Some more real recipes I’ve been making of late. Living in Brisbane and then San Francisco is leading to a lot of Chinese influence on my cooking; and it doesn’t hurt that I associate Asian food with healthy eating. For breakfast there’s a Congee recipe that I’m still working on, but the ones below are ready to serve!
Update: As of June 15th 2015 I have added pictures for everything. I can no longer read this post when fasting, it’s too scrumptious.
Corn and Dumpling Soup
Prep Time: 5-20 min. Cook Time: 10 min. Serves 8 as a side.
For starters, we have the soup course. This recipe started as a classic Chinese chicken and corn soup, but I added in the dumplings from a southwestern Chicken and Dumpling soup. Unrelated to the dumpling recipe at the end, except for my current love of cooking with flour.
- 1.5L chicken stock (6 cups)
- 400g creamed corn (about 1 can or 4 ears)
- 4 eggs (I use large brown)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/6 cup water
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Create the dough by mixing the flour and salt, then add water to that until a good dough consistency (1/6 cup is my guess, but I just keep adding a splash).
- Put the chicken stock in a pot and bring to boil.
- If using fresh corn, cut the corn off the ear and keep any juice that falls out.
- Beat eggs together.
- Bring pot down to medium heat.
- Add dough to pot. Not all at once. You want to rip off a small chunk about the size of a finger nail (in frontal surface area, not volume) and chuck it in. Repeat while dough.
- Add eggs to pot and stir.
- Add corn to pot and stir more.
- Reduce to simmer and serve. Stirring occasionally.
I feel the extra depth of texture from the dumplings adds to the classic base without removing its prime value – super quick to make (especially if you use canned creamed corn and stock). Prep time estimate is 5 minutes with canned stuff and pre-made dough, 20 if you’re making the dough and creaming the corn from fresh ears.
Fish & Zucchini Stir-fry
Prep Time: 30 min. Cook Time: 15 min. Serves 4 as a main dish, but you can always stretch it with more rice.
Probably you can find the same thing in any Chinese cookbook, using Wombok or Bok Choy for the vegetable. But for me this recipe is about the Zucchini, a vegetable I hated until I had roughly two dozen of them sitting around about to go to waste. You just have to learn how to prepare them right, and so this recipe speaks to me about how every food is delicious once you know how to coax it out.
- 1 lb boneless trout (about 0.5 kg or 2 fishes). Leave skin on unless you don’t like that.
- 4 eggs
- 4-6 Zucchini (~1.5 lb, ~0.8 kg)
- 1 tbsp ground or powdered ginger
- 1 tbsp ground or powdered salt crystals (salt)
- 2 tbsp extra light olive oil.
- Slice Zucchini, maybe about half a centimetre (1/4 in) wide. Cut slices in half.
- Fillet fish and chop into roughly 1cm squares. They don’t stay in nice squares when cooked, so don’t worry about making it nice now.
- Pour oil into a wok, heat to high and pour in the Zucchini. Note that I use olive oil even though peanut oil has better characteristics for stir-fry. But I like the stronger flavor of olive oil, sometimes even using extra virgin instead of extra light.
- When Zucchini start browning, remove them and place in a bowl to the side.
- Replace oil as needed, pour chopped fish into the wok and stir-fry.
- When the fish are cooked (white and starting to flake a little), re-add the Zucchini.
- Add the eggs and seasoning (salt, ginger). It’s probably best to beat them all together first, but I just chuck it in quick and start stir-frying with extra vigor.
- Stir-fry a few minutes until eggs are cooked (hard to see at times, whole mixture gets whiter).
- Reduce to simmer and serve.
Serve on rice, or mixed with rice (pour cooked rice into the wok at the end and mix it up, cooking for another minute or two). I usually use one cup (uncooked volume) long grain brown rice, preferably made a day before and refrigerated, and mix it in.
Prep Time: 20 min. Cook Time: 10 min. Serves 4 as a main dish.
The dish that forced me to start using the term “Asian-Fusion” when a Chinese taster admonished me for even saying aloud “Chinese Burritos”. They did not need to admonish me about the results though, they agreed it passes gustatory muster (not that they’d spout such obtuse verbiage, that’s all me).
- 1 lb (500 g) pork, cut for stir-fry (long strips)
- 2 Cucumbers (about a pound, a little over), peeled and then grated
- 6 Carrots (roughly 1 lb also), peeled and then grated
- 8 large flour tortillas, which may weigh a pound just to keep the pattern going.
- 1/2 tbsp ground ginger. Do not try to use a pound of ginger, pattern’s over.
- 1 tbsp Chinese Five Spice seasoning. I am actually using a pre-made blend here.
- 250g Hoisin sauce. I’m just using pre-made again.
- If you didn’t cut up the meat and veg already, now’s the time.
- Separately, for both the carrot and cucumber, drain and place in a bowl to serve from.
- Add a little oil to a flat-bottomed frying pan and turn to high heat. I’m still using olive oil, but we aren’t using as much here (maybe 1/2tbsp) so it matters less.
- Add pork to frying pan and cook until it’s almost done (mostly white).
- Add the Hoisin sauce and seasonings to the pork in the frying pan, so that it’s now swimming in simmering sauce.
- Turn frypan down to simmer and finish cooking the pork (white) while mixing it and the seasonings together. Since it’s now partially covered in opaque sauce, I usually give it 3-5 minutes at the lower heat before calling it done.
- Individuals should add some pork and some of each vegetable onto their chosen tortilla, and wrap as a burrito.
The Hoisin pork is easily the strongest flavor in the wrap with all the seasonings, it’s deliberately over-flavored. But because of the moisture and blandness of the veggies, the flavor mixes together well and the pork flavor dominates without causing any problems. Just don’t let the veggies, the cucumber in particular, be so wet as to make the tortilla soggy and fall apart. That happens to me about half the time, i.e. every time I forget to drain the cucumber.
For added fun, make traditional burrito fillings as well (ground beef, grated cheese, sour cream, guacamole, salsa) and pick and choose each time. I like the variety, even though I usually can’t justify turning a “serves 4” recipe into “serves 8” when cooking for myself. You can also add these fillings to the Ultimate Burrito.
Alan’s Freezer Dumplings
Prep Time: 60 min. Cook Time: 45 min. Serves 6 as a main dish.
Dumplings are hard to name, as the term can mean anything (even the blobs of dough in the first recipe). From Polish pierogi to Chinese dim sum, it’s all just stuffed pasta. The stuffing here was inspired by tortellini, so tortelloni might be closest. But I’m going with naming them after the true inspiration for the stuffing composition – what I found in my freezer one night. Beef, spinach and flour specifically formed the basis for the first run. I consider eggs and cheese staples, and store them in the fridge, so it’s not all stuff that was found in the freezer. For completeness, I don’t keep salt or oil in the freezer and I did not use water from the freezer even though I store some there. Fortunately for the name, I’ve found they freeze acceptably which is good considering that I only make them in super-jumbo quantity (the below portions).
It is advisable to prepare the wrappers before-hand so as to stagger the long preparation time. Wrap tightly and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. It is required to prepare the wrappers before the filling, so the filling can be filled while still hot.
- 1 1/2 cups wholewheat flour
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp gluten flour (optional)
- 1 cup water
I like wholewheat wrappers, but it definitely affects the taste. If you don’t have an acquired taste for whole wheat yet, just use 3 cups of all-purpose flour instead of the three-flour combo above.
- Mix flour and salt together.
- Add water as necessary to form a dough-like consistency. About 1 cup should do it.
- Knead dough a bit and let it rest a bit. Theoretically you should rest it for one hour, but I give it as long as it takes to set up the rolling equipment.
- Roll out into dumpling wrappers. You can do this with a machine and you can vary the sizes to your personal preferences, but below is an estimate of how I split it up.
- Split dough into roughly six equal chunks.
- Roll chunks into rough cylinders 0.75 inches in diameter.
- Cut cylinders into 1.5 inch long segments.
- Roll each segment out with cold steel (rolling pin), that’s a wrapper.
Note that in the picture I stacked them all in one big pile. It looks impressive, but it reminded me that you shouldn’t do that. Just ten per pile, because the more they weigh on each other the harder they are to separate. In this extreme case, I had to re-roll the bottom eight 🙁 .
- 1 lb ground beef (0.5 kg beef mince).
- 1 lb grated Monterey Jack cheese. If you like cheese, you can add up to 1/2 lb more.
- 1 lb chopped spinach. If you like spinache, you can add up to 1/2 lb more.
- 4 eggs.
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. You can substitute extra light, but this time I wouldn’t advise peanut oil instead (those are the only two I’ve tried). The oil flavor has a larger influence on this recipe.
- If you haven’t yet ground the beef, grated the cheese, chopped the spinach, or removed the eggs from the hen(s), do this first. If you haven’t pressed the olives by now it’s probably too late, use another oil. My usual fall-back is cow oil (butter).
- Add the oil to a large frying pan and brown the beef in it over medium-high heat.
- Add the spinach to the frying pan and mix.
- Add the cheese to the frying pan and mix. I usually have to do this in two batches. The reason the cheese needs to be grated is that you want the cheese to melt and then you’re mixing liquid cheese with small bits of beef and spinach. It took far too long to melt when I just chucked a 1 lb block into the pan.
- Add the eggs in and mix well. This mixing step is why you don’t need to beat the eggs before-hand.
- When the eggs are cooked (mixture whitens), reduce to low heat and move directly to assembly stage.
A note on the spinach. I normally use frozen spinach and it can be quite moist after defrosting. Make sure to drain it, and/or use a slotted spoon at assembly stage.
- Place a pot of salted water to boil.
- Prepare a small beaker (or bowl) of water and a pastry brush. The brush will dip into the water to wet itself, then lightly brush the edges of the wrappers with moisture to help form a seal.
- For each dumpling wrapper:
- Apply water to the edges of the wrapper as above.
- Add approx. 1 tbsp of filling to the center of the wrapper.
- Fold to close. To fold as I do:
- Fold in half length-wise.
- Working around the outside, pinch edge together with thumb and fore-finger. You can use both hands to work from both sides simultaneously.
- Run fingers around outside edge one more time to collect any filling that has spilled out. Remove excess filling from hands using any suitably hygienic method.
- Place folded, wrapped dumpling in boiling water pot for 6 minutes. I usually do batches of 8 at a time instead of tracking individual dumpling times.
- Remove from water, drain excess water, and expedite service.
As described above, I shape them in a crescent fold like I associate with pierogi. That might be due to the size of dumpling wrapper I use, or it might just be a subconscious attempt to add more “world flavor”.
The dumplings in the photo-op are wholewheat with extra (1.5lb) spinach. The wholewheat provides a stronger flavor for the wrapper, and the higher proportion of spinach mutes the filling flavor. So this variant has less of an intense filling texture, but is a lot healthier. Still good enough that I barely taste them as I rush to cram a kilo down my gullet.
The gourmet variety is white flour with the extra cheese. That provides the most intense flavor hit when you break past the wrapper. But I don’t normally test with sauce. An expert taste consultant, tasting with the gourmet variety, selected a basil pesto as the sauce after an experimental tasting session.
Another note from the photo-op version. There’s a part from my pasta machine as a decorative steel centerpiece on the platter. While they are drained when removed from the pot, they still drip a little towards the center of the serving receptacle. Something in the middle of the plate that the fluid can accumulate under helps prevent the last dumplings from being wet and sticky.
Alan’s Preferred Dessert
- 400g mixed (or as available) berries or cubed melons.
- Arrange on plate. Serve chilled.
Just to round out the list, we now have a complete fancy meal experience. Starting with a soup and followed by a choice of main dishes, all listed above. My side dish these days is always bread and cheese, recipe for that is forthcoming (if only because it doesn’t fit the Asian theme in the slightest). And for dessert I prefer fruit, which I’ve been informed fits the Asian influence of the rest of these recipes. Three courses is as fancy as my meals get for now, and there they all are!