Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Mediterrasian kalitsounia (Καλιτσούνια ασιάτικα)

Last count, there were half a dozen cabbage heads in the garden. In Greece, we often use cabbage raw in salad, but cabbage is also very tasty cooked. There were no takers for another round of lahanorizo, so I turned to fusion cuisine to help me use up our environmentally-friendly garden-grown cabbage. Asian cuisine uses a lot of cabbage (and many other Brassica varieites), in stir-fries, soups and one of my favorite snacks, something I haven't had in ages, spring rolls, which I'd say is the Asian version of kalitsounia. Now is my chance to use the spring roll wrappers I had bought a little while ago from the meagre foreign produce section in my local supermarket (I don't need to tell you which brand they were).

broken spring roll wrappers

Sadly, after being moved and shuffled about for the last month, they were rendered unusable the day I got round to wanting to use them (the dog got them instead). I always have filo pastry in the house, the kind made by my local pastry maker, so I decided to use that instead.

I made vegetarian spring rolls, but the ingredients can easily be changed around according to what is available in your pantry, freezer or vegetable bin in the fridge. I love being able to alter recipes using seasonal ingredients, even though my family isn't very appreciative of this. They complain that the same recipe never tastes the same when I make it a second time, and they are probably saying the truth. I tried to present these spring rolls as another form of kalitsounia, but the children weren't impressed. As their father says, 'they don't know hunger' and 'they haven't been to the army yet'.

spring roll filling

My spring rolls were very spartan: carrots, cabbage, onions and mushrooms. Canned mushrooms. I can imagine a friend's face as he reads this: "Oh my God, canned mushrooms!" he exclaims. "There are so many fresh ones available, why can't you use those instead, and you had to buy canned mushrooms?"

Canned mushrooms are just like anything canned - they are picked in their best form and preserved in a way that makes it easy for someone to store them for use when they want. They are environmentally friendly in that they don't require power to be stored (in the way that frozen goods do). If canned mushrooms sound perturbing to you, just think of fresh mushrooms grown hydroponically (tasteless), or maybe fresh mushrooms grown in a field sprayed with a lot of chemical fertilisers (toxic), or - the most perturbing of all to most of us - fresh mushrooms whose DNA has been changed (Genetically Modified Organisms). The mushrooms I used were canned by KYKNOS, a Greek canning company mainly known for their tinned tomato products, which has now expanded to preserving fruit, beans and okra, one of their more exotic preserves. So canned mushrooms it is. Just pretend the mushrooms were fish and you lived in the mountains: you'd be stocking up your pantry with salt cod and tinned mackerel.

filo pastry wrapper for spring roll
Spring rolls made with three kinds of pastry: paper-thin filo pastry (top), thick filo pastry (bottom centre) and some salvaged mass-produced rice-based pastry (bottom left).kalitsounia spring rolls

These spring rolls were very good; I made them a second time and served them at the cutting of the Vasilopita at my workplace. Needless to say, they were a hit.

For the filling (this made about 25 pieces), you need:
half a head of a small cabbage, shredded as finely as possible
a carrot, finely grated
an onion, thinly sliced
125g finely chopped mushrooms
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
a knob of fresh ginger, finely grated
1/4 cup soya sauce
a few drops (or tablespoons) of olive oil

Mix all the ingredients and let the flavours blend by setting aside for ten minutes before using.

Use squares (or rounds) of filo pastry and roll up the spring rolls just as you would do with spring roll wrappers. Fry in very hot oil in batches, so that the oil doesn't cool down too much while you are cooking them. Turn them over to cook on both sides. Drain on absorbent paper.

These spring rolls need a saucy dip to accompany them, along with a cold beer. I used a Thai hot chili sauce and soya sauce. They make great snacks, but are preferably served warm.

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Susan from The Well-Seasoned Cook.

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