I urge you to make these – they are far tastier than the little beansprouty things you get with takeaway and, appropriately enough as December is upon us, I reckon they’d make a great little festive canape. Yes, they are a wee bit fiddly – we didn’t eat until 9 last night, but probably only because I insisted on making a vegetable accompaniment that involved peeling and grating coconut. And it was OK, I had a glass of wine and I could watch the debacle that is this year’s The Restaurant contestants out of the corner of my eye, and you sort of get into a rhythm and it’s all very satisfying.
Strictly speaking there should have been pork in these too, which I’m sure would be delicious, but I like to keep my meat consumption low and didn’t want to buy a lot of mince for the small amount required. I swapped the white crab meat asked for for the stronger tasting (and cheaper!) brown meat and swapped the pork for small cubes of tofu. I think the ingredients are really very open to interpretation.
And yes, I know mine aren’t the prettiest spring rolls around, but I don’t think anyone’s going to complain. Especially not if they have a glass of something refreshing in the other hand.
Crab spring rolls Makes approx. 16
I used filo pastry here, which is not very authentic, but does allow you to bake them in the oven rather than deep frying for a lighter, crispier result. If you want to use spring roll wrappers, you should first make a caramel water (warm 3 tbsp sugar until starting to caramelise, then pour in 150ml warm water, mix, and add 150ml boiling water off the heat). Brush each rice paper with this until pliable before filling the rolls, then deep fry them in one layer.
2 tbsp dried black fungus (Jaffrey says if you cannot obtain this, up the number of Chinese mushrooms to 14)
8 dried Chinese mushrooms
15g cellophane noodles
1 spring onion
40g (about half a medium sized) onion
100g tofu, chopped
100g brown crab meat (Waitrose stocks the ‘seafood and eat it’ brand, which is hand-picked sustainable crabmeat in pots)
1/4 tsp salt
1 head of lettuce
1 large bunch of mint leaves
1 packet of filo pastry (6 large sheets, or 270g), or rice paper spring roll wrappers
For the dipping sauce (to serve 4):
1 clove garlic
4 tbsp fish sauce
4 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
3-4 fresh red or green chillies
Soak the black fungus and/or dried mushrooms in warm water for 30 minutes, then lift out and chop finely, cutting off any hard bits. Soak the noodles for 15-30 minutes in hot water and then chop into 1 cm lengths.
Finely chop the spring onion. Peel the onion and chop it finely. In a mixing bowl combine the tofu, crab, black fungus, mushrooms, noodles, spring onion, onion, salt, pepper and egg, and mix well.
Wash the lettuce and separate the leaves. Wash the mint and separate into small sprigs.
To make the dipping sauce, peel and crush the garlic and combine it with all of the other ingredients except for the chillies. Cut the chillies crossways into very thin rounds and add to the sauce.
If using filo, preheat the oven to 200c. To assemble the spring rolls, have 2 large damp cloths handy. Lay one on your worksurface and unwrap the filo pastry, laying it onto the cloth. Carefully separate the top 2 sheets and put them aside. Cover the rest of the sheets with the other damp cloth, and lay the first separated sheet on top of that. Brush it with oil, being fairly liberal, but there’s no need to cover it completely. Lay the second separated sheet on top of that and brush with more oil. Now, take a sharp knife and divide the pastry into squares about 10cm x 10cm (if you’re using the 6 sheet 270g pack that’s 9 squares). Scoop out a heaped teaspoon of the filling mixture and place it in the first square, near the centre but closer to the corner nearest you. Spread the filling out slightly into a sausage shape. Fold that corner nearest you over the filling, then draw the two vertical sides one on top of the other over the folded over corner (is this making sense?) You should now be able to roll it away from you into a cylindrical shape, securing the far end with a little more oil. Place on a lightly oiled baking tray and proceed with the rest of the sheets until you run out of filling or pastry.
Bake the spring rolls for about 20 minutes, until golden and crisp. To serve, arrange the lettuce and mint leaves on a plate and set out a bowl of dipping sauce (or more, depending on how many of you there are). The idea is that you pick up a spring roll, wrap it in a lettuce leaf with a few mint leaves and dip it into the sauce.
Adapted from ‘Madhur Jaffrey’s Far Eastern Cookery’.