Chinese potsticker dumplings

22 Feb

I’ve almost always bought the potstickers (which are similar to the Japanese gyoza), whether cooked and ready to eat or frozen.  I’ve never really made them myself.  Mostly because I thought the pleating would be a difficult thing to do.  I’m a perfectionist so anything that doesn’t look good to me is a disappointment (reminds me of the mini-melt down I had when I first made carrot cake whoopie pies.  It involved a quiet scream and the throwing of the poor, innocent ice cream scooper!).  To avoid the disappointment, I just don’t do things.

But lately, I’ve been fairly adventurous (helped along by Alan’s encouragement!).  Last week, I made siomai.  This weekend, it was Chinese pork potsticker dumplings.  I must have watched a lot of “how-to-pleat” videos on youtube to mentally prepare myself for the exercise.  The dumplings turned out really well and has (probably) been given the Alan seal of approval.  I used store bought dumpling wrappers – the next time I’m doing it, I’m doing EVERYTHING completely from scratch!

Ingredients:

  • 110g ground pork2015-02-21 19.00.12
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp rice wine
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ ground white pepper
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1 heaping tbsp chives chopped finely
  • 18 dumpling wrappers

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, mix all the ingredients together until well incorporated.
  2. Taking a dumpling wrapper, dampen the edges of the dumpling wrapper.  Place 2 teaspoons of the mixture in the center of the wrapper, and holding the wrapper like a taco, start pleating the edges of the wrapper, pinching with each pleat to seal the dumpling well.  Place on a parchment paper-lined baking tray and set aside until ready to cook.
  3. My version of cooking the dumplings might be different from most people, but it works for me.  There are other ways, so feel free to cook them any other way that works for you.  I place water and vegetable oil in a wok (or shallow saucepan) and allow the water to heat up to a gentle rolling boil.  Place 6-8 dumplings in the boiling water and allow to boil covered for 5 minutes.  Uncover the dumplings and swirl (carefully) around to make sure that the dumplings aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Allow the water to evaporate and add a little oil to fry the dumplings until they’re golden brown.
  4. Serve with your favourite dip!

Chinese pork dumplings

Cookies for the New Year!

20 Feb

Did you see what I did there?  C-N-Y.  If you missed it, well, there you go.

Anyway, I baked Chinese almond cookies last night.  My way of celebrating the Chinese New Year.

Kung Hei Fat Choi!

Chinese almond cookies

Good read: Us

19 Feb

I’ve actually started a new book – yes again!  Someone said that I was a quick reader.  I think it’s a sign that I’m stressed.  Reading is a bit of an escape for me.  I get to stop thinking about things that worry me and I get to wonder about someone else’s issues for a change – and I don’t have to worry.  I just have to read so that I see things unfolding.  It’s a good thing.

I’m reading Us by David Nicholls (he wrote One Day).  It’s about a biochemist whose marriage is failing.  But he and his wife decide that despite the fact that they are going to get a divorce, they go on a trip with their teenaged son and while on the trip, the son disappears.  I haven’t got any further than that though.

The story appeals to me though, because of the sciency bits.  One of the nerdy jokes that got me giggling to myself on the train (no doubt attracting weird looks) was the joke that said “The only acid in this house is deoxyribonucleic acid!”  As the main character is a biochemist, I wasn’t surprised that there was a lot about labs and research.  It made me smile when the Drosophila melanogaster was mentioned along with genetic mapping.  The Drosophila melanogaster is the scientific name for the common fruitfly.  I have first-hand experience with fruitflies because my dad is a geneticist and he was working on a project that involved fruitflies.  Fruitflies are a blight on Philippine mangoes and my dad was attempting to sterilise the fruitflies, so that they only produced female flies.  I don’t really know if my dad was successful, but it was because of this project that Drosophila melanogaster was a big fixture in our life for a very long time.

I’m still reading.  So the jury’s out.  But then again, I did get the book because it was a David Nicholls book and I loved One Day.  I am loving the book so far thought.  More so now because I seem to have found a connection with the main character!

Us by David Nicholls

Sometimes you just need rest!

16 Feb

I have been quite stressed lately…and I think it’s because I’ve been working too hard and I’ve been dealing with…issues.  I’ve had a reflective look back at my life and during the most stressful situations, I’ve noticed that I read a lot of books, fiction mostly.  And during the past 12 months, I’ve been reading up a storm!  My fiction reading is directly proportional to my stress levels (15 books in 6 months is a lot – more than a book every 2 weeks!).  I think I’m this close to a burnout.  I’ve also been reading loads about stress coping strategies and burnouts and how to spot them.  It’s not helping though because I know intrinsically, something’s got to change.

What I really need is a change of place, a change of pace, and…a change.  But tonight I’m going to go to bed and just rest!

nuh-night!

Prawn toast

15 Feb

If you order Chinese takeaway, and order the hors d’oeuvres, you will most likely get prawn toast.  Apart from the spring rolls, this is probably one of my favourite things from a Chinese takeaway (I love prawns, you see).  I’ve always heard about how easy it is to make, but I could never wrap my mind around how the prawn would stick to the bread!

All week last week, I googled recipes for prawn toast and pored over directions.  I put together what I thought were common ingredients and hoped for the best!  Which was, in itself, such a dangerous thing to do since I had never (ever) made prawn toast!  But it worked and all night, as I was wallowing in prawn toast, I was thanking the cooking gods for smiling on my experimentation!

Ingredients:

  • 200g prawns, peeled and deveined
  • 2 spring onions (the white part only), chopped finely
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon cornflour
  • dash soy sauce
  • dash sesame oil
  • 1 egg white
  • 4 slices white bread (optional: crusts removed)
  • 500g sesame seed
  • 500ml vegetable oil for frying

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, add the prawns and the spring onions.  Blitz until a rough past is formed.  Turn the prawn paste out into a bowl.
  2. Add salt, cornflour, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, and egg white to the prawn paste and mix until well incorporated.  The mixture should feel like a heavy paste.
  3. Divide the paste into 4 portions.  Using a palette knife spread a quarter of the prawn paste onto a slice of white bread evenly.  Dip the filling side onto the sesame seeds making sure all the mixture is covered.
  4. Deep fry the toast in hot oil, filling side down first, until golden brown.  Flip over to brown the other side and drain on a absorbent paper and slice into quarters and serve.

Prawn toast

 

Chinese coconut tarts

8 Feb

I’ve loved coconut tarts since the first day I tasted them.  Alan properly introduced me to them in Chinatown in London.  We had a favourite Chinese bakery where we bought our char siu buns, cocktail buns and egg and coconut tarts.  We called this bakery, the one with the pushy aunts because they were very…authoritative.  To be honest, these Chinese aunties scared me!  We’ve since then changed loyalties and we’ve found the perfect char siu buns from somewhere else, but after looking through at least 4 Chinese bakeries, one of my favourite things to order is the coconut tart.  I love the flakiness of the pastry that they use on the tarts.

It is widely known that necessity is the mother of all invention.  The trains to London are (to put it indelicately) buggered on the weekends until 22 March.  So I can’t just zip into Chinatown and get some coconut tarts.  Plus, Alan has been asking me to bake coconut tarts for a few weeks now.  At first, they were very gentle, subtle hints.  A couple of weeks ago, he asked me to bake them because he said my tarts were better than the store bought ones because I put more coconut in them!  So, of course, I had to bake them!

Sliced coconut tart

I’ve almost always used store-bought puff pastry because it was more convenient.  But as I am challenging my baking fears, I’ve been practicing my puff and rough-puff pastry making capabilities and flexing my muscles.  I can bake shortcrust and sweet shortcrust pastry fairly well now, so this was a new challenge.

I think I’ve found a puff pastry recipe that I can manipulate and work to fit my needs.  I’ve done a few tweaks to it so that it’s simple and relatively fool proof.

Shortcrust pastry:

  • 250g butter, VERY COLD and cut into cubes
  • 250g all purpose flour
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 150ml cold water

Directions:

  1. Because my hands are a still a bit buggered, I’m using a mixer.  In a mixing bowl, combine flour and icing sugar. With the paddle attachment, add all the butter and mix.  You should still see pieces of butter but they should be covered in flour.
  2. Add 2/3 of the water and mix until the mixture comes together and comes away from the sides of the bowl.
  3. Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface and knead gently until the mixture is relatively smooth and then form a rectangle.  Using a floured rolling pin, roll into a longer rectangle.  Fold the top third down towards you and the bottom third up (you should have a square-ish rectangle).  Flour the surface some more so that the pastry doesn’t stick.  Hold one of the corners and turn the dough 90º and roll into a rectangle and fold into thirds again.  Do this another 2 times.  Then wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.
  4. Roll and fold the pastry into thirds about 3 more times chilling 30 minute in between roll and fold sessions, wrapping the pastry after each time.  This will create the pastry layers.  Keep the pastry in the fridge until you’re ready to use it.  This will line at least 2 12-hole muffin pans (24 tarts), depending on how thick you want your pastry to be.

TIP:  To use this pastry in a savoury recipe, replace the sugar with 1 tsp fine sea salt.

When you’re ready to fill your tarts, roll out the pastry to desired thickness and cut rounds to line muffin tins.  Preheat the oven to 180ºC.

Coconut tart filling:

  • 225g dessicated coconutCoconut tarts before baking
  • 100g butter, softened
  • 175g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 75g plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 100ml evaporated milk
  • 24 glacé cherry halves (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, combine coconut, flour and baking powder.  Set aside.  In another bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg to the butter-sugar mixture until well combined.
  2. Add the coconut-flour mixture and evaporated milk until the mixture is thick.  It will be slightly heavy.
  3. Fill the tarts until almost to the top of the pastry (which is about one tablespoon of mixture) and top with half a glacé cherry (if you wish, this is optional of course, but it makes it so pretty!) and bake for 20-25 minutes (depending on how hot your oven is) or until risen over the pastry and golden brown.
  4. Take the tarts out of the oven and cool for 5 minutes before moving to wire racks to cool completely.

Coconut tarts

 

 

Good read: Fractured

8 Feb

I’m on a reading roll (non-bread, mind!)!  I’ve always had my nose in a book for as long as I can remember, but for the past several years, work has taken over my life.  I’ve been working and spending my non-working hours either baking or resting and completely vegging out (by watching TV).

But I’ve been reading a lot the past few months: I’ve finished the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness (A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night and the Book of Life), the Languedoc Series by Kate Mosse (Citadel, Sepulchre and Citadel), Gillian Flynn’s books (Gone Girl, Dark Places, and Sharp Objects), The Cousins War Series by Philippa Gregory (The White Queen, The Red Queen, The Lady of the Rivers, The King Maker’s Daughter, The White Princess, and the King’s Curse), Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, and Bridget Jones: Mad About The Boy by Helen Fielding.  Two weeks ago, I finished Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins.

On Friday, I finished another book.  Continuing on the amnesia-lit theme (Girl On The Train was mostly because the character experiences a sort of amnesia), I started on Fractured last weekend.  The premise was about this girl who has an accident and wakes up from it with a life that’s perfect and far from what she had before she had the accident and what happens after as she tries to figure out why her life is what it is.  Before this book, I’d been lamenting my reading speed.  But considering that I only read on the train after Alan gets off the train on the way to work, and on the way home, I read only until Alan gets home, my reading speed is relatively back to where it used to be.  The only downside is that I’m experiencing a twitching on the left side of my forehead!  My eyebrow and top and bottom eyelids are twitching too.  I’m constantly afraid that people will think I’m winking at them!

Fractured

I’ve got a book lined up for my next read.  It’s called The Book of You by Claire Kendal.  Bring on the daily commute!

But now, I’ve got to make Chinese coconut tarts!  See y’all later!

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