Cooked dough with a filling. What’s not to love? Think pies, hot doughnuts, ravioli and tortellini.. Asian sesame balls and Neenish tarts. And dumplings! I was inspired to make these dumplings after seeing a recipe in the latest My Kitchen Rules cookbook. The cookbook version was made by MKR winners, South Australian’s Leigh and Jennifer..but I changed the recipe to suit our tastes. When it came time for me to buy lamb (the MKR girls used half beef, half lamb), I went to 3 supermarkets and each one was sold out of lamb mince. So I bought some lamb and minced it myself!
Now… when you see a dumpling with a gorgeous buttery sauce, it may appear labour intensive considering there’s dumpling dough to make, a filling and a sauce. But they weren’t difficult to make at all. My advice is, make sure you have all your ingredients hours before you start cooking rather than race from supermarket to supermarket, wear yourself out..and then go home and start cooking (or in my case, start mincing meat). You could make the filling in advance, even the buttery sauce (which would easily reheat), so what’s left is the dumpling dough which you whip-up when needed.
Having said that, the filling for these dumplings is so tasty I’m considering making it again to serve alongside rice, couscous or even mashed potato. In that instance I would make a homemade brown sauce/gravy (not the buttery one in this recipe) to add to the aromatic meat filling and serve it with a wedge of lime.
In my foodie news this week I can share that I recently had another very good dinner at Black Salt restaurant in Geelong. Black Salt fronts ‘Chifley on the Esplanade’ which is hotel accommodation in front of the bay. As a family we all agree Black Salt is consistently in our ‘Top Three’ places to eat in Geelong. Most people, for some reason are surprised by this. I’ve left the restaurant a very good review on Urbanspoon so you can read more about it there.
I also (for the second time) ate at ‘Japanese Restaurant Kambei’ (in Ballarat)… or ‘Kambei’ as I call it. And it was the second time I ate their set four course menu too which is the only menu they offer on a Friday and Saturday nights. I don’t think the husband would be keen to revisit because he felt like he hadn’t really had any food by the end of the night and proceeded to eat chocolate biscuits in the car for half of the one hour journey home. The courses are small and light, so if you’re really hungry and love your meat and potatoes, I’d suggest having chocolate biscuits in the car for the journey home or ask your navigator to point you in the direction of the nearest drive-thru takeaway. I think Kambei do good food. Or at very least “the vicinity” of good. It’s not perfect (eg. cold dishes are too cold and tiny spinach salads and pickled fish which are bordering on ‘frosty’ should be allowed to ’rest’ at room temperature before serving). I also get a bit annoyed when every staff member approaching our table (three on the night) tries to educate me about sushi and/or alert me/us about the ‘sashimi’ which means ‘raw fish’ they said. Yes I know it means raw fish. My ‘smiley’ responses of “I’ve been eating sushi for years..and yes raw fish for years too” make me uncomfortable and somehow there’s no polite way to keep saying it by the second visit. We told the first waiter that we knew what sushi and sashimi was.. but the other two staff members who served us kept wanting to educate us. I also think if you give diners over-starched white linen napkins and a set menu (costing $39.90 a head), then also offer proper chopsticks, not disposable ones -and don’t expect us to keep using the same disposable chopsticks with each course. Look, I would go back again I think .. if only to try their ‘a la carte’ menu on a weekday. My curiosity hasn’t been satisfied yet.
But speaking of Japanese joints.. I revisited a local Japanese eatery I’d been boycotting for a while. Namely because I started boycotting their closest competitor too. Again. Bad service and rudeness can only be tolerated for a time in my book. So out of desperation, I went back to this other place who once gave away my daughter’s birthday booking because a larger group wanted to dine on the night. We only found out when we arrived, all dressed up, teenagers in tow..and hungry. Anyway… this place last week gave me a glass of water and the glass had a sizey lipstick imprint (the size of an open mouth). It was almost neon pink.. and not even faded. It looked like I’d done it myself. But it wasn’t my lipstick. My lips weren’t going anywhere near that glass. I flagged down a waitress who snatched the glass from me and didn’t say a thing, let alone offer an apology. I should have left the restaurant right then and there even though we were waiting for our food. I mean.. if that’s an indicator of their hygiene standards.. I should have been worried. My daughter said “Just as well that person was wearing lipstick”. Black Salt restaurant on the other hand would never stoop to those hospitality lows.. and it’s why we keep going back. Things are the right temperature, food is lovely, inventive, surprising and menu’s are changed seasonally (with weekly specials added). We get real cutlery (a set for every course).. a black salt and white pepper grinder.. the seats are comfy, the dining room is relaxing, the atmosphere soothing, staff are attentive but not in your face, the loo’s are clean and not in need of any maintenance. And they’re only a 12 minute drive away. Places like this lick my culinary wounds and for this I’m grateful.
North African Lamb Dumplings
*Lamb mince x 400gm
*Pine nuts x 50gm, lightly toasted
*Raisins x 50gm, chopped
*Garlic x 1 large clove, minced or chopped very finely
*Onion x 1, finely chopped
*Fresh parsley, coriander & mint x 1/4 cup of each, chopped
*Sweet paprika x 1 teaspoon
*Lemon zest (from half a lemon)
*Salt & Pepper to season
*Plain flour x 500gm
*Plain yoghurt x 200gm
*Salt x 1 teaspoon
*Water x 1 cup (or keep adding until you get a soft dough)
*Butter x 60gm
*Pinenuts x 30gm, lightly toasted
*Raisins x 40gm, chopped
*Fresh parsley,coriander and mint, 1/4 cup of each chopped
*Zest and juice of half a lemon
*Salt & Pepper to season
*Micro-celery leaves (from centre of celery bunch)
*Saute onions until soft, set aside on a plate.
*Brown mince in same fry pan, add softened onions and spices and fry another minute, stirring.
*Stir through raisins, pinenuts, fresh herbs and lemon zest and turn off heat (taste and add salt and pepper if needed).
*To make dough, in a large bowl combine yoghurt with flour and salt …then add water in small doses until you have a soft dough.
*Important: Knead dough for 10 minutes on a floured surface, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for twenty minutes.
*When dough is ready, roll out on a floured surface with a rolling pin (until around 3mm thin). Then with a round cookie cutter (at least 8cm), cut out dumpling ’rounds’ and set aside.
*Place heaped teaspoonful’s of lamb mixture into each piece of dough, fold over and seal by pressing the edges together, making sure there are no holes for the filling to escape.
*Boil a large pot of water and cook dumplings in batches (by plonking them into bubbling water)… no more than 10-11 at a time.
*I kept cooked dumplings warm in a low oven on a baking tray, covered with damp baking paper.
*To make finishing sauce, melt butter in a frypan or saucepan, add raisins, pinenuts, herbs and sizzle gently for a minute or so (making sure not to make the pinenuts dark brown), then add lemon zest and juice and season with salt and pepper.
*Toss dumplings through buttery finishing sauce gently and serve in a warm bowl or plate with a good dollop of yoghurt and micro-celery leaves.
*We ate these as for a main meal with a crunchy salad. If you aren’t up to making this delicious dumpling dough, then store-bought dumpling wrappers can be substituted (but aren’t as good). Or consider only making the filling and serving it with cooked rice or mashed potato or couscous.