Let's pretend it's summer: Salmon and Mandarin Rice Paper Rolls

I set out to create a nice, sensible, easy weeknight meal for you.

I kind of failed. 

I did make something that tastes like summer and feels like a party. So really, what is failure? 

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If you're anything like me, it's two weeks into actual winter and you're already done. There are chilblains on my fingers and toes, the power bill is going up and up, and apparently I have no jumpers. Winter can go, now. 

Instead of whinging, I thought I would make a list of things I like about winter:
- Vintage coats
- Scarves
- Still, sunny days and pink sunsets
- Mandarins...

As you can see, I didn't get far. But as winter is my reality, I will move forward with a grin (and not just because my teeth are chattering). Let's make rice paper rolls!

The thing with rice paper rolls is that you don't really need a recipe...  But this recipe started out as one for salmon cakes we'll start with that and build them from there. If you don't have the time for a whole carry-on with rice paper and whatnot, I seriously eat these salmon cakes on a weekly basis - and often using tinned salmon (just remove the bigger bones and skip the poaching). They're amazing with rice and salad or stir-fried greens, potatoes, whatever you've got! 

Salmon Cakes

250g salmon (I often pick up the tail on special and this is a good recipe for that)
2 kaffir lime leaves
2cm lemongrass
1 tsp fresh ginger
few shakes chilli flakes

Place your salmon in a pan with one of the kaffir lime leaves. Cover about 80% with water and bring to a simmer. Cook for about 4-5 minutes and then turn off. Drain the liquid away and let cool.

While the salmon is cooling, use a microplane or the smallest grid on your grater to deal to the fresh ginger (I always keep a hand of ginger in my freezer) and the lemongrass. I also keep my lemongrass frozen. If you're dealing with fresh lemongrass I recommend chopping it very finely as it can be tough. Cut the stem out of your kaffir lime leaf and chop this very finely as well. Place these in a bowl with chilli flakes.

Break the salmon (including the skin) into small pieces and add to your bowl of herbs/roots. You might need to be picking bones out of the salmon at this stage depending on the cut of the salmon you bought. Stir the salmon and flavours together. 

Heat a non-stick or cast iron frying pan on a medium-high heat and grease with a little olive oil. Make the salmon mixture into tablespoon sized balls, squashed slightly into patties. Place 5 or 6 at a time in your pan - being careful not to splash yourself with hot oil! Cook for 2-3 min on each side. The rule of thumb with turning anything that you're frying (or baking, like roast veggies) is that it will turn easily when it is ready. If they're falling apart, you're turning them too soon. Pancakes are another good example, they won't flip nicely unless they're sufficiently cooked on the underside. 

Once all of your salmon cakes are cooked, set them aside to cool. Now gather the rest of your ingredients for the rice paper rolls. 

To make the salad for these rice paper rolls I used:

1/4 green cabbage
Juice 1.5 lemons
1 tsp fish sauce
2 carrots
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts
handful coriander, leaves and stems
10 Mint leaves
generous handful of peanuts

Slice the cabbage as thin as your patience can stand. Cover with the lemon juice and fish sauce. Let this sort of pickle for a while. Grate carrots, finely chop coriander (including stems) and mint leaves. Stir this in to the cabbage mixture with the sprouts and peanuts, and you're good to go. Celery, capsicum or anything else you have lying around is good in here too. This salad recipe makes much more than you will have the patience to turn in to rice paper rolls, but I love leftovers so I've been turning this into delicious lunches with tuna or tofu and rice, all week. 

Now you can assemble the rice paper rolls! Prepare the rice paper according to the instructions on the packaging, place 1/2 a broken-up salmon cake, a handful of salad, and a mandarin segment (I sliced mine in half because it was a big mandarin), in the centre of the rice paper and gently fold until sealed. Repeat until you run out of patience or ingredients! If you're having guests over this is quite a fun interactive way of dining - set out the salmon cakes, salad and mandarins, show them how to fold rice paper rolls and finish making dinner together.

Dipping sauce

2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp peanut butter
juice 1 lime

Whisk together until peanut butter is completely combined with lime juice and sweet chilli.