Baklava Gyoza

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.

Until now.

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!

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BAKLAVA GYOZA
Makes 24

INGREDIENTS

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

METHOD

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Serve immediately.

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Pear and Berry Bircher

If I want to feel particularly virtuous, I make sure that I am totally prepared for the day ahead the night before: the gym bag is packed for that commitment to the gym after work, the house is spotlessly cleaned, lunches are packed, and I have committed to a day of healthy eating by preparing a healthy and satisfying breakfast before I have even gone to bed! My Pear and Berry Bircher ticks all the boxes – healthy, nutritious, delicious and made in under 10 minutes.

Unlike many other bircher muesli recipes, this one does not contain fruit juice which is a good thing if you are conscious of hidden empty calories and sugars.

Be sure that you use rolled oats – not quick oats – you want the coarser texture of the fuller oats so that they almost become a little plumper as they soak in the liquid overnight. Quick oats will absorb the moisture quicker and turn your muesli into a gloopy sludge.

Be adventurous with your fruit toppings. My mother in law gives us a bucket of apricots from her tree every summer, so I poached a whole batch in some water, a cinnamon stick, star anise and a little sugar and kept them in the fridge to have on our bircher every other morning. Frozen berries are a busy person’s godsend, though, and letting them defrost on your muesli overnight allows them to bleed a little extra juice which adds a fresh flavour to your breakfast. If you’re not such a fan of the tart acidity of the juice, defrost your berries on a plate lined with paper towel in the fridge and just add the berries to your muesli in the morning.

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PEAR AND BERRY BIRCHER
Serves 2

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Cup Rolled Oats
  • 1 pear, grated
  • 1 Cup Low Fat Natural Yoghurt (I like the creaminess of the Tamar Valley Natural Yoghurt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1-2 teaspoons honey
  • Handful of mixed frozen berries
  • Chopped nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, pepitas and sunflower seeds

METHOD

Combine oats, pear, yoghurt, water, cinnamon and honey in a bowl.

Divide mixture between two bowls.

Top with frozen berries, nuts and seeds.

Cover with cling wrap and place in fridge overnight.

If you like your bircher creamier, stir through an extra tablespoon of yoghurt before eating.

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The Only Cupcake Recipe You’ll Ever Need

Whether you’re rostered on for staff morning tea, building a veritable Taj Mahal for a wedding or birthday, or just simply want to sit down with a pot of tea and delectable morsel on a lazy Sunday afternoon, these cupcakes are the perfect choice – every time. They require few ingredients – most of which are usually on hand in your pantry and fridge – and the batter is prepared in a few minutes that it’s not even worth bringing out the stand mixer, unless of course you are making double or triple batches.

I can’t take credit for this recipe. It’s been floating around on the internet for such a long time (known as ‘Scout’s Cupcakes’) that it is impossible to find the original post. Internet commentary suggests that it was initially posted to Taste.com by a contributor with the handle name Scout, hence the name of the recipe. The genius behind these cupcakes is that it negates the need for starting off by creaming butter and sugar which can take some time in the stand mixer and even longer if braving whisking your mixture by hand. Instead, this recipe begins with store-bought cream to which eggs, vanilla, flour and sugar are added.

While this is a recipe for a simple vanilla cupcake, you can use the same recipe to make chocolate cupcakes simply by replacing two tablespoons of flour with cocoa powder. You can add what you want to flavour these – a little lemon or orange zest to the batter complemented by a citrus royal icing is good. Where you will add the most interest and flavour is in your topping. I tend to lean toward buttercream that is light and whipped and can be piped on as simply or as decadently as you have patience for. Furthermore, these cupcakes stay moist for a couple of days in an airtight container, and freeze well for a couple of months.

I made 120 of these cupcakes for a friend’s wedding earlier this year. I made 60 vanilla and 60 chocolate cupcakes and used the same batter recipe to bake the sponge layers for the feature semi-naked cake baked in round 8″ tins (they just bake a little longer than the cupcakes do).

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I baked the cakes the day before the wedding and created the buttercream roses to top the cakes over a couple of weeks by piping two-toned buttercream onto squares of baking paper on an icing nail, snap freezing them on a tray, and then simply pasting them, frozen, to the top of each cake with a little extra icing. This is a brilliant trick if you have lots of cakes to make and want to get creative with buttercream flowers and decorations. Buttercream freezes perfectly and you get the freedom of being able to play around with placement as you decorate and you avoid the danger of making and correcting icing disasters that you would if you were piping straight onto the cake. The buttercream flowers defrost on the cake and remain creamy and hold their shape.

I used Not Quite Nigella’s Best Ever Buttercream Icing recipe and Wilton colour pastes to make these roses. A paste or powder colour is better than those liquid colours you can buy as the colours tend to hold better and not run, especially when you are freezing pre-made decorations.

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SCOUT’S CUPCAKES
Makes 12

INGREDIENTS

  • 300ml thickened full fat cream (you may not use all of it)
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1 cup self raising flour, sifted
  • 2 eggs
  • splash of vanilla essence

METHOD

Preheat oven to 180 C (160 C fan forced)

Crack eggs into a 1 cup measuring cup or jug.

Add cream to the eggs until you reach the top.

Place the cream and eggs to a mixing bowl and beat for about a minute until well combined.

Add vanilla and sugar and beat for about 3 minutes or until the mixture turns pale and fluffy.

Fold in the sifted flour.*

Line a 12 hole cupcake pan with liners and spoon tablespoons of the batter into cupcake liners. A good guide is to fill them 3/4 to the top to allow room for rising without spilling out over the papers.

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the centre of the cakes come out clean.

Cool on a wire rack before decorating.

*If you want to make chocolate cupcakes, replace 2 Tablespoons of flour with 2 Tablespoons of cocoa powder before sifting.