Sunday, June 30, 2013

Searching for Dumplings

I call a lot of things my 'favourite food' but there is something so perfect about a neatly formed parcel of meat (with sometimes a little vege) embedded with flavour, wrapped in dough and able to be captured in one concise mouthful.  Unlike the Italian ravioli, the Chinese dumpling is versatile in the different ways it can be cooked.  Boiled, steamed or pan-fried, it gives a myriad of sensual possibilities: from the flavour combinations, different seal-and-crimping methods (creating thinner and thicker parts within the join) to the texture which comes from the cooking technique.  (The Japanese gyoza is based on the pan-fried dumpling which, also known as 'pot-stickers', gain a chewy crust at their base while their tops are steamed - soft, with bite).

Google image search for "jiao zi"

Making and/or eating dumplings (or jiao zi餃子) is a long-loved tradition of mine for celebrating Chinese New Year.  Especially after moving out of home, I feel like I have to make a batch to share with friends every year, as if it was out of superstition.  Usually I stick to traditional Chinese flavours like minced pork with mushroom, garlic, chives, spring onion, soy sauce, sesame oil and some oyster sauce; or sometimes I'll add coriander, chilli, finely grated carrot and/or change the meat to minced lamb for a more Nepalese/Western Chinese flavour profile.  On the odd occasion, I've experimented with outright Western flavours like chicken, cranberry and brie (not bad), with the thought that you can pretty much package any great combination of flavours into a dumpling skin.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Berries, honey and yoghurt, oh my!

No-one could dispute that berries, honey and luscious Greek yoghurt are a win-win-win combination. Add chia seeds, oats and coconut flakes and you've got an extremely nutritious breakfast.

Overnight Berries & Oats (serves 1)

As the berries defrost overnight this will help to soften the oats and ready them for eating.  I have no doubt that an additional half banana sliced would go nicely too (I'm just not a big fan). 

2/3 c wholegrain oats (I'm sure rolled would work too)
Handful of frozen berries
1 Tbsp honey (I use manuka for extra health)
1 Tbsp chia seeds
3 heaped Tbsp Greek yoghurt
2 Tbsp coconut flakes (optional)
1 Tbsp flaxseed (linseed) (optional)

Into a breakfast bowl, add everything and combine.  Set aside in fridge overnight, and that's it!

In the morning, I usually try to remember to take it out of the fridge before having a shower so it can come up to room temperature.  Then I sprinkle some flaxseeds over and enjoy. (And yes, this is an exception to my need for a savoury breakfast.)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A most versatile dish

Quiches are great.  Egg, bit of cream, a myriad of different flavour combinations, pastry... What's not to love? Cooking one at home however, that pastry base always puts me off.  One part is being too lazy to make one, while the other is having the mindset that if I can go without it, I should.  The solution? The frittata.

Google image search for "quiche"

Besides the pastry, they have only a few differences. The quiche is French (arguably), while the frittata is Italian. The former is cooked entirely in the oven, while the latter is cooked in a skillet, started on the stove and finished in the oven (though if need be, can be done entirely in the oven, too).  I would also suggest that the egg mixture of the quiche requires cream, whereas the frittata is more similar to an omelette which uses water.  So for all intensive purposes, they're really very similar.

Google image search for "frittata"

To compensate for the lack of pastry, the common frittata (also similar to the Spanish tortilla) often uses slices or chunks of cooked potato as part of the base recipe to help hold it all together.  As a rule of thumb, it's a great place to start as most flavours that go with egg fend similarly with the potato.  From here then it's all about the flavour combinations of the other fillings.

And in my opinion, the ideal circumstances to conjure up an occasion for the frittata are leftovers.  Christmas is perfect: ham off the bone, roast vegetables, cheese platter remnants... you couldn't ask for better.  If after a Sunday roast, make the most of the leftover chicken with some cherry tomatoes, stuffing and basil; or, maybe you simply need to use up what's in the fridge: a bit of bacon, black pudding (if you are that way inclined), with a few sliced green onions and grated cheddar could be all you need.