Mushroom Dumplings

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There’s nothing like dumplings. Where else can you find a food so fun, so perfectly bite-sized, and so delicious? I can eat huge quantities of dumplings at a sitting, and, indeed, last night I did exactly that. Using a food processor to make the filling and using pre-made wrappers makes this fairly quick (about half an hour), although still a little fiddly. However, for dumplings this good, who cares?

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Mushroom Dumplings (makes about 40)

2 carrots

175g mushrooms

6 spring onions

2 teaspoons sesame oil

3 teaspoons soy sauce

1 small knob fresh ginger, grated

2 teaspoons corn flour

40 dumpling wrappers/pastry circles

Cut the carrots and mushrooms into small pieces, using a food processor, and finely slice the spring onions. Mix all the other ingredients together in a bowl until fully combined. Take a dumpling wrapper, and place a spoonful of mixture in the centre of it. Wet half the edge, and press together into a dumpling shape. Steam in batches for 5-10 minutes, and serve hot with your favourite dipping sauce.

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Elderflower Champagne Jelly

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This isn’t really a recipe, more of me being excited about jelly. Not enough attention is paid to jelly, in my opinion. It is true that most commercial jelly is pretty bleak, veering from the “nice but I feel like I’m five” to the “this colour is almost certainly illegal in norway, and several other enlightened northern European nations”. But home made jelly is amazing. With a packet of unflavoured gelatin, you can create interesting and enjoyable jellies from any combination of juices, fruits and alcohol. In this jelly, I used some leftover homemade elderflower champagne, strained it through cloth to get it clear (optional), heated it with sugar and gelatin, then let it set. For a less potent jelly (I wouldn’t advise driving after bowl of this), I would add water as well, as I do in my red wine jelly. I think there are going to be a lot of jelly recipes coming.

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To see lots more pretty jellies, check out what the women at Joy of Jello create. I can’t wait to try their homemade marshmallows.

Mushrooms and Noodles with Black Bean Sauce

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Here’s another of those great weeknight meals. The cumulative cooking and preparation time is barely 15 minutes, it is hearty and satisfying, and the taste is amazing. The black bean sauce is rich and salty, and pairs well with the thick noodles and hunks of mushroom. Serve in big bowls with chopsticks, sprinkles with spring onions or fried shallots.

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Mushrooms and Noodles with Black Bean Sauce (serves 2)

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

15 medium brown mushrooms

1/4 cup black bean sauce

1/4 cup water

400g udon noodles, or other thick noodles

sesame oil, for frying

Finely chop the onion and garlic, and roughly slice the mushrooms. Heat sesame oil (about 1-2 tablespoons) in a frying pan or wok, and fry the onions for a few minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms, and cook until the mushrooms are tender and reduced in size. Add the water and black bean sauce, and mix to fully combine. Add the noodles, and continue cooking until they are hot. Serve immediately.

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Source: Adapted from Lynelle Scott Aitken’s “Vegetarian Asian”

Toffee Ice Cream

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I’ve made many many ice creams, but I think that I’m prepared to say that this is the best so far. It has a wonderful taste of toffee, which is beautifully balanced by the rich creaminess of the ice cream. It’s also really pretty – a lovely golden brown/caramel – and is simple, with only four ingredients. What needs more introduction than that?

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Toffee Ice cream (makes about 750mL)

200mL golden syrup, + 50mL for layers

250mL cream

250mL milk

3 egg yolks

 

Warm the milk in a saucepan; while it heats separate the eggs and beat the yolks together with 200mL golden syrup. When the milk is warm, add the egg and syrup mix, and continue to heat, stirring until thick. Once the mixture has thickened, remove from the heat and leave in the fridge until cold. Once this is done, whip the cream until stiff and fold into the custard, mixing thoroughly.

 

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Place in an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Remove your ice cream from the machine and place into an ice cream container, layering ice cream with swirls of golden syrup. Place in the freezer to finish freezing.

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Note: home made ice cream will become quite hard when left in the freezer. This doesn’t hurt the ice cream – all you need to do it place it in the fridge for about 20 minutes before you serve it, to give it time to soften.

Source: adapted from C & R Weir’s “Ice Creams, Sorbets & Gelati”

Dried Apricot Sorbet

I’d be the first to admit it. I have posted a lot of ice cream on here lately, and in fact have more to come. I did have other things to post – African peanut soup, mango and egg curry – but somehow it seems that when I sit down to post something, it’s the ice cream that really attracts me. I wonder why that is. 

I have been making an awful lot of ice creams and sorbets over the last few weeks. I blame the combination of hot weather, and an amazing recipe book I got from the library. Caroline and Robin Weir’s ‘Ice Creams, Sorbets & Gelati: the definitive guide’ is just that, filling over three hundred pages and having a wealth of delicious recipes. Golden syrup ice cream? Of course. Mint Julep Ice Cream? Sounds amazing. Caviar Ice Cream? Maybe not. But it’s all very exciting. I made this one to go with a moroccan main last night. I love the dusty, sweet dried apricot, just cut by the lemon and almond. Best of all, you can make it in any season.

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Dried Apricot Sorbet (makes about 1 litre)

250g dried apricots

1L water

1 1/4 cups white sugar

2 lemons, juiced

2 drops almond essence

 

Soak the apricots in 750mL of water for an hour, then bring them to the boil and simmer until tender.

 

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Liquidise/blend until smooth.

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Make a sugar syrup by boiling the sugar with the rest of the water, until it has dissolved. Leave both parts of cool. When cold, combine the two, and add the almond essence and lemon juice. Place in an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Strawberry Ice Cream

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Today is so hot. Like, really hot. I got up at eight to walk into town to meet a friend for breakfast (pancakes with strawberries and cream!), and it was already hot then. Unusually for Wellington, there was no chill in the air, nor any wind, just thick layers of heat hanging over Oriental Bay. By eleven o’clock it was like walking in a glass house.

The conclusion being (a) I should start wearing sunscreen, and that (b) it is clearly time for ice cream. I made a large batch of this strawberry ice cream a few days ago, and have been joyfully eating my way through it ever since. I can’t rave enough about how good it is, and how wonderful it is to eat an ice cream that actually tastes of strawberries, and is really creamy. The flavour of this is incredible, and I thoroughly recommend it.

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Strawberry Ice Cream (makes about 1 litre)

2 cups strawberries

50mL water

1 cup sugar

300mL cream

2 egg yolks

400mL whole milk

1 teaspoon cornflour

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

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Remove the green parts from the strawberries and chop into smaller pieces, until you have two cups worth.

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Place in a small saucepan with half the sugar and all the water. Cook over medium heat until the berries are soft and collapsing. Meanwhile, mix the cornflour with a small amount of the milk to make a paste, then add this, the rest of the milk, egg yolks and vanilla to a larger pan, and cook on a low heat. Stir constantly until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat. Now leave both the strawberry mixture and the custard until completely cold. Once they are cold, liquids the strawberry mixture until smooth, and whip the cream until stiff. Gently stir the custard mixture, whipped cream, and strawberry mixture together until they are evenly mixed. Place into an ice cream maker and process according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

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Pineapple and Pea Stir Fry, with Mint

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Let’s be honest. Not all stir-fries are created equal. There are two kinds, really. There is the have-to-use-up-the-vegetables kind, where you throw everything in the fridge into a wok, slightly randomly add asianesque condiments, and eat it five minutes later. That definitely has merits, and I make it a lot. Then there is the second kind, where the flavours are balanced, and vegetables and colours complement each other, where you eat it and go, “wow, that’s a stir-fry”.

This dish is a perfect balance between speed (15-20 minutes) and flavour. The noodles give it substance, while the combination of peas, pineapple and cashews is a wonderful mix of the fresh, sweet and salty. My favourite bit is definitely the mint. It gives a fragrant undertone to the standard sweet-salty tastes that makes this very memorable. Put it this way. I said wow.

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Pineapple and Pea Stir Fry, with Mint (serves 3)

2 small red onions

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 knob ginger, minced

1/2 head broccoli, broken into florrets

1 cup pineapple pieces

1small handful snow peas, cut into diagonal slices

3/4 cup peas, fresh or frozen

1/3 cup salted whole cashew nuts

1 Tablepoon fresh mint, torn into pieces

2 Tablespoons sweet chili sauce

4 Tablespoons tamari/soy sauce

3 pasta nests of egg pasta (could also use rice noodles, vermicelli etc.)

Splash of oil for frying

Cook the pasta in a saucepan of water until al dente (cooked but still firm). While doing this, slice the onions into fine half rings, and fry in a small amount of oil.

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Add the garlic and ginger, and cook until fragrant.

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Add the broccoli, and cook for a few minutes, then add the pineapple, cashew nuts, peas and snow peas.

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Once the pasta is cooked, drain and chop into short lengths. Add to the vegetable mixture and continue to cook, adding the mint, soy sauce and sweet chili sauce. Cook until the broccoli is cooked but still firm, and serve immediately.

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Mild Mango Ice Cream

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I was reading a cook book today. As far as stories go, that wasn’t a particularly good one, as I (and many other people) read cook books quite often. It was, however, exciting for me, as this one holds a special place in my heart. It is from the 1960s, and still from an time where everything was good for you. Cream? Good for bones and teeth. Lots of eggs? Extra nutrition. Sugar? Gives you energy. It was with this principle firmly in mind that I have settled into another bout of ice cream making.

This ice cream is a beautiful rich yellow, a product not only of the mango, but also of the fresh cream and egg yolks. Unlike the predominantly milk ice creams we buy in shops, this is half cream, giving it a heavy silkiness and softness. The mango is cooked in this recipe, which takes its flavour from the usual sharpness and turns it very mild. It does not dominate, but rather complements the taste of the vanilla and of the custard base. I love it.

Finally, a brief note on ice cream makers. I have one and use it, but it is perfectly possible to make ice cream without one, and I’ve done this several times. If you don’t have a machine, that is no reason not to try ice cream making. When you reach the stage of the recipe when you pour it into the ice cream maker, place it instead in the freezer, and remove it several times during the freezing, mix it well, and return to the freezer.

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Mild Mango Ice Cream (makes about 700mL)

300mL cream

300mL whole milk

2 egg yolks

1 tablespoon natural vanilla essence

1 mango

3/4 cup of white sugar

Mix the eggs, sugar, milk and cream together and place in a large saucepan. Cut all the flesh you can from the mango, dice it, and add it to the cream mixture. Place over heat, and stir until it comes to the boil and begins to rapidly increase in volume. Remove from the heat and leave for a few minutes to cool.

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Pour the mixture through a sieve into a bowl, using a wooden spoon to push as much of the mango through as possible, leaving only the fibre.

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Leave the cream mixture to cool completely. When it is cold, place in the ice cream maker, and process according to the manufacturer’s directions (usually until the consistency of a very thick smoothie is reached). Place in a container in the freezer, covering the top with a sheet of wax paper or gladwrap, and leave until fully frozen. Home made ice cream is best eaten within a few days of making.

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And here’s a photo of my cat watching me make it…

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Quick Lemon/Lime Tarts

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Although I am usually a stickler for making things like tart shells, sometimes you just need convenience. Especially in the Christmas/New Year/Barbecue season. It is great to be able to go into the kitchen for five minutes and emerge with a plate of pretty tarts, which look just as pretty (and taste just as good) as a plate of cup cakes that would take an hour to prepare. I’ve made numerous variations on these tarts over the years, and they are always a hit: light, creamy, fragrant with citrus, with a satisfying crunch from the pastry shell. You can, of course, make your own tart shells, but I find that the purchased ready-made ones work perfectly well. The tarts pictured here are lime, but lemon is both more traditional and equally delicious.

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Quick Lemon/Lime Tarts (makes 12)

1 cup cream (approximate)

1.5 tablespoons lime/lemon curd

12 pack sweet short pastry shells

grated lime/lemon zest for decoration (optional)

Whip the cream until thick. Mix in the lime/lemon curd and stir through until evenly distributed. Curds vary hugely in how strong their flavour is, so add a little to the cream, taste, and add more if you want a stronger citrus flavour. If your tart shells are large, increase the volume of cream and curd. Once mixed, pour into a piping bag with a large nozzle, or a clean plastic bag with a small hole in the end (I haven’t yet figured out how to assemble my piping bag, so normally just do this). Swirl the cream filling into the empty tart cases, and arrange on a plate. If using, sprinkle grated zest on top.

Rice Pudding

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I haven’t posted for a really long time. It’s quite shocking, really. Even I’m shocked, and I’m the one who did it. I’ve had the awful combination of exams, then starting work, plus an absolutely horrible ear infection (it’s been a long time since I managed to sleep through the night), which is proving unpleasantly antibiotic resistent. 

I have been cooking, however, and have some nice recipes lined up to share. Yesterday I made the Oreo Pound Cake from Baking Bites, which was lots of fun. I made Pad Thai last night, and many many really good salads. If you’re lucky, you might even get to hear about my somewhat scary encounter with cooking an artichoke (think the lobster scene from Julie and Julia). I also make rice pudding the other day. Rice pudding is wonderful, I love it. It is the easiest thing ever to make, and when cooked properly, it comes out sticky and creamy, with a delicate caramel taste. There are very few puddings that offer such reward for so little effort. There’s no photo for this, as few thing in the world are less photogenic than a rice pudding.

 

Rice Pudding (serves 3)

600mL milk

50g short grain white rice

55g white sugar

1 tablespoon butter

sprinkle of nutmeg

 

Mix the dry ingredients together in an oven dish, then add the milk and stir. Drop in the butter, then sprinkle the top with nutmeg. Bake in a cool oven (about 150 degrees celsius) for 2-2.5 hours, or until brown on top and sticky and cooked inside. Serve hot.