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Happy year of the dragon!

Today is the Chinese New Year, and what better way to celebrate than to share some tried and tested recipes. Having read the BBC Food’s article Dumplings: little parcels of luck for Chinese New Year last Thursday, I felt inspired to cook something new and completely different. I’ve always had quite a penchant for Chinese cuisine, with spare ribs, hot and sour soup and char siu being among my takeaway favourites. Of course, I like to think I do a pretty mean home cooked beef and shitake mushrooms in oyster sauce and my special fried rice has gone through many changes to in order to suit my taste buds. But other than a couple of attempts at prawn toast, I’ve never had a proper go at a typical Chinese starter ­– until now.

Heavily inspired by Ken Hom’s recipe, I did a quick rally round the supermarket to get a few bits and bobs. As I said, I love my stir frys and any other oriental-inspired dish, so I always have stock ingredients like soy sauce, rice vinegar, chillies and ginger in my cupboards. Keeping to a strict Credit Munched budget, I opted to only include prawns in the stuffing (basic range may I add) and grabbed a bunch of spring onions and some spinach as well.

Back at home, I started on the dumpling dough. Mixing and kneading – so far so good. While the dough rested for 20 minutes, I whipped up the stuffing as per the recipe and set it to the side. Now came the tricky bit. After a few more minutes of kneading I cut the dough into equal sized portions and began so roll them out. As is probably always the case, trust the recipe. I was a little hesitant at rolling the dough out so thin and wide, but after eating the dumplings my only real criticism was that the dough could have been thinner. My own fault really.

Stuffing the dumplings was always going to be the greatest challenge. And again, well known expressions come about for a reason – less is always more. Don’t be tempted to cram the stuffing in because it will only end up in dumplings that collapse at the seams. The moment any of the filling touches the edges of the dough, it makes it impossible to seal them. What with combatting the thin dough and stopping potentially hazardous filling from ruining the project, I didn’t even attempt the intricate pleating. No, instead I just mashed the edges together to create the ugliest looking Cornish pasty the world has ever seen.

A quick note as well, next time I would probably blend the stuffing ingredients in a food processor and then mix in the spinach to create more of a paste – like prawn toast. I think it would make it much easier to work with that way.

From then everything went quite smoothly. A quick fry in following by a 12 – 15 minute simmer in a small amount of water ensured I had produced some semi-authentic looking dumplings. As I said before, the dough could have been thinner, but otherwise not a bad attempt. I served with some soy sauce rather than the dip the recipe recommends (because I was so exhausted by the end of this marathon two hour cooking session) and some of my previously plugged special fried rice. Quite a salt hit and not the healthiest looking of dishes, but a tasty achievement nevertheless.

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