Chinese Vegetable Dumplings

My favourite word in the English Dictionary would undoubtedly be – Dumpling.

It’s one of those words you just cannot say with an angry face. (Try it).

I can eat dumplings all day, everyday and never tire of them. Steamed dumplings, boiled dumplings, fried dumplings, vegetable dumplings, chicken dumplings, pork dumplings, Chinese dumplings, Greek dumplings, Georgian dumplings, dumplings, dumplings, dumplings…  I’m sure Kung-Fu Panda gets me.

The only time being a dumpling-hog is not favourable is when you are at a fancy restaurant, eagerly waiting for your order of dumplings… When sometime later, the basket is placed before you, promising to curb your dumpling desires… You slowly open the lid and voila! 3 tiny pebble-sized dumplings! You almost always end up ordering at least 3 more portions but then again, who is complaining?

However, the sure-shot way to be well fed with dumplings is to make dozens at home. Contrary to popular belief, they aren’t really that hard to make. Plus, you can fill them up with your favourite stuffing and go crazy with different combinations.

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INGREDIENTS:

  • Flour: 2 cups
  • Oil: 2 tbsps.
  • Water: as required
  • Salt: to taste

For the filling:

  • Finely chopped vegetables: 2 cups
  • Light soy sauce: 1 tbsp.
  • Garlic: 3-4 cloves, finely chopped
  • Ginger: 1 tbsp. (finely grated)
  • Oyster sauce (optional): 1 tbsp.
  • Vinegar: 1 tsp.
  • White pepper powder: ½ tsp.
  • Salt: To taste
  • Oil: To sauté

METHOD:

In some oil, sauté the garlic and ginger. Add the finely chopped vegetables (I used carrots, cabbage, onions, french beans, peppers and mushrooms). Stir them around till they are cooked. Add the sauces and seasoning. Allow the filling to cool and get on with the wrappers.

To make the dough for the wrappers, combine flour, salt and oil. Add some water and bind it to form a smooth dough. Knead well before shaping into small balls. Use a small rolling pin to roll out small flat discs. The right way to roll out the wrappers is to start from the outside, rolling inwards. The centre of the wrapper must always be the thicker than the rim so that it can hold the filling. Now add a spoonful of filling in the middle and shape it anyway you like. The half-moon shape is the easiest, where you just fold the disc into half and seal the edges. You could even make a hat shape, folding the edges of the half-moon outwards and sealing them. A lot of YouTube video tutorials are available online to help you learn different techniques of folding dumplings.

After shaping the dumplings, you could cook them in 2 ways:

One is to put them in a steamer over boiling hot water till the flour loses its opacity and the second is to drop them in salted boiling water. The dumplings will float to the top once they are cooked which is an indication for you to remove them from the water.

Make a quick dipping sauce out of soy sauce, honey, ginger and chillies or if the dumplings are making you impatient, just use some store-bought Thai sweet chilli sauce as an accompaniment. Garnish with fresh coriander and spring onion greens and serve. Dumpling warriors, attack!

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Bread Rolls

The 3 magic words that every person loves to hear:

Freshly baked bread.

After years of walking past bakeries just to take in that wafting aroma of fresh-baked bread, I took it upon myself to try making it at home. My tussle with bread making continued from a few years back to last month when I finally got it right (joy to the world!).  I haven’t stopped baking bread ever since. Nobody in their right mind would.

The 3 secret ingredients to making good bread are patience, patience and more patience. Treat your dough like a baby; nurture it, watch it grow in size and then… eat it up.

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For the dough:

  • Water: 1 cup
  • Dry yeast: 2 ½ tsps.
  • Sugar: 1tbsp.
  • All purpose flour: 2 cups
  • Oil: 3 tbsps.
  • Salt: 1 tsp.

 

Step-by-step method:

  1. Warm a cup of water.
  2. Sprinkle the dry yeast over it.
  3. Sprinkle sugar on top.
  4. Allow this to rest for about 5 minutes. The yeast will release air-bubbles and the mixture will turn frothy. (It’s fun to watch).
  5. In a bowl, sift the flour and salt together. This is to make sure the salt does not come in direct contact with the yeast.
  6. Add the oil to the liquid mixture (water+yeast+sugar).Make a well in the flour and slowly pour the liquid mixture.
  7. Form the dough, adjusting oil, flour and water as needed. Knead it for 10 minutes until it is thoroughly elastic and springy to the touch. (Stress-balls are passé, kneading dough is deliciously rewarding!)
  8. Add the dough to a well-oiled bowl, cover with a wet towel and put it away to proof for an hour or two till it doubles in side.
  9. Once the bread doubles in size and looks well-aerated, punch it down till it falls flat and knead away for another 5 minutes. Allow it to rest for another 10 minutes. (Patience, remember?)
  10. Now shape the dough into whatever shape you like: rolls, baguette, loaf, plait, your wish. Cover it with a wet towel after shaping and let it rise for another 30 minutes.
  11. Preheat the oven to 220 C (or 430 F), brush the dough with butter and sprinkle desired toppings. (I used toasted sesame seeds, dried rosemary and basil)
  12. Bake for 15-20 minutes for the rolls as they are smaller. Lower the temperature to 200 C (400 F) and bake for 15 more minutes for bigger shapes.
  13. Serve hot after generously slathering it with butter (Danish Lurpak is my favourite) or olive oil, or with jam or cheese.
  14. Let there be bread… Always!

 

Cheddar Melt Pizza

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What do you do when you’re confined to the warm comfort of your home on a gloomy, rainy day and the nearby pizza outlets aren’t taking orders for home-delivery? You make your own pizza, of course!

Another reason why I prefer making pizza at home is because I’m not a fan of cooked, stringy, chewy mozzarella. Before you make that “are-you-serious?” face, let me tell you that I actually know quite a few people who share this view about cooked mozzarella. However, I LOVE the idea of a freshly made wood-fired-oven pizza. So in times of clashes like these, out comes faithful Cheddar to the rescue!

Gooey, melt-in-the-mouth, silky, golden Cheddar. What more could you possibly want from cheese?

The pizza dough in this recipe is made with whole-wheat flour and does not contain yeast.  Apart from being deliciously crispy, it also automatically turns healthy (for whoever thinks pizza is junk food). The dough stretching also involves spinning it in the air so be prepared to feel awesome.

Cheddar fans, this one is a ‘must-try’; we all know why.

Mozzarella fans, this one is a ‘must-try’; to surprise yourselves!

I. For the base:

  • All purpose flour – 1 cup
  • Whole wheat flour – 2 cups
  • Baking powder – 1 tsp.
  • Salt – 1 tsp
  • Milk – ½ cup
  • Olive Oil – 3 tbsps.

Mix everything together in a bowl. Knead the dough for around 10 minutes till you stretch the gluten and form a soft dough-ball and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Dust work surface with flour, use a rolling pin and roll out a small circle. Then, flatten the circle using your hands to work the dough till it is approximately 15 inches in diameter. Finally, (if you are up for a little fun) toss the base in the air using only your fingertips to spin it and your knuckles to catch it. Practice a few times and you shall spin like a pro. This also helps in stretching the dough but if you feel safer without food flying up in the air, by all means, use a rolling pin. Use a fork to pierce the dough and blind bake in a preheated oven at 200 C (400 F) for 8 minutes.

II. For the sauce:

  • Tomatoes – 4 small or 3 large
  • Onion – Half
  • Garlic – 6-7 cloves
  • Red bell pepper – 1 (deseeded)
  • Mustard powder – 1tsp.
  • Vinegar – 1tsp.
  • Sugar – 1 tbsp
  • Paprika or red chilli powder – 1 tsp (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • Salt and pepper – 1 tsp. each
  • Assorted herbs

Heat oil in a pan and allow it to reach smoking point. Then flash-fry the peppers, onions, garlic and tomatoes till they turn smoky and have burnt edges. Allow the vegetables to cool and then peel off the tomato skins. Blitz in a mixer till you have a thick, sauce-like consistency. Pour it into a pot and put it on the heat. Add seasoning, herbs and the remaining ingredients. Cook till the oil starts separating and the sauce has taken on a rich red colour.

III. To assemble:

Spread the sauce over the pizza base, add toppings of your choice; I usually use tomatoes, mushrooms and basil. Simple but they go brilliantly well together. Sprinkle more dry herbs and layer cheddar slices (even grated cheese works fine). Pop it in the oven for 30 minutes at 180 C.

Give yourself a pat on the back when your kitchen fills with the aroma like that of an Italian pizzeria!

Spinach and Corn Quiche

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This one is my take on the classic ‘Spinach and Corn Quiche’ or as I fondly call it, the ‘Corny Popeye’. Tastes way better than it sounds (haha!).

I’m a huge fan of both, Popeye and spinach but for those of you who get queasy at the mere mention of spinach, give this a try and you’ll be surprised to know how pleasant the quiche tastes. Not very spinach-y, plus the creamy béchamel makes it feature high on my  ‘comfort food’ list.

If that wasn’t convincing enough, you can go easy on the spinach and go crazy with other herbs. Coriander, parsley, thyme, your wish!

This is a good way to trick your folks into eating healthy (Yes, I am the self-appointed food-grandma of my family). Nobody eats spinach without making a fuss so it must be disguised fancily and served with extra love and a wicked grin.

I. For the crust

  • All purpose flour: 3 cups
  • Butter: 2 sticks
  • Olive Oil: 2 tbsps.
  • Salt: 1 tsp
  • Chilled water: 3-4 tbsps.

It is best to prepare the crust first and then start working on the filling. To make the crust rub the flour, olive oil and butter together with your fingers till the mixture becomes crumbly. Add one tablespoon of chilled water at a time to bind the dough. It is very important to use chilled water for the crust so that the butter in it doesn’t melt. After forming a ball out of the dough, cover it in cling-film and roughly roll it out on a flat surface. I use a rolling-pin till I get a circular shape and then work on it with my palms to stretch it out. Roll the dough onto a tart tin, trim off the excess bits and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

II. For the filling:

  • Spinach: 3 cups (chopped)
  • Onion: 1 (chopped)
  • Corn: 1 cup (boiled)
  • Assorted dried herbs
  • Garlic powder: 2 tbsp or chopped garlic
  • Green chillies: 2 (finely chopped)
  • Salt and cracked black pepper
  • Oil: 1 tsp

Start by heating oil in a pan.  Add the onions and sauté till translucent. Now add the green chillies (depending on how spicy you want it) and spinach. The spinach will begin to wilt and release water once you add salt so save the salt for the end. Sprinkle your favourite assorted herbs, dried or fresh (I used dried thyme, rosemary and oregano), boiled corn and garlic powder. Finally, season it with salt and cracked black pepper and allow most of the water from the spinach to evaporate. Cool this filling.

III. For the béchamel (white sauce):

  • Plain flour: 1 tbsp
  • Butter/ Olive oil: 1 tbsp
  • Milk: ½ a cup
  • Cream: ½ a cup

I used to have nightmares about lumpy béchamel until I learnt this sure-shot technique. Heat the butter in a pot (if your calorie meter is going bonkers after reading ‘butter’ then use olive oil. It works just fine). Add the flour and start mixing till the flour has lost its rawness. Take it off the flame and add milk. Put on some old music and whisk away… It should take about 5 minutes to remove the lumps. Now add the cream and put the heat back on till the mixture is dense and creamy.

To Assemble:

Preheat the oven to 180 C or 350 F. Poke the crust with a fork before putting it in the oven and blind bake for 10 minutes.

Now spread the filling on top of the crust, pour the béchamel over it, making sure you coat it evenly and pop it into the oven again, this time for around 30-35 minutes.

Remove, slice and serve.

Don’t forget to put on a smug face when you see everyone happily eating spinach!

 

Crystal-Top Fruit Muffins

This recipe was actually the result of a fridge-tray full of peaches that threatened to go overripe. Some serious action needed to be taken. Thus, were baked the Crystal Top Fruit Muffins!

I used ripe peaches in this one but really, you can use any fruits or berries of your liking; strawberries (I tried these and they tasted divine in the muffin environment), blueberries, raspberries, mashed bananas, kiwis, your wish! Muffin World lies in your imagination!

This was one of my very firsts in bake-land, years before I even thought of the blog so there are no step-by-step pictures (there is a final picture of the muffins, though) but the yum-ness quotient ranks high. As they say, “the proof of the muffin lies in eating”. So go bake a batch and let me know how well they turn out!

Also, if it is your first attempt at baking, fear not! With all the different knobs and temperature settings, it may seem a little muddling at first but it feels therapeutic after a couple of times. Promise.

May the oven Gods be with you!

  1. DRY INGREDIENTS
  • All purpose flour: 1 + 3/4th cups
  • Baking powder: 1 tsp.
  • Powdered sugar: ½ a cup
  • Salt: a tiny pinch

2.   WET INGREDIENTS

  • Egg: 1
  • Vanilla extract or essence: 1 tsp.
  • Vegetable oil: ½ a cup
  • Milk: ½ a cup
  • Fruit: 1 cup (chopped)
  • Water: 2-3 tbsps.

Method:

First, sieve and mix all the dry ingredients together. Then make a well in the center and pour the wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly till the batter is lumpy and semi-liquid-y. Don’t try too hard to remove all the lumps, though. The mixture will come together eventually. Now, add the chopped fruit (whichever you like). I used chopped ripe peaches directly, without heating them, as they were already quite soft and mushy.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Pour the batter into muffin moulds. I use the silicone ones because they are SO much easier to handle. Plus they come in fun pop colours. And now, for the awesome part – Before putting the muffins in the oven, sprinkle generous (and I mean generous) amounts of crystalline sugar on top of each muffin. The sugar, on baking, will form a crunchy crust-like top on the muffins and it is absolute heaven to bite into. So that is it! Piece of cake, right? Pop the muffins in the preheated oven @ 180 C for around 30-35 minutes.

Run when you hear the ‘ting!’ and bring them out. Enjoy with a mug of latte or a scoop of vanilla ice-cream if you’re feeling indulgent!