Sunday, January 30, 2011

Chinese New Year

My first of these posts were going to start on Tuesday when the festival starts, but this was too good not to share right away.

Also my deepest apologies for not posting for a few weeks, the pipes under my sink had exploded after many years of not being happy. So it halted any cooking and thus no pictures to share with my recipes. But crisis is averted!

So here is my Pot Sticker Recipe, I picked it up when doing a search on pot stickers and what filling was normally used. I like using a slew of ideas to help flesh out any recipe I make and then mould it to my own tastes.






Pot Stickers

Ingredients: 

Dumpling Dough
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup hot water
 Filling:
  • 1 head Napa Cabbage [about 4c chopped]
  • salt
  • 1 pound lean ground pork
  • 2-3 finely chopped green onions
  • 1 TB white wine
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • Pepper
Dipping Sauce:
  • teriyaki [or light soy sauce]
  • grated ginger



Preparation:

Cut the cabbage into thin strips. Mix with 2 teaspoons salt and steam in a hot pan until just wilted, set aside to cool before mixing with pork.

In a large bowl, mix the celery cabbage, pork, green onions, wine, cornstarch, sesame oil, and pepper. It will come together as a rather glutenous looking mass, use your hands for the best mixture to incorporate everything, let sit covered for about 1/2 hr before using.

In a bowl, mix the flour and hot water using the back of a wooden spoon, only using your hands when all of the water is absorbed by the flour [be warned it is very hot, so be gentle!]. Knead the dough on a lightly flour surface about 5 minutes, or until smooth.

Divide the dough in half, wrapping up half of the dough while you work with the other. Roll the dough into a long rope [about 12" in length] and cut into 1/2" circles.

Roll 1 slice of dough into a 3-inch circle and place about 1 tablespoon pork mixture in the center of the circle. Lift up the edges of the circle and pinch 5 pleats up to create a pouch to encase the mixture. Pinch the top together. Repeat with the remaining slices of dough and filling.

Heat a wok or nonstick skillet until very hot. Add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil, tilting the wok to coat the sides. If using a nonstick skillet, add 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil. Place 12 dumplings in a single layer in the wok and fry 2 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown.

Add 1/2 cup water. Cover and cook 6 to 7 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Repeat with the remaining dumplings.

To make a dipping sauce, in a small bowl, mix the teriyaki with 1 teaspoon of grated ginger. Serve with the dumplings.
 
NOTE
You can freeze the uncooked dumplings to cook later on, for best results freeze on a baking sheet and then transfer to a freezer bag. This way they will not stick together, and cook right from frozen.






Sunday, January 16, 2011

Have your cake and eat it too!!

So I was looking over my past month and the next few weeks to come and realized there are a lot of birthdays past and upcoming. Including my brother in law, sister and grandmother. And as it is the start of the year I guess I could even say that New Years is the new calendar's birthday! So I was thinking what could be a better recipe to put down for today than a cake one?

This is one that I got from perhaps one of the best recipe books of all time, it is something that every [especially Canadian] home cooks should have in their kitchen. I actually picked it up when I was seventeen working at my co-op, one of my co-workers saw the book and got all excited, telling me I "HAD" to have this book, as it is one she has had for years and years and years. While I was thinking "yeah right how can this little paperback be the be all and end all...." I know over the years I have turned many times to this book for inspiration and for recipes that aren't normally done anymore in the home kitchen.

The Purity Cook Book

This was first created in 1917 for Purity Flour, and was given out free to customers to help encourage customer loyalty and has been republished, added on to and edited several times over the years for the "new and modern" Canadian home.

The recipe I used for this one is number 88 Chocolate Cake and is on page 42.

Preheat Oven to 325deg
Grease a 9" square pan or two round 8" layer pans, line the bottom with wax[or parchment] paper.

Cream
     1/2 c shortening [I usually keep a 1lb block in my freezer]
Gradually blend in
     1 c sugar
Beat until light and fluffy
Add
     2 well beaten eggs
Beat until well combined
Then blend in
     2 squares of unsweetened chocolate, melted [I have this melting over a double boiler while creaming and blending the above]
     1/2 t vanilla
Blend or sift together
     1 1/2 c all purpose flour
     3/4 t baking soda
     1/2 t salt
Add to creamed mixture, alternately with
     1 c sour milk [now I realize we do not keep "sour" milk in the house... to make this don't leave your milk out until it grows creatures, just add a splash of white vinegar to a cup of milk, let it sit for 10m, while you are doing all the above stuff. And presto you have a yellowish congealed creature also known as "sour milk". I actually learned this trick from one of my best friends and old roomie back in University.]
Blend well after each addition
Pour batter into the prepared pan[s]
Bake in a preheated 325deg oven - 45-50m for square cake and 30-35m for layer cake.

My rule of thumb when finding out the right time for baking cake, is when the knife or tooth pick can penetrate the cake and not come out with goo. So when the cake sticks to itself and not the knife/tooth pick, it is ready. But don't open the oven every 10m to check, wait until your nose can start smelling the cake, give it time to heat up and bake.

To ice this cake, I did my own little creation, or spin on a ganache, cause for some strange reason when I made this I was aiming for chocolate goo!

Melt over a double boiler
   2 squares of semi sweet chocolate
   1 square of dark chocolate
Add in
   1 T of Butter
   2 T Milk [or cream]
   1 c of Icing Sugar [stir in the icing sugar slowly until you have a stiff but workable chocolate goo]




Let me tell you it was delicious!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Pasta Continued...

So with the start I showed you how to make your own pasta, now with this recipe I will share my Lasagna, which [you are unfamiliar with this] is a baked pasta dish of layers of cheese, pasta and sauce. Every Italian has a different recipe, a different sauce, and each will taste unique.

This is my recipe:

First the sauce:

This is a basic Bolognese [some will use a non meat sauce or a marinara, but I prefer the taste and texture of the meat sauce].

1lb ground meat [I use a pre mix from my butcher of veal, beef and pork]
oragano
basil
bay leaves
garlic
rosemary
onion [diced finely]
tomato paste
tomato sauce
red wine
water

Brown meat in sauce pan along with onions, and spice, add in salt and pepper to taste. When everything is browned, add in your paste and sauce, using the cans add in 1 can measurement of wine and 1 of water, until you have a nice deep red colour.

I let this simmer at a low heat for hours, until the liquid thickens and reduces by about 1/3, stirring every hour or so.

Let the sauce cool right down before use in this dish.

Cheese Mixture:

2 packages of soft Ricotta [about 1lb]
2 whole eggs
grated parmasan
1/2 - 3/4c spinach [I use the frozen cubes, and let them thaw out and drain]

Mix this all together in a bowl and let sit for min of 1h to overnight for full taste.



aside from the above you will need also about 1lb of sliced mozzarella [don't buy the processed type, as it will not taste as nice as the fresh]

Have your pasta rolled out into sheets, for the recipe on pasta click this link, the thickness of your pasta is whatever you desire, I did at the lvl 4 on my machine.

On to the Layering, for this I start off with a spoonful of sauce at the base of the casserole [I have 2 - 9x9 pans], next goes the pasta [yes at raw state], cheese mixture, mozzarella slices, then sauce. Rinse and repeat until you at the top of the dish. To top it I add a layer of pasta, cover that with sauce and mozzarella slices. I find with my dishes I get 4 layers give or take.

I then bake this [covered to start] for about 45m at 350 deg, taking off the foil and allowing another 10-15m for the cheese to bubble and brown.

In terms of timing, I trust my nose, and check on the pasta only when I can smell the scent of the dish all over the house. Joy of home cooking and not always noting the time, and getting distracted with one thing or another!

So no worries if you don't get exactly the right amount of time, and for the love of cooking don't use a timer as that can lead to checking on the dish every few mins, which only lets out heat and prolongs the overall cooking time. Timers are only good for eggs and segmenting your day. When it comes to cooking the best timer is your own sense of smell, your nose will tell you when to open that door and check on things.

Once your pasta is done and all molten goodness, allow for the dish to rest 10m before cutting into it. If you cut into the lasagna [or any baked pasta] right on pulling it out, will only result in all of your hard work pouring out of the layers! Let it rest, let the gooey cheesy yumminess settle a bit and you get the below image. a delicious layered slice of Italian goodness!



This recipe is one that is freezable both in its uncooked state [I often make two dishes, one for that night and one for later on which I freeze]. If frozen, cook from that state, placing the covered dish into the cold oven [a VERY important factor to keep from shattering your dishes]. Let your oven preheat with the dish in it, and allow for extra time for baking, again let your nose be your guide as to when to take out the pasta. From frozen it can take up to double the time to get cooked all the way through, but is mightily delish when it comes out of the oven, just like fresh!

Also note, you can make your sauce ahead of time and keep in either the fridge for up to 3 days covered, or in the freezer for up to 3 months [granted I know sauce in my house barely lasts 2 days, but if you can leave it for the 3 days it will develop a far deeper flavour profile]. The cheese you can make up to 2 days in advance, leaving it covered in the fridge, placing the cellophane directly on the surface like a second skin to keep the air out.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Homemade pasta

Well this first post has been a long time coming, I was suggested the idea of starting up a food blog where I share my recipes and photos of food stuffs when I was being "too tempting" with my updates of my creations.

So I created this blog... several months ago, and chickened out, I mean why would anyone want to read about my cooking? Well its a new year and after being asked "where is the blog" here it is, my first recipe and photo sets.

It is my recipe for homemade pasta which is so simple! After you make it once, you will wonder how you ever made do with the store bought.

I actually used this for my lasagna this past Christmas Eve, and I tell you it was truly the best one I had ever had!

With no further ado, the recipe:

Pasta
2c flour
3 large eggs
pinch of salt
cold water

For this recipe the easiest thing to remember is that you need 1c of flour and 1 egg per person with 1 egg as your starting point. So for 4 people it is 4c flour, 5 eggs and so on.

You can use a mix master or mix by hand, make a well in the flour and crack in eggs, mix together with salt, and slowly add in cold water [tap is fine] until the mixture comes together as a sticky dough [you want to be able to pinch it, and it prefers to stick to itself than you].

Wrap the dough in saran/plastic wrap and refrigerate for minimum of 2hrs to let the gluten rest.

Now having a pasta roller/machine makes this step significantly easier and faster, but is not required. Cut your dough into 4 balls and roll through the machine starting at your largest setting and working it down every other roll. Use flour to keep the pasta from sticking to itself by dusting the dough. once rolled out you can cut into desired shape be it flat for lasagna, strips for linguine, or [with the machine] into spaghetti rolling it through the cutter.


This is a delicious pasta that can be cooked right from this state, a quickie recipe is to take strips of pasta [like the scraps from another project] and toss into a pot of salted boiling water. Like dumplings, you know it is ready when the dough floats to the surface. drain the water and toss the hot pasta with pesto, or just some garlic and good olive oil. It is such a treat to have!

If you want to you can save some pasta for later on by drying out the raw dough over a wooded stick [like a spoon handle, or in classic Italian style with a broomstick handle!].