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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Dumpling Recipe and Merry Christmas!

Boiled dumplings
Happy Christmas Eve and here's a early christmas present for you all: I've finally written this blog post about cooking dumplings with my cousin's Taiwanese wife, Charlene! We cooked together last Monday and it was great fun to make dumplings with someone who knew what they were doing. My sister looked after Charlene's two adorable little boys so we could cook in relative peace, although Charlie (aged 3 and a half) decided to "help" us with a very funny opinion as to how dumplings should be folded - in half and then half again before being squished into a ball - fortunately he didn't cotton on to the fact that we gave him the same wrapper each time, rerolled when he wanted a new one!
Charlie rolling out his wrapper

Included in this post are two videos on how to pleat dumplings but you can also get a dumpling press, from here or here, just make sure you cut the wrappers a few sizes bigger than the edge of the mould as it will sink in when you put the filling in it. I wound up using the largest of my round biscuit cutters with the middle sized mould. Interestingly, once Charlene had showed me how, I found it much easier to pleat them by hand than use a press as it doesn't matter what size your wrappers are.

If you don't want the faff of making your own wrappers and then rolling them out (that's the killer) then buy dumpling wrappers from a chinese supermarket and they'll work just as well. Charlene says she homemade wrappers before and found that it took so long that she gave up and got supermarket ones the next time! The mixture for the skins needs to be very dry so you'll probably have to add more flour as you work it. You also need a lot of extra flour to stop the wrappers, and later the dumplings, from sticking to each other or the plate if you want to cook them in one piece.

My pretty flower of wrappers
You can cook them in different ways, they can be steamed (I haven't tried that method as I don't have any bamboo steamers), boiled or pan fried. My favourite way to cook them is it pan fry them - you heat some sesame oil in a nonstick lidded pan and add the dumplings one by one when the oil is hot (don't let them touch one another) and wait until the undersides are lightly crispy, then you pour in cold water to about halfway up the dumplings, cover with a lid and leave to cook. You have to check halfway through that there's still a little water left. You can freeze them uncooked and then boil them, refreshing with a cup of cold water 3 times, or pan fry them and refresh the water once, but I didn't think the hand made wrappers tasted so good after freezing, though the ones Charlene brought along for Charlie's lunch still tasted delicious.

Ready to wrap
Once you've prepared the filling and the wrappers, I suggest you wrap one and cook it in boiling water until the dumpling has risen to the surface, so that you can check that the seasoning is right before you wrap them all. Charlene and I remembered this half way through wrapping the dumplings, when it was deemed too late to add more salt!

Pork Dumplings Recipe
Makes about 18 dumplings
If you can you should get the minced pork from a butcher and ask for it to be 20% fat and 80% meat, as this will help the filling to be juicy and tasty.
You can make the filling a day in advance and leave the flavours to develop in the fridge overnight, which will result in a very flavoursome dumpling.
Salting the cabbage helps to remove the excess water before adding it to the pork.

Dicing cabbage really really finely (don't cut yourself)
140g plain flour, plus more for dusting
100ml very hot (but not boiling) water
110g minced pork
75g sweetheart cabbage, bok/pak choi  or spinach
1tsp finely chopped ginger
½tbsp soy sauce
Salt for the cabbage
¼tsp white pepper
3 finely chopped spring onions
1tsp sesame oil
½tsp sugar
1-2tbsp water

Place the flour into a large bowl and pour in the water. Mix (or let your KitchenAid do the work for you) until the water and flour have formed a loose dough, then turn it out onto a floured surface (or leave in the mixer) and knead until smooth and not sticky, about 8 minutes.
Put the dough in a bowl and cover with a damp (clean) tea towel for 2 minutes.
Knead the dough again for another 5 minutes, adding flour if the dough is sticky.
Flour the surface liberally and roll about a fifth of the dough out to a few millimetres thick and then use a round cutter to cut out the wrappers, sprinkle them with flour and place on a covered plate/tray until you want to use them. Repeat for the other fifths and the leftover dough.

Mixing the dough
Before making the dough, finely dice the greens and place in a bowl with a generous sprinkling of salt over them, stir quickly and leave.
Whilst the dough is resting, place the mince in a large bowl and add the ginger, soy sauce, pepper, sesame oil, sugar and water. Use your hands to squish everything together and then smash it a few times (as the video below shows) to pack everything together, add more water if it feels very dry. You want it to stop looking like mince and start looking really smooth and like one piece of meat. The smashing also tenderises the meat.

the smashed mince
Remove the greens from the other bowl and pat dry. Add to the meat and repeat the mixing and smashing so that it is evenly distributed.
Assembling the dumplings
Watch the videos below and pleat until wrappers/filling run out (freeze any leftovers).

Pan fried: heat some sesame oil in a nonstick lidded pan and add the dumplings one after the other when the oil is hot (don't let them touch one another) and wait until the undersides are lightly crispy, then you pour in cold water to about halfway up the dumplings, cover with a lid and leave to cook for about 12 minutes on a gentle simmer, adding water half way through if necessary.
Boiled: place a large pan of water on to boil and add the dumplings, making sure they don't stick to the bottom. Once they rise to the surface they are cooked.
Steamed: place in a lined/non stick steamer basket over a pan of boiling water and steam for 12 minutes with the lid on.

Wrappers are in the process of being rolled and cut 
Do you have any food based christmas traditions? Tomorrow, my family will get up around 9, open a present each and then get dressed and have croissants for breakfast before opening the rest of our presents (whoo). Later we'll go cycling to the oyster beds to buy some for lunch. Another tradition that I love is decorating myself in tinsel before transferring it onto the tree. My sister and I have been doing this since we were little and when I burst into the kitchen wearing tinsel this afternoon (we were really late decorating our tree this year) my mum couldn't stop laughing! Even though I'm 21 in two days time, I'm still like a little kid when it comes to Christmas and so a time before which I can't wake my family up has to be negotiated each year. Often it's 7 or 8 but this year, after a hectic few weeks, I've compromised on 9am. I hope Father Christmas brings me something to keep me entertained until then if I wake up super early!

simply fabulous, darling

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I love to cook and this blog follows my successes (and a few failures) in the kitchen. If you enjoy my posts, or think there is a problem with a recipe then please let me know