Homemade Chinese Dumplings *guest post*

Happy Chinese New Year to you all! I wanted a really authentic post so asked my friend Sylvia Chen who is originally from Taipei in Taiwan. She lived and worked in Singapore before moving to Sheffield 9 years ago. She currently works as a freelance translator. She claims to not be very good at cooking (which I would beg to differ after tasting her food!) She says that if she can make these dumplings then anyone can. So over to Sylvia …

Chinese Dumplings

Traditionally, Chinese people have a big feast on the eve of Chinese New Year.  We will leave an empty chair for members who cant make it home for this meal.  A popular dish is home-made dumplings.  A lot of people make their own dumpling wrapper as the action for making the dough in Chinese sounds exactly the same as the word “together”.  Also, it is a tradition to hide a coin inside some dumplings.  Whoever eats the dumplings containing a coin inside will have the most prosperous new year. (* you obviously need to clean/sterilize the coin, and exercise care while eating to avoid the choking hazard!)

The filling for the dumplings can be anything- you can use minced pork, mutton, beef, chicken, fish, or prawn and match with chopped/shredded (Chinese) cabbage, carrots, fennel, celery, chives, mushroom, and spinach.  Some said they are quite similar to ravioli.  There are many versatile ways enjoy your dumplings, you can steam them, fry them, boil them, or have it with soup.  And it is super easy to make as part or all of it can be prepared in advance, and it freezes very well (as commonly seen in the Chinese supermarkets), not to mention that it is a great way to get children to eat vegetables.

Today, I am making dumplings with minced pork and cabbage using shop-bought wrappers.

For the dumplings, you will need the following, which will give you roughly 40 dumplings.  Feel free to adjust the seasoning to taste, just have to make sure that it is not too watery.

  • minced pork 250g
  • cabbage 350g
  • 1 egg
  • salt 1/2 TSP
  • white pepper 1/4 TSP
  • sesame oil 1/2 TSP
  • soy sauce 1TSP
  • Japanese Mirin 1/2 TSP (optional, rice wine with a lower alcohol content and higher sugar content)
  • rice wine 1/2 TSP (optional)
  • oyster sauce 3/4 TSP
  • minced ginger 1TSP
  • minced garlic 1TSP
  • 1 spring onion, finely chopped
  • dumpling wrappers – available in Chinese supermarkets such as here

dumplings-1

The filling:

(1) minced pork

If you are getting the butcher to mince the pork for you, it is advisable to ask the butcher to mince it twice for a smoother texture.  It is also better, texture-/flavour-wise, to contain some fat in there, which will be the case if you are using supermarket-bought pork mince.

dumplings-2

(2) shredded cabbage

  1. Cook the whole cabbage in boiling water for 1 min with lid on
  2. Soak it in icy water to keep the crispiness
  3. Cut them in to thin pieces
  4. Wrap the cold cabbage pieces in a muslin square (yes, the ones left from baby time), twist and squeeze the water out
  5. Keep the cabbage and the mince separated until making the dumpling. This way, it will not make the filling too wet, so as to avoid breaking the wrapper.

The making:

  1. Defrost the wrapper in room temperature.
  2. Find a tray that is clean and dry. dumplings-7
  3. Get a bowl of cold water.
  4. Mix the mince and veg together right before making.
  5. Make sure your hands are clean and dry.
  6. Get a piece of wrapper, gently stretch it from the middle outwards without breaking it.
  7. Put a small amount of the filling mixture in the centre of the wrapper. dumplings-10
  8. Use your finger, dip it in the bowl of water, and run your finger along half of the edge of the wrapper. dumplings-11
  9. Fold the wrapper in half, be careful not to break it, press and make sure that it is stuck together properly and that the filling is sealed inside. Repeat step 6-9.

 

Some people will make fancy folds, like these:

dumplings

(Image source)

Cooking:

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil, maintain high heat. (if the water is not hot enough, the dumplings will stick together)
  2. Put the dumplings in.
  3. Wait until the water boils again, stir gently from time to time, add a cup of cold water, and let the water boil again.
  4. When the dumplings are floating to the top, they are ready. If you are cooking dumplings from frozen, it is better to repeat step 3 again.

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Dressing:

There is no particular measure, mainly add the ingredients and sauces to taste.  I am using:

  1. 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  2. 1 piece of sliced ginger, thinly sliced
  3. 1 spring onion, finely chopped
  4. soy sauce.
  5. vinegar
  6. sesame oil
  7. prickly oil

Now enjoy your home-made dumplings!

We wish you a wonderful, happy, healthy, successful, and prosperous Year of the Rooster!

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Should you avoid burnt toast and roast potatoes?

You may have seen or heard some news headlines this morning about a chemical called Acrylamide. I’ve had a look at the original research quoted, the Food Standard’s Agency website, the European Food Standards Agency as well as a blog by David Spiegelhalter and I thought I’d just clarify the situation for you.

Acrylamide is produced when food is cooked for long temperatures at temperatures higher than 120°C, including grilling, toasting, baking, frying, and roasting. It especially affects foods like potatoes or bread that are high in starch. Acrylamide is present in a large number of foods and it is virtually impossible to remove it completely from your diet.

The Food Standards Agency has today launched a campaign to encourage people to reduce their intake of Acrylamide which has been found to damage DNA and cause cancer in animal studies, however evidence from human studies is limited and inconclusive. This is key.

There is no evidence at present to link the consumption of Acrylamide with humans developing cancer.

The Food Standards Agency thinks there is enough potential of harm to encourage a reduction. Especially in children as they are particularly susceptible to having proportionally larger amounts due to their body weight and preference for starchy foods. You may see the following logo:

Gold medal icon

The Food Standards Agency advice is:

  • Go for Gold – as a general rule of thumb, aim for a golden yellow colour or lighter when frying, baking, toasting or roasting starchy foods like potatoes, root vegetables and bread.
  • Check the pack – follow the cooking instructions carefully when frying or oven-heating packaged food products such as chips, roast potatoes and parsnips. The on-pack instructions are designed to cook the product correctly. This ensures that you aren’t cooking starchy foods for too long or at temperatures which are too high.
  • Eat a varied and balanced diet –aim to meet your 5 a day target of vegetables and fruit, increase fibre intake, have a good variety of food , try to reduce your intake of fried food and red or processed meat
  • Don’t keep raw potatoes in the fridge – if you intend to roast or fry them. Storing raw potatoes in the fridge can increase overall acrylamide levels. Raw potatoes should ideally be stored in a dark, cool place at temperatures above 6°C.

This advice is fairly easy to follow and eating a balanced diet with lots of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains has been shown to reduce the risk of cancer independently of Acrymalide.

My advice is: don’t be too worried! There is no firm evidence that links humans eating acrylamide with cancer, despite a lot of studies which have investigated the subject. If you have burnt toast or well done roast potatoes occasionally it is unlikely that it will be a problem.

If you have got any other concerns, contact your GP or local friendly dietitian 🙂

References / Further reading

https://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/news/2017/15890/families-urged-to-go-for-gold-to-reduce-acrylamide-consumption

https://www.food.gov.uk/science/research/chemical-safety-research/env-cont/fs102081

https://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/topics/topic/acrylamide

https://wintoncentre.maths.cam.ac.uk/news/how-dangerous-burnt-toast

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.2903/j.efsa.2015.4104/pdf

Prawn Linguine

Another one of my favourite recipes, so quick to do and miraculously is a massive hit with my children as well as me and my husband! Don’t often get all 4 liking something! We like it quite spicy but you can add as much or as little chilli as you like.

Prawn linguine

Prep: 5 minutes                Cook: 25 minutes (tops)            Serves: 2 adults and 2 little ones

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes or 1 red chilli chopped (add more if you prefer)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • a good grind of black pepper
  • the rind of one lemon
  • juice of half a lemon
  • fresh coriander
  • 1 packet (200-220g approx.) frozen prawns (ideally king prawns)
  • Linguine/spaghetti – approx 250g

Method

  1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, add the garlic, chilli, basil and black pepper. Cook for 5 minutes to release all the flavours, careful to not burn the garlic.
  2. Meanwhile cook the linguine according to the packet
  3. Add the prawns to the pan, grate on the lemon rind and squeeze in half the juice. A splash of white wine is a nice addition too. Cook until the prawns are cooked through and the pasta is ready.
  4. Drain the linguine then add the prawns with the juices and mix well.
  5. Add a handful of chopped coriander
  6. Serve with a green salad and garlic bread if you fancy more carbs!

Roast Vegetable Pasta Bake

Here’s another one of my favourite one pot recipes, I got the inspiration from a really inspiring cook and eat session in Manchester when I was a student. It’s vegetarian and can very easily be made vegan and cow’s milk protein free if you omit the cheese at the end, or use a soya or coconut based alternative.

This is a really good heart-healthy meal as it’s chock full of vegetables and fibre, especially if you use wholemeal pasta. The chickpeas are a great source of slow release carbohydrate, protein and fibre if you add them in. They make the meal more satisfying. I forgot to add them when I made it this time but I usually do!

It’s also great for kids, the vegetables are chunky enough to set aside if they’re very picky!

I like to make it on a Sunday and have the leftovers on a Monday evening, or you could take them to work to reheat.

Prep: 20 minutes Cook: 45 minutes Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3 red onions chopped into big chunks
  • 3 mixed peppers, chopped into chunks
  • 3 courgettes, sliced thickly
  • 1 aubergine chopped into chunks or pack of mushrooms chunkily chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 400g tin chickpeas (optional)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 500g passata
  • 300g wholemeal pasta
  • 150g cheese (cheddar/mozzarella) or dairy-free alternative

Method

  • Arrange the vegetables and drained chickpeas if using in a large roasting tin, pour over the olive oil and sprinkle over the oregano, give it a good mix. Roast at 200oC (180oC fan) for approx. 30 minutes or until soft
  • Meanwhile cook the pasta until al dente
  • Pour the passata over the veg and mix in the pasta
  • Put back in the oven for 10 minutes
  • Sprinkle over the cheese if using then put back in to melt
  • Serve with a green salad or garlic bread if you want it to feed more people.

A great place to find other heart healthy recipes is the British Heart Foundation recipe finder page.