Dumpling Month part 1 – spinach and tofu (vegan)

Vegan
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You may or may not already know this, but I have a mild (to moderate) obsession with dumplings. If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, it would probably be some form of dumpling. And when I say probably, I mean definitely. The challenge would be what type of dumpling. Preferably a selection. A ‘mezze’ of dumplings, covering all the best flavours.

I think 50% of why I like dumplings is the fact that I drown them in vinegar and chilli oil. Sometimes the dumpling is more a doughy, vegetable filled vehicle transporting dumpling condiments to my mouth. When my friend told me she only ever used soy sauce as a dipping sauce, I literally stopped eating mid-bite. What?! What are dumplings without vinegar and chilli?! I shudder at the thought.
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Considering my healthy love for dumplings, recently I felt a building pressure to make my own. But I was so nervous! For some reason I thought dumplings were one of the hardest things to make, ever. reserved for the realm of highly talented chefs working in restaurants.

But when I saw these beautiful dumplings and these I felt slightly reassured that it could indeed be done at home. Commence the Sugar and Cinnamon dumpling month. That’s right, this whole month I’m going to explore the impossible, magical world of dumpling making and hopefully come out with some life-time skills and a whole freezer-full of dumplings, ready to get in my belly.
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To kick off I made the simplest dumplings, that also happen to be my favourite. I made the classic flour and boiling water dumpling dough, with a classic mixed veggie and tofu filling. I actually managed to crimp my dumplings. Yes, they look a little funky. I didn’t have to worry about finding which ones were perfect for my photos, because not a single one came out perfect. They each had their own lopsided, floury charm that just could not be tamed.

I definitely recommend making these with a friend. Otherwise the rolling and cutting of the dough can take a really long time and it may even dry out a little before you finish filling them all. I watched this video before I started and it was really helpful seeing how to actually do it in action. I definitely did not make a video of myself shaping dumplings because I am highly uncoordinated and my dumplings came out looking like little trolls, but maybe one day I will be dumpling GIF quality.

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I’m so excited about how these turned out! They were so yummy. Just as I went to cook them I realised our steamer has mysteriously gone missing, so I had to make do with boiling a few and pan-frying a few. Both worked well, but I think steaming would be the ultimate here. Post-stickers are always lots of fun, but I might save that challenge for the next instalment of dumpling fun.

You can always buy wonton wrappers as well, but the dough is super easy to make. And the dumplings come out tasting so fresh and soft and just uuugh. Amazing. If you don’t have vinegar and chilli, go out and buy some. Seriously! You will not regret it 🙂

One Year AgoHummingbird Maple Cake
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Vegetarian Dumplings: Adapted from this recipe
Makes about 30
For the dough:
2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup boiling water (plus a few teaspoons extra, in case)

Put the flour and salt in a bowl and whisk well to get out any lumps. Boil the water (measuring it after in case some is lost as steam) and pour in a trickling, continuous stream into the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon as you go until a crumbly dough forms.

Turn the dough out on to a clean, lightly floured surface and knead for 2-3 minutes until the dough comes together. You may need to add a pinch more of water or flour to reach a soft, usable consistency. Put the dough into a sealed container for at least fifteen minutes (no longer than 2 hours) to let is rest before filling.

Cut the dough into four even pieces, and place all but one back in the container. Roll out with a rolling pin to 1/8 inch thickness (not too thin or they will fall apart as they cook) and cut with a cookie cutter into rounds. Lightly flour the rounds and keep on a plate covered in baking paper until ready to use.
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For the filling:
1 cup shredded English spinach
0.5 cup shredded napa cabbage
1/2 a carrot, grated
175g (6 oz) firm tofu, chopped into tiny pieces
60g mushrooms, chopped
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp grated ginger
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 stalk green onion, finely diced

To make the filling, mix all the ingredients well until combined. Holding a dumpling wrapper in your hand, use a dessert spoon to put about half a spoonful of filling into the middle of the wrapper. Use your fingers to hold up the sides kind of like you are holding a taco. Use your thumb and other hand to crimp the side closest to you against the opposite side, closing the end. Push the filling in a little further to get in as much as possible (this gets easier as you get a feel for it. No one likes an under-filled dumpling!)

Continue to crimp the side closest to you against the other half of the dumpling, completely enclosing the filling and sealing off the end. Complete the rest of the dumplings. Store on a plate covered with baking paper and try to stop them touching, to prevent sticking. You can either freeze them straight away on the plate and then store them in a ziplock bag, or steam/boil them for about 5 minutes until tender and cooked through. Serve with vinegar and chilli oil.
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Brown Rice Hippie Sushi (vegan, gluten free)

Vegan, Gluten Free, Low Fat

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When I eat this sushi I feel like a spiritual nature loving Buddha. It’s so green and crunchy and ‘healthy’ tasting. I know that can be a bad thing (wheat grass shots I’m looking at you) but here it’s a super yummy thing. It’s one of those meals where you feel like you just undid the entire week of bad eating that came before (I’m sorry tub of ice cream for destroying you).

It took me so long to get my sushi making skills up to scratch. The first time I tried my level of failure was actually ridiculous. There was probably an entire cup of rice I was trying to squeeze on the one roll. I ended up just throwing it in a bowl and eating it like a sad sushi salad. I think I’ve got it pretty much perfect now! And you can customise this recipe to make it as fancy or as simple as you want.
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I can’t believe how easy it is to make if you actually know what you’re doing. This morning I was on major struggle street (way waaay too much lolly water last night). I was so wobbly taking an overhead shot I literally almost dropped my camera on the avocado. That would have just been too much to handle. But I still managed! I brought a huge plate of sushi to my friend’s lunch and felt like a sushi superstar.

A few key points I have gathered on the way to perfect sushi status: The rice should be brown. It is so much more flavoursome and textured than white rice. Sorry generations of skilled Japanese chefs, I’m going to have to pull rank on you with this one. My tastebuds would like to officially make brown rice sushi the next big thing.
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When putting the rice on the seaweed, leave a generous gap on either edge so that you can properly seal it. Make sure you push your rice right to the other edges, otherwise you’ll lose filling from either end. It will be so sooo sad when you cut it and end up with a deconstructed seaweed bowl.

Use thinly sliced very fresh veggies like carrot, cucumber, lettuce, radish, shallot, whatever you like eating really. But don’t put too much filling! AND DON’T YOU DARE LEAVE OUT THE AVOCADO. It’s so wrong on so many levels. You don’t need to include the teriyaki tofu, but it adds some protein as well as a sweet flavour. You could always replace it with egg or fish if that is your thing.

And make sure to serve your sushi with lots of wasabi and pickled ginger! I know wasabi is a bit unnecessary with vegetarian sushi, but it makes it so much nicer so once again Lil the Queen of Sushi would like to publicly announce the importance of wasabi and override those that disagree.

One Year Ago: Banana Layer Cake with Maple Icing

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Healthy Brown Rice Sushi Rolls
Makes enough for 6-8 large rolls
1 packet dried nori sheets
3 cups brown rice
pinch of salt
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 carrot, julienned
1 large cucumber, seeded and julienned
1 large handful of lettuce, chopped in strips
1 large ripe avocado
250g (1/2 pound) of firm tofu
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp honey or agave syrup for vegan
1 tsp chopped ginger
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 TBSP chilli oil
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Cook the rice according to packet instructions or using the absorbing method, in a pot with 5 cups of water and the salt, covered, for about half an hour until dry. Take the lid off and stir through the vinegar, then spoon in to a bowl and mix it around to let the heat escape. Chop all the greens and set aside. Chop up the tofu in to matchsticks and pour over the marinade ingredients. Fry in the chilli oil until crispy and set aside.

To roll the sushi, make sure the rice is quite cool otherwise the seaweed will crinkle up around it and make it hard to roll. Place a sheet on the bamboo matt (you can roll it if you want by hand). Spoon about 4 tbsp of brown rice in to the centre of the seaweed and use the spoon to spread it evenly across the middle in a wide strip, leaving a gap on each horizontal edge. On the edge closest to you, lay a strip of each vegetable, a thin strip of avocado and the tofu. Grab the edge of matt closest to you and firmly, with no hesitation, roll the matt over to encompass all the fillings and then continue to roll and tighten with your hands as you go. Chop into 5-6 pieces and repeat. Serve with soy sauce and pickled ginger, as soon as possible.
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