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Pizza verde

12 Jan

A freshly baked pizza verde (green), the perfect lighter option to a regular pizza with tomato base sauce (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

There is something really beautiful about a pizza topped with only one colour – in this case green. I’ve made hundreds of pizzas in my life, mostly with a traditional red tomato base sauce and some without the sauce (a white pizza, also called pizza bianca). So technically this is a white pizza topped with green ingredients and no mozzarella, only a few chunks of Danish blue cheese (with a greenish colour). I’ve added a mixture of green ingredients with really intense flavours, like very salty capers, fresh peppery greens and earthy broccoli. The broccoli and blue cheese really works together, especially when they get all toasty in a very hot oven.

If you don’t like broccoli or any of the stuff I’ve chosen, just substitute it with your favourite green veg and leaves and give it a try. It’s a fabulous informal starter, cut into squares or slices, but also a great light lunch or supper.

For the dough: (makes 2 tray-size pizzas or 3 regular round pizzas)

  • 2 cups (500 ml) cake flour or white bread flour
  • 10 ml instant yeast
  • 2,5 ml salt
  • 5 ml sugar
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) luke warm water
  • olive oil, for greasing the bowl

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Add the water and mix with your hands until it starts to come together, then press into a ball and start kneading. Knead to a smooth soft ball of dough, about 5-10 minutes. Oil the inside of a clean large bowl, then place the dough in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave to stand in a warm place to rise until doubled in size – about 30 minutes.

For the pizza toppings, per tray size pizza:

  • a small head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 100 g blue cheese (or feta, or goats cheese)
  • a handful capers
  • a bunch of spring onion, finely sliced
  • a handful of greens, including rocket and baby spinach
  • a drizzle of olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 230 C.

On a clean surface dusted with flour, divide the dough into 2 or 3 balls, then roll out each one with a flour-dusted rolling pin until very thin. Transfer to a large baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper.

Top the pizza dough with small broccoli florets, crumbled blue cheese and capers. Bake at 230 C for around 7 minutes (or until golden brown on the edges), then remove from the oven. Transfer to a wooden board, then top with spring onion, fresh green leaves and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve at once.

Beetroot salad with marinated tomatoes and goats cheese

10 Jan

The most colourful salad that you can imagine: shaved beetroot with marinated tomatoes and goats cheese (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

A few weeks ago I had a lovely wine tasting at Babylonstoren. They serve the most delightful snack platters at their tasting room, packed with fantastic fresh produce from their breathtaking, abundant gardens as well as a selection of locally sourced charcuterie and cheeses. It’s totally worth a visit and great value for money.

One of the most memorable items on these snack platters was a jar of marinated baby tomatoes. I assumed that they were slow roasted because of the intense flavour, but after enquiring about them the management confided that they were simply marinated overnight in a mixture of lots of red wine vinegar, olive oil and fresh herbs.

I decided to give it a go at home, and after marinating a jar overnight I served it with a few greens, some shaved multicoloured raw beetroot and a few slices of crottin (goats cheese). What a magnificently colourful picture! I loved the crunchy, earthiness of the beetroot, the tang of the crottin and the bursting sweetness of the tomatoes. Such a stunning looking salad for summer entertaining.

Marinated rosa tomatoes with red wine vinegar & extra virgin olive oil (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Ingredients for the marinated tomatoes: (serves 4)

  • about 250 g rosa/cherry tomatoes, halved
  • a sprig of rosemary, stalk removed, finely chopped
  • 1/2 clove garlic, finely grated (optional)
  • 2/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 45 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Place the tomatoes, rosemary and garlic in a 500g glass jar. Add the vinegar and oil and season with salt & pepper. Close the jar and tilt it over to mix all the ingredients. Refrigerate overnight to marinate (or for at least 6 hours).

For the salad: (serves 4)

  • a handful green leaves, washed
  • a few baby beets, peeled & finely sliced/shaved (mandolin cutter works best)
  • a few radishes, finely shaved
  • 1/2 red onion, finely sliced
  • a chunk of crottin (goats cheese), sliced
  • one batch of marinated tomatoes (see above)
  • a handful mixed micro herbs (optional)

Method:

Arrange the leaves, beets, radishes, red onion, crottin and tomatoes on a salad platter or on individual plates. Top with micro herbs and dress with the tomato marinade. Serve immediately.

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Fresh Feasting with Pork 360: Pork & Pineapple Burgers with Herb Mayo

9 Jan

Pork & pineapple burger with coriander mayo (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

If you love great burgers, you’re in for a treat. Making patties out of great quality pork mince results in a much softer patty than ground beef, delivering a really awesome texture that’s almost marrow-like. They’re seasoned with smoked paprika and ginger, paired with a slice of grilled fresh pineapple and topped with a dollop of creamy coriander mayo. Add some crispy iceberg lettuce and a buttery, golden, toasted sesame bun. This might be one of the best tasting burgers I’ve ever made.

This recipe is the last in a series of six that I’ve developed in association with Pork 360. It’s a quality assurance and traceability certification – a guarantee to both the consumer and retailing sector that the producer has a consistent production process that complies with minimum standards and ensures high-quality pork. The Pork 360 projects takes place under the guidance of the South African Pork Producers Association (SAPPO). Watch their video for more info.

In a nutshell: it’s pork you can trust!

You will find all of the listed ingredients at your local Food Lover’s Market. Look out for the Pork 360 mark/logo on the pork products.

Pork burger with grilled pineapple, crispy lettuce and creamy herb mayo (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Ingredients: (makes 4)

  • 600-700 g pork mince
  • salt & pepper
  • 5 ml smoked paprika
  • 15 ml fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 1/2 small onion, coarsely grated
  • for the herb mayo:
    • 1 cup creamy mayonnaise
    • a handful fresh coriander, finely chopped
    • a squirt lemon juice
  • 4 sesame burger buns, halved and buttered
  • 4 large iceberg lettuce leaves, washed & drained
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 4 slices fresh pineapple

Method:

  1. For the patties: In a mixing bowl, add the pork and season generously with salt & freshly ground black pepper. Add the smoked paprika, ginger and onion and mix well using clean hands (or a fork, if you prefer). Divide the mixture into four and shape into flat disks. I like placing them on pieces of grease-proof baking paper for an easy transfer to the pan later. Always remember that meat will shrink and pulls to its center in the pan, so make each pattie a little wider and flatter than you think you should. Set aside.
  2. For the herb mayo: mix the mayonnaise, coriander and lemon juice together with a fork (for a smooth result, process in a food processor). Set aside.
  3. Toast the buttered insides of the buns in a hot pan until golden and crunchy. Transfer to plates, then top the bottom halves with lettuce.
  4. Add olive oil to the hot pan and fry the patties on both sides until golden brown and cooked. Remove from the pan to rest while you fry the pineapple.
  5. In the same pan, quickly fry the pineapple slices in a very hot pan until charred on either side.
  6. Place the rested patties on top of the lettuce, then top with a slice of fried pineapple and a dollop of herb mayo. Place the sesame bun halves on top. Serve immediately with or without fries.

Note: the patties firm up quite a bit when cooked, so don’t worry about adding an egg to the mixture – it’s not needed.

Fresh feasting with Pork 360: Vietnamese Shredded Pork Ramen

2 Jan

A comforting yet refreshingly light bowl of shredded pork noodles in broth (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Wishing you all the best for an incredible 2017 ahead! It’s such a privilege to have another clean slate in front of us – for making more beautiful memories, realizing new dreams and becoming the best we can be.

This is my first recipe for the new year: a fresh and punchy yet warm and comforting bowl of noodles with zesty greens and strands of succulent pork. It’s low in fat but big in flavour, great for a quick, fresh dinner (accommodating all my new year’s resolutions after an indulgent few weeks in December). It’s also a fantastic way of using up leftover slow-roasted pork – actually, using leftovers is probably the best way to do this if you want to save time, money and energy.

This is my 5th recipe in collaboration with Pork 360. It’s a quality assurance and traceability certification – a guarantee to both the consumer and retailing sector that the producer has a consistent production process that complies with minimum standards and ensures high-quality pork. The Pork 360 projects takes place under the guidance of the South African Pork Producers Association (SAPPO). Watch their video for more info.

In a nutshell: it’s pork you can trust!

So plan ahead when you’re making your next large roasted pork shoulder or a whole roasted pork neck and make these bowls of ramen the day after. It’s packed with flavour and so easy to make. A boiled egg completes the picture and adds an authentic Asian touch. An inexpensive way to kick off a year of fresh feasting!

Note: Food Lover’s Market stocks a great selection of Asian ingredients and pork cuts, so you’ll be able to find everything you need right there.

Ingredients for the broth: (serves 4)

  • 1 liter good quality chicken/beef stock (add some pan sauces from your roast, if you’re using leftovers)
  • 45 ml soy sauce
  • juice of a lime (or half a lemon)
  • a small knob of ginger, sliced
  • 1 small garlic clove, sliced
  • 1/2 small chilli, sliced (adjust according to taste)
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Bring all the ingredients to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes over low heat. Taste and adjust seasoning, then strain and set aside, discarding the aromatics.

Ingredients for the ramen bowl:

  • 1 liter broth (see above)
  • 350-400 g quick-cook noodles
  • about 1,5 cups shredded cooked pork (use leftovers from your roast or use pan-fried pork steaks, cut into strips)
  • 4 eggs, soft boiled and peeled
  • one bunch spring onions, finely sliced
  • a handful fresh basil/coriander/chives
  • a handful bean sprouts (optional)
  • sliced chilli, to garnish (optional)
  • black sesame seeds, to garnish (optional)

Heat the broth to boiling point, then set it aside, covered, while you assemble the bowls. Cook the noodles in water until just tender, then drain and divide amongst 4 bowls. Top the noodles with broth, shredded pork, halved boiled egg, spring onions, fresh herbs, sprouts and chilli. Serve immediately.

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3 Festive Bubbly Cocktails with Poetry Stores

28 Dec

My three easy bubbly cocktails on the video set at Bartinney Champagne Bar in colaboration with Poetry Stores (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

We’re in the middle of silly season, entertaining family and friends almost daily and celebrating a few days off work before the start of a new year. I’m at the beach with my family and we’re in the habit of pouring a casual festive drink every evening at sundown.

If you’re a lover of bubbly, you’ll love these three easy cocktail recipes that I wrote for Poetry Stores. No special gear required, just pour and enjoy. It’s such a stunning way to welcome guests for a festive occasion! Thank you to Poetry Stores for this fun collaboration. Watch the video:

 

Mango Tango: one part thick mango juice, two parts ice cold bubbly, one basil leaf (photography by @Tasha Seccombe)

Ruby Rage: ice cold bubbly, a squeeze of fresh pomegranate juice plus some pomegranate seeds, and a squeeze of lime juice (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Watermelon Fizz: bubbly, a scoop of watermelon sorbet, fresh mint (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Tasha and I had a lot of fun filming this video with the team of Skript.tv! Here are some behind-the-scenes pics of the shoot, as taken by Tasha Seccombe.

Caught in the act – sipping bubbly before lunchtime was part of the job (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Bernard and Rob from Skript.tv (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Action! Bernard from Skript.tv (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Loving what I do, doing what I love! (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Getting my game face on at Bartinney Wine & Champagne Bar (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Shooting at Bartinney Wine & Champagne Bar in Stellenbosch with Skript.tv (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

A festive cheese stack with Poetry Stores

27 Dec

An easy, yet impressive cheese stack with fresh berries and honey for dessert and as a centre piece (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

Everybody loves a selection of festive cheeses when it comes to entertaining. It can be a generous starter, a light snack or even a classy dessert. In this case, it can also double up as a stunning centrepiece  for your festive table. So easy, yet really impressive.

Invest in a few rounds of beautiful whole cheeses and you’ve got dessert and gifts sorted in one go (wrap chunks of leftovers for your guests on their way home).

Happy entertaining, everyone! Watch the video that I made in collaboration with Poetry Stores:

Wooden boards, black crockery and ornamental candle holders available from Poetry Stores.

Video produced by Skript.tv

Still photography by Tasha Seccombe.

Filmed at Bartinney Wine & Champagne Bar in Stellenbosch.

Blueberry and almond crostata

22 Dec

Crumbly, gooey blueberry & almond crostata (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

A few years ago I posted this recipe for a peach galette. By the way, the French call it a galette, the Italians call it a crostata. Now that I’ve given all the credit to the French previously, I suppose it’s time to give the Italians a turn.

Since the first time that I made this rustic free-form tart, it has become my secret weapon. I’ve made it numerous times with cling peaches, sometimes with nectarines and once with plums. Every single time the result has been magnificent: buttery, flaky pastry enveloping an oozing almond paste centre along with slightly tart and soft fruit on top. It’s a revelation to many who taste it the first time. The simplicity and intensity of it all is just superb. And can you imagine adding a dollop of creme fraiche or vanilla ice cream? The stuff dreams are made of, literally.

Almond paste: (enough for at least 2 crostatas)

  • 100 g (250 ml) ground almonds
  • 250 ml icing sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon almond essence
  • 1 egg white, lightly whisked

Pastry: (makes 2 medium size crostatas)

(Recipe for pastry by Ina Garten)

  • 2 cups cake flour
  • ¼ cup caster sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 250 g cold butter, diced
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) ice cold water

Filling: (enough for 2 crostatas)

  • 1 egg, lightly whisked
  • about 1,5 cups fresh blueberries – or use any other seasonal fruit except strawberries and bananas

Method:

For the almond paste: Place all the ingredients except the egg white in a food processor. Add half the egg white and process until it comes together into a ball (add more egg white until you get to the desired consistency, add more icing sugar if your mixture is too sticky). Remove from the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 3 hours. It won’t ever freeze solid because of the sugar content, but it is much easier to handle when it is hard enough to grate.

For the pastry: Place the flour, sugar, salt and butter in a food processor. Pulse until it resembles breadcrumbs, then add the icy water all at once while the motor is running. As soon as the dough starts to come together, remove it from the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Press into a disk shape, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to firm up.

To assemble: Pre-heat oven to 220 C. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to a thickness of about 5 mm. Transfer carefully onto a large baking tray lined with baking paper. Brush the top of the pastry with egg, leaving a 3cm border around the edges. Coarsely grate the frozen almond paste all over the brushed egg pastry surface, then cover with blueberries. Fold the edges over carefully, keeping the look of the edges rustic. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack before serving with vanilla ice cream (serve hot or at room temperature).

Goats cheese, green fig & walnut log

21 Dec

Make your own festive cheese roll with chunks of green fig and nuts (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

There’s no easier way to entertain than with cheese and crackers – perfect for a lazy glass of wine, a simple starter or even an elegant dessert. Although there’s nothing wrong with just unwrapping a few blocks of your favourite cheese and serving them on a platter, this recipe goes the extra mile and delivers something beautifully tasty that looks like a lot more effort than it actually is (always a good thing).

If you love blue cheese, goats cheese and green figs, this simple recipe will have you longing for more opportunities to entertain friends and family. The mixture firms up quickly in the fridge so you don’t need hours to prepare. A stunner for special occasions like Christmas, Easter and everything in-between.

Preparation time: 10 minutes plus 1 hour for chilling
Serves: 6

Ingredients:

  • 200 g creamy blue cheese (gorgonzola, Simonzola or similar)
  • 100 g plain, soft goats cheese log (chevin)
  • 2-3 preserved green figs in syrup, drained and cut into small chunks
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) brandy
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 50 g shelled walnuts, chopped
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds, for coating on the outside (I’ve used a mixture of black & white, lightly toasted)
  • melba toast, for serving (or crackers of your choice)
  • fresh fruit and/or preserves, to serve (optional)

Method:

  1. In a medium size mixing bowl, mix together the blue cheese, goats cheese, figs, brandy, nutmeg and walnuts using a wooden spoon.
  2. Spoon the chunky mixture onto a sheet of grease-proof baking paper and carefully roll into a neat sausage shape. Place in the fridge to firm up until ready to serve – at least 1 hour.
  3. Spread the sesame seeds out in a thin layer on a large plate. When ready to serve, unroll the cheese log from the wrapping paper, then roll it in the sesame seeds to cover all sides. Place on a serving board and serve immediately with melba toast or crackers, fresh fruit and preserves.

Festive Feasting with Pork 360: Stuffed Porchetta

20 Dec

Moist porchetta stuffed with spinach & ricotta (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

It’s almost Christmas and some of us will have the privilege and joy of preparing a beautiful roast for our family and friends on this special day. A stuffed roast is even more festive in my opinion, and the Italians do it best with a traditional porchetta. Porchetta simply refers to a savoury, moist, fatty, boneless cut of pork that is rolled and roasted – perfect for stuffing beforehand and cutting beautiful rounds when cooked.

I recently developed six new recipes in collaboration with Pork 360 (this one’s number four). It’s a quality assurance and traceability certification – a guarantee to both the consumer and retailing sector that the producer has a consistent production process that complies with minimum standards and ensures high-quality pork. The Pork 360 projects takes place under the guidance of the South African Pork Producers Association (SAPPO). Watch their video for more info.

In a nutshell: it’s pork you can trust!

I’ve chosen a boneless pork belly for this porchetta recipe, but you can also use a boneless shoulder. Look for a belly with a thin layer of fat compared to meat – it will still be super moist but not overwhelmingly fatty. I bought the meat (and other ingredients) from my local Food Lover’s Market. You can find the most beautiful, fresh, whole pork shoulders, necks, bellies and legs – great choices when entertaining a large crowd. They also have great spare ribs, chops and festive gammons.

Serve your porchetta in thick slices with your choice of roast potatoes or mash, some pan-fried spinach and a generous drizzle of the pan sauces. Enjoy the festive season everybody!

Ingredients: (serves 6)

  • for the stuffing:
    • 15 ml olive oil
    • 200 g baby spinach
    • 250 g ricotta cheese
    • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
    • a pinch of ground nutmeg
    • salt & pepper
  • about 1,5 kg boneless pork belly
  • 250 g smoked streaky bacon
  • 30 ml olive oil
  • 1 small onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • about 2 tablespoons chopped herbs (like thyme & sage)

Method:

  1. To make the stuffing: heat the oil in a large pan, then fry the spinach over high heat until just wilted, stirring often. Remove from the heat, drain the excess liquid from the pan, then place in a food processor along with the ricotta, parmesan and nutmeg. Season generously with salt & pepper, then process to a thick pulp. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 170 C. Place the pork belly on a clean working surface, skin side up. Use a very sharp knife to remove the tough outer layer of skin (save it for making crackling later, if you want to). Turn the belly over, widest side facing you – you want to roll it up to form a long/narrow log, not a short/fat log.
  3. Arrange the stuffing horizontally in the middle of the belly from side to side, then roll the belly up with the seam on the bottom. Arrange slivers of streaky bacon diagonally over the top, overlapping slightly.
  4. Use pieces of kitchen string to neatly secure the roll at about 3 cm intervals, knotting them at the top and snipping the loose ends.
  5. Drizzle a deep medium-size roasting tray with olive oil, then arrange the onions, garlic and herbs on the bottom. Place the prepared pork roll on top of this in the middle of the tray. Roast for 3 hours at 170 C (if the meat/veg get too dark, cover lightly with foil). Remove from the oven and let it rest for at least 10 minutes before carving.
  6. Serve hot with pan-fried green vegetables, roast potatoes or mash (or cauliflower puree) and a drizzle of pan juices.

Note: If you love a thicker gravy, remove the meat from the tray after roasting and bring the pan juices to a boil over the stove top, scraping any brown bits. Add some lamb or chicken stock (about 250 ml), a splash of dry white wine and cook, stirring. Mix some of the hot liquid with a spoonful of flour and a spoonful of butter, then return the paste to the pan and stir to make a smooth, slightly thickened gravy. Add salt & pepper to taste, then pour in a jug and serve with the porchetta.

Vietnamese chicken & vegetable spring rolls with peanut sauce

19 Dec

Fresh, crunchy, beautiful to look at and oh-so-delicious Vietnamese spring rolls (photography by Tasha Seccombe)

If you have never eaten these translucent rolls before, you just have to give it a try. Unlike deep-fried Chinese spring rolls, Vietnamese-style spring rolls are made with water-soaked rice paper. They are absolutely beautiful to look at and such a joy to eat: tender and moist on the outside (yes, it’s a weird kind of texture), packed with all the freshness that resembles Vietnamese cuisine on the inside.

But the star of this show is the peanut sauce – a deeply savoury, complex dip that will make you fall in love with it, bite by bite. This sauce is so good that I can eat it with a spoon. So much more than “just” a peanut sauce.

Note: Although Asian pantry ingredients might not be cheap, they go a very long way. Invest in these few pantry ingredients (like hoisin sauce, fish sauce and soy sauce) and you’ll be able to cook up some magic for quite a few meals.

For the peanut sauce:

  • 1 cup unflavoured, natural, smooth peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup good quality soy sauce (I use Kikkoman)
  • 5-10 ml fish sauce
  • juice from 2 limes
  • 1 knob of ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 1 medium size garlic clove, finely grated
  • 1 small red chilli, finely chopped

Method:

Place all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix with electric beaters until smooth (or give it some elbow grease with a wooden spoon). Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary – it should be deeply savoury, nutty and a little sweet and sour all in one.

For the spring rolls: (serves 4-6 as a starter)

  • 16 Vietnamese-style large rice paper rounds
  • water, for soaking
  • 1 baby red cabbage, finely sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, finely julienned
  • 1/2 cucumber, finely julienned
  • 2 bunches spring onions, finely sliced
  • a few red chillies, finely sliced (optional)
  • 1 punnet mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 punnet basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 punnet coriander leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 chicken breasts, steamed/grilled and shredded with 2 forks
  • 1 small bunch fine bean sprouts (optional)

Method:

  1. Prep all the ingredients according to the list, then place each one separately in bowls in the correct order, as listed, from left to right (place about 5cm deep clean room temperature water in a bowl that is wider than the surface of the rice paper). Place a clean damp folded tea towel next to the water bowl on a clean work surface.
  2. Soak one rice paper at a time for about 30 seconds or until just soft. Remove from the water, then place on the tea towel to drain slightly while you fill it.
  3. Place a small amount of cabbage, carrots, cucumber, spring onions, chilli, mint, basil, coriander, chicken and sprouts horizontally in the middle of the soaked paper. Carefully but firmly fold over the bottom of the paper, then the sides, then roll it up to form a stuffed roll. Set aside and cover with a damp clean tea towel to prevent it from drying out. Refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap, until ready to serve (not more than 2 hours, preferably) or serve immediately with the peanut dipping sauce.

Note: “Julienned” vegetables is a style of cutting that resembles very fine strips. If you have trouble doing this, rather use a coarse grater to produce similar strips in long strands.

And: Omit the chicken for a just-as-good vegetarian option.

Some of the exotic ingredients for my spring rolls. Photography by Tasha Seccombe.

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