Steamed Rice Dumplings, stuffed with Shiitake Pesto

© Qin Xie-Krieger

© Qin Xie-Krieger

When I came to Germany fifteen years ago, european food was a big challenge for me and my stomach. The thick cream sauce, those strong smelly cheeses,  the always too large pieces of meat … Rarely I could find something in the university canteen, which was tasty for me.

One of the few dishes that I have quickly accepted from the beginning, were the German potato dumplings (Kartoffelknoedel). I could just eat a lot of them purely without any sauces or accessories. Now I know why. In my Chinese hometown there is a kind of dumpling, which has a very similar consistency like the German potato dumpling. However, it is not made from potatoes, but from rice (what else?). ;-)

© Qin Xie-Krieger

© Qin Xie-Krieger

The rice dumplings in China are usually a sweet dish, filled with delicious sweet black sesame paste. These sweet dumplings are mostly served on the last day of the 15 days of Chinese New Year’s celebration. Because they are a symbol of a happy get-together for the whole family. The name of these dumplings is tang yuan, by the way, in case if you want to challenge your potential for Chinese learning. ;-)

© Qin Xie-Krieger

© Qin Xie-Krieger

The rice that is used for these dumplings is not  the well-known jasmine rice, but the relatively unknown sticky rice. The sticky rice has much more starch than regular rice. Therefore,  this rice has a nice sticky consistency. The sticky rice is a popular ingredient for desserts in East and Southeast Asia. Whether it’s Japan, Korea or Thailand, Vietnam, everywhere you can see very similar desserts that are made from glutinous rice.

© Qin Xie-Krieger

© Qin Xie-Krieger

At my home in China, we also ate these sweet rice dumplings during each New Year’s festival. However, we have a specialty in Sichuan, which is also made of glutinous rice, yet filled with a savory filling. And its cooking method differs also from the sweet dumplings. Namely it is steamed in the steam baskets, while its sweet colleagues are always cooked in boiling water, like the Germany potato dumplings.

© Qin Xie-Krieger

© Qin Xie-Krieger

My version of tang yuan looks like this: A hearty filling is a must, they should have an Italian touch, they should be steamed since this keeps their form look nicely  and they need also to match the autumnal season. It was very quickly clear for me that I wanted to fill my rice dumplings with my favorite shiitake pesto.

It turned out to be a great side dish which goes well with meat or vegetables. Either, way it can simply be enjoyed as a main dish with a lot of additional mushroom pesto as a dip. Absolutely delicious … :-D

Ingredients (4 servings):

For the dumplings:
200g glutinous rice flour (Asia Shop)
170ml cold water
1 pinch of salt

For the filling:
3 tsp homemade shiitake pesto
10g freshly grated Parmesan
10g freshly grated Pecorino
3 tsp breadcrumbs

For garnishing:
Shiitake Pesto
Freshly grated Parmesan

Preparation:

  1. Mix the flour with water and knead to a smooth dough. Shape the dough into a long roll and cut into 15 pieces. Take a piece of dough and form it  into a round sheet.
  2. Mix the ingredients for the filling. Add a little bit of mushroom filling on the dough sheet. Close the dough sheet carefully. Form it into a ball with moistened hands. Repeat this until all the dough pieces are crafted into dumplings.
  3. Add water into a wok. Place a steaming basket with the lid on top of the wok. Boil the water. Then add the dumplings into the steaming basket,  steam over medium heat for about 5 minutes.
  4. Garnish with pesto and Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Homemade Pasta with Chanterelle Walnut Pesto

© Qin Xie-Krieger

© Qin Xie-Krieger

Maybe because the days are becoming noticeably shorter and colder, right now I am so much into pasta & co. “Pasta makes happy.” – I once heard. Whether it is true, I can not say. But one thing is clear: Pasta tastes just fantastic! Furthermore, it is so easy and quick to prepare. The most important thing: A great sauce is a must!

Since I got my great food processor, I make pasta mostly myself. It is amazingly simple and faster than you could think. And I can say it again and again loudly: Fresh pasta tastes just so much better! :-)

© Qin Xie-Krieger

© Qin Xie-Krieger

However, I only like pasta with the “right” consistency. It should not be too chewy, but also not too soft. (Unfortunately) I can not share the opinion of most chefs about the most popular principle of pasta recipes: Each 100g flour goes with an egg. The dough with this flour-to-egg-ratio is too hard and chewy for my taste because of too much protein.

© Qin Xie-Krieger

© Qin Xie-Krieger

After I experimented numerous times with the flour-to-egg ratio, my own recipe for pasta looks now like this: For 300g flour one whole egg and three egg yolks. This way I can have the exact right consistency (for my taste) as well as an shiny yellow color in my pasta! :-)

Outside it is raining again. The sky is covered with grey clouds. It could be a grey autumn day. But, I am enjoying my pasta with a delicious autumnal pesto with chanterelles and walnuts! So beautiful can a rainy autumn day be! Yes, pasta does make me happy! ;-)

© Qin Xie-Krieger

© Qin Xie-Krieger

Ingredients:

For the pasta:
300g flour
1 whole egg
3 egg yolks
50 ml water
A pinch of salt
A dash of olive oil

Preparation: Mix all ingredients well and knead for about 10 minutes in food processor. Cover the dough with plastic wrap, let it rest for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Make the thin pasta using a pasta machine.

For the chanterelles and walnut pesto:
200g chanterelle mushrooms (cleaned and chopped)
50g dried chanterelles (soaked in warm water for 30 min.)
50g walnuts (rosted in pan without oil)
½ onion (finely chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (pressed)
2 branches of rosemary (finely chopped)
3 branches of thyme (finely chopped)
Olive oil in a very good quality (extra virgin)
2 tablespoons olive oil for frying
Salt & pepper

Preparation: Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauce pan and fry the onions briefly. Add the remaining ingredients except walnuts, cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the walnuts and season with salt and pepper. Chill the pesto, then decant into a clean glass and cover with generous olive oil. Store in the refrigerator.

Pear and Azuki Bean Strudel

© Qin Xie-Krieger

© Qin Xie-Krieger

For me, the significant sign of Autumn is the apple strudel: With the crunchy apples from the newest harvest and a very thin crispy crust. A strudel tastes best for me when it comes fresh from the oven and with a scoop of vanilla ice cream… hmmmm… yummy …

For my “East meets West” version, I took the crunchy pears which I freshly bought from the market. I just could not say no to them since they were smiling in a lovely way at me from a fruit stall.

I wanted a creamier consistency for the filling of my strudel, which should provide a contrast to the crispy crust. It did not take a long time for me to get the idea of the azuki bean paste.

© Qin Xie-Krieger

© Qin Xie-Krieger

Azuki beans have been grown in China, Japan and Korea for thousands of years. The fine paste which is made out of these small red beans and sugar, has a high popularity throughout Asia as an important ingredient for Asian sweets.

I particularly appreciate the velvety consistency and pleasant restrained sweetness of this unique paste. Very quickly I realized that I should integrate the azuki bean paste in my strudel.

© Qin Xie-Krieger

© Qin Xie-Krieger

As a refreshing complement to the sweet beans, the cranberries with their slightly sour taste were able to build a great balance to the sweetness of the azuki paste.

I was really impressed by the result: The crust was so crispy that it immediately crumbles everywhere at the first bite. The filling was on the one hand buttery soft and creamy because of the azuki paste, on the other hand still had a bite because of the crunchy pears. Further more, the fruity taste of the pears and cranberries gave the sweet strudel a refreshing sour kick.

It was just wonderful! It is Autumn!

© Qin Xie-Krieger

© Qin Xie-Krieger

Ingredients:

4 large firm pears
20g dried cranberries (soak in water for about 1 hour)
50g butter
20g walnuts
200g azuki paste (also called “red bean paste”, Asia shop)
½ tsp cinnamon
Juice of ½ lemon
5 sheets of filo pastry
1 tbsp sugar

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Chop walnuts coarsely and roast in a pan until crispy. Peel and core pears, then cut into small cubes. In a large bowl, combine the pears with lemon juice and azuki bean paste, mix well. Then add the cranberries, walnuts and cinnamon.
  2. Melt the butter in a sauce pot. Place a sheet of filo pastry on a large piece of baking paper (cover the rest of the sheets with a slightly damp towel, so that they will not dry out). Quickly spread some melted butter. Sprinkle a little sugar on it. This makes the sheets stick together easily. Place the second sheet on it, and also spread butter and sprinkle with sugar. Repeat until all sheets are processed.
  3. Spread the filling on the center of the dough, leave some free space at the edges. Firstly fold the short sides of the dough over the filling, then the long sides. Place the strudel with the seam side down on the baking tray which is lined with baking paper. Brush the surface of the strudel with rest of the butter and sprinkle the remaining sugar on it. Cut three or four cuts on the surface of the strudel, so that the steam can get out. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Chill shortly and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Spaghetti Squash with Thai Red Curry Sauce

© Qin Xie-Krieger

© Qin Xie-Krieger

Thai curry is one of my absolute favorite foods. As my trip to Thailand moves closer and closer, I get more and more in the mood for it.

Among the different versions of Thai curry, the red curry is my favorite. It is not as burning spicy as the green curry, but has a more complex flavor structure than the yellow version.

Not long ago, I still cooked with the instant red curry paste from the Asia store. Now I finally could motivate myself to try and make this labor-intensive paste myself. The effort has definitely paid off. It tasted delicious and contains no glutamate, which always causes me unbearable thirst after eating. :-)

© Qin Xie-Krieger

© Qin Xie-Krieger

This great red curry sauce is like an all-purpose sauce for me. I love to combine it with risotto and spaghetti. For now is the golden season – autumn, I developed this recipe with the spaghetti squash.

The spicy and slightly sweet taste of the curry sauce goes perfectly with the quite neutral spaghetti squash. With a bowl of wonderfully flavorsome jasmine rice: a super delicious dinner is ready!

Ingredients and preparation:

1 spaghetti squash
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Halve and seed squash. Line the baking tray with parchment paper, bake the squash with the cut side down for about 50-60 minutes. Chill the squash briefly and scrape the flesh with a fork, season with salt and pepper and keep warm on a plate in the oven (70 degrees).

For the red curry paste:

2 stalks of lemon grass (remove the outer leaves, slice the inner leaves into very thin slices)
20g galangal (scrape the skin with knife)
30g dried red chillies (remove seeds and crush in a mortar)
4 kaffir lime leaves (cut into very thin strips)
20g Thai shallots (diced into fine chops)
4 cloves of garlic
1 tsp grated peel of organic limes
1 tsp shrimp paste (Asia Shop)
2 tbsp fish sauce (Asia Shop)

Add everything to the mortar, pound to a very fine paste (The paste can be kept in the refrigerator for several weeks).

For the red curry sauce:

2 teaspoons canola oil
1 tbsp red curry paste (see above)
2 tsp palm sugar
200ml coconut milk

Heat the canola oil in a sauce pot  briefly. Add 1 tbsp of the curry paste, fry the paste over medium heat until it starts to be fragrant.  Add 1 tsp palm sugar to the fried paste and caramelize briefly. Then pour in 200ml coconut milk and let it boil. Spread the sauce onto the spaghetti squash. Serve with rice or baguette.

I don’t want to say goodbye to the summer…

© Qin Xie-Krieger

© Qin Xie-Krieger

I stood on the farmer market in Bietigheim and realized suddenly: Summer is REALLY almost over now! The colorful presentation on the market during the last months is vanishing! More and more golden and brown colors are appearing. Suddenly I experienced a big panic: All these juicy green colors… these gorgeous red colors… I have to preserve them for my kitchen, also for the winter, which is about to knock on our door!

© Qin Xie-Krieger

© Qin Xie-Krieger

Coriander, basil, rocket, green and red chilies… All these lovely herbs and veggies, which develop their best flavors in the summer… I was like obsessed and started to stuff my basket with all these splendid beautiful colors and aromas.

© Qin Xie-Krieger

© Qin Xie-Krieger

A plan was aging in my head: I’ll preserve all these beautiful colors and flavors for the winter! With this thought, my first panic was calmed and a smile sneaked to my face. My eyes must have been glowing all the time through my shopping frenzy. Passing pedestrians looked at me slightly confused. ;-)

© Qin Xie-Krieger

© Qin Xie-Krieger

For a whole day I did nothing else except for preserving all my favorite flavors in glassware: basil pesto, rocket pesto, cilantro and green peppers salsa, chili herbs oil, rosemary garlic oil, red chili miso sauce.

© Qin Xie-Krieger

© Qin Xie-Krieger

It’s true: I do not want to say “goodbye” to summer …

© Qin Xie-Krieger

© Qin Xie-Krieger

Now, I can let summer go… ;-)