Four Clan Kitchen

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Vietnamese Fresh Spring Rolls and Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham)

Posted by fourclankitchen on January 29, 2017



The cafeteria at work sells Vietnamese Spring rolls for a ransom.  I thought it was time to switch to home-made ones and really, they are so easy to make and so versatile that they should be in your lunch rotation.   You can use whatever you have in the fridge and scale up to any number of people you want to feed.  Plus throw a couple of dipping sauces in.   My favorites are peanut sauce and nuoc cham, the Vietnamese sweet chilli garlic sauce.    For the Spring Roles, I  am providing a list of what I consider to be essential ingredients, plus a list of other ingredients that you can pick from.  I am providing  no quantities, you can scale up and down as you wish. You can buy the peanut sauce and nuoc cham and you can easily find vegetarian versions of each.  I am providing a version of nuoc cham that I obtained from the blog Cafe Sucre Farine and will post a recipe for peanut sauce another time.



Dipping Sauce (Nuoc Cham): 

2/3 cup warm water

1/4 cup sugar

1 clove garlic, minced

3 tbs fish sauce

2 tbs lime juice

1 tsp sambal olek (chilli sauce)

1-2 tsp cilantro stems, chopped fine



Spring Rolls (Essential Ingredients):

  • Spring Roll Wraps (any size), available at almost all supermarkets
  • Cilantro, finely chopped
  • Fresh Basil Leaves, finely chopped
  • Mint, Finely Chopped
  • Avocados
  • Firm Tofu, or substitute cooked shrimp/ left-over noodles,  or simply add more avocados and bean sprouts.  Anything that provides body will do.
  • Roasted, unsalted peanuts, crushed


Optional ingredients:

  • Lettuce, finely slivered
  • Bean Sprouts
  • Carrots, shredded
  • Radish, shredded
  • Raw Mango, shredded
  • Scallions, green parts, finely minced
  • Serrano peppers, finely minced
  • lime
  • Teriyaki Sauce, Soy Sauce, Salt




  1. Purchase or prepare dipping sauce(s).  For home-made  Nuoc cham, mix all listed ingredients and you are good to go.
  2. Prepare the Tofu:

Cut the Tofu slab into 5 horizontal sheets.  Heat oil in a frying pan and add the sheets.  Cook on high heat for a few minutes till both sides are browned (see image).  If you like, you can flavor the tofu with some teriyaki sauce as I did, or soy sauce or salt.  Cool and cut into match-sticks (see image).

3. Prep all other ingredients and have them available.

4.Place warm water in a large pan large enough to submerge the Spring Roll wraps.  A 9×13 baking pan works    well.

5. Assemble the Spring Rolls:

  1.  Submerge the Spring Roll wraps in the warm water till they soften and lose shape.  This takes seconds
  2. Place the wrap flat on a cutting board.
  3. Place ingredients on the wrap leaving a 1.5″ border on three sides.  Include the essential ingredients and any other ingredients of your choice from the optional list.  Do not overstuff.
  4.  Fold in the top and bottom and then the short  side.
  5. Roll the wrap and gently press the edges.  The edges will seal easily.
  6. Continue, till you are out of ingredients.
  7. Serve with dipping sauces.






Posted in Asian, baked, Breads, Breakfast, Brunch, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Quick Indian Chili Pepper Pickles (Mirchi ka Achar)

Posted by fourclankitchen on October 26, 2016


My mom made the best Indian pickles in the world.  Before she died,  I transcribed some of her recipes (minimal as they were) onto my iPhone Notes.  Unfortunately, when I bought a new phone,  these files did not survive and now these recipes are nothing but a memory on my tongue.  So I was delighted to come across a recipe on the website called Indian Simmer.  I adapted and the simplest one and used the last of my garden’s serranos to make a pickle you can prepare in just a few minutes and eat within a few hours.


  • 250 gm chili peppers, any combination.  I used a mix of red fresno and serrano peppers, but Thai bird peppers are traditional and much, much hotter.
  • 2 tbs.  brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds (omit if you cannot find these)
  • Generous pinch of Asafoetida (Hing).  Skip if you cannot find it,  but this is like fish sauce and adds a lot of umami, although it would taste awful if you placed a pinch on your tongue.
  • 5-6 tablespoons oil, preferably mustard oil  (this oil really lends the distinct Indian pickle flavor, but swap with other unflavored oils if you have to). There should be enough oil to fully coat the peppers.  This is the second preservative.
  • Salt to taste  (1 used 3 tsp- this acts as a preservative, so don’t skimp.
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
  • 1/2 tbs. Lemon juice (use vinegar if you prefer)
  • 1 tsp. Turmeric powder



  • Heat the mustard oil until it is smoking, then turn off the stove and allow it to cool completely to room temperature.  This reduces the pungency of the mustard oil.
  • Stem the chillies and pulse them in a food processor to get smallish pieces (this will only take a few pulses) .  You can also cut these by hand which is traditional.
  • Place the chillies in a medium sized bowl and add salt.  Dry brine the chillies for 1/2 hour (or longer).
  • You can drain the water from the chilies if you want to reduce the heat after the brining.
  • In a coffee grinder,  coarsely grind the mustard, fennel, fenugreek seeds and transfer to a small bowl.  Mix in the asafetida, oil, salt, sugar, lemon juice and turmeric powder.
  • Toss the spice mix with the chillies.
  • Taste and adjust the salt and lemon to taste.
  • Transfer the pickles to a glass jar.   You should probably sterilize the jar or run it through the dishwasher.
  • Let the pickles sit on the counter for a day and then store in the fridge.  These should keep for a long time.




  • The pickles will taste better after a few days, although they can be used right away if you cannot wait.
  • The pickles will also lose some of their heat over time.
  • These pickles can be used as an accompaniment to any Indian meal, but are also great on buttered toast, on eggs, you name it!


Posted in Asian, condiments, Indian Food, Uncategorized, vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Peapods with poppy seed dressing

Posted by fourclankitchen on April 2, 2014

photo 1

Poppy Seed Dressing This poppy seed dressing (from Saveur via the cookbook author Helen Corbitt) is one of the best I have ever had and it goes well with everything from peaches and strawberries, to salads to pea pods.   I made the following changes to the original recipe.  I substituted the grated onion for 1 tsp of powdered onion, since I did not see myself grating an onion by hand (do not grate with a food processor, the onion and juice will be bitter).  I figured this would also give the dressing greater shelf-life.  I also skipped the canola oil and went with all olive oil, but I don’t think it makes a big difference here. Do not omit the onion or the mustard,  these are key ingredients.  If you want a well-emulsified dressing,  you are going to have to make it in a bottle and shake it like the devil.  Or you could whisk it.  Even if you don’t do either, the dressing will taste divine.  MAKES ABOUT 2 CUPS

photo 2


2 tbsp. poppy seeds

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup white wine vinegar

2 tsp. dry mustard powder

2 tsp. kosher salt (Diamond Crystal.  Adjust to taste for all other salts).

1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp powdered onion  (the original recipe calls for 1 small yellow onion, finely grated, juice reserved)

3/4 cup canola oil

1/4 cup olive oil

Method: 1. Lightly toast the poppy seeds, swirling pan constantly, about 3 minutes. Add sugar, vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and onion powder, and cook, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves and mixture begins to simmer. Remove from heat and transfer to a blender. Add oil, and blend until smooth.  Keep refrigerated. I have no idea how long it will last in the fridge,  but I have been using it for 3 weeks.

photo 3

Pea pods 


2 tbs. oil



Poppy seed dressing


1. Heat 2 tbs of oil in a heavy (cast-iron) pan.

2.  Add the pea pods in one layer to the pan.

3. Wait to stir for a couple of min till one side develops flecks of brown.

4. Now turn over and cook for a few minutes till browned to your liking.

5. Remove from heat and add the desired amount dressing.  Adjust the salt to your taste.

Posted in condiments, salads, Side Dishes, Uncategorized, vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Muhammara (roasted pepper and walnut dip)

Posted by fourclankitchen on March 14, 2014

photo 1

A lot has happened since I last posted a recipe.  We  moved and renovated and the renovations made it impossible to cook anything fun.  But we are done and the house looks lovely.  So here I am with Muhammara, a roasted red pepper and walnut  dip.  Except I did not have red peppers and used  yellows ones instead.  The original recipe is from Saveur,  but I made several changes:  I switched out the pomegranate molasses, which I rarely have in the pantry for 2 tsp of balsamic vinegar and 1/2 tsp of sugar.  I also added 2 garlic cloves instead of one and one thai bird pepper for zing.  Finally I did not fry the bread,  I figured the bread was stale and hard and would do just fine without toasting.  In a separate batch I omitted the bread entirely,  this tasted great as well.  My favorite way to eat this is with pita chips.  Health food,  I know.


2 red bell peppers  (or any other color bell pepper)

1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 slice white bread

1 cup toasted walnuts

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

2 1⁄2 tsp. Aleppo pepper or hot paprika (I used Hungarian sweet paprika)

2 tsp. balsamic vinegar (the original called for 2 tsp pomegranate molasses)

1/2-3/4 tsp sugar or to taste

2 cloves garlic, peeled

salt to taste


1.  Stem and broil peppers (4″ away from the heating element) until charred all over (you will have to turn them 2-3 times).  The original recipe says this will be done in 15-20 min.  Mine took 30 min.

2.  Transfer peppers to a bowl, cool and peel (you could seed them if you want, but I don’t).  The peeling goes faster if you place the peppers in a ziplock bag and sweat the peppers for a bit.  I never do since I hate wasting plastic.

3.  Put all ingredients in a food processors and pulse till smooth.  Taste and adjust salt.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a Comment »

Small Batch Orange Marmalade

Posted by fourclankitchen on February 23, 2013

photo 5-2 I love orange marmalade and I hate the canning process.  Maybe because I once made the most delicious pumpkin butter and had jars explode on me one by one over the rest of the week!  I have good luck with freezing jams both cooked and uncooked,  but now we are moving to a new house and my cooking projects need to be few and small and my freezer needs to be empty.  So I rooted around for a small batch orange marmalade recipe and this one appealed to me because it is simple and fast and makes just a pint of the stuff.  I tweaked it a little : The original recipe called for chopping up the oranges to bits in a food processor,  but the peel look very thick and had the potential to make the marmalade bitter.  So I peeled of the orange part of the rind with a vegetable peeler and set it aside.  Then I cut away most of the white pith and discarded it. photo 1-5 Ingredients:

2 medium-large oranges (I had 2 valencia oranges in my fridge)

1 cup sugar

squeeze of lemon (optional, not in the original) photo 3-5 Method: 1.  Wash oranges and cut of the top and bottom.

2. Peel the orange part of the rind with a vegetable peeler and save.  Then cut most of the white pith with a sharp knife and discard.

3.  Cut the oranges into small pieces and pulse together with the rind  in the food processor until all the pieces are small.

4.  Add all ingredients to a largish saucepan and cook on medium heat until boiling.

5.  Lower the heat and cook for 25-35 min. A ladle scraped along the bottom of the saucepan should leave a track when your marmalade is done.

6.  Cool and ladle into a clean jar (you need one jar).  Store in the fridge.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

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