Sunday 31 January 2010

Making dumplings with Mariana

Last night we had a great night making dumplings at my friend Mariana's house. It was easy, as we bought ready-made dumpling "skins" from a Vietnamese shop. And it turned out that even inexperience can't make a dumpling taste bad - they were all delicious!

We made 2 different dumpling fillings: pork and vegetable and crabmeat and spring onion. For 3 people I would recommend buying 3 packets of skins (the above packets have 15 each). We had 2 packets so we ended up with 10 dumplings each, which was fine but we had loads of filling left over!

Here are the ingredients for the pork and vegetable dumpling filling:

300 grams minced pork
half a cabbage
2 carrots
6 spring onions
soya sauce

And here's what we used for the crabmeat and spring onion dumpling filling:

Cooked crabmeat (you can use tinned crabmeat but I happened to find a freshly cooked whole crab)
4 spring onions
half a lime
garlic salt

For the pork and vegetable dumplings we grated the carrots and finely chopped the cabbage and spring onions, and cooked them in 2 separate pans.

We then made space in the bigger pan, poured a bit more oil in the gap, like that up there...

...and added the pork mince. We fried it like that until it changed colour, constantly breaking it up with a fork and chopsticks. Once it was cooked through we mixed all the vegetables from the other pan in with it, added some soya sauce and a splash of white wine (the is optional, we wanted to make sure the meat wouldn't dry out) and covered it up and let it cook for a bit longer. I'd say it cooked for about 20-25 minutes in total. Then we allowed it to cool, while we prepared the crabmeat filling:

This was super-easy: we just mixed the crabmeat with finely chopped spring onion and the lime juice and the garlic salt

And the dumpling fillings are ready! You can start off making the crab dumplings, while the pork mixture cools. So we got all our skins ready, grabbed some trays and some water in little bowls and the dumpling making began for real.

First things first: Mariana, who has a little bit of dumpling-making experience, showed us that you need to mould the inside of the skin a little bit for the dumpling mixture to have a bit of space

Then, you wet the edges with the water, stick a large teaspoon of your mixture in the middle...

And stick the sides together. that, down there, is the most simple shape, and a good place to begin:

But of course, after you have made a couple of simple ones to boost your confidence, and if you're a creative soul, you may want to experiment with different forms, like we did

And I'll tell you one thing I learnt about dumpling making last night: often, the weirder the shape, the tastier the dumpling. so you can't really go wrong. However, do make sure you seal it properly, so the filling doesn't seep out while cooking. If there are any you are not sure of, it's better to fry them. We fried half, and steamed half

And that was a great balance, so I'd recommend it to anyone. Then, a very important part of the process; dumpling dipping sauces: we used soya sauce and chilli oil. And 2 bottle of white wine also a welcome addition ;o) - all in all a lot of fun was had and I will definitely be repeating "dumpling night"

Of course, we only focussed on Asian style dumplings last night, and, in order to pay our dues, we discussed dumplings from other parts of the world- Poland, Spain, Mexico... I have a feeling that every country has their own dumpling-making tradition. 

Wednesday 27 January 2010

The Breakfast Experiment

And we start at the beginning: breakfast. I have yet to find the perfect breakfast and so far the month of January has been dedicated to that search

The healthy breakfast was where it all began, me being on a post-Xmas detox. On a cold, damp, grey Monday morning I was positively dreading eating the above fruit salad. I was surprised at how delicious and moreish it actually was. I prepared it the day before, cutting up kiwis, bananas, pears, nectarines and apples, and adding tinned mandarin and grapefruit segments. I squeezed and little bit of lemon over it so that the apples would not go brown over night. I made enough to last for 3 days for both me and Jamie (my boy who eats huge amounts of everything). I served it with bio yoghurt and honey and sprinkled with black sesame seeds that I bought in the Japanese Centre in Piccadilly Circus. My mouth is watering now I am just writing about it so it was a definite success: 8/10 (points taken off for being neither warm nor seasonal)

Then came the experimental breakfast. I had lots of brown rice and decided to make some kind of a rice pudding-type dish. I cooked it with milk and single cream, and added honey, cinamon, raisins, black sesame seeds and almonds to the mix - all the things I love - and chilled it overnight. The next morning I heated it up with some milk - it was revolting and I would not recommend it to anyone - but have included the recipe in case someone has a pressing desire to try this concoction: 1/10 (the point being given because I'm sure it's not as horrible as some things out there)

The boring breakfast was next, cos sometimes you just want some toast and a cup of tea. I won't bore anyone with the details of my toast making, all I'll say is it has been a fallback breakfast for me all month  so it would be sad not to give it any mention here: 7/10

And that brings me to my current favourite - the warm-your-cockles-porridge-breakfast. It may not look like much but that was the most delicious little bowl of food I've had in a long time. It's very quick and easy too - I just warmed a large handful of oats in a bowl-full of milk (I like it to be very runny) with some chopped banana, a pinch of sea salt, a tablespoon of honey and some mixed spice. Don't leave it on its own for too long or it'll get gloopy - you have time to slather some cream on but not to have a shower. Once it's hot through, it's ready: 9.5/10 (I have to leave hope of there being something a bit better out there otherwise life would not be worth living)

There was also the elusive breakfast I had this morning... last night when I was coming back drunkenly from a girls' night out at the Alpine Lodge (fab by the way) I bought a tomato in a Turkish shop with this amazing idea of what I was going to have for breakfast this morning. The tomato went missing in the night and I spent 10 minutes looking for it this morning. I ended up miserably eating toast: 3/10 (Points for the great idea, the exercise and the toast) I have since learned that Jamie had eaten the tomato as a midnight snack