Category Archives: condiments

Pork, Ginger And Coriander Dumplings With Garlic Chilli Oil

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I have to remind myself time-and-again to get the kids cooking in the kitchen. It’s too easy to fall into the pattern of – I can do it faster and cleaner – and weeks can go by before I realise they haven’t cooked a thing (apart from toast).

One of our most popular dinners are these pork and coriander dumplings. My ten year old in particular has taken a keen interest in homemade foods and declares that these dumplings are the best! Even better than the ones we eat out in Ashfield – the dumpling capital of the Inner West! (You’ve gotta love ten year olds for their biased enthusiasm).

Rolling dumplings is the perfect excuse to pull up a seat and sit with my son whilst we chat and prepare food together. I actually manage to get more than yes and no answers out of him and we both feel a sense of connection by the time the batch has been rolled. We get a production line going and I tell him once the dumplings are sealed he needs to shape the tops, reminiscent of the sails on the Opera House.

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It becomes an exciting week-night evening when dumplings are on the menu. My daughter takes great pride in setting the table. She lays out Asian placemats, chop sticks, tea cups, sometimes a candle is lit, and there is always a large pot of jasmine tea in the centre of the table.

The most important ingredient here is the pork mince. I only make dumplings when I go to my local butcher and get the pork freshly minced. So please don’t buy your mince from the supermarket, it’s often sat there for days with added preservatives to keep it going (and goodness knows what else other than pork has been minced through it too). Quality always comes at a cost, the cost of giving up convenience. But I am more than happy to do that when it comes to fresh food. And really, we all know free-range and fresh is best.

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Once you have the best mince you can get your hands on, you’ll need a dipping sauce. My preference is always to make a 50/50 mix of Chinese red vinegar with soy sauce, and them add measured amounts of my homemade chilli oil to that (recipe below). The chilli oil stores for weeks and can also be drizzled on all manner of other foods besides dumplings.

You’ll need a big bowl of steamed Asian greens, that I tend to quickly toss with fried garlic and a dash of oyster sauce. And if it’s your preference (sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t) some steamed rice.

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Pork, ginger and coriander dumplings with garlic chilli oil

For the dumplings 

450g free range pork mince

1 tbsp grated ginger

1 tsp grated garlic

2 tbsp chopped coriander stem

1 tbsp soy sauce

2 tsp Chinese red vinegar

1 tsp sesame oil

1 free range egg

large pinch ground white pepper

30 (1 pkt) Gow gee wrappers (available in Asian food stores)

Dipping sauce

equal quantities of soy sauce and Chinese red vinegar

To serve

Steamed Asian greens

Chilli oil

Steamed rice – optional

Place all the ingredients for the pork and coriander dumplings except the gow gee wrappers a large bowl. Mix till well combined.

Lay out 6 gow gee wrappers on a clean bench. Dip a pastry brush in water and lightly wet the outer rim in a circular motion around the pastry.  Place less than a tbsp (more like two heaped tsp) of pork filling in the centre of each wrapper. Fold the wrapper over, and pinch to seal. Sit the base of the dumpling on the bench as you use both hands to crimp the top the pastry into a pinched pattern. Set aside on a clean tray and repeat process with remaining ingredients till all dumplings are rolled.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil, gently add the dumplings and stir to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Boil for 3 – 4 minutes. Drain and place on a platter. Serve with dipping sauce, chilli oil (see recipe below), steamed greens and optional steamed rice.

For the chilli oil 

It’s important here to buy large dried chillies best found in Asian market stores. The larger ones are not as hot as the smaller variety and have a sweeter taste, perfect for this chilli oil.

20g (about 15) large dried red chillies

2 cloves garlic, grated

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup rice bran oil

Place the whole chillies in a bowl, cover with boiling water and soak for 20 minutes. Drain and squeeze remaining water from the chillies, roughly chop them and place in a small blender with the garlic, salt and half the oil, blitz till chilli is roughly chopped.

Pour the chilli oil into a small sauce pan, add the remaining oil and turn the heat to very low, cook the chilli oil on a low heat for at least one hour, stir occasionally. Set aside to cool. Store in a clean glass jar for 4-6 weeks.

Add a drizzle of the chilli oil to the soy and vinegar dipping sauce and lather the dumplings with this.

(C) Recipe and photography copyright 2016 Food From Michelle’s Kitchen

An Abundance Of Lemons And How To Preserve Them

 

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One of the first things that drew me to the house we have lived in for the past couple of years were the two lemon trees growing in the back yard. This is not entirely unusual for Sydney, yet to find a sunny back yard that had TWO established lemon trees was a bonus. It not only appealed to my culinary side, but also helped me feel a tiny step closer to my long-term dream of living on a property where we will one day grow, pick, and eat our own food (I did say long-term right?)…

As much as the flavour of lemons are reminiscent of summer, my trees bare their fruit in winter. This means each year I have an abundance of fruit to use, and I inevitably end up preserving more than a handful of jars of lemons to extend their shelf life.

Lemons are the citrus of choice for most cooks; I certainly would be at a loss without them in my kitchen. And although I love to preserve them I use them in all manner of cooking. 

When I use their pungent zest in cakes, or dressings,or marinades, I delight in the fact that their skin, let alone juice, has so much flavour to offer. Having home-grown lemons means no wax ( it drives me crazy that the shop-bought lemons are coated in a thin layer of wax, why do they have to do this!). Wax-free lemons should be available to all. It’s unadulterated zest, the best of its kind.

The juice of lemons can be a cooks best friend in the kitchen, and as a rule of thumb, keeping one or two in the fruit bowl will enhance all manner of dishes. Again, the juice is excellent in marinades, especially for chicken. Green tahini dressing is lifted to new heights, and even just a small squeeze of the pale yellow liquid will enhance soups, stews, or any slow cooked meats.

 

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Preserving lemons is very simple. The preparation is next to nothing: it’s the preserving that takes time; I leave mine at least six weeks and up to several months. The salt and juice slowly break down and soften the flesh whilst also mellowing the flavour, and this process just can’t be hurried.

As with all of the above ways of using fresh lemons, preserved lemons can be applied in much the same manner.

Check out this chermoula recipe for marinating and roasting on a chicken, or these lamb skewers  perfect for barbecuing.

I usually use a few 750ml parfait jars with working seals on them, but I also utilise large glass jars that I’ve washed and stored exactly for this reason.

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Preserved lemons

Makes 3-4 jars

Ingredients

15 large juicy lemons (wax free if you can)

3/4 cup cooking salt

12 cardamon pods

3 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp whole  black pepper corns

First you need to sterilise the jars. Pre heat oven to 120C. Remove the rubber seal, wash the jars in warm soapy water, rinse, place on a tray and place in the oven for about 25 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave them there till you are ready to fill them.

Wash lemons. Take 10-12 of the lemons and cut in half. Slice through each half leaving 4cm of the top of the lemon un-cut. Squeeze the majority of the juice from each lemon and set the juice aside in a jug.

Juice the remaining 3-5 lemons, and add this to the reserved lemon juice. You should by this stage have about 3 cups of lemon juice.

Sprinkle the salt all over the cut lemons, rubbing it into the flesh. Take the sterilised jars from the oven and stuff each jar with lemons, press them in firmly to fill the jars. Divide the cardamon pods, coriander seeds and peppercorns between the jars. Then divide the lemon juice between the jars pouring it over the lemons. Top up each jar with boiling water so the lemons are completely covered.

Seal the lids and gently shake the jar several times to combine. Place lemons on a shelf in the pantry to preserve for about 6 weeks, or longer. Once you open a jar refrigerate the contents for up to 2 months.

Tomato and fennel chipotle relish

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So what makes a good tomato relish?

Fresh tomatoes (as opposed to tinned) are an excellent start, and if possible, organic tomatoes will improve your relish by a good deal more.

It goes without saying to use onion and garlic. And seeds and spices add their own tributes. Fennel seeds are a favourite of mine. The aniseed taste is perfect with tomato as is cinnamon and all spice.

This is the part in the post where I tell you how much I love chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Are you a fan?

I’m mad for their flavour. Chipotle peppers are ripe Jalapeños that are dried and smoked, the adobo part is the sauce they come in. The sauce should be used too, it’s packed with the same smoky rich taste.

I’ve continuously kept a can in the pantry ever since I discovered I could buy them at my local butcher. Since then I’m seeing them available in more and more stores. Good green grocers are now stocking them and most delicatessens have them too.

 

 

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When I have a jar of this hand made relish in the fridge, I know straight off the bat I can jazz up any type of sandwich. Be it the toasted or the fresh, or on a fried egg roll.

I can spread it on a pizza base and have a hot lunch in no time with the help from just a few olives, feta and grated zucchini.

Or, I can add a spoonful or two to a soup or a stew. To lift its origins.

What about added to  dipping sauce?  Use either mayonnaise or yoghurt with just a few spoons of relish mixed through it to eat with anything deep fried – especially these smoked trout croquettes.

Be sure the efforts of making this relish are worth while – guaranteed to help lessen the ‘staring into the fridge declaring there’s nothing to eat’ scenarios.

 

Tomato, fennel and chipotle relish

Makes about 3 medium sized jars

Ingredients

2 brown onions, sliced thinly

4 cloves of garlic, sliced

1 tbsp fennel seeds

1 kg tomatoes, chopped into large dice

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp all spice

2-3 chipotle chillies in adobo sauce, chopped finely

125ml (1/2 cup) apple cider vinegar

100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar

1 tbsp salt

Grape seed or rice bran oil

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large heavy based saucepan. Add onions, garlic and fennel seeds, cook on a low heat for 10 minutes.

Add the diced tomatoes, spices, chipotle chillies, vinegar, sugar and salt. Bring to the boil, stir regularly. Cook on medium to low heat for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or till the relish is thickened and the water from the tomatoes has reduced away.

Meanwhile, sterilise 3 – 4 jars – see Tip – and spoon relish in whilst hot. Seal and store in the pantry. Store in the fridge after opening.

Tip : sterilising jars

Pre heat oven to 120C. Place the washed jars, minus any plastic seals in the oven on a tray for 20 minutes, remove and fill jars.

Or, Place jars and lids in a tray. Fill the jars and lids with boiling water, stand for several minutes, then, and this is sometimes the awkward part, pour the hot water out without burning yourself, allow jars to steam dry. Fill jars.

Basil and Macadamia Nut Pesto

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I feel like getting back to basics. I’m officially on holidays from my food editor job, and the past weeks have seen all manner of festive dishes cooked, tested and prepared for the magazine. I feel I’ve already cooked my way through Christmas fare and now I just crave some simple food that requires no recipe, no testing, no oven!

I can think of no better condiment to make in summer than basil pesto. What makes this pesto truly special is replacing the traditional pine nuts with macadamia nuts. The creamy consistency of macadamia nuts is just what the sweet perfumed basil requires. It’s a match made in heaven. 

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My son – and I must say I’m absolutely ecstatic about this – discovered he likes to eat my pesto with crackers. He actually polished off the entire bowl the other day and instead of lecturing him on how greedy that was, I was congratulating him on finally discovering the wonders of freshly made pesto. One child down, one to go.

 

Basil and macadamia nut pesto 

Ingredients 

1 1/2 cups picked and washed basil leaves

80g (1/2 cup) raw macadamia nuts

1 small clove garlic, chopped

1 small lemon, juiced

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup grated parmesan

Sea salt

Black pepper

 

Place all the ingredients for the pesto in a food processor, blitz till nuts are a chunky consistency and basil is well combined. Check seasoning and adjust with extra salt, pepper or lemon juice.

TIP – washing the basil enlivens the vibrant green colour and gives you a bright green finish to the pesto. Pesto stores in the fridge for several days.

 

 

 

 

 

Dukkah – The King of Spice Blends

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There are days where the craving for freshly made dukkah is so strong that I find no satisfaction till a batch is roasted, pounded, and then eaten whilst still warm. 

It has to be said, possibly the best way to enjoy duukah is with bread and extra virgin olive oil. It certainly is the way I most often consume it. But I also value dukkah for its versatility. Once I have a batch made the remainder stores well and can be sprinkled on vegetables before roasting, used as a seasoning to salads, dusted on to meat or fish before cooking, it can be used in dressings, added to yoghurt… I find it such a useful flavouring for so many things that is a staple in my kitchen.

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I prefer my dukkah made with hazelnuts. Added to the roasted spices of coriander, cumin, sesame, and black pepper, I add dry roasted hazelnuts (this saves roasting and peeling them). You can swap the hazelnuts for pistachios, or for a less authentic offering, macadamia nuts also makes a nice blend.

I’ve used a mix of black sesame and white sesame seeds because I like the contrast. Plus, I had them in the cupboard – they needed using up. But generally white sesame seeds are the go. The remaining, and just as important ingredient, is sea salt. And it should be sea salt, don’t swap this for any thing else.

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The recipe has deliberately been kept to a smallish amount so you use the dukkah up while it’s fresh. It’s so simple to make and really takes no time at all, and can and should be made regularly.

Egyptian dukkah 

Ingredients 

1/4 cup dry roasted hazelnuts

1 tbsp white sesame seeds

1tbsp black sesame seeds

1 tbsp cumin seeds

2 tbsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp whole black peppercorns

1/2 tsp sea salt

Place the sesame seeds, spices and peppercorns into a fry pan. Roast them on a medium heat till the spices begin to sizzle and pop – don’t walk away at this stage as it won’t take long.

Roughly chop the dry roasted hazelnuts and place in a mortar and pestle with the roasted spices and sea salt; alternatively use a spice grinder. Pound or grind to a coarse consistency – remember to keep it chunky. Check seasoning.

Serve with fresh Lebanese bread and extra virgin olive oil. Store remaining dukkah in an air tight container in the pantry for 2 weeks.

(C) Copy right: Food From Michelle’s Kitchen 2016 Egyptian dukkah

Not quite hummus

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A good dip is essential for any cooks table, be it a barbecue, picnic, actually for any gathering of any kind really.

I never buy supermarket dips. I think they’re horrible and expensive and filled with processed stuff. I like to make my own. And when it’s this simple, you should too.

I call this dip ‘not quite hummus’ because it’s made with cannellini beans instead of chickpeas, which is the traditional pulses used in hummus. I think it makes a lovely change to the chickpeas but by all means you can substitute the later. Keep in mind butter beans also work brilliantly here, though you might require an extra dash of water as they tend to make a thicker dip.

 

 

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To serve, you’ll need some toasted pita bread or fresh sourdough bread, and raw cut vegetables, or just some store bought crackers.

I’ve found a new love for radishes. I recently purchased a mandolin ( a slicer with a thin setting) and now one of my favourite raw vegetables is thin slices of radish, which work beautifully with this dip. I love the colour and their round shape.

You’ll need a food processor for this recipe and if you don’t have one I highly recommend investing in one. I’ve had mine for 10 years now and there’s been a lot of dips made in that ten years. I couldn’t manage my kitchen without one…

 

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Not quite hummus

Ingredients

1 x 400g can of cannellini or butter beans

1 small clove garlic, chopped

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1tbsp tahini (sesame paste)

1tsp salt

large pinch of black pepper

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 large lemon, juiced

50ml water

To finish

chopped fresh parsley

drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Drain and rinse the cannellini beans, place in a food processor with the rest of ingredients for the dip and process till smooth. Check the seasoning. Place in a large bowl, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve with toasted pita bread or fresh sourdough bread, crackers, sliced radishes, raw vegetables or tabbouleh.

Pear and Date Chutney

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Keeping homemade chutney in the pantry or fridge is like having a jar of flavour on hand. A good chutney is vinegary, slightly sweet, and subtly spiced. It should be cooked till it’s thick and coloured.

The simplicity of throwing everything in the pot, all at the one time, has me making this pear and date chutney time-and-time-again.

The possibilities are endless as to what you might serve this fruity pear and date chutney with. I love it with cheese – camembert, goats cheese, aged cheddar, basically any cheese, a strong blue is charming sweetened with a dollop of this chutney. Spread it on your favourite sandwich, smear it on fresh sourdough, eat it with double smoked ham. Last weekend, whilst on a yoga retreat, I served this pear and date chutney with chickpea and pumpkin fritters to the delight of all who ate them. There are no rules to what you can or can’t eat this sweet chutney with. I’d even be so bold as to say, have it with a spicy curry.

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Pear and Date Chutney

Ingredients

1.5 kg firm green pears

200g dried dates

4 roma tomato, diced

2 tbsp mustard seeds

5 cloves

3 star anise

2 tsp fine salt

2 cups apple cider vinegar

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup water

Dice pears and place in a large heavy based pot, add dates and the remaining ingredients. Stir and place on the heat. Bring to the boil, cook at a medium – low  heat till chutney thickens and liquid evaporates – 50-60 minutes. Once chutney is cooked you can use a potato masher to slightly mash the pear, or leave as is for a chunkier version.

Spoon the hot chutney into sterilised jars. Seal the lid whilst chutney is still hot. Set aside to cool completely. Store in a dark cupboard for up to three months. Refrigerate after opening.