Vegetarian Dumplings

The biggest issue I have faced when creating vegetarian dumplings is that the filling does not stick together. When meat is cooked, the pieces bind together as they cook but this does not happen with vegetables. You can buy an enzyme called transglutaminase which will bind meat together when it cooks and can be used to make some very Frankenstein-esque meals, but no such thing exists for vegetables (as far as I am aware). The best way I have come across to bind fillings together is by using egg and flour. Both of these will help prevent your filling from tumbling out of the dumpling after you take a bite.

These dumplings fall under the heading of potstickers. This means that have been steam-fried. The dumplings are first lightly fried on the belly (the plump base away from the pleats) before water or broth is added and they are covered and allowed to steam. Once all the liquid has been absorbed the dumplings are again cooked uncovered, allowing the base to crisp up again to provide a wonderful contrast of textures. The dumplings should be cooked in a non-stick pan because I can guarantee that, if they are cooked in a regular pan, they will stick and tear. You could also cook them in a steamer or plain boil them – both of these methods work – but I think they are far nicer if the base is crispy.

There is some disagreement about overcrowding the pan when making potstickers. If the dumplings are pushed up against each other they will lightly adhere to their neighbours. This means that you can flip out the entire pan of potstickers onto a plate and they will stay in their beautiful formation. The counterargument is that, when the dumplings stick together, they will then tear when you try to serve them. This has never been too much of an issue for me – I find that they generally come apart without tearing and you can serve the entire batch on a central plate and people can take what they want. I have even seen recipes when people add seasoned cornflour water to the pan which cooks and crisps up a layer on the base of the frying pan and dumplings, which really does stick everything together and results in a more “tear’n’share” kind of meal.

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Of course you can use any filling you like with this cooking method. I used to eat a lot of turkey dumplings at university because the minced turkey was often reduced in shops, meaning that the meal was incredibly cheap – we are talking one to two pounds per person. I am also partial to beef dumplings but I do find that the quality of the minced beef is really noticeable in the final product. Pork and cabbage or kimchi is another popular filling, as is shrimp, so you can see how versatile these dumplings can be.

Let me know how you get on if you try them as I love hearing about your cooking!

 

 

 

Vegetarian Dumplings

Prep time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Cook time: 10 minutes

 

400g firm tofu

2 bunches spring onions

5 garlic cloves

1 inch peeled ginger

1 medium heat chilli (or more if you prefer)

1 medium carrot

Half a cabbage

150g mushrooms

1 tbsp tomato paste

3 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tsp sugar

4 tbsp plain flour

1 egg

A couple of grinds of black pepper

1 tsp salt

Two packets of dumpling skins

 

Crumble the tofu into a sieve and then gently press on it to squeeze out lots of the liquid. You will get a good third to half a cup of liquid out of the tofu. Tip this squeezed tofu into a large bowl.

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Finely chop the spring onion, chilli and mushrooms and add these to the tofu.

Finely slice the cabbage, grate the carrot and add to the rest of the veg.

Grate the ginger and the garlic into the vegetable mix.

Whisk together the egg, soy sauce, vinegar, tomato paste, sugar, cornflour, salt and pepper.

Pour the egg mix over the vegetables and tofu and use your hands to mix until everything is coated.

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Fill your dumpling skins and pleat the edges. For instructions on how to pleat properly, see my recipe for beef dumplings. You can also just fold them over and crimp the edges with a fork if you don’t want to go to the effort of pleating the entire batch.

 

Pour a thin layer of a oil to the bottom of a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. MAKE SURE THIS FRYING PAN HAS A LID FOR THE NEXT STEPS.

Add the dumplings to the pan belly side down. Try to pack the dumplings in so they are touching each other. Overcrowding is not an issue!

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Fry for three minutes until the base of the dumplings are a deep golden brown.

Pour in 100ml water and cover immediately. Be careful as this water will spit when it hits the pan.

Cook covered for about three to five minutes until the water is fully absorbed into the dumplings. The skins should have started to turn translucent. If they haven’t, add another few tablespoons of water and cook again.

You want to make sure the pan has basically boiled dry as this will allow the bases of the dumplings to crisp up again.

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To serve, place a large plate upside down over the pan and quickly invert the frying pan to flip the dumplings onto the plate.

 

For a delicious dipping sauce, allow people to mix soy sauce, rice vinegar and chilli sauce (I use sriracha) in a little ramekin to make their own personal sauce.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you are a fan of dumplings, check out my recipe for the beef variety and you can even use my turkey burger filling in them!

 

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for an absolutely stunningly good tart (and it’s even vegan – but you wouldn’t know from the taste).

H

Korean Rice Bowls

Rice bowls have become increasingly popular over the past few years. Whether that is because of their instragramable appearance, their healthiness (content dependent of course) or even just because they are an easy meal which can be eaten hot or cold I do not know, but whatever the reason they are a fab dish to have in your culinary repertoire. As rice bowls only consist of a variety of toppings laid out over rice, they really aren’t that different from a standard rice dish but what sets them apart is how they look. The brightness and variety of toppings contrast with the neutral base colour of the rice, resulting in a dish which is beautiful and (if done properly) delicious to eat. I am not quite sure where the western notion of rice bowls came from but I would assume that it evolved from the Japanese dish donburi, where meat or fish are cooked with vegetables and then served over a bowl of rice, but this is entirely conjecture on my behalf.

The toppings on your rice bowl are a completely personal thing. Common toppings involve cooked meats (which are often roasted, glazed or fried in sauce), cooked or raw fish, tofu, cooked and raw vegetables, salad and often some sort of pickle to cut through the richness of the rest of the toppings. Beans can be used to help bulk out the dish so you end up with neither too much rice nor too much of the main topping – too much of anything can get boring and you want to enjoy your meal. I have also seen many rice bowl recipes which are topped with a fried egg where the yolk can be cut into and the runny insides mixed into the rest of the dish – almost like a ricey carbonara.

The topping which I am giving the recipe for this week is fried minced beef with onion, garlic, soy and lots of chili. If you can get your hands on Gochujang – a fermented, spicy Korean chili paste – I would fully recommend using it for the chili in this dish as this is what will give you the best flavour and is possibly the only thing that makes this “Korean Beef” as opposed to “Asian Style Beef”. Failing that, any hot chili sauce will work and if you want an extra hit of spice, adding fresh chili is a good way to go about that.

One of the best things about this dish is that you can eat it cold and it still tastes great. The one thing to remember is that when it is cooling, the sauce will separate, the fats and oils into one layer and the water based ingredients into another. A lot of this fat will have come out of the beef when cooking so do not be alarmed by the quantity and what it looks like when it has set – this can appear rather unappealing – but make sure to give everything a good stir when the meat has cooled as this will bring the sauce back together and ensure that the fat is evenly distributed throughout the dish. Try to avoid pouring off the fat as it contains a lot of the beefy flavour and it would be a shame to waste it.

 

Korean Chilli Beef

Time: 20 minutes

Serves: 4

 

400g beef mince

1 medium onion

4 spring onions

2 tbsp vegetable oil

 

Sauce ingredients:

60ml (1/4 cup) soy sauce

50g (1/4cup) brown sugar

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp hot chilli sauce (gochujang/sriracha)

1 hot red chilli – finely chopped

Pepper to taste

 

Mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

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Finely chop the onion and spring onion and set aside the green section of the spring onion for later.

Heat a large frying pan with the oil and add the onions.

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Sautee until the onion turns translucent.

Add the beef, breaking it up in the pan with a wooden spoon.

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Fry for a few minutes, stirring every now and then, until most of the beef has turned from red to brown and the fat has started being released.

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Add the sauce. The pan will be hot so the sauce should bubble on contact.

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Stir to coat everything with the sauce.

Continue to cook for another 3 minutes to make sure the garlic and chilli are both cooked through.

If the sauce is still quite runny, you can add a little cornflour mixed with water to thicken it up (breadcrumbs and matzah meal also work).

Once the sauce has thickened, stir through the chopped green section of the spring onions and remove the beef from the heat.

 

The beef can be served both hot and cold on top or rice, just remember to give it a thorough stirring if you let it cool as the sauce will separate and you will want to mix the fats/oils back into the sauce.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe! If you are a fan of Asian style foods, check out my recipes for ginger tofu and sticky salmon. If the salmon piques your interest, you should definitely check out Yanmin over at Yan and the Yums, she taught it to me several years ago and is a stunningly good chef with some fab recipes.

 

Have a good one and I will be back next week with a recipe for a delicious chocolatey treat.

Curry Laksa

If you have been following this blog for some time, you will have picked up on the fact that I love curry. One thing that I have always wanted to do is create my own curry paste but, unfortunately, I have never had the right equipment. Now things have now changed. This recipe doesn’t require any expensive spice grinders that are only going to be used occasionally, it uses a standard food processor, which is a much more worthwhile investment.

Handmade curry paste is very different from the most available ones you can buy. For starters, it is nowhere near as concentrated. This may seem a bit odd but once you make it, you will realise quite how much water is in the paste which is removed before you purchase it. A curry for two people normally has about 60g of curry paste in it. This recipe feeds four but uses over a cup (250ml) of paste. This excess water must be driven off at the start of the cooking process if you want to extract the best flavours from the spices.

The recipe below is specifically for curry laksa. This differs from asam laksa as it lacks tamarind pulp and includes coconut milk. These differences result in a far creamier, much less sour curry that I am a huge fan of. Laksa is a classic example of fusion cuisine done well. It is believed to have been cooked for Chinese merchants by the women they married as they travelled around the Malay Archipelago (Malaysia, Java and Indonesia). The dish combined the local ingredients, specifically coconut and tamarind, with the noodle dishes that the Chinese merchants bought with them on their travels and from these intermarriages was born the Peranakan culture.

A lot of classic laksa recipes contain both dried and brown shrimp in the curry paste and also use prawns instead of chicken. As someone who doesn’t eat seafood this was rather unfortunate for me, but luckily chicken laksa is relatively popular and isn’t too much of a change from the original sentiment behind the dish. The depth of flavour from the spice combination is phenomenal and I hope you get as much pleasure from this dish as I did.

 

 

 

Curry Laksa with Chicken

Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 3/4

Cost per serving: around £2

 

 

For the paste:

3-6 red chilis

5 garlic cloves

2 stalks lemon grass

3cm ginger

2 tbsp ground coriander

1 tsp turmeric

1tbsp brown sugar

2 tsp cashew nut butter (2 tbsp nuts or swap for peanut butter)

1 tbsp fish sauce

Juice of one lime

1 tsp oil

 

Other Ingredients:

1 tbsp oil

2 chicken breasts

400ml low fat coconut milk (this has a slightly milder flavour than the full fat variety)

600ml chicken stock

4 portions noodles

Beansprouts or some other thin, crunchy vegetables (julienne carrots or mangetout both work too)

3 tsp chilli paste (optional)

6 tofu puffs or slices of fried tofu (optional)

Corriander and sliced spring onion to garnish

 

 

Place the ingredients for the paste into a food processor and blend until almost smooth. Laksa should have a slightly gritty texture so the paste should still have a few fibres left in it.

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Heat the oil in a pan and add the laksa paste. Fry this until it starts to dry out.

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Add a quarter of the coconut milk and cook again until the paste starts to dry and the milk begins to crack. (For more information about cracking the milk, see my post on Thai curries).

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Pour in the rest of the coconut milk along with the stock. Stir this together and heat until it begins to boil.

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Once the soup begins to boil, reduce the heat until it is simmering and then add the chicken to poach in the soup for around 15 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking and if you are using tofu puffs, slice them in half along the diagonal and add them to the soup.

Cook the noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain them and rinse with cold water until the noodles are completely cool to stop them from cooking any more.

Once the chicken is ready, blanch the beansprouts and begin to assemble the dish.

Place a portion of noodles in the centre of each bowl and place a couple of pieces of tofu on top.

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Slice the chicken breasts and divvy them up between the bowls laying the chicken down on one side of the noodles

Place the bean sprouts or other vegetables in the centre of the bowl, on the noodles, to give the dish height.

Ladle the soup around the outside of noodles so as not to disturb the vegetables.

Finally, garnish with a small spoon of chilli paste if you like your laksa spicy.

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I hope you enjoyed the recipe! The soup is full of flavour and can absolutely be enjoyed without any of the other toppings if you want a light lunch or even just a small starter at the beginning of your meal. The wonderful thing about making your own curry paste is that you can adjust the ingredients to your preferences so the laksa will be perfect every time.

If you like curries, you should definitely check out my recipes for Thai coconut curry and also for my lighter, non-coconut curry too. If, on the other hand, you are looking for something a little sweeter, why not try treating yourself to a beautiful ombre cake? You can even turn it into a unicorn!

Have a good one and I will see you next week with a cake idea that you can prepare for Halloween.

H

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ginger Tofu

Herbs and spices enhance a dish in a way that nothing else can. Spices add layers of flavour whilst herbs provide a freshness that lifts a dish to another level. The difference between a herb and a spice is the region of a plant where they are found. Herbs are the leaves of a plant (like basil or mint) whereas spices can be the root (ginger), the seeds (caraway) or the bark (cinnamon). Some species of plant can provide both herbs and spices like coriander from which we use both the leaves and the seeds. The powdered coriander you buy is made by grinding the seeds.

While herbs and spices are found mostly in savoury foods, there are several which are used in sweet dishes too. People are often afraid to use herbs in desserts which is understandable, herbs have relatively strong flavours and you wouldn’t normally put leaves in a pudding but sometimes it just works. Basil pairs beautifully with white chocolate, peaches, strawberries and mango; mint pairs with dark chocolate; sage and thyme work wonderfully with citrus flavours; saffron gives an incredible yellow colour to a dish and of course, sweet tea flavoured dishes – especially matcha green tea with white chocolate – are very in at the moment. Spices, on the other hand, are used all the time in sweet treats without anyone batting an eyelid: chilli chocolate, gingerbread, cinnamon rolls and pfeffernüsse immediately come to mind. Of course we cannot leave out one of the most common spices used today, in fact this item is so common that it is never really considered a spice, cocoa. Chocolate comes from the seeds of a plant making it a spice!

One of my favourite spices is ginger. It has grown on me a lot over the past few years and now I love it. It’s such a versatile flavouring, you can use it dried or fresh in dishes to give them a spicy kick without making them too hot or just use a little to pack a dish full of flavour. The ginger that we know and love is the root of the plant Zingiber Officinale. It is related to galangal (which it can be substituted for in recipes) as well as turmeric – a spice which provides a vibrant yellow colour at a more affordable price than saffron – and cardamom although we only eat the seeds of the cardamom flower. The zingy nature of ginger makes it a delicious flavour to pair with garlic and chilli. Many of my dinners at university were flavoured with some combination of these three, the proportions adjusted depending on how I was feeling at the time.

The recipe below has ginger as a dominant flavour and when mixed with the soy, honey and sesame oil, creates a sauce which is incredibly more-ish. This dish is amazing both hot and cold so can be whipped up for dinner and then the leftovers can be taken to work and eaten for lunch the next day.

Quick disclaimer: Whilst people get very worked up about reheated rice or eating it cold, they never seem to worry about it when eating sushi and other such dishes. Of course there is a chance that reheated rice can give you food poisoning, there is a chance that any type of food could give it to you. The main issue with rice is a bacterium which lives on the surface of dried rice and isn’t killed by cooking – in fact, it’s the cooling cooked rice that it feeds best on so the moment the rice is cold, place it into the fridge and you should be alright for a few days. I wouldn’t advise keeping rice for more than two days but if you do, make sure you reheat the rice fully until it is steaming. I have never had a problem with rice but it never hurts to be careful.

Enjoy the recipe. This sauce can be used for chicken and beef too if you aren’t a fan of tofu, just substitute them in when cooking and make sure to cook all the meat through properly.

Ginger Tofu

Time: 30 minutes

Servings: 3

Cost per serving: around £1.50

40g peeled ginger

2 cloves garlic

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 ½ tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp honey

400g firm/extra firm tofu (not silken)

2 ½ tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp cornflour mixed with 1 tbsp water

1-1.5 cups rice

1 onion

1 carrot

80g edamame/soya beans

Salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp Sushi vinegar mixed with 1 tsp sugar and ¼ tsp salt (optional)

1tbsp chilli oil (optional)

Place the rice into a saucepan and rinse a few times by half filling the saucepan with water, swilling the rice around until the water turns cloudy and then draining it.

For one cup of rice, add one and a half cups of water to the pan (scale this up for more rice) and bring to the boil over a high heat. Turn the heat down and simmer the rice, covered for about 15-20 minutes.

(If using a rice cooker, rinse the rice and put it into the cooker with the instructed amount of water and turn the rice cooker into cook mode – if it finishes early, it will keep the rice warm.)

Drain the tofu and place it between two boards. Press down on the top board and drain off any excess liquid that comes out of the tofu.

Cut the tofu into small cubes, I tend to do one horizontal cut through the block and then several along each edge giving me around 40 small pieces.

Heat two tablespoons of the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan. It is important to use a non-stick pan as tofu can be a real pain to cook in stainless-steel.

Add the tofu to the oil and leave to fry – I like to add salt and pepper to the tofu while it is frying to season it.

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While the tofu is cooking, grate the garlic and the ginger into a small bowl.

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Stir the honey, soy sauce and one tablespoon of the sesame oil into the ginger and garlic mix.

Once the tofu turns golden on the base and starts to go crispy, turn it over and cook the other side. It will take about five minutes per side to start going crispy.

While the second side is cooking, finely slice the onion into half moons. Thinly slice the carrots into two inch long thin strips. A julienne peeler is ideal for this.

Once the top and bottom of the tofu are crispy, add the sauce mix along with one quarter of a cup (60ml) of water. Be careful as it will spit when you add it to the pan.

Allow the mix to bubble for a minute to cook the garlic and ginger before pouring in the cornflour slurry and stirring to coat the tofu.

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Pour the tofu into a dish and use a spatula to scrape out as much of the sauce as possible.

Add the remaining vegetable and sesame oil to the frying pan and heat.

Tip in the onion, carrot and edamame beans and fry until the beans are cooked. This will ensure that the onion and carrot still have a little crunch.

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I like to add a tablespoon of chilli oil at this point to give the vegetables a little kick.

When the rice is cooked, drain off any water that may be left, place a lid onto the saucepan and allow to steam for a minute to make sure the rice is dry.

Stir together the sushi vinegar, salt and sugar. It may be necessary to heat this in the microwave for ten seconds or so to help everything dissolve.

Pour the seasoning over the rice and gently stir it through.

This can be eaten hot or allowed to cool and then taken for lunches at work or on the go. The seasoned rice will keep in the fridge for a few days (long enough to eat it all safely) and the tofu and veg will also keep in airtight containers. Cold tofu tends to have a slightly firmer texture than warm tofu; personally I prefer the former.

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All packed up in a lunch box and ready to go.

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. If you like tofu, check out my delicious tofu curry – the tricks in it can be applied to any curry to make them vegetarian/vegan or if you would like something a little bit sweeter, check out how to make some delicious, crumbly shortbread.

Have a good one and I will see you next week with a recipe for an annual favourite – the honey cake.

H