March 28, 2012
Yep, the first Spring bento that I make after a long “bento-break”! Actually… I can’t even consider we have Spring yet! *lol*
There is still plenty of snow everywhere but surprisingly it is melting relatively fast. Uh, I really hate this time of the year… everything is still so brown, dusty, slushy and all kinds of ugly stuff gets uncovered when the snow goes away. I am totally looking forward to see green, sprouts and flowers :)
Until the time comes, we need to cheer up ourselves with imaginary bunnies and chicks >_< …
Inside the boxes: Lettuce bed with a bunny onigiri (cheeks made of carrot and nose made of sausage), tamagoyaki chick with carrot beak, steamed broccoli, mini plum tomato, spinach with ponzu sauce, nitrate and msg free pan fried hot dogs. Smaller box contains sweet corn, raw carrots, broccoli, red grapes and a clementine.
Note the cute new bunny pick I got! Thanks to a special bento friend ^_^.
How´s the Spring / Autumn where you live? Hope nice!!
March 25, 2012
Sunday mornings… as a school kid, weekends were the best, I could sleep long and drag myself from bed for a late breakfast. I have clear memories from some of those days… coming to the kitchen and noticing the smell of nira (garlic chives) in the air, was almost like immediate happiness. I knew we were making gyoza for dinner and confirmed my theories by opening the fridge just to find a small ball of dough wrapped in a damp towel there.
Making gyoza was always a family activity for me. My dad would make the dough and roll it very thin, cutting the gyoza skins/wrappers with the lid of our tea box (it was a metallic one and way better than any round cookie cutter ^_^), my mother prepared the vegetable-meat filling and taught me and my sister to assemble the dumplings. So fun… And we always made lots! Enough for a happy feast at night.
For those unfamiliar to it, gyoza is a dumpling, with its origins in the Chinese cuisine. It consists typically of ground meat mixed with cabbage (although my mother told me I can use napa cabbage too), green onions, garlic and garlic chives (nira) wrapped into a thinly rolled round piece of dough. Usually eaten pan-fried/steamed with a dipping sauce.
The gyoza wrappers (the dough) are certainly laborious to make, I made them a couple of times from scratch here in Finland. Nowadays I can buy ready ones (frozen) from Asian food stores (for Finnish readers,Tokyokan and Aseanic Trading have them), it saves a lot of time when wanting to make the gyoza.
The recipe I share here is an adaptation of how I´ve learned to make gyoza from my mother. Her measures are not that exact (isn´t it amazing how moms have those “special” dishes that don’t have actual recipes just directions?), after trials and adjustments, according to what I have available, this is the one I use the most.
Gyoza – Japanese potstickers
It made 48 generously filled dumplings for us. As forming them requires a bit of practice (sealing and crimping), I´d recommend to use a smaller amount of filling in each, using 3 packs of 24-piece gyoza wrappers instead.
- 2 packages of gyoza wrappers (thaw them overnight in the fridge, sealed in the original package)
- 500 g ground pork (Finnish readers, 400 g package will do fine).
- 400 g napa cabbage, finely chopped (kiinankaali)
- 3-4 chopped scallions (or half scallions and half garlic chives/nira if you find it, I usually don’t)
- 1 grated garlic clove
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp grated ginger (I sometimes omit)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce (please read the notes below)
- pinch of sugar
- vegetable oil for frying
- water (1/2 cup per batch when frying)
- sesame oil (for each batch of frying gyoza)
For the dipping sauce
- soy sauce
- rice vinegar
- sesame oil
- chili oil (Rayu)
Put the chopped napa cabbage in a big recipient and sprinkle salt over it rubbing the cabbage with your hands. This will make the cabbage “sweat”. Let sit for 15 minutes, drain and squeeze the cabbage firmly to remove the excess of moisture.
In another big bowl, place all the ingredients (except the oil and water for frying the gyoza). Knead well with your hands until the meat mixture becomes “sticky”.
Assembling the gyoza
Prepare to form the dumplings. Have a little bowl with water, a clean chopping board (or a flat plate), a baking tray with parchment paper, the wrappers (keep them inside the package) and the filling. I usually “pre-divide” the filling into small equal balls to make sure I have enough to fill all the wrappers. Or use a teaspoon for measuring.
Ready to go!
Place one wrapper on the palm of your hand, dip your finger in water and moist the edges of the wrapper.
Put about one teaspoonful of the filling in the middle (you can add more after some practicing) fold the wrapper in half, pressing firmly only the top middle of it.
From the middle to right, start sealing the wrapper by placing a pleat every 1cm. When you are done with this side, pleat the left one. The final result is a dumpling that is flat on one side and all pleated on the other. Make sure the gyoza is well crimped to avoid the filling to escape during the cooking process.
Put the ready dumplings on the prepared tray and repeat with the rest of your wrappers.
Obs: I used to pleat the gyoza all the way from left to right but found out (on Maki´s Just Hungry blog) it is much easier the way I demonstrated above . Alternatively, you can form your gyozas like showed here, on Lovely Lanvin blog.
Cooking the gyoza
The most common way is to cook them is combining shallow pan frying and steaming.
In a large non-stick frying pan (which has a lid) , heat the vegetable oil on medium-high heat. Place the gyoza into the pan, together in rows (it will be easier to remove them when flipping onto the serving plate).
Have your 1/2 cup water ready near your working station and the lid of your frying pan.
When the bottoms of the gyoza get browned, turn the heat to low and cover the pan with the lid. Hold the water in one hand and with the other, grab the lid uncovering the pan slightly, pouring the water in at the same time. Quickly cover the pan again and steam the dumplings until most of the water evaporates.
When the water is almost gone, remove the lid, turn the heat up to high and let any remaining water evaporate. Drizzle with a bit of sesame oil and cook uncovered until the gyoza gets crisp on the bottom.
Using a spatula, remove from the pan onto a serving place, crispy side up.
Serve immediately with the dipping sauce on the side.
The dipping sauce is a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar and a few drops of chili oil (Rayu) or sesame oil.
Pork based gyoza fillings are the most usual ones but there are other variations. You can use half pork and half beef mince, ground chicken or finely chopped shrimp. It is possible to make vegetarian gyozas using mushrooms or other vegetables.
As I said previously, the recipe above is the one I use the most. Sometimes I feel like adding freshly ground pepper and miso-paste to the filling. Actually, my mom´s recipe includes both… but it is difficult to say the right amounts to be used.
Talking about amounts… the filling of the gyoza must be tasty but not over salty. Remember you are going to dip the ready ones in a soy based sauce, so go carefully and know your ingredients. The quantity of salt in soy sauces and miso pastes can differ considerably. If in doubt, always put less than what the recipe requires, fry or microwave a tiny bit of the filling and try it before assembling the dumplings. You can then adjust and fix the seasonings.
March 22, 2012
A couple of months ago my daughters got a cooking book from the book club we belong to. The book is in Finnish and the title translates to ” Hellapoliisi – My first recipes. Learn to cook!”
My girls were very enthusiastic about trying all the recipes, they are very kid-oriented (in other words, easy to follow and execute) and covers pretty much many traditional meals from Finnish households.
While browsing the book with the girls I told I could help to make some of the recipes with them, the first one being a classic tray bake cake called “mokkapalat“.
Yesterday I was woken up by my smaller daughter pushing the book against my head telling “mommy, we were supposed to bake that mocha cake today remember?” . UH, do I pay for my silly promises??
I have tried a different recipe for the same cake before. It is really a classic sweet treat and as you can guess, it is very “sugary”. Here in Finland they are a traditional pairing for coffee but kids happily eat them with a glass of cold milk.
Mokkapalat – Mocha squares
from this book . Yields about 20 squares or one baking tray*
*note: it is quite common that Finnish ovens come with baking trays, one flat and another slightly deeper. I used the deep one and it measures aprox. 35 cm x 32 cm . If you don’t have such, you can use Swiss roll pan or the biggest rectangular baking pan you find. Nevertheless, the cake might become a bit taller if you do so.
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 3 dl caster sugar (1dl = 85g)
- 4 1/2 dl wheat flour (1dl=65g)
- 1/2 dl cocoa powder (I used Valrhona)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 150 g melted unsalted butter. Save 1/2 dl for the icing
- 1 dl milk
For the icing
- 300 g icing sugar
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1/2 dl melted unsalted butter
- 1/2 dl hot strong coffee
- sprinkles or shredded dry coconut
Line your baking tray with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 225 °C.
Place the eggs and sugar into the bowl of your mixer and whisk until light and fluffy.
In a separate bowl mix together the rest of the dry ingredients, using a sieve if necessary.
Remove the bowl from your mixer and start adding the flour mixture. Add the milk and at last, fold carefully the melted butter.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking tin and use a spatula to even the surface.
Bake for 13-15 minutes in the middle of your oven, until risen and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
When the tray has come out from the oven, prepare the icing by mixing all the ingredients together. The icing will look like a thick chocolate paste. Spread evenly onto the warm cake and immediately sprinkle your choice of decoration (we used hundreds and thousands ^_^)
Allow to set. Cut into squares and remove from the baking tray.
I also made Hello Kitty mocha mini cakes using a cookie cutter. The perfect small size for little girls ;)!
February went so fast! LV (my oldest daughter) had her Winter break last week so we took the opportunity to visit my sister-in-law on a long delicious weekend. It was really nice to meet my SIL´s family! My girls enjoyed playing with their sweet cousin a lot.
Now it is March and we are back to the routines… this week has been exceptionally busy and I added one more thing to get annoyed with… by falling on the sidewalk when picking the kiddo from pre school. Gosh! The weather is so inconsistent, one day is cold and snowy and the next, temperatures goes over 0°C. I was pulling my daughter´s sled downhill and to avoid her to slide away I might have stepped wrong and slipped on the ice. Yep, a twisted split for the amuse of my daughter :D. Hahaha, a clumsy grand ecárt landing on my right hip. Go figure… my thigh is so sore I walk like a zombie. >_<
Ok! Now back to what this blog is about :D (I´ll do fine, no worries ;)
Because of our trip I somehow missed the Twitter Food Party this month… sort of. It was last Monday and the theme was Oranges! (If you have twitter, check the hashtag #twitterorangeparty) . Gladly I have the timezones on my side and I baked something on Tuesday to contribute for the potluck (cheating…)! I posted some pictures already via instagram and now I share the recipe!
Check also my friends´ Orange dishes on the #twitterfoodparty Flickr pool !!
Mini orange cakes with dark chocolate core
Recipe adapted from the Finnish magazine Glorian Ruoka & Viini n°40 7/2006
Yields 24 mini cakes (plus 5 normal sized)
- 100g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 dl caster sugar
- 1 dl demerara sugar
- 2 eggs
- 5 dl wheat flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 200g natural yoghurt (6% fat) . I used Bulgarian yogurt.
- 1 orange (juice and zest)
- dark chocolate (about 50g, cut into cubes) – optional
Preheat oven to 200 °C and line a 24-hole mini muffin tin with paper cases. Prepare to get some extra cases if necessary.
Place the butter, sugars and orange zest into the bowl of your mixer and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder and baking soda.
Remove the bowl from your mixer and start adding alternately the flour mixture and yogurt, in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour. At last, fold carefully the orange juice.
Spoon the mixture into the cases, place one piece of dark chocolate into the middle of each cup. Using a teaspoon, move a bit of the mixture to cover totally the chocolate piece.
Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until risen and golden-brown and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool.
If you want to eat your cake with a slightly melted chocolate core, microwave the ready ones for a few seconds before serving. Delicious with a cup of tea!!
OH! And I almost forgot!! Days ago my messy blog was nominated for the Liebster Blog Award by the lovely Ana from I love tortilla de Patatas! Thank you Ana!! So sweet of you :)! Check her beautiful blog, she is a darling Spanish girl who, after living in many places, ended up in the Netherlands ^_^. It is recent that I started following her (via twitter first) but I am totally hypnotized by her photography and delicious recipes! And YES, I also love tortilla de patatas!! Who doesn’t?