A romantic dinner – the appetizer
This year, in mid January, for my husband’s birthday, I chose to give the gift of indulging, a surprise B’day dinner for an enthusiastic explorer of flavors and culinary observer. This way we celebrated, without having to let home a family member, the most important one… our baby girl.
These are some recipes for when you’re not pressed by time but when you want to prepare an enticing meal, a luxurious evening at home in every detail. So, I pulled together a sharing starter, a main course and a dessert I never cooked before.
What makes a meal special is not just what is on the plate but everything that surrounds it – in particular being able to relax and enjoy it. A special evening starts with a glass of sparkling wine or champagne, in this case I chose Bendis, the sparkling rose from Petro Vaselo, Recas region.
1st course- Prawn Rice Paper Rolls
I have an excellent recipe, from chef Lam, the Thai chef at Roberto’s @ Hilton – a fresh and colorful appetizer. It’s easy to make and packed full of flavor!
The accompanying boozy sauce makes this a rich and decadent dinner, and special enough for your beau’s B’day or for any other romantic dinner.
500g peeled prawns
2 cucumbers thinly sliced
2 carrots thinly sliced
1 bell pepper (I prefer yellow to give color to the veggies)
3 branches cilantro leaves
3 branches mint leaves
Ingredients for the sauce:
3 tbsp water
2 spoons palm sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
3 tbsp small dried shrimp
1 tsp garlic sliced on mandolin
1 tsp shallots or small red onions sliced on mandolin
2 fresh red chilies, chopped
1-2 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp lemon juice
Ustensils: a mandoline slicer is an invaluable tool in any kitchen (I use the Benriner mandolin slicer), a vegetable peeler and slicer, wok.
Thinly slice the carrots, the bell peppers and the cucumbers. Use the kind of slicer as in the picture, it will go easier. Mix them into a bowl. Chop the mint and the cilantro and add them to the mix.
Peel, wash and dry the fresh prawns and cook them in 2 spoons of oil for 4-5 minutes or until they turn into pink. Put them aside.
Cook the small dried shrimp in a pan on medium heat for 3 minutes. Set aside. The dried shrimp add a pungent and sharp flavor to this dish and can be found in Dragonul Rosu Asian market store.
Separately, place the palm sugar and water in a sauce pan on stove top over medium heat. Cook until sugar is dissolved and begins to bubble. Add the chilies, fish sauce, lime & lemon juice, onions and garlic. Stir and let cook for 2 minutes. Add the dried shrimp. Now take a sip and adjust on your taste.
For the rice paper rolls, fill a bowl about half-way with warm water. The bowl should be wider than the rice paper roll. Dip one wrapper in the water for about 20 seconds, until it is just soft, drain excess water. Place on a clean surface. Place a few of veggies across the rice paper, about 3cm in from the edge and top with a prawn. Fold over the bottom of the wrapper to enclose the filling. Fold in the sides and roll up firmly to enclose.
Place on a plate and cover loosely with damp paper. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling.
When ready to serve, cut them in half, turning them with the opening up and add a little bit of the sauce inside the roll. For an extra kick and crunchiness you can add some cashews or peanuts on top. As presentation is important, a touch of parsley and coriander leaves on top of the serving can give a great impression.
I paired a Romanian wine we hadn’t tried before, Bendis, that was a real delight! A sparkling with a bit of sweetness that perfectly complements the spicy- heat level of this dish. In general, wines with a fine fruit-acid balance, low-alcohol content and corresponding sweetness are perfectly suitable for spicy dishes.
Thinly slice the carrots, the bell peppers and the cucumbers
Cook the prawns in 2 spoons of oil for 4-5 minutes or until they turn into pink
Cook the small dried shrimp in a pan on medium heat for 3 minutes
Onion & garlic sliced on the mandolin, for the sauce
Let’s start to roll
Dip one wrapper in the water for about 20 seconds, until it is just soft
Place a few of the veg noodles across the rice paper, about 3cm in from the edge and top with a prawn. Fold in the sides and roll up firmly to enclose.
When ready to serve, cut the rolls in half so you can see the inside.