Kitchen experiments

I love the alchemy of cooking and baking – how mixing certain ingredients together can result in something deliciously pleasurable. I especially love the effect that good food has on people – that ooh after the first bite, the satisfied sigh.

I’m no kitchen witch. Some of my experiments have been disastrous. My first attempt at making my partner’s favourite yoghurt tart, for example, looked like watery sludge. But when a recipe works, whether its homemade sausage rolls, poached eggs, chicken dumplings, Yorkshire puddings or pampoenkoekies, there’s truly nothing better.

Sometimes I like to be adventurous, especially when it comes to fad food and trickier dishes. (I am yet to master sushi, but when I do, expect a how-to post).

After trying home-made potstickers at a friend’s house, I was determined to make them myself. I hardly ever venture out to the city for dim sum, and after realising just how simple it is to make, I might never do so again. I used the core ingredients from a Jamie Oliver recipe (link below) with my own additions.

What you’ll need:
Wonton papers (available at Chinese supermarkets – I found mine at China Town in Sable Square)
Pork mince (500g makes plenty)
2 spring onions, finely sliced
Pak choi, shredded (150g more or less)
Grated ginger (a thumbnail size piece)
Chopped garlic (one big clove or two small ones)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar (optional)
A squeeze of sriracha (optional)

  • Mix all the ingredients together in a big bowl and leave aside.
  • You can make your potstickers the traditional dumpling way. Here’s how Jamie does it.  I make mine into little envelopes, which is how my friend’s daughter showed me.
  • Keep a bowl of water handy. Dip your fingers and place a wonton sheet in front of you like a diamond with the point facing down.
  • Roll a small ball of the mix and place on the corner of the wonton paper. Roll the sheet over the ball and again to tuck it in.
  • Fold in the side corners and press with your wet fingers to keep them in place. Fold the top corner down like an envelope.
  • Heat some sesame oil in a pan and fry a small batch of dumplings on one side till they’re golden and crispy. Don’t turn them over.
  • This sounds weird, but pour a cup (150ml) of water into the pan and when it starts to simmer, close with a lid or tin foil. Leave for 6-7 minutes till the dumplings are translucent and all the water is gone.
  • Remove the lid and let the bottoms crisp up again before taking them out and making the next batch. It could take a while, so put something entertaining on while you work. (I had Rick and Morty playing in the background.)
  • Serve with dipping sauce and sprinkle with toasted black sesame seeds. Yum.

I used Jamie’s Oliver’s dipping sauce recipe. Mix together the following:
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoon chilli oil

Ramen is another favourite that’s delicious and super easy to make.

You’ll need:
A packet of noodles of your choice (I use microwaveable udon noodles from Woolworths.)
1 teaspoon fish sauce (you can also use dashi or miso for a lovely warming broth)
2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
Toppings of your choice

  • Make the noodles according to the packet instructions and place in your serving bowl.
  • Now layer with whatever you want inside your ramen – shitake mushrooms, pak choi, strips of nori, half a boiled egg, sliced spring onions, edamame beans, slices of medium rare steak or pulled pork, some red chilli.
  • On the stove, heat a cup of water with the fish sauce, rice wine vinegar and soy sauce.
  • Pour your broth over the bowl of goodness.
  • Finish with a sprinkling of Chinese five spice and start slurping.

Poke

Poke is a craze I just had to try at home, although my version turned into a glorified sushi salad – totally on purpose of course, because I love sushi.

Truth be told, this is probably the entirely wrong way to make it, but it doesn’t really matter. The beauty of trying new things means you can get away with anything so long as the results are tasty.

If you’d like to try, here’s what I did.

  • Place a spoonful of wasabi at the bottom of a bowl and top with prepared sushi rice.
  • Layer with your favourite things – sliced salmon dressed in sweet soy sauce, edamame beans, sliced or cubed avocado, strips of nori, some sliced pickled red onion, pickled ginger, finely sliced cucumber – whatever you want.
  • Top with Chinese five spice and toasted black sesame seeds.

I added sushi mayo to mine which made the poke a little bit too rich.

What’s your favourite cooking experiment?

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