steamed vegetable and mushroom buns

Growing up, the only the bread on the counter was 100% whole wheat. Whole wheat bread can be delicious and nutty, but this whole wheat bread was as delicious and nutty as mildewed sawdust. When chewed it collapsed into a gummy mass that clung to one’s teeth. I much preferred eating it frozen, where the slices of bread were actually quite crisp and refreshing.

So there was this 100% whole wheat glue, a hideously poor excuse for a bread, palatable only when slathered with butter and sugar and cinnamon, and far more useful for stopping up the corners of drafty windows. And then there was steamed bread.Steamed buns were the Wonder Bread of my childhood. Steamed bread was not whole grain in the slightest, it was pearly and luminescent. And steamed bread was sweet and it was soft and fluffy and springy. There was nothing between you and the glutinous fluffiness, the pillowy fine crumb, and the sweet chewy softness, nothing, especially not a thick crust, bitter with char and with the tears of children who lust after trimmed sandwiches. The thin stretchy skin of steamed buns made them the contents of the dreams.

I would only get steamed bread when we went for dim sum. I would carefully separate the layer of bread from the filling, discarding the meat for my parents or grandparents. I tolerated none of the the saucy cha sui tarnishing the precious experience of steamed bread, free of all other flavours or distractions.Realizing that I could make my own steamed bread at home was a revelation that came later in junior high school. While it could have been the gateway to perpetual soft bread happiness, alas, the right texture still evaded me. I found the bread tended to shrivel once out of the steamer and were tough and gummy. Distressed, I gave up and I didn’t return to steamed bread until more recently.

I certainly haven’t perfected steamed buns and my sealing could certainly use some more work, but when you have the time–say a nice lazy Saturday morning free–you can have buns in time for lunch. And now I no longer banish the filling to be separated from the bun. As I’ve come to accept the pleasant combination of bun filling and bun itself eaten together, steamed buns have become another vehicle for any sort of filling that one is feeling up to at the time. This was a simple filling, just leftover vegetables cooked with some mushrooms and dried bean curd.

As I explain in the recipe below, the buns have been improving. I’ve found larger buns and thicker layers of bread around the filling facilitate more fluffy texture than gumminess, and careful gradual cooling allows the buns to not collapse. It may not quite be Wonder Bread, but a fresh steamed bun remains a lovely, adequate, somewhat fulfilling thing all on its own.

steamed vegetable and mushroom buns

dough

Bread dough adapted from Fuschia Dunlop’s Land of Fish and Rice. Enough for 10-11 smaller buns or 6-7 larger buns.

250 g all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp sugar

1 tsp dry yeast

1/2 tsp baking powder

150-160 mL warm water

2 tsp oil

Mix the flour with the sugar, salt, yeast, baking powder. Form a well in the centre, add the water and oil. Mix with a wooden spoon, switching to hands when necessary, to form a cohesive dough. Let rest for 10 minutes, then knead a few times until nice a smooth. Form into a tight round, cover and let proof until doubled, either in the fridge overnight or for around 40 min to 1 hour at room temperature.

 

filling & assembly

2 sticks dried bean curd/tofu sheets

2 small dried shiitake mushrooms

1 small knob ginger

1 clove garlic

3 button mushrooms

2 green onions

handful cilantro

leftover cooked green vegetables–gai lan, bok choy, cabbage…

2-3 tsp light soy sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp black vinegar

plenty of ground white pepper

small spoonful of cornstarch

Cover the dried bean curd and shiitake with boiling water and let soak. The bean curd should preferably soak overnight, but if not, instead you can soak until pliable, thinly slice crosswise, and then continue soaking–the smaller pieces will soften completely through very quickly. Squeeze the excess liquid out of the sliced bean curd and shiitake.

Remove the stem from the shiitake, thinly slice the cap crosswise and then cut perpendicularly into small pieces.

Finely chop the ginger and garlic. Chop the button mushrooms into small pieces. Heat a bit of oil in a small pan and cook the ginger, garlic, shiitake and button mushrooms until the mushrooms have cooked and sweated out the water. Set aside.

Finely chop the green onions, chop the cilantro (include the stems too, chopping them more finely). Chop the vegetables into small pieces as well; if leftover gai lan, cut the stem lengthwise into halves or quarters and then cut crosswise into small pieces. Be sure to squeeze out any excess liquid.

Combine all the prepared ingredients in a bowl. Season with the soy sauce, sesame oil, black vinegar and white pepper; taste and adjust as necessary. Lastly, mix in the cornstarch to sop up any excess liquid.

To fill the buns, roll the dough into a log and cut into pieces. For a nice small-medium bun, I like 40g of dough (you will get around 10-11), whereas a larger bun can use 60g of dough (6-7 of those). Roll each piece of dough into a ball, ensure they stay covered to prevent drying out, and let rest for a few minutes.

Take one round of dough and roll into a small circle, then begin rolling just around the edges. You want to end up with a round of dough which has a thicker round centre and thinner edges–as you’ll be pleating the edges together, this is useful to ensure a more even distribution of dough around the filling. Place the round of dough in the palm of your non-dominant hand and place 1-2 spoonfuls of filling in the centre. Use your thumb and fingers of your dominant hand to make folds of dough and pleat them together, turning the bun in a clockwise manner as you do so. Are you make one go around the bun, you may likely end up with a pleated top, but a rather large gaping hole in the middle, so then go around a second time, tightening and pulling together the dough in a clockwise direction until you end up with a sealed bun.

If you notice, my buns were rather poorly sealed–the filling is a bit greasy so I believe the bit of oil from the excess filling caught between the folds of dough helped them spread apart when expanding and steaming. Something to work on!

Left over filling can be used for dumplings or even briefly heated in a pan and eaten with rice.

Place each bun on a small square of paper, cover and let rise until puffed, around 20 minutes. Place in a steamer with some water, and set over high heat. Once the water is boiling, turn down the heat a bit to maintain a vigorous simmer and steam for around 8 minutes (maybe a bit longer for larger buns). Remove the steamer from the heat, and let gradually cool down with the lid still firmly on for 10 minutes–otherwise when opening the lid, the cold air can cause immediate and devastating shrinkage of otherwise lovely and fluffy steamed buns.

 

tarte tartiflette

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tarte tartiflette

I recently spent some time in Saskatoon. It was a bit like revisiting an old album (or for a less poetic example, rewatching the first season of Digimon on Youtube) where you discover that you remember so much. There is so much familiar, and maybe it’s a particular exchange (and if we’re talking English-dubbed Digimon, almost certainly some terrible puns) or a particular street or shop, but some of it is in fact crystalline in its clarity. And some of it was not even the recall of memories that had been slightly out of reach–I realised a number of childhood memories that I had falsely attributed to Victoria were in fact Saskatoon. Despite the drastically different location–one on an island, and one in the prairies–there is something similar about the feeling between the two cities, perhaps to do with the size and the people and this trajectory of gentle growth. It’s perhaps a strange comparison to make, but there is also the architecture of a smaller downtown packed with beautiful older buildings.

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As for the baking. Well. Many things, such as funerals and the like, are not often particularly cheerful–though they can be many other things, such as cathartic, releasing, memorable, and reminiscent. However, bookending anything not particularly cheerful with visits to bakeries and a box of pastries tends to be, if not positive, at the very least not a negative development.

It was in one sort of situation or another that we found ourselves at Little Bird Patisserie. In a word it was incredible; while we didn’t arrive in time for a famed cruffin, the croissants were spectacular, crisp, light, flaky, well-browned, and perhaps what made them stand out the most–well-salted.

t was a bit of a fantasy shop for me actually; apparently they serve afternoon tea, a creative and rotating array of pastries savoury and sweet, and of course a fantastic croissant.

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But anyways, after recovering from all the croissant-induced satiety and gaiety, there was also their “tartiflette“. It essentially sang of smokey cured meat, aged cheese, all nestled between packed layers of thinly sliced potatoes under a crisp, deep brown crust. And so while the croissants are something I hope to (re)visit someday, for the moment the tartiflette took priority.

Looking into the namesake a bit, tartiflette, it turns out, is a gratin-type dish, completely different from the tart.  It does retain the same sort of spirited mishmash of rich and winter-y ingredients and intense carbohydrate piling.

In making this tart, I used what meat and cheese I had in the fridge. As I had hard cheeses, and because conceptualizing putting together the tart wasn’t clicking otherwise, I made a very thick and rich bechamel (more along the lines of a suspension of milk in melted cheese than the converse). Onions, shallots and cured meat was cooked together until the onions were softened and sweet. All of this was layered with parboiled potatoes.

On the potatoes front, I imagine this working just perfectly with waxy small red potatoes (and the skins would look so pretty as well). I used the small, wrinkled, and fervently sprouting kennebecs leftover from the summer however. They’re starchier, but still worked nicely. Not having any fresh herbs was a bit of shock, so I used a tad bit of dried thyme–and wish that I had not been so worried and just went for it.

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It was a good tart–especially eaten warm, it is rich and heavy. The bottom crust stayed flaky and didn’t become at all sodden, and the thin spread of bechamel overtop crisped up beautifully.

However, it did end up a bit more like a scalloped potatoes tart than I would have hoped. I did identify a number of changes I would make to remedy this. First, I should have sliced the potatoes more thinly; really, I sliced them approximately scalloped-potatoes-type thickness. This would result in more thin layers and less of a “chunky” texture. Further, along with more layers, I would have spread out the bechamel more thinly. Finally, I also would have liked a greater herby presence–so if you have fresh thyme, put in plenty, and maybe even some parsley stems.

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tarte tartiflette

Makes 1 large rectangular tart (roughly 26 x 15 cm). Inspired by the tartiflette at Little Bird Patisserie and then by this tartiflette recipe in the Guardian by Felicity Cloake.

pastry

166 g cold butter

200 g whole wheat flour

3/4 tsp kosher salt

40-50 mL cold water

Cut the butter into thin pieces.

Mix together the flour and salt on the countertop. Add the butter, turning to coat both sides with flour. Using the heel of your hand, flatten the butter into the flour. Use a bench scraper to “fold” the butter flour mixture in half on top of itself. Repeat these steps until the butter forms many thin flakes. Make a well in the centre and add the water, working the dough in the same manner by turning it over onto itself until a cohesive pastry is formed. Wrap and chill completely.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface and line a large rectangular pan (26 x 15 cm). Blind bake for 20-25 minutes, then remove the baking weight and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until the pastry is a bit browned.

 

filling

600 g small potatos

1 onion

1/2 shallot

50 g coppa (as I had some very discounted old coppa…otherwise, smokey bacon or lardons)

1 tbsp butter

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and add the washed potatoes. Parboil until just tender. Drain, cover in cold water, and set aside to cool.

Thinly slice the onion and finely mince the shallot. Take the coppa or bacon and cut into small strips or pieces. Melt the butter in a pan over medium, add the onions and shallots and cook until very soft and the onions smell cooked. Add the coppa or bacon and continue to cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally until the onions are a bit sweet. Set aside.

Return to the cooled potatoes, drying them off and slicing very thinly.

 

bechamel

1 tbsp butter

1/8 tsp dry thyme

1 1/2 tsp flour

150 mL half-and-half or milk…I used primarily half-and-half

1 bay leaf

black pepper

30 g gruyere

80 g aged white cheddar

Melt the butter in a small saucepan with the thyme, add the flour and whisk until thick and cooked. Gradually whisk in the half-and-half or milk until smooth. Add the bay leaf and let sit over a gentle heat (steaming, not simmering) for around 10 minutes.

While the bay leaf infuses, roughly grate the cheeses. Remove the bay leaf and add the cheese a handful at a time to the sauce, whisking until melted before the next handful. Add a bit of black pepper.

 

assembly

pastry

potatoes

onion, shallot and copa mixture

bechamel

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Arrange a single layer of sliced potatoes on the bottom of the tart. Spread half of the onion mixture and a generous third of the bechamel over top. Repeat. Finally, set down a last layer of potatoes and spread with the scant remaining bechamel. A tiny sprinkle of salt over the potato layers may have some merit.

Bake for around 40 minutes or until a bit bubbly and deeply golden. Let cool on a wire rack–some time is required to allow the filling to set a bit, but it is best warm. Store in the fridge, but before eating, do warm it up in the oven. I insist.

biscuits & creamed swiss chard

biscuit and creamed swiss chardswiss chardWe all sometimes end up playing detective. Not just in school and work, but it’s for the little things, like, as I recently commiserated with an aunt, the source of strangely consistent patterns of holes or stains on shirts.

This time, it was when I was going to make a cake and I reached for the pickle jar containing what I thought was the spelt flour. Then, for some strange reason (I must have been possessed), I decided to read the label. (Read the label? Me?)

It was the whole wheat bread flour. Pushed to the very back was where I found the jar of spelt flour.

“Ah,” I said.

Maybe that explains some things about these stumpy little biscuits–the use of bread flour instead of spelt flour (what I thought I was using). It’s not just my awe-inspiring bread-creation powder resurfacing.

Maybe one day I will make a nice scone or biscuit. One day. And then there will actually be a nice scone or biscuit post on the blog. herb and spelt biscuitherb and spelt biscuitsbechamelAs for what prompted the concoction that is this blog post: I have yet to try biscuits and gravy. It doesn’t sound very good to me–really, it sounds rather dry. But it is something you hear about, and it is a thing unto itself. I think it reasonable to conclude that really, it must be good.

So, I’ve been thinking about biscuits and gravy recently, and then I thought: Swiss chard. creamed Swiss chard.

Creamed Swiss chard with biscuits?

Ah. Biscuits and creamed Swiss chard.biscuit with creamed swiss chardcreamed swiss chard with biscuitscreamed swiss chard and herb on biscuitWell, it didn’t exactly work. Maybe because my biscuits were not very tall and fluffy (bread flour, and surely also because I mishandled them) or maybe because the creamed swiss chard that I was certain would encompass the richness and textures of biscuits and gravy did not actually do so.

Rather than the biscuit, I would just go for a thick slice of toasted and buttered grainy bread. (I did in fact, and it was quite nice). The creamed Swiss chard is delicious and overly rich and a perfect repository for both garden Swiss chard and garden herbs. I can always use new ways to eat Swiss chard, and this particular way overwhelms the assertive Swiss chard flavour in lovely heavy cream.

Now about the biscuits: surprisingly, they were quite moist actually (all the herbs?), and did not dry out and become tough by the next day as I’m used to for biscuits. At the same time, they were also stout and a bit doughy.

Until the void in my heart (left by the absence of biscuits and gravy) is filled, I will fill it with this analogous biscuits and creamed swiss chard. Because, despite any misgivings about the dish itself, as an analogy, it works.chard and biscuits is pretty catchy… will be the name of my next blog, and I will finally have conquered my nemeses, chard and biscuits

Makes biscuits aplenty and creamed Swiss chard sufficient for 4 persons equipped with healthy appetites for cream. 

herb biscuits

Adapted from the New York Times. Makes around 10 biscuits.

120 g a.p. flour

100 g whole wheat or spelt flour

1 tsp salt

some ground black pepper

1 generous tbsp baking powder

5 tbsp cold butter

small bunch of chives

a few sprigs of tarragon

a few sprigs of sage

small handful thyme sprigs

small handful parsley

50 mL runny 2.5% yoghurt

150 mL milk

Whisk together flours, salt, pepper and baking powder. Cut the butter into small pieces, toss in the flour until coated, and rub in with fingertips until the flour mixture is crumbly, and some butter is still visible in small pieces.

Pick the thyme leaves from the stem. Finely chop the chives and tarragon. Finely slice the leaves of the sage and parsley. Toss the herbs into the flour mixture and mix gently. Using a fork, mix in the yoghurt and milk until just combined.

Turn the dough out onto a flour surface and knead just a few times. Press out the dough until it is around 1″ thick and let rest, covered with a bit of plastic wrap, for half an hour.

Preheat oven to 425F while the dough rests.

Press out a bit thinner, around 3/4″ thick, and cut into circles with a glass. Gently reroll the scraps until all the dough is used.

Bake for around 12 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom.

 

creamed swiss chard & assembly

Bechamel and creamed greens adapted from The Nordic Cookbook by Magnus Nilsson. 

2 tbsp butter

1 slice of red onion

8-cm length of garlic scape

1 1/2 tbsp flour

100 mL heavy cream

150 mL milk

white pepper

grated nutmeg

1 large bundle of swiss chard

3 tbsp crème fraîche

1 small handful chives

a few sprigs of dill

sliced radish

For the bechamel, heat up the butter in a saucepan. Finely chop the red onion and garlic scape and cook in the butter until softened. Then add the flour and whisk until cooked. Gradually whisk in the milk and cream, whisking until the flour is completely incorporated and a slightly thickened sauce is formed. Season with salt, white pepper and a bit of grated nutmeg.

For the creamed Swiss chard, bring a pot of salted water to boil. Cook the Swiss chard until the stems are just getting tender and then remove and cool in a bowl of ice water. Squeeze out the excess water and chop roughly.

How much bechamel you need will depend on how much Swiss chard you have and how creamy you like your creamed greens, so start off by heating up half the bechamel in a small saucepan. Add the greens and stir, adding more bechamel until all the greens are nicely coated and somewhat swimming in sauce. If it is too thick, a bit of milk can be stirred in to thin it out. Cook until everything is heated through, taste for seasoning, and then stir in the crème fraîche, some finely chopped chives and dill.

To assemble, heat up some biscuits in the oven (unless you have coordinated such that they are fresh!). Split the biscuit in half, top with some hot creamed Swiss chard, some additional chopped herbs and sliced radishes.

kimbap

Kimbap makes me think of a few things: a perfect sort of balance, generously filled and filling enough to be a whole meal, and of course the fragrance of roasted sesame oil. Roasted sesame oil could be a perfume or cologne, and would keep the wearer, and everyone within whiffing distance, perpetually hungry.

No recipe to share for this–it’s up to you, but for reference, I’ll direct you to the wonderful Maangchi. Otherwise, enjoy an excessively excessive quantity of photos.

(Contents: Egg seasoned and cooked with sesame oil, blanched spinach with soy and sesame oil, imitation crab, cucumber, green onion, pickled daikon, carrot cooked until it just tender. Rice is flavoured with sugar, salt, sesame oil and vinegar. Don’t be afraid when filling–it holds more than you expect!)ingredients for kimbap

eggplant, feta and chermoula pasties

So I’m a bit worried that these pasties are a bit too buzzwordy. Like “innovation” and “community engagement”, I have combined

  • the eggplant (the ever lovely eggplant)
  • with feta (okay, so maybe not quite a buzzword),
  • and then even chermoula (gah!),
  • and lastly with pasty (which may be a buzzword only to me).

The nice thing about food buzzwords is that they are a bit easier to taste for yourself. I made these 10 months ago actually, and they still seem to be awfully relevant. I wouldn’t call eggplant quite on trend anymore–speaking solely from my Western perspective, that seems to be the word reserved for foods making the initial break into the consciousness of the food sphere populated by food magazines and celebrity chefs and frequently updated blogs. But eggplant still carries a lot of weight.

Does anything ruin the atmosphere better than discussion of an ingredient’s popularity? Why focus on whether or not a food is in instead of how it tastes? (It goes either way–either fervently avoiding the trends or riding them).

I think that there is a good reason to consider this. For better or for worse, food trends are what bring awareness to certain ingredients. And sometimes food can get a bit political. It’s part of considering how an ingredient got to your plate, your city, where it came from and why.

On the worse side: take the Western appropriation of quinoa hiking prices for populations that relied upon the grain in their diet.

Or this well-written article, which I can’t recommend enough:

In the United States, immigrant food is often treated like discount tourism — a cheap means for foodies to feel worldly without leaving the comfort of their neighborhood — or high-minded fusion — a stylish way for American chefs to use other cultures’ cuisines to reap profit. The dishes of America’s recent immigrants have become check marks on a cultural scavenger hunt for society’s elite.

Ruth Tam, Chicago Tribune

On the better side: promoting the local food economy, and hopefully the environmental cause at the same time.

Reforming agriculture and promoting sustainability won’t just help us get better and healthier food; it will also fight greenhouse-gas emissions and water pollution. The food movement has been criticized as elitist, but that reputation belies recent efforts to get low-cost fruits and vegetables to urban poor who suffer disproportionately from obesity and diabetes.

Bryan Walsh, Time Magazine

Besides…would I have tried (often unsuccessfully) to cook eggplant so many times and would I have come to love and appreciate eggplant had I not been exposed to so much gosh darn eggplant adoration on the internet and in print? Maybe not! What you may have first noticed is the terrible crimping. I make no excuses for myself; I watched a video, but am the sort of person who can’t pick these things up–or at least not without endless practice. In addition, even when I did think I was getting somewhere with the crimping, the pastry (half Kamut) was too crumbly to pleat. It needs a bit more gluten, so until then a simple fork-pressed crimp works better.

And then there is the fact that I tend to overfill everything (dumplings and buns and so forth), leaving not too much overhang to attempt to pleat and to only succeed in crumbling.

I was quite happy with the filling. After roasting the eggplant, it was quite dry, but encased in the pastry it steamed quite nicely and become very moist. The flip side of that is that the pasties don’t last as long. While the pastry was crisp and flaky, the wet filling ensured the pastry lost its crispness after a couple days in the fridge.eggplant, feta and chermoula pasties

Makes 8 reasonably sized pasties. 

kamut pastry

The pastry was too brittle and did not have enough gluten for nice crimping. 

100 g Kamut flour (oh gee this is another thing to research)

100 g all purpose flour

generous pinch salt

116 g cold butter

~40 mL cold water

Whisk together flours and salt. Cut the butter into pieces and rub into the flour. Add as much water as necessary until the dough just comes together.

Wrap in plastic and chill completely.

 

eggplant and feta filling

Makes extra filling, enough to fill around 10 pasties.

1 large mediterranean eggplant (equivalent to ~ 2 small eggplants that have been generously trimmed)

~ 4 tbsp olive oil

2 generous tbsp chermoula dry spice mix – I made mine using this recipe

1 small onion

1 clove garlic

50 g feta

handful parsley

handful mint

1/2 tsp sumac

salt

egg yolk, for assembly

Chop the eggplant into dice. Toss with 2 tbsp of olive oil, a generous pinch of salt and 1 tbsp chermoula. Pile onto a tray and roast for 30 min at 400F or until softened. Let cool.

Thinly slice the onion and the garlic. Fry the onion with 2 tbsp of olive oil until soft and translucent, then add the garlic, and finally 1 tbsp of chermoula. Stir constantly to slightly toast the spices, then remove from the heat. Let cool.

Chop the mint and parsley. Crumble the feta. In a large bowl, mix together the eggplant, onion mixture, herbs and parsley. Add the sumac, taste for seasoning and add salt as necessary.

Cut the chilled pastry into eight pieces. Form each into a ball and roll out thinly.

Pile a large scoop of eggplant mixture onto the centre of each round. Fold one half of the pastry over and fold over the overlapping pastry edges to seal. Brush each pastie with the egg yolk, whisked with a bit of water to thin.

Bake at 400F for 30 minutes or until nicely crisped and browned on top

 

yoghurt and tahini sauce

It makes everything better. More buzzwords too! Ack!

20 g runny tahini

70 g 2.5% yoghurt

pinch salt

juice of 1/4 lemon

small handful parsley

small handful mint

paprika and sumac to garnish

Finely chop the parsley and mint. Whisk together the tahini, yoghurt, lemon, salt and herbs. Sprinkle with the paprika and sumac to garnish. Serve along side warm pasties.

radish and coconut tarts

I had baked the pastry and mixed together the yoghurt. I opened up the drawer to get the okra and found that it had completely rotted away. So, that’s what happened to these okra tarts for Lina’s Creative Ingredient Challenge…they turned into radish tarts. For this challenge Lina assigned each of us a vegetable. I was excited to work with okra (I could tell from the start it would be either a tart or a cake!) but in the end, I didn’t manage to carry it out. I’m not exactly participating for this challenge as a result, but I’m still sharing what I ended up with. “Informal” participation maybe?

Anyways, imagine them how they should be. Take the okra, slice it into rounds and fry it in a generous amount of very hot oil until almost burnt on both sides and crisp. Toss it in a bowl with some salt, paprika, turmeric and mustard seeds. While still hot, put on top of the tarts along with a bit of sliced radish and fresh mint. Eee I think it would work. I think, but it’s hard to tell without actually making it!turmeric rough puff pastrybaked turmeric puff pastryI’ll try again with okra one day to make them properly, and in the meantime, perhaps it’s good that I ended up making these radish tarts first. A couple things could be improved. I found the radish tarts rich enough, and so having crispy and oily okra might be too rich. Secondly, maybe a food processor instead of a mortar and pestle could be used to make the filling a bit more paste-like, and I could probably play around a bit more with the flavours in the filling.

Lina’s challenge, which I’ve already failed one criteria of, asks us to write about a best friend. Quite a few of my friends know I have a food blog, but they don’t actually know what it’s called or seen it…I always put it off, saying “one day when it’s actually good” and sometimes “one day when I actually write something substantial.” While it’s improved since it first began, at the very least, I have a feeling I’ll keep on putting it off for ages…I was already pretty shy and I decided to go to a high school where I didn’t have any pre-exising friends to smooth the transition. For the first couple weeks it was my biggest regret and I berated myself constantly. Now I realize if I had gone to a different school, I would have missed out on some of my favourite people.

The first day was that bizarre tumble of different people and meandering around and feeling lost. Our high school was always a bit overcrowded, and so I found out I was sharing a locker with two other people. I met them both that first day where the three of us stared doubtfully at the skinny metal box, big enough to hold one backpack and maybe a couple books on the shelf. That was the last day I ever saw them, after that it was only their winter coats, which sort of sums of my first few weeks–I would meet people and then never see or speak to them again.So this is about the first lasting friend I made in senior high school, and who made my high school life a lot more fun. She came into our first class of high school, Social Studies, late, and responded in the best possible way–with a slightly apologetic and rueful but cheerful smile. At that moment I thought she looked like the sort of person I wanted to be friends with. And I’m so glad we did become friends.

I don’t really think these tarts are exactly her thing, and they were too perishable and troublesome to transport, so I fed them to my parents instead. That being said, as she is very nice, I’m sure she would still give them a try.

(And, to conclude: to this day, she’s still occasionally late to lectures…though, sometimes I’m worse!)radish and coconut tarts

Makes about 7 small tarts. Pastry is an amalgamation of Chocolate and Zucchini’s rough puff pastry and Chez Pim’s pie dough. I think both methods work well on their own, and seem to work very nicely together as well.

The filling is inspired by the paste from Lina’s curry.

pastry

112 g cold butter

112 g whole wheat flour

1/2 tsp tumeric

1/4 tsp paprika

1 tsp black mustard seeds

generous 1/4 tsp salt

~40-50 mL cold water

filling

1/2 c dried shredded unsweetened coconut

1 tsp poppy seeds

scant 1/2 tsp caraway seeds

1/2 tsp dried crushed red chile

1/4 tsp black mustard seeds

5 green cardamom pods

pinch ground cinnamon, cloves

1/4 tsp salt

1 large slice of ginger

1 small small onion (1/4 c finely chopped)

to top

1/3 c labneh

1/2 c yoghurt (or some other combination of some sort–whatever you need to get the right consistency)

1 thin slice of red onion

a few sprigs of mint

radishes (around one per tart)

black mustard seeds

paprika

To make the pastry, cut the butter into large, thin pieces (big flakes). Mix together the remaining ingredients except the water. Put the flour mixture on the counter, then put the butter pieces on top, turning over to dust completely with flour. Using a metal bench scraper or the heel of your hand, flatten the pieces of butter. Using the bench scrape, sort of fold the pile of butter in flour in half over itself and flatten once more. You will be creating thinner and thinner flakes of butter. Once the butter is flaked throughout thinly, make a well in the centre and mix in the water.

Then bring the dough together. Dust the surface with some additional flour, and with a rolling pin, roll out the dough into an elongate rectangle. Fold up into thirds like a letter. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and roll out into an elongate rectangle again, and the fold up once more. Repeat this 3 or so more times (somewhere in the range of 2-5 more times) such that you will have repeated the folding process 5 times. Wrap in plastic and chill.

To make the filling, dry toast the coconut in a small pan until nicely browned. Remove and set aside. Then toast the seeds, chile and cardamom (crack the pods to remove the cardamom seeds). Place in a small grinder and grind until quite fine and set aside. Mince the ginger and finely chop the onion. Combine everything in a mortar and pestle (perhaps in two batches if need be) to break the coconut until smaller pieces and begin to bring everything together.

To make the tart base, roll out the chilled dough, around 0.5 cm thick, or a bit thicker if desired, onto a floured surface. Cut into seven rounds using the fluted rim of a small tart pan. Place on a parchment lined baking tray and chill.

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Prick the pastry with the tines of a fork and bake for around 10 minutes. Then spread a generous spoonful of the filling over the centre of each partially baked tart. Bake for another 15 or so minutes at 350F or until each tart is baked through. Let cool.

To prepare the topping, Mix together the yoghurt and labneh. I did this to get a desired consistency of quite thick, but use whatever you have on hand to achieve the desired consistency. Finely chop the red onion and thinly slice a handful of mint leaves and mix into the yoghurt.

Slice the radishes in half and then slice thinly. Lightly toast the mustard seeds in a pan. Slice some additional mint leaves. To assemble, spread a generous amount of yoghurt on top of each tart. Arrange a generous amount of sliced radishes on top. Sprinkle with mustard seeds, a bit of paprika and sliced mint. Serve immediately.

curry buns

curry bunsMost years, it was, reliably my worst mark: physical education.

The sole highlight of my gym experience was making it once and only once onto the track and field team for the supremely unpopular 600 m (it seems all the true long distance runners preferred the 1000 or 10 000 m).loaf of milk bread

I was never good at sports or had any particular coordination, strength, or sense of balance. Gym class was about trying to not ruin the game for other people—it involved me trying to choose independent sports as much as possible, and if that was not possible, strategically moving to locations that would be least likely require me to reach for the ball. I usually volunteered for defense and somehow would always end up on the far side of the field when the ball made it back to our side. And strangely enough I ran very slowly. And sometimes would end up backing away instead.That being said, most people didn’t care at all, and if they did, they were very considerate. It was rare and pretty much unheard of to be lambasted for my inabilities. One time it was because someone thought I wasn’t trying, and not for actual lack of trying—it turns out that I just couldn’t pull down xx kg (I think for sake of my pride, I will censor the actual number). It was some kind of horrible point-system game in teams with workout equipment in the fragrantly sticky workout equipment room. To make up for it, I did as many jumping jacks as I could when we reached the jumping jack station, though I don’t think my team member was particularly impressed by that either.Even when I wasn’t being scorned (which pretty much all the time–everyone really was very nice), I was convinced that I was being regarded with either a bit of (imagined) disgust or uncomfortable pity.

Now that it’s been over four years since my last mandatory gym class I wish that I had taken advantage of it. I wish that I hadn’t been so scared and worried about others’ need to win and competitive spirit—because it wasn’t actually them that was making me hang back, it was really just me and that rather pervasive idea that if you aren’t good, you just shouldn’t try.sliced milk breadThe same goes for social dance—after five years of the jive and the Beach Boys (I don’t know why that was always a major part of the curriculum), I wish I had just tossed out the awkwardness and tried to enjoy it.

And I actually did enjoy it sometimes (how can you not enjoy the octopus?), but I made sure to pretend very hard that I didn’t. Because that’s what awkward youth like me did… right?

Now that I’m a bit older and at least cognizant enough to reflect, I should probably take these regrets with me, try to step a bit out of my comfort zone, and embrace some awkwardness right now instead.

(Well, maybe.)slice of milk breads&b curry powderI spent most of high school eating curry buns. They’re still my bakery staple. They always taste nice and curry-ful, so it’s hard to go wrong!

Anyways, I decided it was about time I try to make my own bakery favourite. They didn’t quite turn out how I was hoping. As always, my sourdough bread is pretty tough (time for some instant yeast bread maybe!), but the filling wasn’t how I wanted it to be. I think it was too dry and didn’t have the sort of ambiguous mushy and moist texture I was hoping for. I’m thinking that maybe a potato and curry bun might be a good alternative…

curry buns

curry buns

milk bread

Adapted from Woks of Life. I only used half the dough for the buns, and then baked the remaining as a loaf.

sponge:

50 g whole wheat flour

50 g sourdough starter

50 g water

dough

~500 g flour (520 was just perfect for me)

3 g wheat gluten

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

180 g milk

150 g heavy cream

1 egg

50 g sugar

 Mix the sponge and let it sit on the counter overnight.

The next day, combine all the ingredients for the dough (start off with a bit less flour–say 450 g and reserve the remaining on the side) in the bowl of a mixer (or go at it with a wooden spoon) until a dough forms. Add flour as needed until the dough is satiny, very tacky and soft. Continue kneading for 15 minutes.

Cover and proof in a warm place for ~8 hr.

 

filling

oil

225 g ground pork

small knob ginger

1 onion

1 small handful enoki

1 tbsp oyster flavour sauce

2 tsp soy sauce

1 tbsp + 1 tsp curry powder (I used S&B brand)

2 green onions

handful cilantro

Mince the ginger. Chop the onion. Chop the enoki into short 1-2 cm lengths. Finely chop the green onions and roughly chop the cilantro.

Heat some oil in a pan and cook the pork, breaking it up and cooking until just cooked but not dried out. Set aside.

Add some more oil to the pan and then the ginger and the onion. Cook until the onion turns translucent, then add the curry powder and cook for a few moments. Add the oyster sauce and cook until the smell dissipates. Add the enoki and cook briefly, then return the pork to the pan and mix to combine. Add the soy sauce and taste for seasoning. Mix in the cilantro and green onions, then remove from the heat.

 

assembly

To fill the buns, divide half of the risen dough into eight pieces. Roll each into a ball. Divide the filling into eight portions.

Take a piece of dough and roll out into a circle, keeping the centre thicker than the edges (it will look like a sunny side up fried egg). Mound the filling on the dough and pinch the edges together. Set seam side down on a tray.

Let the buns rise until nearly doubled.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Brush the buns with the egg and sprinkle with some black sesame seeds.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until well browned.

baking tins