Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Hello Lover...

It was bound to happen - how could I resist the charms of these plump, juicy little nubbins? My affection for them is so absolute that I spent the greater part of my weekend bringing about 100 of these delicious morsels to life...before spending the last three evenings consuming them, one by one.

Others may talk about superfoods, and molecular gastronomy, but to my love-addled mind, nothing beats a good dumpling (or a whole plateful) on a cold winter night. Juicy innards of meat, prawns, mushrooms, and onions encased in a chewy, fried/steamed case - all your major food groups in one bite. My only initial worry was that the Manpoppet wouldn't appreciate my love for these little stuffed pockets, but I needn't have worried, for his passion has almost exceeded mine.

I can't say that mine are the best little dumplings in the world, but they satisfy my hunger, keep me warm, and best of all, bring a smile to my face. Here's my recipe, if you'd like some little lovers of your own -

300 gms all-purpose flour
100 gms rice flour
pinch of salt
just boiled water

500 gms pork mince
160 gms prawns, minced
4 spring onions
2 medium onions
100 gms chestnut mushrooms
100 gms wild mushrooms
knob of ginger
6 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil

Makes...quite a lot - it depends how large you make the skins and how stuffed you make them.

- Prepare your filling. Mince all the ingredients, then start frying the onions in some cooking oil (NOT the sesame oil) till they just start getting translucent. Add in the garlic and ginger, then add the mushrooms and pork. Mix in some soy sauce and sesame oil for flavour. When the meat is nearly cooked, add in the prawns, they don't need to cook for long, and you don't really want them too rubbery.

- Leave the filling aside to cool, and start preparing the dough for the skins.

- Mix both flours together with a pinch of salt, and added just boiled water to the mixture a little at a time, mixing constantly with a wooden spoon. Be careful not to add too much water, as you don't want the dough to be too wet. Knead the dough till it's smooth and slightly elastic, then leave it in a bowl to rest, covered with a tea-towel to prevent it drying out.

- Once the filling is cool enough to handle by hand, start rolling the dough out onto a floured surface. Roll the dough out in batches, so the rest of the dough doesn't dry out too much. You want to roll them out thin enough so you're not just chewing on dough, but not so thin that they burst as soon as you fill them. Mine were about 2-3 mm thick. Start cutting the skins out with a 3-inch wide biscuit cutter or suitable implement.

- Fill the skins with the filling, then press the edges firmly together to prevent the inside bursting when you cook them. You can pleat them if you're good enough with your fingers, I left mine unpleated. It helps to put a dab of water on the edges to help them stick together if you find the dough too dry.

- Now, all you need to do is cook them and eat them! If you've made way too many, like I did, you can freeze them. I kept mine in an old ice-cream tub, between layers of greaseproof paper so they don't stick together. You can also make a dipping sauce for them.

Dipping Sauce
1 tbsp sweetened rice vinegar
2 tbsps light soy sauce
bit of ginger
2 small bird's eye chillies

- Mince the ginger and slice up the chillies, and leave them in a little bowl. Add the vinegar and soy sauce. Dip, and enjoy!

There are several ways of cooking the dump-de-dumps. You can steam them in a steamer (healthy option), fry or deepfry them (not that healthy), boil them in stock, water or soup, or - my favourite method - add a little cooking oil to a frying pan (non-stick ones work much better in this case) and fry them for a minute, then add enough water to cover them, and steam them in the pan till all the water evaporates. This way, you can crunchy little golden fried bits on the bottom, with the juiciness of steaming.

And of course, the beauty of dumplings is that they are infinitely, easily modifiable. You can increase the size of the skins to make giant fist-sized versions (like Uzbek manti), fill them with fruits (like Polish pierogi), or make up your own versions. I'm thinking of making ice-cream filled versions, encased in some sort of sweet dough...