Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Entertaining for everyone

Our next door neighbours are moving house. They are lovely people and Sylvia loves playing with their little boy who is only a few weeks younger. We will miss them. So when other neighbours across the road threw a small farewell bbq on Saturday night, I was happy to take some food along.

The neighbours across the road have many dietary restrictions – so complicated I can’t tell you but it does involve no salicylates and no gluten. I love to cook for people but it is hard when there are so many pitfalls. However I have been making rice paper rolls quite a bit lately. Usually I mix up all the filling ingredients complete with flavourings in a bowl like I did with these rice paper rolls

The last time I blogged about rice paper rolls, we were catering for meat eaters and vegetarians at a dinner party. We identified the vegetarian ones with a mint leaf in the wrapper. It occurred to me that if I just did vegetables, rice noodles and maybe tofu, that I could offer them to our neighbours. When I broached the idea with Paula, she helpfully emailed a list of allowed vegetables and stipulated they could not eat any sauce. The beauty of these rolls is that I could pack a sauce separately for others.

The downside of making rice paper rolls is that they are best eaten fresh. So I decided to make them at the last minute. Literally! At the time we had said we would be there, I was sending E and Sylvia over the street to buy lettuce and looking up dipping sauce recipes on the internet.

In retrospect I think I probably needed to start them 45 minutes before leaving the house to allow time to assemble the rice paper rolls and get ourselves ready to leave. At least by then I had made the hedgehog and the rice salad. We got there eventually.

There was plenty of food. The rice paper rolls were a crowd pleaser, especially when everyone was waiting for the meat to come off the barbie (or vegetarian sausages for me because I have my own dietary needs that others accommodate). I was relieved everyone liked the dipping sauce too because I wasn’t quite sure I got the balance of sweet, sour and salty flavours right. (I had rice paper rolls again tonight and tried different quantities in the sauce, which I think worked better.) E was not so keen and Sylvia loved the wrappers best.

I also took a rice salad that was much better than my last effort - the recipe is below. It is the sort of dish I like to take to someone’s place when I am not sure of what other food will be there for vegetarians. It was full of flavours, vegetables and protein, which is all I ask from a meal. Others appreciated it and I was even asked for the recipe! It could have many other vegies. I would like to try it with pineapple or apple instead of sun dried tomatoes.

I was also quite taken with Paula’s brother’s girlfriend’s rice balls (made only with sushi rice) that were placed on the bbq and grilled until crispy. They were delicious with a bit of the rice paper roll dipping sauce. Paula also made chips – thin slices of potato, barbecued and served with salt. Mmm-mmm! Dessert was a pleasing spread of hedgehog, sponge cake, trifle marshmallows and a fruit platter.

One of the other benefits of making food for others is that it takes you out of your comfort zone. Although it is easier to bung all the filling in one big bowl rather than lots of little ones, I actually preferred adding vegetables separately with no additional flavours. They are fresher and fill out the roll better. The sauce is enough flavour for the rice paper rolls, unless in a hurry to clear the bench you knock over your dipping bowl. But that is another story!

I am sending this post to Ricki of Diet Dessert and Dogs, who is currently part of a Gluten Free Holiday being overseen by Amy of Simply Sugar and Gluten Free. Ricki has asked other bloggers to post a healthy holiday recipe or tips for keeping healthy on the holidays. As in Australia summer food and bbqs are traditional holiday foods, I thought this would fit the bill.

Previously on Green Gourmet Giraffe:
This time last year:
Grasping the nettle (soup)
This time two years ago: Soup from the Black Lagoon

Rice paper rolls:

  • vermicelli noodles
  • iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • firm tofu, chopped into batons bean shoots
  • cucumber, thickly peeled and chopped into thin batons
  • bean shoots
  • carrots, thickly peeled and grated
  • spring onion greens, thinly sliced (not the white bits)
  • mint leaves (optional)
  • Rice paper rolls wrappers

Dipping Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp tamari
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (or lime if you have it)
  • 1 tsp ume vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp mirin
  • ½ tsp sambal olek or chilli paste
  • 1 tbsp water

Place vermicelli noodles in boiling water for about 15 minutes and drain. (Don’t use hot water from the tap like I do or it will take longer.) You can do this while you chop vegetables.

Make dipping sauce by mixing all ingredient together in a small bowl.

To make spring rolls, have all ingredients prepared and within reach. Either piled in mounds on a chopping board or in little bowls is good. Find a flat bowl that is at least a little bit bigger than your wrappers to soften them. I use a ceramic quiche dish. Half fill the dish with hot water from the tap. Prepare for assembling rice paper rolls by placing a teatowel on a flat surface near your water.

Now make your first rice paper roll but taking a dried wrapper and dipping it in the water for about 15 seconds. A little under done is better than a little over done as they will soften more when you wrap them. Place softened wrapper on the teatowel and grab a small spoonful from each ingredient pile or bowl to pile on the top third of the wrapper, leaving a bit to fold over it.. I tended to layer lettuce, vermicelli, tofu, cucumber, bean shoots, carrot, spring onion, mint. It looks like a huge pile but packs down nicely. To wrap, fold the top over the filling, wrap the sides in and then roll up.

Serve with dipping sauce. These do not keep well so should be made fresh if possible. I have had ones that have sat overnight in the fridge and they weren’t great but making them a few hours ahead should be fine.

Brown Rice Salad
Makes a big bowlful

  • 300g pumpkin, peeled and diced
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and chopped (or 1 cup frozen peas)
  • 1 cup uncooked brown rice
  • 400g tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup sundried tomatoes – or more
  • kernels of 1 corn cob
  • large handful parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced


  • 3 tbsp olive oil (less?)
  • 2 tbsp raspberry vinegar or cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • juice of ½ lime
  • 1 tsp seeded mustard
  • ¼ tsp crushed garlic
  • pinch of salt
Roast pumpkin with a splash of olive oil and a pinch of salt in a 200 C over for 30-45 minutes until soft. Cook brown rice for 30 minutes and then drain under cold water. Blanch the asparagus (I did this by cooking on high in microwave for 30 minutes and then rinsing under cold water). Either shake dressing ingredients in a jar or lightly whisk together in a small bowl. Mix all ingredients together and toss with dressing.

On the stereo:
The very best of Crowded House


  1. Actually, I want to try this *with* the sundried tomatoes, as I just bought sundried tomatoes for the first time in my life. Also... rice papers are so much fun, they almost make me forget they aren't dessert. :D

  2. What a fun spread! It is super nice of you to carefully make something to fit the dietary restrictions of others. Like you, I often take a vegetarian main dish to potlucks so I myself will have something to eat :)

  3. These do sound perfect for the event--or any event! You've made me miss those rice paper rolls again. Now I think I must make more! And while they are, indeed, super-easy, they do require a bit of prep time. I would love to try those grilled rice balls, too. I had rice balls once, many years ago, given to me by a macrobiotic chef (I think they had some umeboshi plum inside). Delicious plain, but I bet they'd be better grilled.

  4. oh yummo! I have been LOVING rice paper rolls lately - and I suspect that as we come into summer I will be making more and more of them!

  5. Not had rice paper rolls before but they look delicious. Will have to give them a go. I imagine they would be great dipped in a little chilli dressing. You are so kind to go to all the extra effort to make something your neighbours could eat

  6. I love rice paper rolls-they're so healthy and tasty! And your cat tea towel is really cute too! :P

  7. I really want to make rice paper rolls, they always look so pretty! I'll have to try your recipe.

  8. Thanks Hannah - there will be no looking back once you have bought sun dried tomatoes - they are great and a good stand by if you don't have fresh tomatoes on hand for a little flavour boost - enjoy! Maybe you could make fusion spring rolls with sun dried tomatoes - or even with a sweet filling :-)

    Thanks Nupur - I am sure you will appreciate that being vegetarian makes me know how nice it is when others go out of their way for me so I am always happy to return the favour

    Thanks Ricki - I have thought that a rice paper roll party would be fun and get over the preparation time - and the rice balls were great - am tempted to buy some sushi rice and try them

    Wizardess! Hedgehog! Sweet, chocolate, easy and not animals harmed in the making - check out the link in the post

    Thanks Lisa - your rice paper rolls were great inspiration - definitely something I plan to make more of this summer

    Thanks Katie - they are great gf entertaining and you can serve them with a variety of sauces to cater to different tastes and diets

    Thanks Lorraine - love our cat tea towel (though prefer it hasn't be pre-thrown on the floor by sylvia!)

    Thanks Jodye - give it a go - they are so delicious and light

  9. What gorgeous rolls - I have always wanted to make these and even bought hte wrappers once, but they expired before I did anything with them. Love your taste in music - I went to the Crowdies concert on Friday last week - they were brilliant and funny, as ever. I got great seats down the front on the floor because I am a Frenz of the Enz and bought them in a special Frenz presale.

  10. Thanks Cakelaw - how exciting that you were at the front of a Crowded House gig - I have only seen Neil Finn solo and we were right at the back where everyone was chatting and it was disappointing - not helped by going with those who weren't fans! Hope you try the rice paper rolls - they are very easy and delish

  11. I really admire your rice paper roll skill! I need to get over my fear of making them.


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