Friday 19 July 2013

School Night Dinners Series - Recipe 5 - Asian-style Dumplings

So, this is the last installment in my School Night Dinners series.

Here's a reminder of the recipes so far for quick reference:

And now .... drum-roll ... for Recipe Number 5!!  LOL.  Did I make it sound exciting enough!?!


Out of the 5 recipes, this is probably my favourite ... not because it's particularly quick to make (it does take a little time to prepare), but because these little delicious parcels of yum freeze brilliantly, have a whole meal in them, taste as good as any dumplings you'd find at Yum Cha, and take no time to get onto the table from the freezer.

Now, not only do we eat these at least once a week for dinner, we have also served them for friends and family who've loved them.  They're great on their own (which is how we serve them for the kids) or made into a beautiful Asian-style soup and dumplings dish, which is how Mummy and Daddy prefer them.

Now before you get scared, they really are very simple to make, and very simple to wrap (there's step by step pics below to show how to wrap them).  We usually prepare them on the weekend, and make a big batch that gives us enough for 3-4 meals.  We then freeze them in plastic takeaway food boxes ... about 12 dumplings to a box, then just use them as we need them.  When we run out, we make more to re-stock the freezer.  And the super-fast prep from freezer to plate really does make the little bit of time spent on wrapping them worthwhile.  Bethany loves to help make these, and is actually pretty good at it these days too.  
Anyway, want the recipe?  Here's what you need:
- 500 grams mince meat (we usually use pork, but we've also done them with turkey and beef)
- 2 packets of wonton wrappers (square ones).  If you can't get to an asian grocer, never fear ... you can find these in most supermarkets these days.  They are in the fridge section, usually with the fresh pasta.
- 1/2 bunch shallots (or whatever you call them, spring onions, scallions etc)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 small can water-chestnuts
- 1 small can champignon mushrooms
- 1 carrot
- 1 zucchini
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons Hoi-sin sauce (In the Asian aisle of the supermarket)
- 2 tablespoons Oyster Sauce (in the Asian aisle of the supermarket)

(You can pretty much put whatever vegies you Chinese cabbage, beans, red cabbage etc)

1. Roughly chop the carrot, zucchini, shallots and garlic then blitz until there are no large chunks of vegetables, and all ingredients are well-combined.

2.  Add mince meat and egg and blitz until well combined.

3. Drain the water chestnuts and mushrooms, and add them to the food processor then blitz until finely chopped and well-combined.

4.  Add the Hoi-Sin and Oyster Sauce, and blitz until well combined.  You should have something that resembles a kind of meatloaf mixture consistency.  You could also add some chilli at this point if you want to, but to keep it nice and kid-friendly we generally leave the chilli out.

Now for the wrapping:

5. Take 1 wonton wrapper, and spoon 1 teaspoon of mixture onto the middle ... don't be tempted to over-fill them.  They just break when they're cooking of you do, and they don't look anywhere near as cute all mushed up!

6. Gather the 4 corners of the wrapper to the top to enclose the filling like so ...

7.  Gather in the edges with your fingers and press together around the middle to make a 'money-bag' shape.

8.  Give one final firm pinch around the middle to make sure it's nice and tight.

Voila ... not so hard after-all, hey!

9. Now just continue wrapping until either you're out of wonton wrappers, or you're out of mixture (Oh, and if you have left over mixture, it goes great stir-fried in a hot pan with some cooked rice, frozen peas, scrambled egg and a dash of soy sauce for a super-quick fried rice dish).

10.  To cook them (either freshly wrapped or straight from the freezer) bring a large pot of water to the boil, and once boiling drop the dumplings in, and give a short, gentle stir.  Bring back to the boil, and cook simmering until all the dumplings are floating.  The floating indicates they're ready.  My tip for using them straight from the freezer is not to defrost them at all before boiling them.  If you defrost them, they will become sticky and stick together, tearing the wrappers.  Just drop them in frozen, in 1 big clump of dumplings, and stir occasionally very gently to make sure they're not sticking to the bottom of the pot.  When they separate from each other and float, they're ready!

And that's how we serve them for the girls.  Bethany likes a little dish of soy sauce on the side to dip her dumplings in, and for Hannah we cut them in half to make them a bit more bite-sized, then she just eats them with her fingers.  A yummy, complete meal in cute little packaging.

To make them a bit more interesting for Mummy and Daddy's dinner, we like to make an asian style broth-like soup and serve these dumplings with fresh veggies.  Here's what you need to make Soup Dumplings:

- 2 cups chicken stock (salt-reduced)
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
- 3 fresh shallots
- Fresh vegies (eg broccoli, carrot, snow peas, mushrooms)
- Cooked dumplings (we will usually eat about 8 each for a hearty dinner)

1. Place your cooked dumplings in a nice deep bowl, and chop your veggies into bite size pieces.

2.  Very lightly steam / boil your vegies (you can do this in the water / stock you will be using to make the soup.  That means the soup retains all the water-soluble viatmins that come out of your vegies while they cook).  You really want there to be some crunch left in the vegies, so don't overcook them ... much more tasty that way, plus remember they will be sitting in the hot soup which will also continue to cook them while you eat them.  Once cooked, sit the vegies on top of your dumplings in your bowl.

3.  Bring your stock to the boil, turn the heat down to simmer and add the soy sauce and sweet chilli sauce, and give it a mix.

4.  Chop your shallots and put half in the soup.  Simmer for about 2-3 minutes.

5.  Take the soup off the heat and pour directly over your vegies and dumplings.  Sprinkle the remaining shallots over the top.

And there you go ... hearty, fresh and such a good winter warmer!

So, that concludes my School Night Dinner Recipe Series.  Hope you've enjoyed reading about how we save time on those hectic week-nights.

Oh and I'd love to hear if you've had a go at any of these recipes, and what you thought!  

Make It and Love It

Sunday 14 July 2013

Sweet Swap 2013 - Hazelnut Brittle

So, I decided to participate in the Sweet Swap this year ... OK, well it was actually Daddy's idea.  He's a keen foodie and a food blogger, and has also participated in the Sweet Swap with a sweet creation of his own.  We thought it might be fun to do this swap together, and fun it was!  The deal is that for a tiny entry fee (which is donated straight to charity ... love that!!) you are given the names and contact details for 3 other participants.  You then bake/cook/prepare a sweet treat, and send it to all 3 participants, then sit and wait.  In the following days, you excitedly await the arrival of sweets from 3 other participants ... excitement to the max!!  I mean really, who can say no to an offer to receive 3 lots of sweet goodies in the mail from keen sweet foodies, not to mention (and for me the MOST fun bit) a chance to cook up a storm of sweet goodies to send to 3 new friends. 

I love home-made gift-giving, and for that reason I decided to revisit a sweet treat that we did as a gift  to our friends and family a couple of years ago at Christmas-time...we have a tradition of baking at Christmas for our friends and family, and try to think of fun and funky ideas each year!  Whilst this sweet treat (Hazelnut Brittle) is yummy and fun in itself, we coupled this with an inexpensive mini-cleaver we found at our local asian grocer.  Very handy in smashing the brittle into edible-sized pieces, and serves as a fantastic cheese-knife after the brittle is all done and finished.  The recipe I used actually suggested a small hammer as a gift idea, but I shopped and shopped and couldn't find any small-enough, affordable enough, cute enough hammers for the 25ish serves of this we would be giving out that year.  When I stumbled across these cleavers I thought they were just perfect!

The recipe I used for this Hazelnut Brittle is from Better Homes and Gardens Magazine in December 2009.  Here it is:

- 400g hazelnuts (I found it worked better with 250-300 grams ... makes a slightly thinner, more attractive brittle as all the nuts fit in the pan in a single layer!!)
- 2 1/2 cups white sugar
- 60 grams butter
- water

1.  Preheat oven to 200 degrees C.  Grease a 3cm deep, 18cm x 28cm slice pan.  Line base and sides with baking paper, with a 2cm overhang around the edges.  (I used a silicon sheet, with slits in the corners to help it fit the base of the pan.  I found this MUCH easier when trying to remove the brittle once it's cooled.  I attempted it once with baking paper, but ended up with paper stuck all over my brittle that I could not get off...not sure if this is just the particular paper I used or not, but either way, I would suggest using a silicon sheet if you have one!!)

2. Place hazelnuts on a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes or until golden.  Transfer to a tea-towel and fold up to enclose the nuts.  Rub the tea towel to remove the skins and discard the skins.

3. Place sugar and 1/2 cup cold water in a large, heavy based saucepan over a medium-low heat.  Cook, stirring, without boiling for 5 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Bring to the boil.  Boil, without stirring, for 8-10 minutes or until the mixture is golden and thick.  Remove from the heat ... (watch it like a hawk, it starts to turn slightly golden, then very quickly becomes a dark golden .... too long and it tastes burnt, not long enough and it's too pale!)

4. Working quickly, stir in the butter and hazelnuts.  

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, and tap gently on the bench to settle the mixture.  

Set aside to cool completely.  Lift from the pan and remove the baking paper (silicon sheet).  Serve.

We found that one whole tin of this was a little too large-a-serving for a gift for 1 person, so we decided to cut it in half down the middle.  This was a much more manageable size, and much more post-able for this swap.  I just wrapped the brittle in clear cellophane wrap, and tied some twine around it with a little tag.  Can't beat the simple-funkiness of that.  Especially when coupled with the little mini-cleaver...too cute!

OK, so the other part of the swap ... the sweets I received!  I was sent beautiful, delectable goodies from 3 lovely people.  My first parcel arrived before I had even finished my baking ...   

I received a package of these absolutely divine Italian Ricciarelli Cookies from Giulia of Love at Every Bite.  These were a little too moorish ... I absolutely could not stop at 1, or 2, or maybe 3.  Thank you Giulia ... I hope to see your recipe on your blog soon ... would love to give these ones a try ... the perfect accompaniment for a cup of Italian coffee I think!  Oh, and Giulia also sent some honeycomb, but unfortunately it didn't travel so well so I haven't taken any pics of it ... I blame the horrendous amount of wet weather we had at the time this beautiful package was sent ... really not fair to any sugar work ... hoping my brittle travelled OK to it's recipients!

My next package was from the lovely Mary from Beyond Jelly.  Oh my goodness, was this a favourite package at our house for the short time the deliciousness lasted!?!  Mary made Twix Tartlets ... just imagine, mini pastry tart shells, filled with thick, sweet, rich caramel and topped with chocolate ... does it get any better than that!  Bethany was especially in love with this one!  Yummo!  Oh, and thanks Mary for your kind comments in your note about my School night Dinner Series ... I haven't forgotten recipe number 5 ... hoping to get it posted in the next week or so!

My final package was simply adorable ... A beautiful little brown paper package tied up with string from Di of Life is Di-licious.  Di sent some gorgeous mini rum balls ... yummo!  They are teeny-tiny, and so yummy.  Thick, rich, flavoursome, and again another perfect accompaniment to a cuppa ... but really, what's not the perfect accompaniment to a cuppa!?!  Thank you, thank you Di....I love a parcel wrapped up in string too, and was humming away to the Sound of Music classic tune the whole rest of the day!  Oh, and I've been checking out your new blog page ... I'd love to get some chickens too, and we're currently working out exactly which part of our yard would work best for a little coup ... might have to get in touch and talk chook-keeping with you some time!

So, all in all I had an absolute ball participating in this sweet swap, and would love to be involved again.  Can't wait to hear all about the bloggers who received my sweets, and what they thought!  Also a huge thanks to Sara and Amanda who hosted this event.

Monday 8 July 2013

Product Review, and a free recipe - Cinnamon Chai Ice-cream

This post is thanks to Hannah of Wordstorm who asked if I would like to try and review the new Bondi Chai Single Serve Sachet Chai Latte range.  Of course I said yes, and promptly received a box of Club Cinnamon and a Box of Vanilla Honey Chai Latte sachets.  The drinks are made-up on skim milk (to make them 99% fat free).  I also tried making them just with hot water … I really liked it … just a less-creamy version of the same thing.  Yum!!

Now I will admit that normally speaking I’m not a massive fan of chai drinks, but I was intrigued about these flavours and was keen to give them a go.  Once I tasted them I was impressed by the sweetness, and the flavours are great.  My favourite, especially as a winter-warmer type drink is the Club Cinnamon.  My mind instantly went to apple pie and cinnamon, and with a little more thought I decided that this drink sachet could actually be used to create an amazing cinnamon chai ice-cream to accompany apple pie, or just by itself, or with anything really.  I LOVED how this make-it-up-as-I-go-along creation turned out, and decided to share my recipe here as part of this review.  

So, here it is:  Wen's Cinnamon Chai Ice-cream 

Ingredients: (I used a basic Premium Ice-cream recipe that came in the booklet with my ice-cream maker, and tweaked it to be what I wanted)
- 2 sachets of Bondi Chai Club Cinnamon Chai Latte
- 2 whole eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 cups skim milk
- 1 1/2 cups light thickened cream

1. Whisk the milk and cream together in a medium-sized saucepan.  Pour in the Bondi Chai Club Cinnamon Chai Latte sachets....

... and whisk.  My cute helper, Bethany was very excited to assist with this recipe!

2. Bring the mixture to the boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Combine eggs, egg yolks and sugar in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer ...

...and mix until the mixture turns a pale yellow and thickens (about 2 minutes).

4. Measure 1 cup of the hot milk/cream/chai mixture.

5.  With the mixer turned on at low speed, slowly pour the hot liquid into the egg / sugar mixture in a steady stream.

6.  Once thoroughly combined, turn the mixer off, and pour the entire egg/sugar mixture into the saucepan with the remaining milk/cream/chai mixture, and whisk together.

7.  Cook over a low to medium heat while stirring constantly until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.  Watch it like a hawk ... the messy sides of my saucepan in the pic above,  may or may not indicate that I had a boil-over situation at some point!! LOL!

8.  Pour the mixture into a heat-proof bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator until well-chilled.

9.  Follow the instructions from your ice-cream maker to churn the mixture until it forms a thick ice-cream.  Store in an air-tight container in the freezer.

There's only one way to describe this .... Spoon-lick'n YUM!!
Oh, and thanks to my good friend Sara .... Sara Lee that is ... for the amazing apple pie to go under a scoop of this ice-cream!  Yep, although I love a good bake-off, sometimes convenience still wins out!

Hope you enjoy it as much as we have!  Oh, and you can grab some Bondi Chai Single Serve Sachets at Woolworths stores across Australia.