I spent six months recovering from a life-threatening injury and during this time I think I watched every cooking and lifestyle program on television and the internet. When I was well enough to start doing things again, I found my way back into the kitchen. While I had always loved cooking, for the period of about two years before my injury I felt like I had lost my touch. Furthermore, I just couldn’t be bothered with it anymore. It had become a chore as opposed to its former joy. As it happened, during my recovery time cooking became for me something that it had stopped being for a long time: therapy. And as my health improved, the joy for cooking returned, so much so that I finally started this blog which many have told me is well overdue. This recipe is perhaps an ode to the returned passion for cooking and for creating through experimentation.
One of the shows I must have watched a thousand episodes of during my recovery time is Everyday Gourmet with Justine Schofield. On one particular episode she used gow gee gyoza wrappers to wrap stewed spiced apples and fresh berries, turning the concept of the Japanese savoury dumpling into a sweet bite-sized pastry. I was reminded of a restaurant I ate at years ago on a work trip to Ballarat where I was served cherry and marscapone spring rolls for dessert. I came home and attempted to create my own with disastrous results: the pastry split and the filling exploded everywhere. I never attempted an asian fusion dessert ever again.
A ‘foodspiration’ walk through the Adelaide Central Market had me feeling like Greek food, hence I revisited my ‘Stolen’ Lamb and Potato Packets and was inspired to create my Warm Greek Bean Salad. And I knew my husband, being the sweet-tooth he his, would be wanting ‘a little sweetie’ to round off our night. Baklava is one of those foods I have always loved eating and have always been too scared to make – all that pastry! Then I thought about Schofield’s sweet gyoza and the dessert spring rolls I’d eaten all those years ago (yes, my memory for food and flavours is a well-catalogued library) – I wondered ‘what would happen if you stuffed dumpling pastry with a nutty baklava mixture?’ Well, this happened: Baklava Gyoza.
Using store-bought wrappers makes these dumplings pretty quick to make: blitz nuts with sweeteners and spices, place on wrappers, seal them up, quickly fry and then steam with water under a lid. Gow gee wrappers are commonly available in supermarkets but you’ll certainly find them in asian grocery stores. You want the round gow gee wrappers in order to make the gyoza shape as opposed to square wanton wrappers. You will need a non-stick frypan to cook these, and you will also need a lid big enough to cover the whole pan. You should also wear an apron as the oiled pan gets filled with water, so there will be a little bit of drama with steam and spattering, so go carefully.
Aside from that, they are not terribly fiddly to make, and the repetitive nature when making big batches of them is quite therapeutic, to go back to my earlier theme. The satisfaction, however, is all the sweet, citrusy and woody spice of Greek baklava in soft syrup-bathed Japanese-style pastry parcels.
No confusion, this is one sweet fusion!
For the gyoza:
- 24 gow gee gyoza wrappers
- 100g walnuts
- 80g flaked almonds
- 80g pistachios
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 Tablespoons caster sugar
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 2 Tablespoons honey
For the syrup:
- 1 cup sugar
- 6 Tablespoons honey
- 3 Tablespoons orange blossom water (optional)
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 cardamom pods, bruised
- 4 slices of lemon rind (roughly 1cm x 4cm)
- 3/4 cup water
Start with the syrup:
Put all the ingredients for the syrup into a medium saucepan. Cook over medium high heat, stirring continuously, until the it comes a simmer and the sugar dissolves.
Turn the heat down and allow to simmer for 3 minutes, still stirring, and making sure the liquid does not boil or burn.
Take the syrup off the heat and allow to cool with the whole spices and rind.
Now prepare your gyoza:
Place the nuts, butter, sugar, orange blossom water (if using), cinnamon and honey into a food processor and blitz until the nuts are coarsely ground and the mixture forms a pliable paste. You should be able to take teaspoons of the mixture and roll it into a ball; it should be able to be shaped and hold together.
Lay your wrappers out on your work surface and have a small dish of water close by.
Place teaspoons of the nut mixture in the centre of each wrapper and manipulate the mixture to form that unmistakable quenelle gyoza shape.
Dip your finger in the water and trace around the outside edge of each wrapper. Bring the edges of the wrappers together to seal in the nut mixture, securing them by pressing together the moistened edges and pinching the pastry to form your gyoza.
Cooking your gyoza:
Heat a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, spray it lightly with with canola oil.
Place 6 gyoza in the hot pan to lightly brown their bases.
When they have started to turn golden on the base, pour 3/4 cup of water into the pan – be careful, water and oil do not play nicely and this will steam and bubble and it may spatter a little. Immediately cover the frying pan with a lid and allow the gyoza to cook for about 5 minutes or until all the liquid in the pan has evaporated.
If you are cooking more than 6 gyoza at a time, you may need to use more water for steaming. You want the gyoza bases to remain crisp on the bottom but the rest of the pastry should be soft, not leathery, so add more water if your gyoza haven’t steamed through when the initial liquid has evaporated.
Use a palette knife to carefully lift the gyoza to serving plate.
Generously drizzle the cooled syrup over the gyoza and serve extra syrup in sauce dishes for dunking.