2 – Dumplings, Cauliflower, Muffins. 

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It’s a very rainy Good Friday this year. The sky is grey and gloomy and the window-panes are struck with rain-droplets. Accordingly, I am snuggled under a blanket on the sofa, eating a warm blueberry muffin and typing this while my family watch Grey’s Anatomy.

It’s been a dull, rainy week. Mild but still chilled. I’ve long been longing for warm weather, for sun and the opportunity to give my collection of t-shirts the attention they deserve. Yet, I have an appreciation nonetheless for days like this: mulish and charming, with umbrellas clutched close. I can feel the coming promise of spring in the slowly but pointedly rising temperature, but I can still enjoy wearing my snug jumpers and bulky fashion coats, and feel cosy coming inside. I welcome the prospect of warmer days, but I don’t resent winter quite as much as I did, even only a week or so ago. Days like these are a happy medium, perhaps offering closure.

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Here’s the food I’ve been thinking about this week:

  1. Dumplings.

You know, I’ve only just tried a traditional English-style dumpling. Isn’t that weird? Eaten enough gyoza to sink a small ship, waxed lyrical over pierogi, longed over this foreign dumpling and that — but somehow I’d never eaten one of our sorts of dumplings. Plain, steamed stodge over thick stew. Rib-sticking, fluffy comfortable carb. Simple but sort of glorious.

In truth, I made a very basic stew dumpling a couple weeks ago, back at uni. It was lovely. I made a version of this tomato stew (but with red wine instead of sherry vinegar: I love red wine in food) which was quick and delicious and wholesome, just right after aerobics class on a stupidly cold March day. What with the lack of eggs on my shopping list and the unappealing prospect of pinching butter into flour with my fingers for one person, though, I didn’t want to make the dumplings. I searched around for more basic recipes online instead, and found various vegan recipes suggesting you make them simply out of flour, milk (dairy or otherwise), and baking powder.

Now here was an appealing simplicity! None of the recipes catered for only one but I’m a dab hand at measuring down quick bread recipes to provide for myself (tragic sentence if ever I typed one) so I adapted. 4 tablespoons of flour, 2 tablespoons of milk, a pinch of baking powder and salt and maybe a glug of oil, if it looks like it needs it. 3 sizeable dollops onto the stew, lid on, simmer for 15-20 minutes…hey presto! They were hot and stodgy and chewy and just what my hungry stomach wanted.

(I have a half-formed thought of putting in a glug of sesame oil and spoonful of sugar to the dough, and one day steaming myself some sweet nutty pudding…things? I’ll come back to it. Maybe.)

Anyway, spurred on by my dumpling trial a couple weeks ago, this week I tried properly. Well, I haven’t quite worked my way up to suet, but I grated and pinched butter. This time the main meal was Jamie Oliver’s leftover chicken stew — which was very satisfying, by the way. Using up the leftovers from the roast made me feel powerfully thrifty and efficient (waste not! want not!) and setting it down proud and steaming in a big casserole dish to a crowded table was a satisfying moment. (Tasted good, too, although I would 100% advocate adding leeks).

As for the actual dumplings, the addition of the butter does definitely make for a fluffier dumpling! They were texturely different: less chewy than the basic dough, lighter. Worth the extra fiddling, if you’re making for others…although I would stick to the ease of milk-and-flour for myself.

 

  1. Roasted cauliflower.

I love cauliflower. I don’t actually buy it all that much, for some reason, but when I do I enjoy it. This week I had great satisfaction recreating a dish that I have never eaten but have lusted for over the internet for some time: 26 Grains’ roasted cauliflower.

I can’t offer comparison with the original, but mine was lovely. Lovely! My estimation of the cauliflower marinade was olive oil, cayenne chili powder, paprika, turmeric, cumin, crushed garlic, fresh rosemary, salt and black pepper. I positively massaged the mix into the cauliflower florets, then roasted them for about 25 minutes at gas mark 6, flat edges down on tin foil so they got a little crispy and caramelised on one edge. While they were roasting I also had some green lentils cooking in veg stock on the stove, and mixed cumin, garlic, and black pepper into some yoghurt. The cauliflower piled beautifully onto the lentils with some wilted spinach, toasted seeds, a reserved drizzle of honey, and some pickled onions. In truth, the yoghurt wasn’t quite necessary…but it was a worthy indulgence. Yumzos.

 

  1. Blueberry muffins.

I don’t really have anything to alter about this recipe! Smitten Kitchen’s blueberry muffins were lovely. Light and moist but with a crunchy top, singing with that hint of lemon zest and packed full of plump blueberries…heavenly. I personally made 10 muffins rather than her predicted 9, but this was the opposite of a problem. My only note would be that I didn’t have turbinado sugar so subbed brown for the topping…and a tablespoon was definitely too much. I think you still want a decent heap of sugar on there to crisp up, but a tablespoon for me was so much that there were still layers of unmelted sugar rolling about the place when you picked them up.

Still, speaking as someone who just ate one and is intending on reaching for another, these were good.

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