Wonderful Wontons, Delicious Dim Sum, Darling Dumplings – Thanks Denise!

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So, what’s the difference between a won ton, a dim sum and a dumpling? Very, very little although Dim Sim literally means “snack” in Chinese. These snacks are usually served in bite sized portions and eaten almost exclusively with tea. And I am for all for them whatever words may be used: gyoza, momo, jiaozi or baozi. They are a brilliant way to use up those unloved bottom of the fridge vegetables, the sad cabbages, the half mushrooms, that bit of lemon grass, carrot etc, and they are very, very easy, peazy. Before I tell you exactly how easy it is to make these delicious little parcels, I have to thank one person. Remember when Jamie Oliver discovered that a lot of people had never actually switched on their ovens in their flats or houses, and decided that if he taught 8 people how to cook something, then they would teach another 8 people etc. etc, well I had a little Jamie helper of my own… so this blog is devoted to the wonderful and inspirational Denise Herbert who has a charming guest house called The Nunnery in the small rural town of Te Aroha, in far away Middle New Zealand. Denise stayed with me last year and shared her dumpling recipe and they have been firm family (and friend) favourites ever since. Thanks Denise…….Now over to you…

Dumplings (makes about 30)

We have done a few workshops making these and we have discovered that every batch is slightly different in taste and flavour, depending on the herbs/seasonings you use. However, all were delicious and were eaten up so quickly we could scarce believe it. So, be inventive, taste and try new variations each time. You just can’t go wrong. There is no hard and fast rules but you will need to purchase the right dumpling wrappers. We got ours from the freezer section at the ‘Amazing Oriental Store’: use the round gyoza wrappers about 6 cms across. Don’t use the soup wonton wrappers that require boiling for quite a long time – you will be chewing forever! We have experimented with the soft steamed dumplings and also the quick fried version.  If you are a “steamer” you will need to purchase a little bamboo steamer container that you place over a similar sized saucepan half filled with water. You will also need steamer paper which looks like a thin greaseproof paper with holes cut into it to allow even steaming. These items are cheapish and will be much used! However, you will need to eat your steamed dumplings rather quickly (not hard to do) as left out in the open air, they get slightly hard and plasticky! If you choose to fry them in a little rice bran oil, they will last a lot longer and are very suitable for after school snacks, picnics etc! OK, advice done, now to the recipe! Get the frozen dumpling pastry packet out of fridge about 20 minutes before you need them.

Make a couple of simple dipping sauces first

Add some fresh ginger juice (grate a cm of fresh ginger and squeeze into a bowl) into half a small cup of soy sauce. Add in fresh lime juice, some sweet mirin, and sesame seeds. Mix and taste to adjust seasonings. Can add fair trade palm sugar or some Thai chilli sauce.

Second sauce: add 2 teaspoons of sesame oil to about  a half of cup of mirin and 1 cm of finely grated peeled fresh ginger. Mix and leave for awhile, taste and adjust.

Filling

Finely chop your veggies and tofu. We used 1 whole packet of the Eko-plazas smoked tofu chopped very small. Add to this a cup of chopped white cabbage (we used the always sweet Spitskool), half a cup of mushrooms (shitake or portabella will do), some finely chopped lemon grass (from the freezer), a quarter of a cup of Thai Basil (my favourite ingredient of all time, you can use less as it is a strong taste!) Can add mint, coriander etc. Mix some liquid into the veggies – some standard soy sauce, some Indonesian sweet soy sauce, and a little of the sesame oil. Taste to get the combinations just right for your palate. Now you are ready to roll! Well, crimp, OK press!

Grab a small bowl of water to dab around the edge of the dumpling. Now this bit is somewhat difficult to explain in words but I will do my best. Place about a teaspoon of the filling in the middle of the dumpling pastry. Dab water around the edges. You can choose to either just stick the half halves together creating a half moon shape or you can bring it together at the top so it looks like a rubbish bag shape or you can crimp the edges for a very professional look: using both hands fold the one edge over and over to form a fan like effect. OK, it’s just something you will have to have a go at. Or you could come to a workshop in my kitchen! Note to self, make a video next time we all make dumplings! Start with simple half moons and practice a bit of simple folding as you get more confident. Make all the dumplings and place on a plate ready to fry or steam.

Now, cook the dumplings. They will taste quite different as the veggies will be more ‘cooked’ by the steaming. If you fry the dumplings, do it very quickly as they burn easily. Put a bit of rice bran oil on to heat, drop the dumpling in, turn as it goes golden brown.

Serve with a salad of cucumber, radish, iceberg lettuce and those yummy dipping sauces. I haven’t met anyone yet who can resist these yummy parcels. Let me know how you get on. And thank you Denise! It’s been a cheese scone week here in the lowlands. Something to do with the mid winter blues I suppose. I have put my favourite recipe onto the My School Lunchbox facebook page if you are keen to give them a go. Nothing really beats a warm scone served with strawberry jam and an Earl Grey tea…..

Smoked tofu, mushroom and lemon grass dumplings

Smoked tofu, mushroom and lemon grass dumplings

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October Already – Birthday warm Fuzzies, Roasted Almond Pesto, Favourite Things, November 9!

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I’ve been working on developing some new recipes for an exciting new shop (www.dewandelaar.nl – but more on that later!) and thinking about food, food, food. There was yet another birthday to celebrate in our house (mine!) and this year I invited my friends to cook their current favourite food or bring a tried and tested recipe to afternoon tea. It’s so lovely to share beautiful food with wonderful friends!   It all ended way too soon for me so I have decided to do the same for next birthday. I made my usual carrot cake, with half the amount of sugar but with lots of pineapple, decorated with dried cranberries and fresh berries.

And delicious it was

And delicious it was

I also made some curried egg sandwiches, jazzed up with roasted almond pesto, and some of Jenny’s Tamarind Pickle (from Waiheke Island) and garnished with broccoli cress. My, but the spread was grand, Antonio surpassed himself with a Spanish style aubergine tortilla, Basma made Cheese Fatayer, a sort of yeast pastry with olives, feta, herbs and spices, Jilly made a beauteous banana cake, Fanny  baked a light as a bee’s wing, honey cake, Anna prepared some fresh tasting hummus laced liberally with loads of flat-leafed parsley, Sharyn made a carrot souffle, Ute stuffed dates with walnuts and cream cheese, Johanna, a pumpkin and walnut loaf, Nancy some coconut date balls, and Michele, a lime and lemon tart that everyone raved about, Carolyn,  a plum cinnamon cake – and I could go on and on!! Please forgive me if I have missed anyone out – all I can say was thanks, thanks and more thanks!

The food was varied, delightful and delicious, the conversation brisk. And really that’s what life is all about isn’t it: honest homemade food, good company, love and laughter! More please, more sharing and caring!

On a more serious note, it was Buy Nothing New month so I asked everyone NOT to bring a present or buy anything new. Thus Lily-Anne had “borrowed” some peppers, and roasted them, Elske had raided her garden for a magnificent bunch of flowers and I even received some used teabags for my composters!  Thanks Helen!

Red peppercorns, paua shells, cooking mags, sumac & flowers

Red peppercorns, paua shells, cooking mags, sumac & flowers

The Buy Nothing New Month began in Australia (check the expatsincebirth.com October 9 blog post) but is starting to catch on here in The Netherlands and I am a firm follower. Of course food may be purchased, in fact I positively encourage it, but like everything, it must be brought with care. I am asking myself constantly “Do I really need it? Will I use all of it? How can I best utilize it? I will admit I have a bit of a siege mentality and find myself shopping as if an impending disaster may happen at any moment!  Yes, the amount of lentils in my cupboards would see my family (and quite a few others) through quite a few weeks of any siege.  I’m working on changing that!

I am also developing some Kiwi style recipes for a new shop, selling a taste of the South Pacific without having to go the whole 18.000 kilometres to get to the land of the long white cloud! Happily, it’s all about food and wine –  it will sell  the very best of New Zealand’s artisan products which will marry well with local products. If you are keen to come and sample what’s on offer – and have a chat with me – I will be cooking! – then do join me on November 9 at 14.00 in the Oude Zuid of Amsterdam. See http://www.dewandelaar.nl for more details.

Now, a new discovery (for me at least) and a simple one, it’s already a new favourite in this house.

Roasted Almond Pesto (to serve with pasta, egg sammies, cheese toasties, on crostinis etc)

Half a cup of blanched almonds, roasted carefully in a fry pan until golden and aromatic – use a tiny spray of olive oil if you like!

A good bunch of fresh basil or flat-leafed parsley or a mix of both.

Some mild flavoured olive oil or half and half of lemon infused olive oil – use about half a cup

2-3 cloves of garlic depending on how strong you like your garlicky flavours, peeled

parmesan or percorino cheese (or frankly whatever cheese you fancy using that’s been hanging around the bottom of the fridge for a while!) – use half a cup chopped or grated, depending if you have a good hand blender.

Blitz the lot with a hand held blender. Taste, and season with salt if needed and freshly ground red peppercorns. I am buying some slightly soft but still crunchy red peppercorns and the flavour is surperb!  It will keep for a few days if you top it up with oil and keep it in the fridge in a covered jar.

I sent this to school with some pasta and Jack said it was the best lunch ever!

I leave you with some of my favourite things for the Autumn

Loving making simple quick Thai style soups with onoff spices (from the Ekoplaza, the Massaman is excellent!) So easy and uses up all sorts of bottom of fridge veggies.

Loving the feta roasted cauliflower recipe from Flash Cooking

Adoring using the Lime infused Avocado oil in my Mexican style Friday Night lentil soup (testing some NZ products for dewandelaar.nl – infused oils are some of them!)

Loving that my kids cooked me a secret “morning glory” birthday cake with fresh strawberry cream cheese frosting  – yah, they can cook! It has all been worth it then!

Laura Santtini's gorgeous Flash cooking cookbood!

Laura Santtini’s gorgeous “Flash Cooking” cookbook! Beautiful!

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