Tag: Asian baking

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.56: baked spring rolls from Malaysia

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.56: baked spring rolls from Malaysia

As far as I can see, the real definition of a spring roll is “anything you like that has vaguely Far Eastern flavourings, wrapped in a cigar shape of very thin pastry”. However, this being a baking blog with pretensions of authenticity, I started off with an actual Malaysian recipe – and one that specifies how to bake them rather than the more usual deep fry. If like me, you try to steer clear of deep frying, the use of cooking spray – not something I’d come across before using this recipe – seems to work pretty well, getting a result that’s crisp, non-greasy and holds its filling, even if you don’t get the classic “golden all over” look of the fried version.

The recipe will be very forgiving as to quantities: shown here are what I had easily available. The original recipe specifies jicama, a root vegetable that I couldn’t get hold of, so I substituted with a couple of cans of water chestnuts. I believe that mooli (aka daikon) also makes a good substitute, but with a more distinctive flavour of its own.

The filling

  • 500g lean pork mince
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Oil for frying (I used groundnut oil, any neutral oil will do
  • 450g water chestnuts
  • 2 large carrots
  • 450g cabbage
  • 3 spring onions
  1. Combine pork mince, soy sauce and black pepper in a bowl, mix well.
  2. Chop garlic and onion finely
  3. Shred cabbage
  4. Peel the carrots, grate them and the water chestnuts – I did this in a food processor.
  5. Warm a small amount of oil in a wok, add the pork mixture and fry for a couple of minutes
  6. Add onion and garlic, fry until the meat is browned and the onion is soft
  7. Add the water chestnuts, carrots and cabbage, and keep cooking until the vegetables are cooked through and most of the water has been cooked out of them.
  8. Chop the spring onions and add them.
  9. Put the whole lot in a colander or sieve for ten minutes or so (or as long as you like) to allow more of the excess moisture to drain away.

Assembly and baking

Although I usually try to make my own pastry from scratch for this blog, I just couldn’t see a good reason for doing so here – and as far as I know, none of my Asian friends can be bothered either: the supermarket-bought wrappers are just fine. I couldn’t find fresh ones, so I bought a frozen pack: it was important to defrost them well in advance, because otherwise, peeling a wrapper off the frozen block would have been impossible without tearing it.

How many spring rolls this makes is a function of the size of your wrappers and how much filling you want to put into each. If you put a large amount of filling into each wrapper, you’ll have thinner pastry and a less carb-heavy dish; if you put less filling, you’ll have multiple layers of pastry, which will make it easier to get a crisper outside. I used wrappers that were 190mm square and put quite a lot of filling in, so the quantities here made about 20. Next time, I think, I’d go for two thirds of the filling I used here and make 30 rolls.

You want to work as quickly as you can manage, because the moisture from the filling will soak into the pastry faster than you would like.

  • 1 packet spring roll wrappers (20-30)
  • Cooking spray (I used a sunflower oil spray)
  1. Preheat oven to 225℃ fan
  2. Have ready a baking tray with a rack above it – I used a rack that I would normally use for cooling cakes or biscuits. Also have ready a small bowl of water and a pastry brush.
  3. Place a wrapper on a clean work surface so that you’re looking at a diamond rather than a square (i.e. the thing furthest away from you is a corner, not an edge).
  4. Spoon some filling into a cigar shape in the middle of the wrapper, going left-to-right as you see it.
  5. Tuck the corner furthest from you over your cigar of filling
  6. Tuck the left hand right corners into the middle
  7. Brush the remaining flat part of the wrapper with water, and tuck it over your filling to form the completed roll.
  8. Repeat for half a dozen or so rolls, spray them generously with cooking spray, transfer them onto you rack, turning them outside down as you go. Now spray the other side.
  9. Repeat until your rack is full. You’ll probably need to do the whole process twice: if you have a second pan and rack, you can bake them all at the same time; otherwise, you’ll have to wait until the first batch is backed.
  10. Bake for around 25-30 minutes until crisp.
  11. Cool slightly before eating.
Around the world in 80 bakes, no.39: Sri Lankan Christmas Cake

Around the world in 80 bakes, no.39: Sri Lankan Christmas Cake

It being that time of year, I was casting around for a Christmas cake that was suitably exotic for this blog, but still had that fruit-laden richness for cold winter evenings. To my surprise, the one that leapt out at me was a recipe from Sri Lanka, which makes something that’s recognisably in the English Christmas Cake tradition, but softer and moister. The ever-reliable sbs.com.au provided the recipe.

What distinguishes the Sri Lankan version is a hefty dose of chow-chow preserve (other Sri Lankan touches are the addition of rosewater and cardamom). Chow-chow is a fruit with many names: choko, chouchou, mirliton, chayote; it’s roughly the shape and consistency of a quince, with a bright green skin reminiscent of a Granny Smith apple. I couldn’t find the preserve locally, but the fruit was readily available in Indian or Caribbean stores, of which we have plenty in London, so I made my own preserve, which wasn’t difficult. (Admission: I did leave mine on the stove for way too long, so it crystallised on setting: this didn’t seem to damage the cake overly.)

Traditionally, you would cover the cake with marzipan and hard icing. That’s too much sweetness for me, so I just made the fruit cake. I also left mine relatively soft and gooey, which is really delicious, at the expense of being tricky to cut. You may want to leave yours in a bit longer than I did.

The chow-chow preserve

Starting with this recipe, this made enough for two cakes. You may want to halve the amounts.

  • 1.1 kg chayote (3 fruits)
  • 1.5 kg sugar
  • 380 ml water
  • ¾ tsp salt
  1. Peel and chop the chayote. 
  2. Put everything into a preserving pan and cook until the fruit is soft and the syrup is thick. You probably want a sugar temperature of around 105℃ – I went well over that.
  3. Cool, and put into sterilised jars until needed.

The cake

  • 150g unsalted cashews
  • 150g unsalted almonds
  • 200g glacé cherries
  • 500g chow-chow preserve
  • 150g glacé pineapple
  • 240g raisins 
  • 240g sultanas 
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom 
  • ½ tsp ground cloves 
  • 1 tsp rosewater (see Note) 
  • Grated zest of 1 orange
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 60 ml brandy 
  • 250g unsalted butter 
  • 385g caster sugar 
  • 6 eggs
  • 180 g semolina flour
  1. Preheat oven to 140℃ fan
  2. Line a cake tin with baking paper (these quantities work perfectly for a fairly tall 20cm x 20cm tin)
  3. Chop the almonds, toast them in a dry pan, set aside to cool
  4. Chop the cashews, toast them in a dry pan, set aside to cool
  5. Halve the cherries (if they weren’t already bought that way
  6. Chop the pineapple and chow-chow preserve so that the pieces are smaller than half a glacé cherry. How small you want to go is up to you.
  7. Put all fruits, zest, spices, rosewater and brandy into a large bowl and mix them up.
  8. When the nuts are cool, add them also and mix
  9. Chop the butter into small pieces and cream it with the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer
  10. One a time, separate the eggs, adding the yolk to the butter-sugar mix and incorporating it, and reserving the white in another bowl.
  11. Combine the egg yolk/sugar/butter mix with the fruit-nut mix, add the semolina flour and stir until evenly spread.
  12. Beat the egg whites until soft but not hard, fold into the mix.
  13. Spoon the mixture into your lined tin, pressing it to the edges to smooth out any ruffles in the baking paper.
  14. Cut another square of paper and place it on the top: this will stop the cake drying out
  15. Bake for around 3 hours, or more if you prefer a less gooey cake
  16. Cut into three or four rectangles
  17. If you want, ice with marzipan and hard icing.