Category Archives: snacking

Beef Gyozas and a bit of a breakthrough

We do love a gyoza now and then, strictly as a treat as we enjoy them in their unhealthily cooked forms. I’ve recently found a local shop that stocks gyoza skins, so they’re back on the menu.

Now, our favourite place to eat gyozas is Wagamama, and I’ve long-marvelled at how they get the pastry so dry and crispy, yet the inside moist and delicious. It’s not just deep-frying as I’ve tried that before (and I actually find them far too fatty when deep-fried) and didn’t get quite the same effect – see gyozas here. Tonight, however an experiment and a brainwave combined to solve the problem. So I now present my (current) favourite way of cooking gyozas.

How to cook a gyoza/ dumpling/ pot sticker

  1. Put the filling in the centre of the pot sticker (about a teaspoon, or just under)
  2. Wet the edges of the gyoza all round (keep a small bowl next to you)
  3. On a flat surface, gather the edges of the gyoza up, and crimp together all along (this way the gyoza will sit upright with the crimp along the top rather than fall sideways)
  4. Place gyozas into a steamer and steam for 5 minutes (I used a microwave steamer and it was fine)
  5. [[At this point, I think you may be able to freeze them for a later date so long as you used fresh gyoza pastry – I will try this in the future]]
  6. Finally, remove the steamed gyozas, then shallow fry for a minute or two on each side

And this method is my new way of cooking them. They sit upright, the pastry is crisp and the inside is moist still.

(Wondering why this comes under ‘frugal food’? Well, the filling was comprised mainly of roast dinner leftovers. You know that nub of beef that can’t be carved and is use to neither man nor beast? I simply shoved it in the whizzer, then added two cloves of garlic and two shallots. I finely chopped some mangetout and added it to the whizzed mixture, before sprinkling in a little white pepper, sesame oil, hoisin sauce and Chinese rice wine.)

Alfresco Tapas…

… almost.
The weather was so nice today that we would have liked to spend it in the garden (the daffs have come out!) but the nip in the air drove us indoors. We are fortunate enough to have a conservatory, so we decided to set up home there today for a lazy Saturday reading the paper.

We went out this morning to Lidl and stocked up on tons of fruit and veg, continental meats and cheeses and baked goodies. As we’d not had breakfast, and it was about 2pm by the time we got back, we decided to get some nibbles sorted and eat them almost-alfresco. It’s not truly tapas of course, more a pan-European finger food selection, but it certainly did the job.

We had:
Chorizo cooked with sage (pictured above)
Bruschetta (courtesy of TLM)
Home-made houmous
Some little crispy snacks
Ciabatta with vinegar & oil
Serrano ham
Cheese, with Ducth crispbakes and celery
Crayfish tails
Olives, sun-dried tomatoes and peppers

A feast that took plenty of time to munch through and we’re only just considering something light for dinner (fruit or salad) now at 8pm.

I think we might have to do this more often on a lazy Saturday (though the washing-up generated may make for a busy Sunday morning ;))

Pea Shoot and Feta Bureks

With the advent of my pea shoot delivery and a craving for Feta cheese, these little delights were born. My first thought was to combine the two in a spanakopita (a Greek spinach and cheese pie). After reading up, one of the big problems with spanakopita is that that spinach can be too moist, so the pea shoot would fare well I thought. I didn’t want to make a whole pie though, I wanted singular nibbles. After a bit of exploration, I found out (from wikipedia, so not really mich exploration actually…) that “Burek is a type of pie popular throughout the former Ottoman Empire. They are made of a thin flaky dough known as filo, and are filled with salty cheese (often Feta), minced meat, potatoes or other vegetables.” So I’m calling these bureks.

As a complete amateur cook, I’ve no idea if my concotion is hideously inauthentic but the mix smelt GOOD before it was wrapped in filo, and then DELICIOUS when they came out of the oven.

The mix is made from pea shoots, fresh parsley, sping onion and garlic which is cooked up to soften. Then I added an egg and crumbled in the Feta and stirring through.

I’ve never cooked with filo pastry before, so the experiment got a bit tricky at this point. I layered up three slices (?) of filo, sliced it into strips and then added a dollop of filling before folding it along the length of the strip into triangles. I brushed the pastry with olive oil, crossed my fingers, and put them in the oven at 175 Celsius for 25 minutes.

They turned out very well, and even TLM who doesn’t go in for pastry or fancy cheese scoffed happily. Long live experiments!

Perfect Pancakes

Or so we like to think – I’ve not got the knack of scotch/drop/American pancakes, but have perfected the traditional type. For a long time, I just couldn’t make nice pancakes – they were chewy or burnt or too thick or too thin. Anything that could be wrong with a pancake in various combinations. I also seem to forget how I did them just right the last time, so I’m writing this down so I will never forget!

The recipe I now use is from Marguerite Pattern, who is hard to fault. The thing with pancakes is that you have to go through a lot of trial and error with your equipment to get them just right. So this is how I manage to make them the way we like:

1. I have a “pancake pan” I bought on a whim (in the hope of better pancakes). It is very shallow, which makes turning them a lot easier.
2. A large non-stick spatula, which I use to turn the pancakes (more details later…)
3. A ladel that I know contains the right amount of batter with one full scoop – the right amount for us is just enough to cover the whole bottom of the pan without any excess pooling in the centre
4. Unsalted butter to cook the pancake with – chop a tiny amount off, then running it round the bottom of the pan with a pastry brush gives the perfect amount.

Pancake Turning

I am useless at flipping pancakes. So I found a way to turn them without inevitable disaster/folding. I ladel my batter in and let it coat the pan by rolling it around. There should be no excess. I wait for the pancake to start to cook, then when it is set on the underside, I lay my spatula flat on the pancake and nudge it, so that the pancake overlaps on the far side of the frying pan by about an inch. I then put my spatula to one side, grab the dangling pancake and in one quick motion (eech, ooch, ouch) lift it up, towards me and flop it uncooked side down back into the pan. It then takes only a few more seconds for that side to be cooked through.

I forgot this technique while we were away over the summer, and when I made my first pancakes I couldn’t for the life of me remember how I did it – so this is now more than a mere mental note!

Pancake Ingredients -makes 6 pancakes

  • 100 g plain flour
  • 250 ml milk
  • 1 or 2 eggs (I use two usually)
  • generous knob of unsalted butter, melted (absolutely necessary for a good texture)

How to Make the Pancakes

Sieve the flour, microwave the butter in a cup, then add the milk and egg and butter to the flour and mix.

I’ve found it doesn’t really matter about letting the batter cool for these pancakes. Pancakes can be disappointing on too high, or too low a heat. You need to get the pan hot enough to melt the butter, but not so hot that it burns – medium heat is best. Cook until one side is set then flip if you can or use the turning trick if not!

Mackerel Pate

Recipes that come from friends are usually easy and economical. But… when my friend told me we were going to have mackerel pate, I was extremely apprehesive. To me, nothing could sound nearly as bad – so I let her make it and I reluctantly tasted it. And then I was in love. It’s a wonderful snack, dolloped on an oatcake and eaten with a cup of tea (I even had it for breakfast once last week!)

Ingredients – for one person, which makes enough for three of the above pictured serving

  • one cooked, smoked mackerel fillet
  • a fifth of a tub of soft cream cheese (e.g. Philadeliphia)
  • squeeze of lemon
  • black pepper or cayenne pepper (or both!)

How to Make it

Flake the mackerel, then mix it all together. Some people like it more chunky, others like a smoother mix so concoct to your taste.

And that is it! As you should with a recipe that works, is easy and cheap, I’m going to pass this recipe on to my mum, as I’m certain she would love it. Enjoy mummykins!

Chicken and Ginger Gyoza

A friend lent me their wagamama cookbook and though the gyoza appealed, I thought the likelihood of me getting my hands on gyoza skins was so small I didn’t note the recipe. When I went to the asian superstore, however, I found some in the freezer section. So I looked around the net, improvised and guessed the filling.

I made the above gyoza for a buffet (I made over 40 in total!!) and I fried them to appeal to the masses. You can just as easily steam them or part-fry, part steam them by adding some water in a wok. Although they’re called gyoza (sometimes Beijing dumplings I’ve read) we seem to have got into the habit of calling them potstickers as we usually have them in the more healthy steamed way.

I love the flavour of these, and I get to use my swish Cuisinart mini food processor (Christmas present) to zap the chicken.

The following recipe makes about 20 -25 depending on how much you stuff them.


  • 1 chicken breast – blitzed
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon rice wine
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • white pepper to taste
  • 1/4 onion very finely sliced
  • 1 cup of finely sliced cabbage (any works, but chinese cabbage is best)
  • 2 tablespoons beansprouts, sliced in thirds
  • 1 cm of minced ginger
  • 1 clove minced garlic

How to Make It

It’s a case of whizzing the chicken to a pulp, then mixing all the above ingredients together. And it should end up looking like this:

You then put about a teaspoon or so of filling into the centre of each gyoza, wet all round the edges and press round. Apparently very experienced people can do this with one hand. It took me some time… TOP TIP: use an enormous plate to put them on and cover it with cling film (I learnt after the picture below) or they tend to stick to things, including each other.

You then cook in the desired fashion. Fry until they go golden brown, steam through (may take about 10 minutes? Check by cutting one open), or fry initially in a wok then add water and cover for 10 minutes or so. There is such a small amount of chicken in each that these short cooking times cause no worry.

I’ve tried various dipping sauces, many turning out overwhelmingly strong. A lovely dipping sauce to go with the gyoza is:

Dipping Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons light soy
  • 1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger minced

Leave in a fridge for the flavours to mingle beforehand.

These disappear instantly when offered around, so make plenty! If you have any insights about gyoza, please let me know, I’d love to try variations on this.