Tenderstem broccoli and turkey in black bean sauce

As a rule I don’t eat broccoli. Growing up I was a fussy eater, especially when it came to vegetables and in particular “greens”. Over the last 5 years or so I have gradually increased the variety of vegetables that I eat but a few vegetables still remain off the menu in our house (cauliflower, sprouts and broccoli). Every so often my husband will complain about the lack of broccoli we eat and so when I was approached by tenderstem broccoli to take part in Tender in 10 I decided to give it ago. The challenge is to create recipes using tenderstem broccoli that can be cooked in 10 minutes or less, with 10 ingredients or less.

I knew that incorporating the broccoli in to a flavour packed dish was the best way forward. So with this in mind I decided to include it in a stir fry. I have used turkey in this recipe but you could use beef, chicken or pork. I cook with turkey at least once a week as it is good value and a healthy, lean meat. Again I find turkey works best in a dist with lots of flavour like a stir fry or these fajitas. Continue reading

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Mackerel with Asian spices

I don’t know about anyone else but I am loving the new River cottage series (channel 4, Thursdays, 8pm) and finding it very inspiring. Last weeks episode was on fish. I’m fairly new to eating fish, I hated it when I lived at home. These last three years of living with my boyfriend and really getting in to cooking has pushed me to try more and more fish. He loves his fish and seafood (except prawns which unfortunately I love). Now when we eat out I regularly order fish (I had a gorgeous risotto of saffron, shrimp, chorizo and peas with a fillet of sea bass on top a few weeks back which can eat every week it was that good). I’m starting to cook more fish at home too. I like recipes which give the fish flavour or where I can serve the fish with something with lots of flavour (I’m not keen on fillets of fish (particularly white fish) with simple potatoes and veg).

This summer we have eaten a lot of mackerel, that my boyfriend and his dad, have caught off the coast of Anglesey. Mostly I’ve cooked it quiet simply (I find mackerel much more flavourful than the white fish fillets I was used to, so simple was ok), either on the griddle or in a foil parcel in the oven with a bit of oil and lemon.  Then I saw River cottage last week, where Hugh also cooked mackerel in a foil parcel but as well as oil he added a fennel, fresh ginger, chilli, garlic, star anise and soy sauce. Inspired to try this idea, I put it to the test last night. I omitted the fennel as I personally don’t like it. The flavours were taken on really well by the fish and we both loved the recipe. I served my fish with some green beans (stir fried with some sunflower oil, grated fresh ginger and a splash of soy sauce) and some noodles. Hugh’s serving suggestions are noodles, mash or rice and some wilted greens, such as spinach, pak choi or choi sum which would equally be a perfect accompaniment. We’ll certainly be having this recipe again, it’s just a shame that this was the last bag of mackerel in our freezer.

Mackerel with Asian spices
Serves 2

Sunflower oil
1-2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 tsp grated or finely chopped fresh ginger
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
Half a star anise, broken up
2 medium mackerel (fillets would also work)
Soy sauce

  • Take a piece of strong kitchen foil, big enough to sit your fish on and then form a parcel. Cut slits in to the fish, on both sides, so the flavours can infuse the flesh. Place your fish in the middle of the foil, sprinkle with sunflower oil. Sprinkle over both fish the ginger, garlic, chilli and star anise. Season with soy sauce, then bring up the sides of the foil and scrunch them together tightly to form well-sealed but baggy parcels.
  • Place the parcels on a baking tray, transfer to an oven preheated to 190°C/Gas Mark 5 and bake for 15 minutes. Open up the steaming, fragrant parcels and pile the contents, including all the lovely juices, on to 2 warm plates.
  • Serve with noodles, mash or rice and some wilted greens, such as spinach, pak choi or choi sum.

Daring cooks – Sushi

Not that long ago, if you had asked me to eat sushi, I would have point blank refused, stating that I don’t like raw fish (even though I had not tried it!). Thankfully I seem to be getting much more adventurous and willing to try new things. So when I read that this months Daring Cooks challenge was sushi, I surprised myself by getting quiet excited about the challenge. The next weekend we gave up or usual coffee and cake shopping break and instead opted to visit the Yo-sushi bar in our local shopping centre and try a few different types of sushi. I loved the set up of the sushi bar with the conveyor belt where you can pick which dishes you want to try and the ability to watch the chef’s preparing the sushi whilst you eat. However it was with some trepidation that I took my first bite of a raw salmon nigiri sushi. It was actually quiet nice! so much so that I went on to try a tuna one as well! I have to admit to still being a bit freaked out by the thought of fish roe but I tried a dragon roll with fish roe on the outside of the rice and it wasn’t bad but I wasn’t rushing to eat any roll containing large amounts!

After our research trip to Yo sushi I started to think about making sushi at home. I was unconvinced about buying fish fresh enough to eat raw locally so I decided to stick with smoked salmon and cooked prawns as my fish element. I also used avocado, cucumber and roasted red peppers.
The challenge had four parts:-
Part 1: Making proper sushi rice – you will wash, rinse, drain, soak, cook, dress, and cool short grain rice until each grain is sticky enough to hold toppings or bind ingredients. Then you will use the cooked rice to form three types of sushi:
Part 2: Dragon sushi roll – an avocado covered inside-out rice roll with a tasty surprise filling
Part 3: Decorative sushi – a nori-coated rice roll which reveals a decorative pattern when cut
Part 4: Nigiri sushi – hand-shaped rice rolls with toppings

The most time consuming part of the challenge is preparing the rice but once you have this done and all your filling ingredients prepared the rest of the process is easier than I expected and so much fun. You can get as creative as you like with the fillings and in particular presenting the dragon rolls.I really enjoyed preparing and eating the sushi rolls for this daring cooks challenge. I think it has been my favorite so far. I tried (& liked) raw fish sushi for the first time, I had fun preparing my own sushi (even if I cheated and didn’t use raw fish) and I was very impressed with how my sushi turned out!

Thanks to Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen for picking a great challenge!

The November 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen. They chose sushi as the challenge.

PART 1 : SUSHI RICE (makes about 7 cups of cooked sushi rice)

Preparation time: 1¾ hours consisting of :-
Rinsing and draining rice: 35 minutes
Soaking rice: 30 minutes (includes 5 minutes making the vinegar dressing)
Cooking and steaming time: 25 minutes
Finishing the rice: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2½ cups uncooked short grain rice
  • 2½ cups water
  • For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water

Optional Ingredients

  • 3 inch (75mm or 15 grams) square dashi konbu (or kombu) (dried kelp seaweed) wipe with a damp cloth to remove white powder & cut a few slits in the sides of the kelp to help release its flavours
  • 2½ teaspoons (12.5 mls) of sake (Japanese rice wine)

Sushi vinegar dressing

  • 5 Tablespoons (75 mls) rice vinegar
  • 5 Teaspoons (25 mls or 21 grams) sugar
  • 1¼ Teaspoons (6.25 mls or 4.5 grams) salt

DIRECTIONS:
Rinsing and draining the rice

  1. Swirl rice gently in a bowl of water, drain, repeat 3-4 times until water is nearly clear. Don’t crush the rice in your hands or against the side of the bowl since dry rice is very brittle.
  2. Gently place rice into a strainer and drain well for 30 minutes.

Soaking the rice

  1. Gently place the rice into a heavy medium pot with a tight fitting lid (if you have a loose fitting lid use a piece of aluminium foil to make the seal tight).
  2. Add 2½ cups of water and the dashi konbu.
  3. Set the rice aside to soak for 30 minutes, during this time prepare the sushi rice dressing.

Preparing the Rice Vinegar Dressing

  1. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl.
  2. Heat on low setting.
  3. Stir until the mixture goes clear and the sugar and salt have dissolved.
  4. Set aside at room temperature until the rice is cooked.

Cooking the rice

  1. After 30 minutes of soaking add sake (if using) to the rice.
  2. Bring rinsed and soaked rice to the boil.
  3. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and simmer, covered, until all the water is absorbed, 12-15 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this process. Turn off heat.
  4. Let stand with the lid on, 10-15 minutes. Do not peek inside the pot or remove the lid. During this time the rice is steaming which completes the cooking process.

Finishing the rice

  • Turning out the rice

  1. Moisten lightly a flat thin wooden spatula or spoon and a large shallow flat-bottomed non-metallic (plastic, glass or wood) bowl. Do not use metallic objects since the vinegar will react with it and produce sour and bitter sushi rice.
  2. Remove the dashi konbu (kelp) from the cooked rice.
  3. Use the spatula to loosen gently the rice and invert the rice pot over the bowl, gently causing the cooked rice to fall into the bowl in one central heap. Do this gently so as not to cause the rice grains to become damaged.

  • Dressing the rice with vinegar

  1. Slowly pour the cooled sushi vinegar over the spatula onto the hot rice.
  2. Using the spatula gently spread the rice into a thin, even layer using a 45° cutting action to break up any lumps and to separate the rice. Don’t stir or mash rice.
  3. After the rice is spread out, start turning it over gently, in small portions, using a cutting action, allowing steam to escape, for about a minute.

  • Fanning & Tossing the rice

  1. Continue turning over the rice, but now start fanning (using a piece of stiff cardboard) the rice vigorously as you do so. Don’t flip the rice into the air but continue to gently slice, lift and turn the rice occasionally, for 10 minutes. Cooling the rice using a fan gives good flavour, texture and a high-gloss sheen to the rice. The vinegar dressing will be absorbed by the hot rice. Using a small electric fan on the lowest speed setting is highly recommended.
  2. Stop fanning when there’s no more visible steam, and all the vinegar dressing has been adsorbed and the rice is shiny. Your sushi rice is ready to be used.

  • Keeping the rice moist

  1. Cover with a damp, lint free cloth to prevent the rice from drying out while preparing your sushi meal. Do not store sushi rice in the refrigerator leave on the counter covered at room temperature. Sushi rice is best used when it is at room temperature.

* Tip: To make sushi rice: for each cup of rice use 1 cup of water, 2 Tbs rice vinegar, 2 tsp sugar, ½ tsp salt and 1 tsp sake. For superior results use equal volumes of rice and water when cooking the sushi rice since the weight of rice can vary. Weight of 2½ cups of uncooked rice is about 525 grams or 18½ ounces.

* Tip: While the rice is draining, soaking and cooking prepare your rice vinegar dressing, sushi fillings and toppings.

PART 2 : Dragon Rolls (also called Caterpillar Rolls)

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice
Cooking time: about 5 minutes (grilling the eel)

Yield: 2 inside-out (uramaki) sushi rolls

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 sheet 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm) of toasted nori (dried seaweed sheets), cut into halves
  • 1/2 Japanese cucumber
  • 2 cups of prepared sushi rice
  • Glazed Barbecued Eel (ungai) (about 3½ ounces or 100 grams)
  • 1 Avocado
  • Vinegared Water – ½ cup of water combined with a dash of rice vinegar
  • Various small amounts of sauces to use as the flames of the dragon (or legs of a caterpillar)

Optional

  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams or 1 oz) Fish Roe (Fish eggs)

DIRECTIONS:
1.Cut cucumber into strips ¼ inch (6mm) x 7” (175mm) long, then salt, rinse & dry the strips.
2.Grill (broil) the eel for about 2-5 minutes until bubbling. Cut into two lengthwise strips.
3.Halve, pit and peel the avocado. Cut the avocado halves into thin even 1/8 inch (3 mm) slices. Fan out the cut avocado into a 7 inch (175 mm) overlapping pattern.
4.Cover bamboo mat with plastic wrap. Place a sheet of nori shiny side down, lengthwise, on the edge the mat.
5.Moisten lightly your hands in the bowl of vinegared water.
6.Place one cup of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
7.Flip the rice-covered nori over (so the bare nori is now on top) and place on the edge of the mat closest to you.
8.Arrange one of the eel strips across the length of the nori, not quite centred on it but a little closer to you. Place half the cucumber sticks next to the eel.
9.Lift the edge of the mat closest to you with both hands, keeping your fingertips over the fillings, and roll the mat and its contents until the edge of the mat touches straight down on the nori, enclosing the fillings completely. Lift up the edge of the mat you’re holding, and continue rolling the inside-out roll away from you until it’s sealed. Tug at the mat to tighten the seal. If the rice doesn’t quite close the roll add more rice in the gap and re-roll using the mat to completely cover the inside-out roll. Place the roll on a damp, clean smooth surface.
10.Spread about 1 tablespoon of the optional fish roe along the entire top of the rice-covered roll. Using the plastic covered mat gently press the fish roe so it adheres to the rice.
11.Slide a knife under one fan of avocado and transfer it onto the top of an inside-out roll. Gently spread out the avocado layer to cover the entire roll. Lay the plastic wrapped mat over the avocado-covered roll. Squeeze very gently to shape the roll.
12. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over the roll. Slice the roll into 6-8 equal, bite-sized pieces, wiping your knife with a damp towel before each slice. Discard the plastic wrap. Repeat the above to make one more roll.
13.Arrange the cut pieces on a serving plate with the sauces so the finished dish appears as a dragon breathing fire and flames (or a caterpillar with many legs).

* Tip: The most common mistake is having too much filling the golden rule is less is more when it comes to making sushi it is easier to roll an under-filled roll than an over-filled roll.

* Tip: Dampen your knife with a moist lint-free towel before every cut – this prevents the sushi rice from sticking to your knife.

* Tip: Excellent videos on making Dragon Rolls
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQZGRohVNFQ
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fo55iBN9FQs&feature=related

PART 3 : Spiral Sushi Roll
This is easiest ‘decorative’ sushi roll.

Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice

Yield: One Roll, cut into 8 pieces

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2½ cups prepared sushi rice
  • 2 sheets of toasted nori, each sized 7”x8” (17.5cmx20cm)
  • Six assorted fillings, each filling should be the size of a pencil (see note below)

DIRECTIONS:
1.Join 2 sheets of nori by moistening the adjacent edges and overlapping them about ½ inch (12mm).
2.Place this double sheet shiny side down on a rolling mat, part of the nori will extend beyond the mat.
3.Using moist fingers place 2½ cups of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly, leaving ¼ inch (6mm) nori showing on the both ends of the sheet. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
4.Using your fingers form six grooves (in the same direction that you will be rolling the mat) at even intervals across the bed of rice. Make the first groove about 2 inches (50 mm) from the edge of the nori sheet. Form the grooves by pushing the rice away, do not mash or squash the rice, leave a loose one grain layer of rice in the bottom of the grooves. Level the areas between the grooves where you have pushed the rice.
5.Place your fillings in the grooves. Fill the grooves a little higher than the surrounding rice bed.
6.Then roll the sushi up from the edge closest to you, this will form a spiral pattern of nori, rice and fillings inside the roll.
7.Slice into 8 pieces with a very sharp wet knife, wiping the blade with a damp cloth after each cut.
8.Place the pieces on a platter and garnish.

NOTE:
Make each groove about a finger-width wide they will hold about 1-2 tablespoons of filling. Use fillings that compliment each other and are highly coloured. Use parboiled vegetables cut into strips, seafood, left over eel, smoked fish or chicken, whole cooked beans, edible flowers etc….

PART 4 : Nigiri Sushi
Nigiri sushi is the type of sushi most often made in sushi bars. In Japanese, nigiri means “squeeze”.

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice

Yield: 14-16 pieces of sushi

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups prepared sushi rice
  • 8 pairs of assorted toppings, 200 gms/7 ozs total of fish, meat or vegetables (see note below)
  • 1 tablespoon Wasabi (paste, reconstituted powder) or any other paste to adhere topping to rice

Optional

  • Garnishes such as Ginger (pickled), chilli strips, vegetables flowers etc
  • Thin strips of nori or vegetables (for tying topping on)

DIRECTIONS:
1.When handling sushi rice, make certain your hands are very clean. To keep the rice from sticking to our hands moisten your hands with vinegared water.
2.Form nigiri sushi by scooping up a small amount (about 2 tablespoons) of rice with your forefinger and second finger of your right hand and placing it in your cupped left palm.
3.Use the fingers and thumb of your right hand to form it into a long, narrow mound (about 2 inches x 1 inch wide or 50mm x 25mm) in your cupped palm.
4.Press enough to make the rice hold firmly together. Place the nigiri on a damp cutting board flat side down. Don’t let sushi touch or they’ll stick to each other. At this point, you can cover the sushi with plastic wrap, and they’ll keep at room temperature (not the refrigerator) for several hours.
5.Smear a thin line of wasabi on top of the rice and place the topping piece on it. You may need to press the topping down lightly with your fingers and adjust the shape of the rice accordingly to form an attractive piece of nigiri sushi. If your topping is very loose like fish roe you can place a strip of nori (higher than the rice) around the nigiri and form ‘battleship’ sushi. The cavity that the nori forms holds the topping so it does not fall off.
6.Garnish as desired and use strips of nori (or vegetable) to tie the topping to the nigiri if needed.
7.It is customary to make nigiri sushi in pairs, so make two of each variety.

* Tips: A great video on making nigiri sushi
http://www.howcast.com/videos/270-How-To-Make-Sushi
A great web page on slicing fish for nigiri
http://www.sushilinks.com/sushi-recipes/how-to-buy-fish/index.html

Daring cooks – Vietnamese chicken pho

The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.


There were two parts to this month’s Daring Cooks’ challenge, a compulsory and an optional challenge. The compulsory part was a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup (with the option to do it the quick way or a longer method). The optional part were deep fried chocolate wontons. Partly due to time (and partly due to not wanting to deep fry) I only did the noodle soup.

I have made a chicken noodle soup before, but as I commented then I felt the one I cooked was a bit over simplified. Since then I have bought a bottle of fish sauce but I still don’t like fresh coriander. I substituted the chicken for pork (sliced up British pork loin) which I cooked in the broth. I made the recipe as described below using some homemade chicken stock from the freezer and simply omitted the fresh coriander from my bowl. The flavours of the broth were delicious and I didn’t feel mine was lacking in flavours without coriander. I think I would make this again as it was quiet simple (especially for a ‘daring’ challenge) and flavourful.
Vietnamese Chicken Pho

Preparation Time: 45 cooking time + 15 minutes to cook noodles based on package directions

Servings: Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

For the Chicken Pho Broth:
2 tbsp. whole coriander seeds
4 whole cloves
2 whole star anise
2 quarts (2 liters/8 cups/64 fluid ounces) store-bought or homemade chicken stock
1 whole chicken breast (bone in or boneless)
½ onion
1 3-inch (7.5 cm) chunk of ginger, sliced and smashed with side of knife
1 to 2 tbsps. sugar
1 to 2 tbsps. fish sauce

1 lb. (500 grams/16 ounces) dried rice noodles (about ¼ inch/6 mm wide)

Accompaniments:

2 cups (200 grams/7 ounces) bean sprouts, washed and tails pinched off
Fresh cilantro (coriander) tops (leaves and tender stems)
½ cup (50 grams/approx. 2 ounces) shaved red onions
½ lime, cut into 4 wedges
Sriracha chili sauce
Hoisin sauce
Sliced fresh chili peppers of your choice

Directions:

  • To make the Chicken Pho Broth: heat a frying pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds, cloves and star anise and toast until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Immediately spoon out the spices to avoid burning.
  • In a large pot, add all the ingredients (including the toasted spices) and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 20 minutes, skimming the surface frequently.
  • Use tongs to remove the chicken breasts and shred the meat with your fingers, discarding the bone if you have used bone-in breasts.
  • Taste the broth and add more fish sauce or sugar, if needed. Strain the broth and discard the solids.
  • Prepare the noodles as per directions on the package.
  • Ladle the broth into bowls. Then divide the shredded chicken breast and the soft noodles evenly into each bowl.
  • Have the accompaniments spread out on the table. Each person can customize their own bowl with these ingredients.

Chinese meatball and noodle soup

Whilst shopping for ingredients for my Chinese dumplings I came across some reduced priced pak choi. It still looked healthy and knowing I would have left over ingredients from the dumplings I decided to make a meatball/noodle soup the day after. The soup included the meatballs, pak choi, left over shitake mushrooms and spring onions and noodles. The mince for the chinese dumplings was packed with flavour so I kept the soup fairly simple. On the day I made the dumplings I rolled tablespoons of the leftover mince in to balls and baked in the oven for around 15 minutes. I then stored them in the fridge overnight. The following day the soup was quiet simple to pull together. I stir fried the meatballs with the vegetables to reheat them. The end result was delicious and packed with oriental flavours.
Chinese meatball and noodle soup
Serves 2

For the meatballs
(I used approximately half of the mince in this recipe. Below I have detailed an estimate of what I believe would produce something similar if you don’t have left over mince from making gyoza)

200g ground pork
2 large spring greens leaves, minced
1 stalk spring onion, minced
3 shitake mushrooms, minced (if dried – rehydrated and rinsed carefully)
2.5cm ginger root, minced
1.5 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp corn starch

  • Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
  • Combine all the filling ingredients well.
  • Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls.
  • Arrange on a baking tray.
  • Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden and cooked through.

For the noodle soup
800ml Chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp root ginger, finely grated
1 red chilli, finely chopped (I used a dried chilli as that was all I had).
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 pak choi, sliced
6 shitake mushrooms, sliced
2 spring onions, finely sliced
2 portions of vermicelli noodles, cooked according to the packet
2 tbsp soy sauce

  • In a saucepan bring to the boil the stock, ginger, garlic and chilli. Simmer for at least 5 minutes or until you are ready to serve the finished soup.
  • In a frying pan (or wok if you have one), heat 1 tbsp vegetable or sunflower oil until hot.
  • Stir fry the pak choi stalks, spring onion and shitake mushrooms.
  • Add the pak choi leaves when the rest of the vegetables are almost cooked (approx 3-5 minutes depending on how well cooked you like your veg).
  • Add the soy sauce to the stock.
  • Combine the noodles, vegetables, meatballs and stock. Serve.

Daring cooks challenge – Chinese dumplings/potstickes

Like many of you I have enjoyed reading about Daring bakers and their monthly baking challenges for a while now. When I heard about the Daring cooks starting I thought about joining as I cook more than I bake but was a little nervous that I was too fussy an eater! Then for their first challenge they made ricotta gnocchi and I kicked myself for not joining! I have wanted to make gnocchi for some time now but never quiet got round to it. So the day of the big reveal of all these delicious gnocchi dishes I decided to become a daring cook myself. Having just purchased my KitchenAid I decided to join the Daring bakers too!

This months challenge is hosted by Jen of use real butter and the challenge is Chinese dumplings/potstickes (aka gyoza in Japanese). I have to admit to being a little daunted by my first challenge. It was completely out of my comfort zone of British or Italian meals and to top it off they look like they involve lots of complicated, intricate steps. But then if it was simple, it wouldn’t be a challenge! I read the recipe through and looked at all the pictures and actually started to get a little bit excited. My boyfriend (who loves oriental food and will be forever grateful for the daring cooks for this challenge) was more than happy to be chief tester.
The main point of the challenge was to make our own wrappers (not to buy pre-made wanton wrappers) and learn to pleat them. I didn’t have too much trouble making the dough but the same can not be said for pleating them! Example below!

The results: You’ll see from my pictures (especially if you see all the other daring cooks entries) that mine did not turn out very professional looking but its the taste that counts and even I loved them!

Will I make them again? I’m not sure. They were pretty time consuming which was fun for a challenge but not something I can see see myself making regularly.

For a great step by step recipe/how to check out Jen’s version.

Below is the full recipe (warning its long!) and right at the end I write about my method and choice of filling etc.

Chinese Dumplings/Potstickers

pork filling:
1 lb (450g) ground pork
4 large napa cabbage leaves, minced
3 stalks green onions, minced
7 shitake mushrooms, minced (if dried – rehydrated and rinsed carefully)
1/2 cup (75g) bamboo shoots, minced
1/4 (55g) cup ginger root, minced
3 tbsp (40g) soy sauce
2 tbsp (28g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch

OR

shrimp filling:
1/2 lb (225g) raw shrimp, peeled, deveined, and coarsely chopped
1/2 lb (225g) ground pork
3 stalks green onions, minced
1/4 cup (55g) ginger root, minced
1 cup (142g) water chestnuts, minced
1 tsp (5g) salt
3 tbsp (40g) sesame oil
2 tbsp (16g) corn starch

dough: (double this for the amount of filling, but easier to make it in 2 batches – or just halve the filling recipe)
2 cups (250g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (113g) warm water
flour for work surface

dipping sauce:
2 parts soy sauce
1 part vinegar (red wine or black)
a few drops of sesame oil
chili garlic paste (optional)
minced ginger (optional)
minced garlic (optional)
minced green onion (optional)
sugar (optional)

Combine all filling ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly (I mix by clean hand). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (up to a day, but preferably within an hour or two).

Make the dough, Method 1: Place the flour in the work bowl of a food processor with the dough blade. Run the processor and pour the warm water in until incorporated. Pour the contents into a sturdy bowl or onto a work surface and knead until uniform and smooth. The dough should be firm and silky to the touch and not sticky.[Note: it’s better to have a moist dough and have to incorporate more flour than to have a dry and pilling dough and have to incorporate more water).

Make the dough, Method 2: In a large bowl mix flour with 1/4 cup of water and stir until water is absorbed. Continue adding water one teaspoon at a time and mixing thoroughly until dough pulls away from sides of bowl. We want a firm dough that is barely sticky to the touch.

Both dough methods: Knead the dough about twenty strokes then cover with a damp towel for 15 minutes. Take the dough and form a flattened dome. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide. Shape the strips into rounded long cylinders. On a floured surface, cut the strips into 3/4 inch pieces. Press palm down on each piece to form a flat circle (you can shape the corners in with your fingers). With a rolling pin, roll out a circular wrapper from each flat disc. Take care not to roll out too thin or the dumplings will break during cooking – about 1/16th inch. Leave the centers slightly thicker than the edges. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each wrapper and fold the dough in half, pleating the edges along one side. Keep all unused dough under damp cloth.

To boil: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add dumplings to pot. Boil the dumplings until they float.

To steam: Place dumplings on a single layer of napa cabbage leaves or on a well-greased surface in a steamer basket with lid. Steam covered for about 6 minutes.

To pan fry (potstickers): Place dumplings in a frying pan with 2-3 tbsp of vegetable oil. Heat on high and fry for a few minutes until bottoms are golden. Add 1/2 cup water and cover. Cook until the water has boiled away and then uncover and reduce heat to medium or medium low. Let the dumplings cook for another 2 minutes then remove from heat and serve.

To freeze: Assemble dumplings on a baking sheet so they are not touching. It helps to rub the base of the dumpling in a little flour before setting on the baking sheet for ease of release. Freeze for 20-30 minutes until dumplings are no longer soft. Place in ziplock bag and freeze for up to a couple of months. Prepare per the above instructions, but allow extra time to ensure the filling is thoroughly cooked.

To serve: Serve dumplings or potstickers hot with your choice of dipping sauce combinations.

My method
I chose the pork filling and I replaced the napa cabbage leaves with some spring greens I had in the fridge. I omitted the bamboo shoots and used fresh shitake mushrooms. I used 250g plain flour and mixed the dough in a food processor with no problems. I chose the potstickers method of cooking (as I was afraid my dumplings wouldn’t hold up to boiling! and I don’t own a steamer). I made a simple dipping sauce of equal amounts of light soy sauce and sweet chilli dipping sauce. Only about half the filling was used for the dumplings so the rest I made in to meatballs and used in a noodle soup which I will post in a few days.

Thanks Jen for a great challenge! I recommend that you check out some of the other Daring Cooks blog posts as I have been watching them on the DC forum all month and there are some great looking variations including sweet ones!

Chicken leftover – Chicken Noodle Soup

I’ve wanted to cook a chicken noodle soup for some time. As I’ve mentioned before though I don’t cook a lot of oriental dishes. A few things have put me off cooking a noodle soup before, such as believing the recipe would involve a lot of oriental ingredients that I would have to buy for one dish (fish sauce, pickled bamboo etc), that it would take me ages to cook and then I wouldn’t like the end result (I didn’t like the noodle soup I chose in wagamam) and I don’t like coriander! However I am glad I tried this recipe that I found in Leith’s Simple Cookery. I think it is a little over simplified so any suggestions to make it more authentic without over complicating it (or involving pickled bamboo or coriander) would be welcomed. I’m thinking along the lines of replacing the sweetcorn with some other veg but not sure which. The soup element of this dish does have a really nice taste with a bit of a kick to it (from the chilli and the ginger) so I don’t think I’ll play around with that too much. All in all a simple week night dish (which in my house at least is a bit different to the usual pasta I serve!).

Chicken Noodle Soup
Adapted from Leith’s Simple Cookery

Serves 2
800ml Chicken stock
1 tbsp root ginger, finely grated
1 red chilli, finely chopped (I used a dried chilli as that was all I had).
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
2 portions of vermicelli noodles, cooked according to the packet
cup of frozen sweetcorn
100g cooked chicken, shredded
1 tbsp soy sauce.
1/2 tbsp thai fish sauce if you have it (or if not available use extra soy sauce – as I did & as recommended by the original recipe).

  • In a saucepan bring to the boil the stock, ginger, garlic and chilli. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  • add the cooked noodles (drained), sweetcorn and chicken to the pan. Add the soy sauce, thai fish sauce (if using) and season with salt and pepper to taste. (I only added pepper as soy sauce and the chicken stock have enough salt in for me). Return to a simmer for a few minutes.
  • Ladle in to bowls to serve.

Salmon hot pot

A few months back my OH came home from work with a new cookbook he’d bought from one of the many book clubs that come in to work places around the country. At first I was excited (I love a good cookbook and can often be found flicking through one) until I saw which one – The Wagamama cookbook. A few weeks earlier in the middle of a shopping trip he had taken me to said restaurant. I really wanted to like the food but I didn’t enjoy the particular noodle soup I ordered. It was by no means the fault of the restaurant chain but more down to the fact that I’m not a fan of Asian food. I put it down to two things – 1. I’m a fussy eater especially when it comes to veg (which play a big part in many of the dishes) and 2. I was brought up on a diet of meat and 2 veg (limited to potatoes, carrots, peas and sweetcorn!) with very little herbs and spices. Since getting in to cooking I am constantly challenging myself to try new dishes, vegetables and fish with a good amount of success (and some failures!).

So one cold, winters night I sat down with the wagamama cookbook. The first thing that struck me was how well presented the book is. Lots of glossy pages with lots of clear pictures of well presented food. I really like the concept of healthy food that is simple to prepare and this book is filled with them. The only down side is a lot of the recipes need ingredients only available from oriental stores (not great in a small country town or for those wanting to dip in to these recipes occasionally without having to have a large oriental store cupboard!). However for keen cooks regularly cooking good quality oriental food this would be a great addition to the book shelf.

I did however find one dish that took my fancy, one of the few dish’s in the book not on the menu in their restaurants, Salmon hot pot. It is not on the menu as it takes 30 minutes to cook! To me this is still a very convenient, quick week night supper, as 15 minutes of this time the dish is in the oven leaving you free to do other tasks (usually washing up or preparing the next days lunch boxes in my house). I have altered the recipe slightly as the book recommends serving with brown rice but I preferred to serve it with noodles.  It has become a regular week night supper in our house and although I have as yet not cooked anything else from the book I do still flick through it ocassionally and have made simpler stir frys etc from other sources. Overall it has inspired me to keep trying oriental food (especially noodles) but at the moment. for me at least, they will be inspired by this book but simplifed ingredient wise.

Update – November 2010. I still cook this dish a lot so I have added some photos.

Salmon hot pot
(from the wagamama cookbook with a couple of alterations by me in brackets)

400g salmon (I never way them, just use 2 salmon fillets)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (Again I don’t measure and probably use less, just a good splash in the wok/frying pan)
1 leek, trimmed and finely sliced
1 tbsp finely chopped shallot (or small onion quiet often!)
1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 stick of celery, finely diced
1 tsp sugar
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
salt and white pepper (I use black and omit salt as soy sauce has enough)
75ml light soy sauce (I found this amount too salty so I use reduced salt dark soy sauce and only around a couple of table spoons or so topping up with water)
300g cooked brown rice (or noodles)

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4.
  • Remove the skin from the salmon and cut in to bite-sized chunks.
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan/wok or ideally a casserole dish which can be used on the hob and in the oven.
  • Once hot, add the leek, onion, carrot and celery and saute over a medium heat for 10 minutes to soften but not brown the vegetables.
  • Add the garlic and sugar, mix and continue to cook for a minute or so.
  • Transfer to an oven proof dish/casserole if necessary, add chunks of salmon mix and season with salt (if desired) and pepper.
  • Pour over soy sauce (or soy/water mixture).
  • Cover and bake in oven for 15 minutes, I often remove the foil for the last 5 Min’s.
  • Cook the noodles as per instructions on the packet.
  • Mix noodles with salmon hot pot and serve.

Enjoy!