Sunday, 30 November 2014

Instagram: November 2014

the first day of the month sparked festive catalogues • gunpowder treason and plot • quickest breakfast • dreams of visiting european palaces • urban jungle • snow angel • pinecone picking • reunited with technology • new workout gear • sans eyeliner • warm baked peaches • sunday slumber • gluten free walnut cake • kinfolk winter edition with bit and bobs • a good cup of tea in bed • cosy evenings in front of the fire

I always feel like November passes by as a bit of a non-event. I don't have any birthdays to deal with, nor anything else that warrants a ton of preparation. Instead, it's like a stop-gap towards December where everything goes on. This month we've mainly been planning. Planning to redecorate parts of the house, planning trips out, and of course planning for Christmas.

That's why my Instagram appears to be filled with lazy days, lots of reading, preparations and wish list items. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I just love to make lists and I love being organised! I'm almost done with all my Christmas shopping too. Today has been yet another relaxed Sunday where we say goodbye to November and welcome the Winter Wonderland that is December. We slept in, put up the Christmas decorations and had the most delicious roast beef ever. That's how we do Sundays (as you know).

So gearing up to Christmas, I apologise in advance to any of my readers who are a bit Bah Humbug towards the big day. The blog is going to be in a festive frenzy next month, with my first ever Christmas series. I'm excited to share that with you, and hope you enjoy reading as much as I'm enjoying making. It's just such a magical time of year I can't help but get all giddy!

I hope November was good to you too. Now let's all end the year on high!

Friday, 28 November 2014

Friday Night Bites: Pork Gyoza

Ever since I visited Wagamama for my birthday lunch back in January I can honestly say that I've developed a real obsession with gyoza. Billed as a light starter, I can easily polish off two servings of pulled pork gyoza (and have been known to - takeout is a god send!) and I don't feel guilty in the slightest. For those of you who would like to be enlightened, gyoza are Japanese dumplings that can be fried and/or steamed to perfection. They are basically little parcels of heaven. So to satisfy my cravings this week, I decided that I was going to try and make my own - with a completely experimental recipe for the filling and dipping sauce. Now, I don't claim to be the world's best at this kind of thing; this was actually my first attempt, but I was really impressed with the results so I thought I'd share my gyoza experience with you.

I did the whole thing, starting with the gyoza wrappers. You can buy readymade wrappers from Chinese and Japanese supermarkets - which is fine if you live somewhere like London where the cuisine is pretty diverse - unfortunately, I haven't been able to find one anywhere near me so took on the task of making them at home. They are actually surprisingly easy to make, but require a little bit of patience and elbow grease.

(makes 30-40 gyoza wrappers)
2 cups strong white bread flour
150ml just-boiled water
1/2 tsp salt
Cornflour for dusting

Simply sift the flour into a medium mixing bowl and add the salt to the just-boiled water. Once it has dissolved, combine the water with the flour until it makes a dough. You will have to use your hands to combine it fully. Next, turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and kneed it for 10 minutes. This part requires some serious elbow grease as the dough can be rather tough! When the dough appears much smoother in texture, cut it in half, roll into two 1/2 inch thick cylinders and cover them with plastic wrap. Set them aside for 30 minutes at room temperature, make yourself a well-earned cup of tea, do the washing up... 

When the dough is done resting, discard the wrapping and cut the cylinders into around 15 equal pieces. Dust your work surface with cornflour and taking one piece of dough at a time, roll into a ball and flatten it with your palm. It will seem tiny but grab a rolling pin and roll the dough out (as thin as you can), cut out a round with a plain 3-inch circular cookie cutter, dust with cornflour to prevent sticking, and set aside. Repeat the process with the rest of the dough - and don't forget the scraps! If you're not ready to use the gyoza wrappers immediately then you can cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate. They will keep in the fridge for a few days so you can easily make batches in advance! You can also freeze them.
Ingredients for the Filling
400g ground pork
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tsp onion granules (substitute for spring onions)
2 cloves garlic, minced
a small chunk of peeled fresh ginger, minced
1 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
ground black pepper

Kneed the ground pork in a medium bowl until it's looser in texture. This will make the filling much juicier and will also make it cook more evenly. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix together, either with a wooden spoon or your hands. Cover the bowl and let it stand in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour to allow the flavours to infuse and blend well together.
To assemble the gyoza, place a teaspoon of the pork mixture in the centre of the wrapper. Wet the edges with cold water and fold in half, crimping one side to seal in the filling - this takes some practise but they should look like mini translucent cornish pasties. 

Heat a tablespoon of sesame oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Place half your gyoza fattest-side-down in the pan to make sure the meat cooks through. Pour over 1 cup of boiling water until the gyoza are half-covered, cover with a lid and allow to steam over a medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes. When the water has evaporated and the gyoza start to sizzle, add another tablespoon of sesame oil to the pan and replace the lid. This time cook them through for 2 minutes. When the bottom of the gyoza are crisp and golden-brown remove from the pan with a spatula.
Serve immediately, golden-side-up with a flavoursome dipping sauce.

Ingredients for the Dipping Sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp black vinegar (substitute for balsamic)
1 tbsp oyster sauce
slices of fresh ginger

I tried really hard to replicate the amazingly delicious dipping sauce that accompanies the pulled pork gyoza at Wagamama. I know for sure that it contains black vinegar and ginger but the rest was a little bit of guess work. All I know is that it's dark and tasty. Again, black vinegar is difficult to find if you don't have access to a Chinese supermarket, but I am told that balsamic vinegar diluted with water works in a similar way because it's tangy but also has a hint of sweetness. Simply mix the wet ingredients together in a small bowl. Slice the fresh ginger, add and you're done!
Overall I'm really happy with how the gyoza have turned out. The outside is soft yet crispy, and the filling is full of flavour and incredibly juicy. These were so fun to make and actually took little time to cook. They're perfect for a light lunch, snack or as a side dish to a main meal. I ended up making 36 gyoza in total; I cooked half, froze the other half and still had enough pork filling to make 8 good-sized meatballs for dinner (they went fantastic with baked tomato gnocchi, fyi!)

You can also fill the gyoza with almost anything. Pork, chicken, beef, duck, seafood, veggies... So you can make a whole host of different ones and have a taster platter at a dinner party, for example. The wrappers are a simple recipe that can also be made into bigger pancakes for shredded roast duck - I think that's my next challenge!

What do you think? A bit of a different take on your Friday night takeaway, right?
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