Beef and cabbage potstickers

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Oh, my mouth waters at the merest mention of potstickers!  Delicious, plump little morsels, steaming hot and so satisfying.  Their real name is Jiaozi, particularly popular during Chinese New Year.  In my house, we don’t wait for New Year.  They are popular year-round.

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I’ve been an enthusiastic consumer for many years now, but a recent convert to making my own.  I shied away from DIY potstickers, convinced they would be the kind of fiddly, tricky enterprise that leaves the cook hot, bothered, grumpy and worst of all, without a meal at the end of it.

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But trust me, they are quite simple and so rewarding.  I find making potstickers pleasantly meditative once I get into the swing of it, letting my thoughts wander while I shape and pinch the little parcels.

You will need:

  • Potsticker skins – any Asian grocery will have them
  • 150g cabbage, chopped finely
  • 250g minced beef
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 T fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 1 t brown sugar
  • 1/2 t seasame oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the dipping sauce:

  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 2 T rice wine vinegar
  • Drop of sesame oil

Lightly cook the cabbage in boiling water, just until it is softened, so that it is not too aggressive in the final product.  Drain and place in a large bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well, using your hands if you’re not too squeamish about it.

Hold a potsticker skin in your palm.  Dip your finger in water and run around the edges of the skin. Add one teaspoon of beef mixture to the top half of the skin and fold the other half over it, pressing the edges together.

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There is a special way to crimp the edges so they look pretty –  this fabulous video does a fantastic job of explaining the whole process;  if you want to skip to the crimping technique, it’s 5.05 minutes in.

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Once they are ready to cook, heat a little vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan.  And please, do use non-stick.  I have learned this the hard way.  There is nothing worse than potstickers who take their name far too literally, so well and truly stuck you can’t eat them.

Place the potstickers into the pan and leave for a minute or two, until they are just slightly browned on the bottom.  Pour 150 mls warm water into the pan, down the side.  Put a lid of the saucepan and let the potstickers steam until cooked, about six minutes.  Take the lid off and let the bottoms crisp up for about a minute.

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Combine the dipping sauce ingredients and serve with rice and steamed greens.

 

Chocolate-espresso shortbread

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I was the happy competitor in a baking competition recently.  I say ‘happy’ because how could you ever not be happy when you have a genuine excuse to make sweet delicious treats several times over?  And the competition was for a great cause too…Good Bitches Baking  and their inaugural Mystery Box Challenge.

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I was delighted to find coffee and dark chocolate in the mystery box. I would be delighted to happen upon this combination anywhere, granted, but having the opportunity to make two of my favourite things into something even better?  Yippee is all I can say.

When in need of something sweet and decadent, shortbread is never too far from my thoughts.  I’m a self-confessed butter-lover (yes, I did eat it in slabs straight from the block as a child). Shortbread  may as well be a slab of butter that has been baked in an oven.

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You might think shortbread couldn’t be any better and perhaps, even, should not be messed with.  I’m sympathetic to this. There are few pleasures in life as scrumptious as a some buttery sweet shortbread and a hot drink, or during Christmas, a nip of single malt.

But do give this a go if you enjoy dark chocolate and coffee as much as I do…shortbread provides the perfect backdrop, and this can be whipped up without much bother.  The ground coffee beans add a lovely coffee punch, but leave out or reduce if you want a hint of coffee rather than a cup.

For 10-15 pieces, you will need:

  • 150g softened butter
  • 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornflour
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 T espresso or strong coffee
  • 60g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2 T ground coffee beans

Pre-heat the oven to 150 degrees celsius.

Beat the butter and icing sugar together until light and fluffy. Sift the flour and cornflour together into the bowl with the butter and icing sugar mix.  Stir lightly until just combined.

Add the coffee, chocolate and coffee grounds. Use a spoon to combine into the other ingredients until the mixture starts to form a dough.

Turn out onto a floured baking tray and knead lightly.  Spread out into a circle or rectangle (up to you!) – it should be a lovely tan colour, like below.  Cut into bars and prick with a fork.

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Bake until slightly golden – about twenty minutes.

 

 

Welsh rarebit

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Savoury cheesy beery sauce on toast, that is my delicious experience with Welsh Rarebit to date.  And my, this lovely little cheese-on-toast treat  is scrumptious.

Has anyone else ever read the Grimble books by Clement Freud?  Grimble was my first encounter with Welsh Rarebit. The exact details escape me but I know our young protagonist Grimble experiments with this dish when left to contend with household management while his parents vacation in Peru.

Fortunately I was in the business of making midwinter Christmas fare, not catering for myself in the absence of parental guidance.  Ever since Grimble, I have been fascinated by the notion of Welsh Rarebit, not in the least part because of its name.  History is divided on whether ‘Rarebit’ was once ‘rabbit.’  Indeed, no rabbit is involved in this dish, although if you add an egg, you can call it a buck rabbit.

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There were no eggs or buck rabbits involved in this rendition, for which we used Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall‘s Welsh Rarebit recipe with a few alterations.  This is really quite simple to make, and despite its sloppy brown appearance, it is truly tasty  I heartily recommend for warming, comforting deliciousness when you need some heating up.

Ingredients:

  • 50g flour
  • 50g butter
  • 250ml strong beer warmed
  • 250g strong cheddar grated
  • 2tsp English mustard
  • 1-2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • black pepper
  • 4 large slices granary

Method:

Melt the butter and whisk in the flour to make a roux sauce.  Slowly add the warmed beer, whisking and stirring as you go to make a smooth, beery sauce.  At this point, add the cheese and stir it in as it melts.  Add the mustard, Worcestershire sauce (to taste – I found one tablespoon plenty, although the recipe calls for two) and the brown sugar.  Season with black pepper.

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Toast the bread.  Top with the beer and cheese mixture and place under a hot grill until it is browned and bubbling.  Serve immediately.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edmond’s Apple Pie

 

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Hurrah, apples are in season again!  This means I can continue my alphabetical journey through New Zealand’s kitchen bible, the Edmonds Cook Book, where I am still languishing somewhat in the apple section of the A recipes.

I’m not going to lie, the idea of making an apple pie did give me a little bit of a start.  It’s the making-pastry-from-scratch thing, you see.  As a teenager I would blithely tackle this task, and successfully so.  A couple of pastry let-downs (or stuck-downs, more accurately) as a young adult, and my confidence was dented.

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The apples we are instructed to use for this pie are Granny Smiths.  Mouth-puckeringly tart, they are not my first choice for eating alone but they are lovely in this pie.  And they have a rather awesome history; cultivated by chance by one Maria Ann (Granny) Smith from a seedling on her property in Tasmania in 1868.

To make this pie you will need:

  • 200g sweet shortcrust pastry
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Filling: 2-4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices.
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 25g butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Heat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.

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I started with the pastry, referring to Edmond’s Sweet Shortcrust Pastry recipe.  This requires sifting 1 cup plain flour into a bowl and then cutting in 75 grams of butter with a knife, until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.  To this, still following instructions, I stirred in 1/4 cup of sugar, an egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water, then mixed to a stiff dough and chilled for half an hour.

I used this time to get the filling ready – it’s really very simple, the apples, 1/2 cup of sugar, butter, flour and ground cloves are all mixed together.

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And now, the pastry (cue deep breath in!).  Roll the pastry out so that it is slightly larger than the pie dish you are using.  The goal is to line the dish sides and top the pie with pastry.  So, you need to cut two long strips for the pie sides.  As depicted, this went pretty well.

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Removing the pastry for the topping from the bench was slightly less successful, hence some strategically placed whipped cream in the photos.  Press the pastry strips around the pie dish sides.  Spoon the apple filling into the dish and then top with the rest of the pastry, trimming the sides.  Brush with water and sprinkle with sugar.

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Bake the pie for 25 minutes.  If the apples are not quite done after this time, turn the oven down to 180 degrees celsius and bake until the apples are tender.  For me, this took and extra five minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chocolate & beetroot brownies

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I know, I know, vegetables and chocolate.  My reflex reaction is ‘blurgh’ too.  But bear with me, these brownies are good, contain lots of dark chocolate and are a handy way to use up beetroot if you find yourself needing to do so.

Not that I often have spare beetroot about the place.  I love the stuff, in line with my enthusiasm for pretty much all vegetables.  The humble beetroot is a member of the Amaranthaceae family and related, would you believe, to chard.  Our modern-day beets descend from the sea beet of the Mediterranean.  Our little beet has an ancient and distinguished history.  Remains of beets have been discovered in illustrious and ancient places, including the third dynasty pyramid Saqqara and the Neolithic site Aartswoud in the Netherlands.

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So naturally we people of the 21st century have found that mashing up beetroot and baking it with chocolate is a delicious, modern usage.  The best tip I can give you about this recipe, as warned in the excellent original from BBC, is to wear gloves and ideally an apron when peeling the beets.  Beetroot has a brilliant red juice, which is a stunning, attractive colour, but will make it look as though you killed someone and it takes some time to scrub off.

You will need:

  •  3-4 medium-sized beetroot
  • 100g unsalted butter and a little extra for the tin; I have done a dairy-free version too, and used 100g dairy-free olive oil spread
  • 200g dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g plain flour
  • 25g cocoa powder
  • Icing sugar for sprinkling over

Set the oven to 180 degrees celsius.  Butter then line a 20 x 30cm tin.

Cover up with rubber gloves and an apron then peel the beetroot and cut it into chunks.  I find it helps to do this bit in the sink, so that you are not left with a pink kitchen.

Place the beetroot in a large microwave-proof bowl and cover with water.  Cover the top of the bowl with cling film, pierce the cling film with a few holes and microwave on high for 12 minutes.

Drain the beetroot then place back in the bowl with the butter, chocolate and vanilla extract.  Use a hand-held, bladed blender to mulch into as liquid-y a mix as you can manage.  You can also do this bit in an electric mixer, although I find my hand-held one works fine as the beetroot is soft and its warmth melts the chocolate.

Crack the eggs into another large bowl and add the caster sugar.  Beat until foamy and pale, about two minutes with an electric beater.  Gently fold in the beetroot mix, then sift in the flour and cocoa.  Mix in the flour and cocoa gently with a metal spoon.  It will be quite pink!

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Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 25 minutes, until the top is all risen.  Cool completely in the tin and once cooled, dust with icing sugar.

This is sweet and chocolatey and honestly, not a hint of beetroot.  It has a very pretty pinkish tinge, not unlike a red velvet cake.

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Sage and cheddar biscuits or, what to do with sage?

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What to do with sage? Make buttery, cheesy sage and cheddar biscuits?  Yes please.

I’ve found myself with a reasonably plentiful supply of fresh sage, which is a new thing.  I have always managed to grow parsley and been left perplexed at how to use the stuff up, but my previous sage attempts have all turned into sad little heaps.

It seems I’m not the only person to pose this question. The lovely Chocolate and Zucchini blog has very helpfully compiled a list of suggestions.  Those of you who have read some of my other cheese-laced ramblings can probably imagine that sage and cheddar biscuits were a stand-out.

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Mmm, cheddar.  Do you know what I love most about cheddar?  It’s those delightful little crunchy bits amongst the dense, savoury cheese.  And recently, I was fascinated to learn  from this wonderful cheese blog, Fromage Homage, that they have a special name….calcium lactate crystals.

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These little biscuits are adapted from this recipe.  They provide a lot of bang for their buck, being so very simple to make but looking most classy served up as a home-made nibble to accompany drinks.  I need to provide you with a warning: they are incredibly buttery.  So much so that you need to have at least two.

Here’s how to make your very own:

Ingredients:

  • 125 grams butter, chilled and diced
  • 125 grams Cheddar  cheese, grated
  • 125 grams flour
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • Ground black pepper

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius and line two baking trays.

Combine the butter, cheese, flour, sage and pepper in a bowl.  Mix until it forms a ball (I find it easiest to use my hands for this).

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll out to 0.5 cm thickness.  Use a cutter to make into rounds, treating it like a cookie doll by rolling up the offcuts and cutting out more biscuits.

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until crisp and golden.  Cool for one minute and then transfer to a baking rack.

Makes 16 biscuits.
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Welsh cakes for St David’s Day

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I always loved visiting Wales when I lived in the UK, and what’s not to love?  Beautiful countryside, that lovely lilting accent and, most importantly, Welsh cakes.

To the uninitiated, these little morsels may present like just another baked good.  I promise you, they are so much more.  Sugary and dotted with currants, they are gently browned like fat little pancakes on a hot bake tone, which in other words is a whacking great slab of cast iron heated on top of the oven elements.

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The secret to the toothsomeness of Welsh cakes lies not just in the sugar, butter and dried fruit, but in the addition of lard.  Yes, I too felt a little ill when informed of this fact.   But please believe me, it adds a little something wonderful without any taste of fat, leaving the finished product just ever so slightly crisp on the outside, in contrast to the fluffy sweetness inside.

I was very privileged this past weekend to receive one-on-one tuition from a genuine Welsh person, my lovely friend Suze.  Not only did she share her bakestone with me, but also her Nan’s welsh cake recipe.  Very kindly, Suze also hunted out the required lard, seemingly impossible to find outside of a butchers, which arrived in a slightly piggy-scented white tub.

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To learn how to make Welsh cakes a la Suze’s nan, read on…

Ingredients:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 85g caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 50g butter and 50g lard, cut into small pieces
  • 50g currants
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Splash of milk

Tip the flour, baking powder and pinch of salt into a bowl

Add the butter and lard and rub in with your fingers until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.

Mix in the currants, then add the egg and work in together with your hands until you have a soft dough.  If it looks a little dry, add the splash of milk.

Lightly flour your bench top.  At this point, put your bake stone (or heavy-based pan; I am reliably informed it will work just as well) over a moderate heat.

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Roll out the dough to the thickness of your little finger (as demonstrated!).  Use a 8cm cookie cutter to make the cakes.

Add a spot of lard to the bake stone and, once melted, cook the cakes in batches.  They take about 3 minutes each side to become golden brown, crisp and cooked through – you can observe the colour changing as it cooks through along the side of the Welsh cake.

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Sprinkle with caster sugar once cooked.  I cannot emphasis enough how delicious they are served all fresh and warm with a good cup of tea.   Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus!