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Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Gong Xi Gong Xi Gong Xi Fa Cai! (part 2)

The directive for Chew’s Chinese New Year feast was to bring a plate of Asian inspired deliciousness. Fusion! Brilliant! Me being no Iron Chef, I needed that sort of lateral thinking. And if it worked for Miles Davis…

I’ve always wanted to make chicory leaves stuffed with blue cheese the way they do at our Spanish local, Brindisa. I had most of the ingredients on the weekend... as well as rice paper sheets. Not only would this combination make for an interesting clash of textures, it'd be perfect for Chew's party. I was going to call them (con)fusion rolls. But then Confucian Rolls seemed more in keeping with the theme.

Confucian Rolls

What you need

Red and white chicory leaves
Blue cheese
Round rice paper sheets (I got them at a grocery in Chinatown)
Bowl of boiled water
A couple of slices of firm tofu
A tester (mine is called Adam)
Squeeze of lemon juice
Shredded lettuce

How it happens

I would recommend doing a few test rolls before cranking them out proper – to make sure your stuffing mix is right and the whole package is tasting a treat. This is where your tester comes in because if you try too many in a row you will be stuffed yourself.

Stuffing the Leaves

Wash the chicory, cut off its end bit, chuck out the skanky outer leaves and separate the rest. You want the leaves to be dry.
Mash up the blue cheese with some cream, dash of lemon juice, chives and pepper. I reckon sour cream could work too. How much cream? I just added little bits at a time until the mixture was smooth. When I first tried it the blue cheese was a little overpowering but I didn’t want to put too much cream in so I mashed the tofu in to thin out the flavour a bit. Up to you.

You don’t need a whole lot of the mixture in each – you want it to be a lovely little flavour burst contrasting with the crunch of the leaves rather than full on blue oozing out. I used one supermarket pack of cheese for nearly thirty rolls.
Lay the walnuts on an oven tray and toast them for a few minutes. Let them cool then crush them (not too fine).
Spoon some of the blue cheese mixture into each chicory leaf and sprinkle over a few walnut bits, then cover the stuffing with some shredded lettuce leaves.

Rolling it up

To prepare the rice paper, you need to drop the sheets into a bowl of boiling water. I do them one at a time. Leave it for a minute then scoop it out with a spoon or fork. Let the water evaporate, then flatten it on a plate. You want the sheet to have lost all its hardness but not be too sloppy. You’ll need to replenish your boiled water regularly – the sheets don’t get soft enough if the water has cooled.

Place the stuffed chicory and shredded lettuce onto the sheet and roll it up, folding the edges in early. The stickiness of the sheet means it will attach to itself and stay rolled in a neat little bundle. Some of the sheets will tear, fail to roll or end up looking like crap. Don’t worry, just start over with a new one. Or feed your tester.

This is a bit of a fiddly and time consuming plate to prepare, but if you haven't got any other party tricks this one's a surefire winner.

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