Boxing Day Batch Wonton

A traditional boxing day activity for us at home is making a big batch of won ton – some to eat that day whilst all the family are still around, and some for the freezer to munch on another time. They’re a bit of a faff to make if you only doing a few at a time as the pastry wrappers come in packets of about 30 or so. They freeze very well, and most of all my mother takes great pride in packing a box of them in a cool bag for us to take back home after Christmas, to share with other friends or loved ones.

Mum: “Does Tom like my won ton?”
Me: “Yes mum”
Mum: “Does he really like them, or are you just saying?”
Me: “Yes mum, he does like them”
(Mum: Grins)
Mum: “How many does he have?”
Me: “Depends how hungry he is mum”
Mum: “Ah…does he prefer these won ton or the won ton I made last time?”
Me: “I don’t really know mum…he doesn’t talk about your won ton that much”
Mum: “Huhh?…I think he likes these won ton better”
Me: “Ok mum”

Batch Wonton

Won ton batch ready to go…

You can find a recipe for the won ton dumpling mix here.

A couple of tips for freezing them…
– dust a little cornflour on a tray and place each made dumpling on the tray, making sure they are not touching each other too much. Once you have a full complete layer of dumplings, loosely cover with cling film.
– you can then add another layer or two (I’d suggest no more than 3 in total), with a layer of cling film between each one.  Then freeze them overnight – once frozen, you’ll be able to put them in a tuppaware box, or portion 4-6 (depending on how hungry you are!) in sandwich bags, ready for your next meal.
– don’t be tempted to put them all in a tuppaware box or bag straight away and freeze them all in one go as they’ll stick together.  You’ll never be able to separate them and all your hard work will be wasted! (& Tom won’t get his dumplings).
– to cook from frozen, plunge several into boiling broth or stock for 8-10 minutes, depending on size. No need to defrost before cooking. Add some noodles in the last few minutes of cooking if you like as well as some chinese greens and a sprinkling of spring onions to serve.

Batch of Won Ton Dumplings

Dumpling Heaven

Discovering Filipino Cuisine with the London Foodie

I recently had the pleasure of spending a rather gluttonous day discovering the essence of Filipino cuisine at a Cooking Club held by Luiz Hara. The concept of the cooking club is simple – Luiz selects a particular type of cuisine or foodie theme, and a bunch of blog readers descend on his beautiful home in north london to cook their selected dish, talk, eat, drink, talk, eat, drink and so on…till some hours later when we leave with a belly full of food and wine and a head full of inspiration.

Each event is co-hosted by an expert in the cuisine, in our case, Tina P, a native Filipino with a wealth of experience in Filipino culture and food. Tina prepared an extensive menu, which was emailed to us beforehand so we could each select a dish to serve on the day. Luiz does make clear that the event is indeed a cooking ‘club’, and not a ‘course’. Whilst an expert is there to offer a helping hand, you are ultimately responsible for preparing the finished dish and so some degree of culinary competence helps!

Appetizer
Kinilaw na Tuna – Vinegar-cured Tuna
Pork Barbecue – Grilled Skewered Pork
Lumpiang Shanghai – Fried Spring Rolls with pineapple sweet and sour sauce
Soup
Pancit Molo – Pork Dumpling Soup
Vegetable
Adobong Kangkong – Braised Water Spinach
Main
Lechon Kawali – Deep Fried Pork Belly
Guinataang Sugpo – Prawns in Coconut Milk and Vinegar
Kare Kare – Ox Tail Stewed in Peanut Sauce
Chicken Adobo – Stewed Chicken in Vinegar and Soy Sauce
Dessert
Turron – Crisp Banana Rolls
Leche Flan – Milk Custard
(and heaps of wine!)
 

I confess to knowing very little about Filipino food.  As I scanned the menu none of the dishes sounded familiar to me by name. Not wanting to be flustered by cooking on the day, I (rather naively) opted for the Oxtail Kare Kare dish which needed to be cooked in advance.  I had never even heard of the dish before and was a little nervous not knowing what to aim for in terms of taste and texture.  Several days later I discovered that Kare Kare is often the centrepiece at family feasts and special occasions, such as weddings and baptisms.  Gulp…no pressure then!

Alas, I needn’t have worried, as all the dishes turned out just great.  The menu took us through a journey of Filipino food, strongly influenced by flavours and techniques brought over by the Chinese, Malaysians and Spanish (to name but a few). Ingredients such as coconut and vinegar featured heavily on the menu, with all dishes having a more subtle flavour in comparison to the intensity and heat that often comes with neighbouring Vietnamese or Thai food.

I was glad to be one of the first to arrive as I was given the opportunity to get my fill of Luiz’ ridiculously adorable litter of Shih Tzu puppies. If my pockets had been a little larger they would have come home with me!

Once all the guests arrived, Luiz and Tina kicked off proceedings with a little introduction and explanation of the chosen menu.  We then tucked into the appetiser courses, with Tiffany’s Kinilaw na Tuna first up.

‘Kinilaw’ means to cook, or cure in vinegar. I later learnt that this method came about from the need to preserve fish or meat. The raw tuna was marinated in vinegar, coconut milk, shallots, ginger and chilli and served with crunchy slithers of red pepper and spring onion.

BBQ Pork Skewers next up, a mixture or pork belly and shoulder marinated overnight in garlic, sugar, soy, ginger, chilli and Sprite (you heard me, Sprite), skewered and then grilled till charred and yummy.

The last of the appetisers was Lumpiang Shanghai – no prizes for guessing the origins of this dish! Crispy rolls filled with pork, glass noodles and shiitake mushrooms (amongst other things), served with a sweet and sour pineapple dipping sauce.

We then migrated to the gorgeous dining room (major house envy) for the remainder of the day. Inbetween the appetisers, a few of us helped out May (of Malaysian by May) in preparing the wonton dumplings for the Pancit Molo soup – a mixture of pork, onion, garlic, soy, ginger and carrots. Always a fan of a good dumpling!

Luiz then brought forth the triple cooked, Yes, TRIPLE COOKED pork belly. I don’t need to garnish the description any more, you KNOW it tasted good.

With our appetites sufficiently wetted, the main courses ensued. Adobong Kangkong – braised spinach with red onion, soy, vinegar and sugar, was served alongside Guinataang Sugpo – prawns with coconut, ginger, garlic, vinegar and chilli. I adore spinach and have never cooked it with vinegar before, but was surprised at how tasty it was.

Cue drum roll…time for Oxtail Kare Kare. Thankfully Mae (Pepe’s Kitchen) helped me out with serving the finished dish which was served with steamed rice and the all important Bagoong, a paste made from fermented shrimp and salt. The paste really lends a savoury kick to the stew, which by contrast is subtle in flavour. The oxtail is slow cooked with onions, celery and peppercorns, before the addition of ground toasted rice, peanut butter, lime, garlic, onion, baby aubergine, long beans and pak choi.

The last main of the day was Chicken Adobo, thigh meat stewed with coconut, vinegar, soy, chilli, garlic and bay leaves, prepared by Frederico (looking very proud below!).

Adobo is widely regarded as the national Filipino dish, with the word Adobo deriving from marinade or sauce in Spanish. A very fitting way to complete a savoury Filipino banquet!

And finally onto the desserts – we had some very morish Turon, or Crisp Banana Rolls…

And beautiful Leche Flans, with a sugar syrup surface so perfect I could see my own reflection…

I had an amazing time at the Cooking Club. Got to learn heaps about Filipino food, met a really interesting bunch of people and played with puppies to my heart’s content. Not to mention eating a whole lotta food and slurping a whole lotta wine. I forgot to add, unlike a Supper Club, the event is free. You pay your way by bringing a bottle and buying the ingredients needed for your selected dish. Luiz was a most gracious and welcoming host, and I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday. My eyes will be peeled for future cooking club events for sure.

Tamago-Yaki, it’s Sunshine on a Plate!

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Tamago-yaki is a perfect way to ease in to a lazy sunday morning, and seems especially good when the sun is shining!  The name translates literally as “grilled” or “fried” egg, created by rolling thin layers of egg mixture flavoured with soy and sake, and sweetened with sugar and mirin. A special rectangular Tamago pan is often used, which helps create the neat sides of the finished omelette, although I’m sure a regular pan would still give good results.

Until fairly recently, I think my experience of Tamago-yaki has mainly been of the mass made, factory variety – almost toxic yellow in colour, processed texture and not fresh at all (used in the majority of sushi chains around London and even many restaurants). Freshly made home cooked Tamagoyaki, on the contrary is totally delicious and so quick to make.

Substantial enough to eat on its own or cooked plain for a topping to sushi rice, I’ve been trying lots of variations recently (to feed my slight addiction). My first attempt was guided by Reiko Hashimoto’s recipe in Hashi Cooking and contained good quality smoked ham and english chives (recipe below). However I’ve also had them plain, or with minced prawns and chinese chives, shiitake mushrooms, shredded nori, sliced spring onions etc. etc. – the options are endless and can be based on whatever you have left in the fridge. Serve with some grated daikon seasoned with a little soy, or cucumber if you can’t get hold of daikon for a little freshness. I sometimes top this with a dollop of salmon roe, another very tasty addition!

Here’s the recipe from Hashi Cooking….let the good times roll.

Ingredients (makes 2 rolls, serves 4)
6 Large eggs
3 tbsp finely chopped chives
60g finely chopped smoked ham
1 tspn instant dashi powder
1 tbsp mirin
2 tspn caster sugar
1 tspn soy sauce
pinch salt
veg oil for cooking
Garnish – grated daikon, shiso leaves, few drops of soy
 
Method

Mix all the ingredients for the omelette in a large bowl or jug and stir well.

Heat the Tamago Pan over a medium heat and brush a little vegetable oil on the base and sides of the pan, coating evenly.

Pour about 10% of the egg mixture into the pan and tilt the pan to coat the base evenly. When the egg starts to set, lift up the edge on one side and roll upwards using chopsticks or a spatula – make sure you roll while the surface of the egg is still wet so the layers stick together. I found it helped to keep the heat very low on my first few attempts, buying more time to roll before the egg sets as it can be a bit fiddly the first couple of times.

Grease the empty part of the pan again, keeping the rolled omelette at the side of the pan furthest from you.  Then quickly pour another 10% of the mixture, tilting to cover the empty side of the pan, and lifting the roll up to allow the egg to run underneath. When it looks half set, roll the omelette backwards until you get to the other side.

And keep going – until you have used up about half the mixture.  Once it’s rolled, I let the outside colour just a little, then remove from the pan and leave to rest for 5 minutes.  Make the second omelette with the remaining egg mix.

Once the omelette has rested for 5 minutes, slice into 2.5cm thick slices (or thinner if using as a sushi topping), and serve with the grated daikon and chopped shiso leaves, and a few drops of soy.

Tamagoyaki

Wonton Dumplings (Sui Kow)

Sui Kow is a type of Chinese Dumpling, typically filled with minced pork, prawns or shrimp and some form of vegetable for additional flavour and crunch.  Here I added water chestnuts, bamboo and chinese chives, but they’re also great with chinese cabbage (pickled or fresh), dried shitake mushrooms and black fungus. They’re delicious on their own in a vegetable or chicken broth, or with fine egg noodles for a heartier meal.

Feel free to play around with the quantities of pork to prawn and balance of vegetables according to taste. You can substitute the vegetables I’ve used with carrot, green beans or even peas.  It’s one of those recipes you can be inventive with – the important thing is to achieve a bit of variation in texture and taste.

They take a bit of time but are easy to do with a little practice.  I use ready made wonton skins, best fresh rather than frozen if you can get hold of them (from chinese supermarkets) as the skin is a bit more elastic and less prone to tearing. They freeze well, so I always make a batch ready to take from the freezer and add to a simmering soup broth as the urge takes me.  No need to defrost before using.

Sui Kow DumplingsIngredients
200g lean, good quality minced pork (makes about 30 dumplings)
80g raw prawns, roughly chopped
25g water chestnuts, finely cubed
20g bamboo, finely cubed
3 tbsp chives, finely chopped
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp shaoxing rice wine
1 tsp cornflour
1/2 egg white (small egg)
pinch white pepper
30 dumpling skins
 

Method
Remove the veins from the raw prawns first by running a knife on the top side of the prawn and pulling out the dark intestinal tract.  It helps if you have a bowl of water on the side so you can dip in your fingers as you go – the vein has a habit of clinging to your fingers!  Roughly chop the prawns, keeping some larger chunks for texture. Add the prawns to a bowl with the minced pork, water chestnuts, chives and bamboo and roughly mix.  Then add all the other ingredients and mix thoroughly.

Get ready to make the dumplings – have a finger bowl of cold water on the side and lightly dust a chopping board or tray with cornflour (this is to place the dumplings on once made – the cornflour will stop them from sticking).

Take a wonton skin and place on your palm.  Add a teaspoon of the mix to the centre of the skin, being careful not to over fill.

1. Making Dumplings

With your other hand, dab the edge of the skin with a little water to help the edges stick together. Then fold over one side to make a triangle, pressing lightly at the edge to seal the dumpling and squeeze out any excess air.

2. Making Dumplings

The next bit is more fiddly and takes a little practice – using your fore fingers and thumbs, crimp and pinch together the edge to make little folds.  Work inwards from the outer edge.

3. Making Dumplings

The skins are quite forgiving but if you happen to tear one just empty out the filling and start again with a fresh skin. Once crimped all the way to the other edge, place on the dusted tray…and keep going till all the mix is gone.

If you want to want to cook them straight away, you can plunge into simmering soup broth for about 6-8 minutes, or steam in a bamboo steamer for about 8 minutes (place a slice of carrot or cucumber under each dumpling to stop them from sticking).

To cook from frozen, they’ll take 10-12 minutes to boil, or 12-14 to steam (depending on size).

To freeze them, I put the whole tray of dumplings into the freezer for a couple of hours. Once they have hardened, I then place them in a tuppaware box or freezer bag.  If you put them straight into a tuppaware box or bag when soft, they’ll stick together and deform and will be tricky to separate when you just want to grab a few.

Serve alone in a soup or with fine egg noodles, add some chinese leaf in the final minute of cooking and sprinkle liberally with spring onions and a few drops of sesame oil.

Delicious!

…and another Ponzu Oyster please!

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Seems I’ve gone a bit mad for molluscs this Easter weekend, indulging in more than my fair share of clams and oysters bought during an accidental food spree at Borough Market on Good Friday.   When it comes to dressing oysters, I’m a sucker for the sharp and fiery hit of traditional lemon juice and tabasco, but this time wanted to give something else a go. After picking up some bottled Yuzu juice (a type of Japanese lime) from the Japan Centre recently, I figured that the citrus flavours of a Ponzu style drizzle could work quite well.

Alas it did, and now I have to share the recipe with you (which is adapted from the Ponzu Dressing in Hashi Cooking, this time with less soy sauce added as the oyster is salty already).

Half of our oysters had a drizzle of Ponzu dressing, the other half lemon & tabasco. We compared side by side and I have to say that for me, the Ponzu came out tops (however the other half preferred the lemon & tabasco). I found the taste of the oyster came through more with the Ponzu, as the Yuzu lime has a far more subtle acidity, and the soy saltiness complimented the natural saltiness of the oyster well.  I also found that with the lemon & tabasco dressing, the lasting flavour is of tabasco rather than oyster.

Give it a try, I’d be pleased to know what you think!

Ingredients
2 tbsp Yuzu lime juice
1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp caster sugar
1/2 tsp instant dashi powder
 
Method

Add all the ingredients to a small saucepan and simmer on a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Take of the heat and allow to cool. Shuck the oysters – I poured some of the juice from each oyster into the Ponzu Dressing. Mix again, and pour a little over each oyster.

Slurp & Go!

Aw shucks…..gone so quickly!