Saturday, 30 November 2013

Pork & Ginger Gyoza with Dipping Sauce

Gyoza actually originated in China, but as with many other things it's gotten assimilated into everyday Japanese cooking. Closely related to shumai and wonton, the filling is usually pork- based, with cabbage, spring onion, garlic or garlic chives, and ginger although there are many variations.

You really need to have as thin a gyoza skin as possible - and of course you can always make your own but even in Japan thin, ready-made gyoza skins are usually used. I think my dumpling skins, bought in Chinatown were for wonton and I’m honestly not sure if it would have made a difference: I think my technique was more of an issue really!

The usual method for cooking gyoza is to “steam-fry” them so that they are crispy on the bottom and smooth and slippery on the top. It can be tricky to get it right to be honest - when you add the water you need to be sure not to add too much: obviously it is easy to add extra if needed but if you add too much at the outset you’re a bit stuffed really.

Gyoza are a traditional accompaniment to ramen in Japan, so I cooked these when I made ramen number 2 of the preceding post. The recipe came from a recent issue of Olive magazine but since making this I did of course go to Tokyo and gyoza were one of the things we made at the cooking class that I attended. That recipe will follow soon - and thankfully my technique improved a fair bit.

One final point to make: the Olive recipe didn’t specify light or dark soy sauce (and I’m used to the distinction with most regional Chinese recipes I follow) so I used dark but, as this was clearly an error, do use light soy if you can.

Oh, and by the way, a good tip is that you can freeze any extra gyoza that you don't think you'll eat in the first sitting (so to speak). The best way to do this is to put them on a metal baking tray in a single layer and pop the tray in the freezer. Once the gyoza are frozen you can then put them back in the freezer in a freezer bag or plastic container and TA-DAA - they won't get stuck together, and you can take out as many as you want, when you want.

Pork & Ginger Gyoza
makes about 20

100g spring greens, shredded, blanched for 2 minutes then drained & cooled
2cm ginger, grated
1 clove garlic, crushed
200g minced pork
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 spring onions, finely chopped
20 gyoza / dumpling wrappers
1 tbsp sunflower oil
For the Dipping Sauce
3 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 red chili, finely chopped

Squeeze out any excess water from the greens then finely chop. Put in a bowl with the ginger, garlic, pork, spring onions, soy and 1 tbsp egg white.

Season then mix well and set aside to marinate for about an hour if possible.

Make your dumpling assembly station ready: you'll need a little bowl of water, a baking tray lined with parchment, the dumpling wrappers, the filling and a teaspoon. Keep the dumpling skins under a damp cloth or in the plastic pack they come in to keep them from drying out.

Put a skin / wrapper on your palm and using the tip of your finger moisten the edges with water. Put a teaspoonful of filling in the middle - try not to overfill them or you'll have trouble closing them up.

Bring the 2 sides together to make a crescent shape and pinch firmly in the middle. Fold over the skin on the side facing you, from both sides to make pleats, pinching firmly as you go. Place on the baking tray so that the top edges are straight up and push down slightly to flatten the bottom. Repeat with the other dumpling wrappers until you are out of filling.

When ready to serve, heat a little vegetable oil in a large non-stick frying pan that has a lid. Put in the gyoza flat side down and cook over a medium to high heat for a couple of minutes until the bottoms have started to crisp up and are golden. Lower the heat.

Add 125ml of water to the pan, immediately popping the lid on.

Steam for 5-10 minutes or until the wrappers are tender and look sort of transparent

When the water is almost all gone, take off the lid and turn the heat up to high to evaporate the rest. Place on a serving plate and repeat with any remaining gyoza.

Mix the dipping sauce ingredients together in a small, shallow dipping bowl and serve.

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Sunday, 17 November 2013


Prior to going to Tokyo, and probably as I had been planning the Tokyo trip I had a massive yearning for ramen one weekend. The bf was away, oop north camping with the midget, so I trudged into Chinatown (well slipped and slid, it was peeing down, I’d forgotten an umbrella and was wearing new ballerina’s.. West End pavements seem to resemble ice rinks in the wet: it was a bloody nightmare) to scour the shops for ingredients.

It wasn’t entirely successful to be fair, as there were a few things I just couldn’t find. And in the end after finding an interesting looking instant ramen noodles packet in the Japan Centre I decided that I would have two attempts: one made with said instant noodles, with toppings of my choice.. and one made with a bit more effort (although admittedly not much more) and using fresh ramen noodles.

In the case of the latter it would of course have been much better to make my own ramen broth but at this point I was soaked, had nearly slipped over at least a dozen times and was miserable - and I had found some ramen seasoning cubes in the Japan Centre so thought I’d give them a go.

Not exactly making from scratch then but still more so than the ramen noodle soup packet I was also to try out.

I also wanted to get chashu (char siu pork) but couldn’t find any anywhere and really just didn’t have the time to make that from scratch. So what I have instead is some pork loin slices, from the deli section in Tesco and just to up the pigginess some very finely sliced pork belly, also found in the Japan Centre. It’s actually intended for Shabu Shabu, hence the thinness of the slices but what the hell, I thought I’d give it a go.

Ramen #1
serves 1

Interestingly these weren’t particularly cheesy but rather gave a rich umami-ness that was kind of reminiscent of tonkotsu ramen. It really worked pretty well and I’d definitely get these in again as a store cupboard standby for a quick ramen fix.

pack of instant “cheese” ramen noodles
2 cooked pork loin slices
seasoned bamboo shoots
1 spring onion, finely chopped
1 medium-boiled duck egg
light soy sauce
nanami togarashi

Basically cook the noodles according to the package instructions: or if you are me study the Japanese instructions and ingredient packets until you can just about figure out the instructions.

I knew the noodles were cooked in 550ml for 4 minutes and that two of the 3 sachets went in with the noodles and the third on serving.. it took some doing: my knowledge of Kanji isn’t brilliant (ahem - I know about 3 characters and that is only since returning from Tokyo) but I got there in the end.

The sachets are:

Ramen seasoning -

Toppings (a bit stingy but I did like the bits of “fishcake”):

And cheese flavouring:

I think it was the cheese that was added last, I can’t recall.

Anyway, once the noodles are cooked, tip the lot into a bowl, and top in as an artistic fashion as possible the chopped spring onion, pork slices, halved egg and menma. Dash a little soy onto the eggs and sprinkle a little togarashi over the lot.

Slurp away!

Ramen #2
serves 2

Because I was ostensibly making a little more effort here I also went a bit more for it in terms of the toppings, as you can see

100g fresh ramen noodles
1 litre ramen stock (made up from ramen seasoning sachets, I used 3)
½ pkt dashi seasoning (about 2.5g)
2 medium-boiled duck eggs, halved
6 cooked pork loin slices, halved
4 slices thinly sliced pork belly (or unsmoked streaky bacon), lightly cooked
½ small can sweetcorn, drained
2 spring onions, finely chopped
Some nori (cut into strips)
3 tbsp seasoned bamboo shoots (menma)
chilli oil
light soy sauce to taste (optional: I sprinkle it over my egg yolks)
nanami togarashi (optional)

Place 2 bowls in a low oven or in hot water to warm them and make sure to have your toppings prepared and at hand, ready to serve. 

Make the ramen stock according to instructions, adding the dashi seasoning (for a little extra oomph). Allow this to gently simmer while you cook your noodles according to how you like them. 

In Japan there are varying degrees of “hardness” of noodle (also dependent on the type of ramen you get): yawame, bari, bari bari (very hard), mecha bari (super hard), and kona otoshi (noodles are plunged into boiling water just long enough to remove the flour). I tend to go for bari.

When the noodles are ready, drain them and divide them between the two bowls: add the stock into the bowl and then arrange your toppings on top, circular fashion around the bowl with the spring onions in the middle, topped with the chilli oil.

Serve with a little soy sprinkled over the eggs and togarashi over everything.

I also made some gyoza to go with the ramen: the recipe of which you can find on the next post.

In all honesty, both versions were terrific: the first was super quick and essentially surprisingly tasty considering that it was effectively glorified super-noodles but naturally the second version pipped it, so really the extra effort really did make all the difference.

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Friday, 8 November 2013

Pork, Thyme, Mustard & Mushrooms with Lemony Beans & Hasselback Potatoes

I feel terrible but I can’t remember at all where the inspiration came from for the pork chops - so if anyone recognises this as an adaptation of one of their own, I do apologise.

What I do remember is that I used quark but in hindsight - and what I would suggest - would be to use double cream or even creme fraiche.

This is very simple really for what comes out as a visually pleasing and utterly delicious main. Definitely fit for a dinner party. Just do the shallots slowly at the back of the hob while you do the chops, or do them in advance if you like.

The potatoes are simply put, amazing: tender slices of potatoey buttery goodness with a delicious crisp bottom. They are definitely my new favourite way of doing the humble spud and once you get into the groove of the slicing method (which is excellent and comes courtesy of Nigella), really a piece of.. um, really easy to prepare!

The beans are also inspired by Nigella and a way of cooking them that I turn to often.

Pork in a Creamy Mustard Thyme Sauce with Mushrooms and Caramelized Shallots
serves 2

2 pork loin chops
olive oil
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
large handful mushrooms (I used a mix of organic brown button & forestiere)
1 shallot, thinly sliced & slowly caramelised in a little oil & a pinch of sugar
½ tsp soft brown sugar
100 ml chicken stock
1 tbsp grain mustard
2 tbsp quark (or double cream)
a few sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked + couple extra sprigs to finish

Season the chops all over with salt and pepper and then brown them in heavy based sauté pan over a medium/high heat with a splash of olive oil.

Remove the chops and set aside on a plate.

Add another splash of oil to the pan and turn up the heat then sauté the mushrooms: again, set aside when tender.

Add enough chicken stock enough to cover the bottom of the pan and let it bubble to deglaze.

Remove from the heat and then add the grain mustard, the thyme leaves and Quark. Stir constantly until the quark has incorporated back into the sauce then put back onto a low heat and place the chops back in along with the mushrooms and simmer until the meat is cooked through.

Serve garnished with the caramelized shallots and sprigs of thyme.

Hasselback Potatoes 
serves 2

12 fairly small (but not tiny) new or salad potatoes
15 grams butter
1 tbsp olive oil
Halen Mon salt

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Put each potato, in turn, in the bowl of a wooden spoon and cut across with a very sharp knife at about 3mm intervals.

Once prepared, put the baking tin on the hob with the butter and oil and heat up until the butter is bubbling. Add the potatoes turning them well, putting them in upside down (ie, cut side down) first, then the right side up, and spoon the fat over them.

Sprinkle each potato well with salt and put in the oven to cook for about 40 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Lemony beans
serves 2

200g fine green beans, topped & tailed
15 grams unsalted butter
a splash (barely) of olive oil
½ lemon, juiced
sea salt
freshly ground white pepper

Cook the beans in a big pot of salted boiling water for about 6 minutes until they are al dente.

Drain and then put back on the hob over a low heat with the butter, olive oil and lemon juice.

Stir around to coat the beans in the lemony butter then add lots of freshly ground white pepper and a little salt to taste.

Serve immediately.

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Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Green Chicken Chilli

After the fish tacos, another Tex-Mex influenced recipe: a green chicken chilli. As is often the case when I come up with something to cook, this was borne out of wanting to use up one of its key ingredients: a can of tomatillo salsa that I had bought a while ago.

What you’re looking for here is lightness & freshness: both in flavour but also in colour so use a light coloured bean rather than say red kidney, black beans or even pinto beans. If you don’t have butter beans something like cannellini (which I’d intended to use & I suspect would work best but I’d run out) or flageolet would be fabulous too.

You can serve this with rice or flour tortillas if you like or, as we did with an assortment of toppings (grated cheese, chopped avocado & spring onion and greek yoghurt laced with coriander) and some tortilla chips which I’d made by cutting up a couple of wholegrain tortillas into chip shaped pieces, spraying them with low fat cooking oil spray and baking for ten minutes.

Have some lime wedges and bottles of chilli sauce on hand and you’re ready to go!

Green Chicken Chilli

serves 2

½ tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 chicken breast fillet, seasoned with salt & pepper all over
1-2 jalapeno chillis, deseeded & finely diced
1/4 tin of poblano chiili slices, chopped
½ green pepper, diced
1 tin of butter beans, drained and rinsed
1 ½ tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
½ tsp dried Mexican oregano
6 tbsp tomatillo salsa
250ml chicken stock
½ lime, juiced
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
chopped coriander and a quartered lime to serve
tortilla chips or strips to serve
chopped avocado (½) & spring onion (2-3), to serve

Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a cast iron casserole and heat.

Add chicken breast and brown on both sides - you don’t want to cook it, just brown - then remove and set aside.

Add a little more oil if necessary & cook the onion & green pepper over a low- med heat for 10-15 minutes until the onion is translucent & both veg softened.

Add the jalapeno and poblano chillies, garlic, cumin, coriander, and a small pinch of salt. Cook for a few minutes more.

Add the oregano & tomatillo salsa.

Stir through before adding the lime juice & stock. Bring to the boil then reduce to a stir and add the chicken and any juices on the plate. Let simmer for about 20 minutes.

By this time the chicken should be cooked through, so you need to remove it again to a plate or chopping board and shred with 2 forks.

Add back to the pan along with the drained beans and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Stir through the chopped coriander.

To make the tortilla chips, brush or spray a couple of tortillas with oil, cut into strips and pop in a pre-heated oven for 10 minutes

Serve the chilli in bowls sprinkled with chopped coriander and with sides of lime wedges; cubed avocado; Greek yoghurt laced with chopped coriander, garlic powder & lemon juice; grated cheese; tortilla chips and more chopped coriander.

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