed them and you can leave out the fresh herbs, if you want to serve them plain. The juicy prawns and fresh, crunchy vegetables are a nice alternative to a salad and just the thing for yet another hot day.

Is anyone else ready for Autumn, or just me!?

Ingredients:
Vietnamese rice wrappers – available at most supermarkets or Amazon
Approx 100g vermicelli rice noodles
1 pack cold water prawns/shrimp
1 avocado
1 x red and yellow pepper
1 carrot
1 Romaine lettuce
Fresh coriander/cilantro and mint leaves
1 large lemon
Sweet chilli sauce to serve

Method:
This is mostly an assembly job and you need to have everything ready and to hand before you can make the rolls.  My ingredients made 8 rolls, but you can easily scale this up for more people.

Summer roll veggies

Start by preparing the rice noodles as per the packet and leaving to cool.

When they are ready, prep all the veggies by very thinly slicing the peppers and carrots into matchsticks. Thinly slice the avocado and toss in lemon juice so it doesn’t discolour. Tear the lettuce into large pieces.

Toss the prawns in lemon juice and freshly ground black pepper.

Summer rolls2

In order to soften the rice wrappers, they need to be submerged into warm water. I used a shallow pan and gently heated the water, but you could just use warm tap water in a large enough dish. Just be sure to follow the instructions on the packet.

When you have everything ready, you need to work quickly.

Submerge the wrapper into the warm water and leave for around 10 seconds, it will quickly soften and become very pliable.

Place onto a board and stuff with a little of everything, taking care not to overstuff.

Summer rolls4

As you can see the ingredients through the wrappers, you can place the herbs on first so they can be seen. Some people get very artistic!

I used coriander for some and mint for the others as my husband loves mint, but isn’t a big fan of coriander (like me!)

Summer rolls

I started with the herbs and lettuce then added the noodles, prawns, avocado, peppers and carrots. Place the sticks of vegetables all pointing the same way in the centre of the wrapper, fold over the sides and roll away from you like you would a burrito.  Roll fairly tightly, but gently, folding in the ends as you get to the end of the roll.  The ingredients will be fully enclosed in their see through parcel.

While assembling the rest, place the summer rolls seamside down onto your serving plate, keeping them separate as they will stick together if they are touching.

Carry on until you have used up all your ingredients, then cut in half diagonally and serve immediately.

Summer rolls zoom

Enjoy with a dipping sauce, either home made or a good one from the supermarket. I have used a sweet chilli one, but hoisin or a peanut sauce is really good too.

These make a really delicious and light summer lunch or supper and are really worth trying.

Southwestern Salad Bowls

With the lengthening days, blue skies and sunshine, thoughts turn to salads, barbecues and eating alfresco. That’s the fantasy anyway. My reality is as soon as the sun comes out and the trees have their beautiful blossom, my horrible hay fever with huge sneezes and itchy eyes kicks in!

Southwestern Salad1

This salad is particularly summery, full of flavour and good for you too. The chicken is coated in taco seasoning, so it’s a little spicy and the cool, creamy dressing is a perfect accompaniment.

I’ve made my own taco seasoning as it’s not so readily available in the UK, but I like to make my own spice blends anyway as they will always be fresher than anything you can buy in the shop and you can customise and add a little more chilli if you like it spicier. However, my taco seasoning isn’t too hot as I was making it for the family, but it does have a bit of a kick.

Taco seasoning also goes amazingly well on anything that is good grilled or roasted – prawns, fish, vegetables and steak kebabs!

Southwestern Salad5

You can serve the chicken on this salad warm or cold and I sometimes scatter hot crispy, smoked bacon over the top and a scattering of grated cheese for something extra!

I tried a few variations for the dressing and decided that I liked half greek yogurt and half sour cream, but it really could be all of either. I included a tiny squidge of honey too, just to balance out all the flavours.

This recipe is enough for 4 large chicken breasts, but can easily be halved to serve 2. I like to cook extra for leftovers, or to take to work for a packed lunch.

Taco seasoning :
4tbs chilli powder – I used hot chilli powder
2tbs cumin
1tbs paprika – I used smoked paprika
1tsp salt
2tsp dried onion flakes
1tsp garlic powder
1tsp dried oregano – you could use Italian seasoning if you don’t have any

Simply mix everything together and store in an air tight jar until you are ready to use.

Taco Seasoning

Dressing:
3tbs sour cream
3tbs Greek yogurt
1 medium sized bunch of coriander/cilantro including the stalks
Zest and juice of one small lime
Pinch of salt and pepper
1tsp (tiny squidge) of honey

Blend everything together until smooth, taste for the seasoning and refrigerate. I just used a hand blender as I didn’t want to get my main blender or food processor out!

Coriander dressing.jpg

Ingredients for the salad:
2tbs taco seasoning
Pinch of salt
1.5tbs olive oil
Juice and zest of one small lime
4 skinless chicken breasts
2 Romaine lettuces, roughly chopped or torn
2 avocados, skinned, sliced and tossed in lemon or lime juice
1 punnet of tomatoes – I used multi-coloured ones
1 can of sweetcorn, rinsed and drained
1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
A few coriander leaves and lime wedges to garnish

Southwestern Salad2

Method:
Mix together the seasoning, salt, lime and oil together and thoroughly coat the chicken. You can do this in a plastic bag, or in a dish covered with cling film. Refrigerate and leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes, but overnight is even better.

Grill the chicken on a griddle pan or frying pan until cooked through – 4-6 minutes on each side depending on how big the pieces are. You might need to add a little more oil and then leave to rest if using it warm, or leave to go completely cold, before slicing and preparing the rest of the salad.

Southwestern Salad3

When ready to serve, place a bed of lettuce into each bowl, top with the sliced chicken and then arrange the tomatoes, avocado, beans and corn around the chicken. You can also toss everything together before placing the chicken on the top.

Garnish with a few coriander leaves, before pouring over a little of the dressing. Serve the salad with extra dressing and my husband likes the addition of crispy bacon and cheese too.

Southwestern Salad2

I always like to make enough so I can take a lunchbox to work the next day with the dressing in a little screw top pot. Just remember to toss the avocado in juice or it will discolour.

Southwestern Salad lunchbox

Easter Cupcakes

These cute little vanilla cupcakes are decorated using a 234 tip to pipe buttercream grass with Cadbury’s Mini Eggs.  They are a good alternative to the more traditional Easter chocolate nest cakes made with cornflakes or Rice Krispies.

Easter cupcakes

Ingredients:
180g Butter at room temperature
180g Self-raising flour
180g Caster sugar
1tsp Vanilla extract
3 Extra-large eggs

To decorate:
250g Butter at room temperature
500g Icing sugar – sieved
1tsp Vanilla extract
Green food colouring – enough to turn the buttercream grass green!
Cadbury’s Mini Eggs
Sugar flowers to decorate

Easter cupcakes3

Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF and line a bun tray with 12 paper cases.

Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.  I made mine in a stand mixer, but a wooden spoon will do just fine.

Add the eggs one at a time, making sure each one is fully mixed in before adding the next one. Then add the vanilla and stir in the flour until just combined.

Divide the mixture between the cases and bake for 12-15 minutes.  They will be a light golden colour and a toothpick should come out clean when they are baked.

Easter cupcakes1

Leave to cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To decorate, whip the butter and icing sugar together until fluffy.  Add the vanilla and then the green food colouring.  I used a gel colour and quite a lot of it before it took on a grass colour!

Easter cupcakes2

Pile the frosting into a piping bag, fitted with a number 234 tip and pipe the grass onto each cake.  I’m not great at piping, but it doesn’t have to look like a manicured lawn, it’s just for fun and the frosting is really a vehicle for the mini eggs and sugar flowers.

Easter cupcake

They are so pretty when finished and look just like Spring – even if it’s grey, wet and cold outside!  Add a fluffy chick or two and they are just the thing for Easter.