Fresh Szechwan Steak Garden Rolls


That photo, my friends, that one right there?  That is what tongue tingling flavour looks like.  Really!  I wanted something fresh and crunchy that didn’t mean deep-fried and heavy.  I would say that it was a desperate cling to summer and it’s fresh flavours but it’s not.  I like summer, don’t get me wrong but Autumn is my kind of time.  Breezy, fresh air whirling about, trees getting their Autumn/Winter wardrobe in, not to mention all the layering I can do!  Fine knits, deep jewel colours…Gah, I can’t wait!


You might need to have a little scout around for two of the ingredients in this.  Szechwan peppercorns and fresh Thai basil.  They are absolutely worth it though, really truly.  I would not lie to you about food.

The Thai basil is a bit more aniseed than Italian basil.. a little bit like tarragon too.  Tarragon and Italian basil put together, maybe?  But not spicy like star anise.. a clean aniseed, citrussy.  Ah hell just try it! It’s different and wonderful and combined with the Szechwan pepper will make your tongue tingle.  Szechwan pepper is different to black pepper.. it’s citrus and bright and doesn’t have the same heat.

If you can’t find either of them, no sweat!  Go for black peppercorn steak and coriander with the mint, just as fresh and bright and less of a shopping faff.


Smother your steak in a little sesame oil and crushed Szechwan pepper.  Sear it on a grill so it’s medium rare.  Sorry, I love the pink beef!



Let the steak rest whilst you faff about getting everything ready for wrapping.  Once you chop the two other items it’s really a very quick recipe.  And so full of flavour – or did I say that already?


The dipping sauce is minced garlic with a tablespoon of this that and the other.  Simple.  Fast.  Delicious.


Yeah, rolling the rice wrappers is a little tricky but you quickly get the hang of it. As long as you use a clean damp cloth you’ll be fine.

This recipe gave me 10 rolls, or it would have done if I hadn’t eaten so many as I was making them.

250g good steak, rump is fine
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Szechwan peppercorns
Vietnamese rice wrappers
Vermicelli rice noodles
Spring onion, cut into strips
Carrot, cut into strips
Fresh Thai basil
Fresh mint

Dipping sauce

2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp lime juice
1 crushed garlic

Cook the vermicelli noodles until al dente and rinse with cold water.
Rub the steak with sesame oil and press with the crushed Szechwan peppercorns. Sear the steak to your liking, mine was 2 minutes a side.
Let the steak rest.
Mix together the dipping sauce ingredients.
Get your rolling area ready. Lay down a damp clean cloth, get a bowl of water big enough for the rice wrappers and bring the fillings close to hand.
The rice wrappers can be a little tricky but you’ll get the hang of it. Dip it in the water and rub it until it becomes pliable and floppy.
Lay it onto the damp towel and begin to layer the fillings.
Place one Thai basil leaf and one leaf of mint down first, this way they’ll show through when you wrap them up.
Add a few strips of spring onion and one of carrot. One or two strips of beef, depending on their size and then a bundle of noodles. Fold over the bottom of the wrapper over the filling. Fold in both sides and roll ‘er up.
It might take one or two goes to get the amount of filling right but they’ll all be good eating!

Sweet Potato, Chilli and Coriander Soup

This was a “What have I got?” soup.  I had a meeting at 10am and then things to do at home before work at 4pm.  No time for a big lunchtime faff in the kitchen – but then, who does? – so I wanted to use what I had and what needed to be used.  Nobody wants to see sad abandoned vegetables staring them in the face when they make their morning coffee.

I had three sweet potatoes, the rest of the fresh coriander from last night’s bounty and some chillies in the fridge.  There are always chillies in the fridge. And onions. And a block of creamed coconut, because who doesn’t have one of those lying around?

Easily serves three

1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp flavourless oil
1 large onion, sliced
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut to be about 1 inch cubed. Doesn’t have to be neat
1 hot chilli with a slit cut in it
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 good quality chicken stock cube – Kallo for me
1 tbsp block coconut, grated/chopped/hacked
1 tbsp coriander stalks
1/2 a lime

In a saucepan melt the oil and butter and add the sweet potatoes. Let them sit on a moderate heat so they get some colour and start to caramelise to bring out their sweetness. When this happens add the onions and let them cook until they begin to go transluscent. Keep stirring so thing’s don’t stick. Chuck in the chilli and two garlic cloves, whole is fine.
Add the stock cube and pour over enough water to cover everything well. Put in the coconut to melt. Let this bubble for about 10 minutes, or really until the sweet potato is soft.
Take out the chilli, unless you want it blitzed up and therefore hotter. Add the coriander stalks and then tip/ladle the whole lot into a blender.
Go nuts. Blitz blitz blitz. I like mine smooth. If you don’t, then less blitzing.
Back into the pan to go from warm to hot and add a little more hot water if it’s too thick.
I squeezed in about a large teaspoon of lime juice just to balance out the sweet from the potato.

Really good with naan bread.