Ok, alright, I know: It’s “The Writing Nightingale,” not “The Cooking Nightingale,” but I made such a lovely creation in the kitchen last night that I just have to share. The back story is that two things were happening at once:
1) I had a kilo of frozen spinach I wanted to use, and
2) Boyfriend and I had a craving for dim sum.
I was searching around for different creative spinach recipes when I realized that spinach dumplings are a thing. At first I thought, No, dumplings will be way too hard… but then I did some research, and it turns out they’re not hard at all! You do need an extra hour and a half or two to spare if you want to make everything from scratch though, like I did. If you don’t have that kind of time, you can buy pre-made dumpling skins and then the whole thing will only take you 45 minutes – 1 hour.
I had all the time in the world yesterday, because two of my students cancelled class, so I decided to make them entirely myself, skin and all. If you want to do it, here’s what you’ll need:
For the skins:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup water
salt to taste
For the filling:*
1/2 bag frozen spinach, or about 1/2 kilo (1 pound) fresh spinach (I used a full kilo and had way too much)
4-5 small portobello mushrooms, chopped
1/2 – 3/4 cups chopped onion
2-3 cloves of garlic
salt to taste
*Honestly, you can fill these little guys with whatever you want – this is just what I filled them with.
For the dipping sauce:
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp rice wine or white wine vinegar
1 clove garlic
a touch of chile powder, or Sriracha sauce if you have it!
Start by making the dough for the skins. I followed these instructions, which are pretty straightforward and don’t require anything fancy:
1. Start the water boiling, and mix the salt into the flour.
2. Once your water boils, add the 3/4 cups of water to the flour and salt slowly, mixing the entire time. You should end up with a “shaggy” dough. I had to add a touch more flour before my dough was at a good consistency.
3. Knead the dough until it’s smooth, then let it rest (you can let it rest up to 2 hours, but I think I only gave mine 30 minutes or so).
While your dough is resting, make the filling:
1. Add a splash of oil to a pan and head it up. When the oil is hot, add the onions and mushrooms.
2. Press the garlic cloves over the pan and stir with your onions and mushrooms. This is when things start smelling good!
3. Add the spinach to the onion and mushroom mixture when the onions are beginning to become transparent. If you’re using fresh spinach, make sure you chop it before cooking it.
4. Let the mixture get nice and gushy and add salt to taste. When you’re done, remove the pan from heat.
Now make the dumpling skins and get filling:
To roll out your dumpling skins, you’re going to need a couple of plates and a plastic bag or a tortilla press, if you have one.
1. Roll your dumpling dough into a long cylinder about 2 inches wide, and cut it into discs about 1 inch thick. (If this is hard to visualize, refer to the instructions I followed).
2. Lightly flour the discs, then press them either with the tortilla press, or like I did with plates. I turned one plate upside down, placed the plastic bag on top, and placed my dough disc on the bag. Then I folded the bag over and used the bottom of another plate to press the dough. Press it until it’s about 1/8-1/4 inch thick.
3. Next, take your fledgling dumpling skin and roll out just the edges, until the whole thing has a diameter just over 3 inches or so. Make sure the middle part of it stays thickish, because it needs to be strong enough to hold your filling. You can use a rolling pin to do this, or do it with your hands like I did.
4. When you’ve made skins out of all your dumpling dough, it’s time to add the filling! Add a small spoonful of the filling to the center of the skin. Then wet the edges with water and bring them together to make a sort of sack. Pinch them firmly so they stick. I also twisted some of mine, just to make them look fancy.
Once you’ve filled all your dumplings, it’s time to cook!
If you have a bamboo steamer, load up the dumplings on some parchment paper in your steamer and steam away. If you have an old fashioned rice cooker, you can place the dumplings on parchment paper in a metal bowl and steam them in your rice cooker – just add water to the bottom of it and place the metal bowl in the middle.
If you have neither a bamboo steamer nor a rice cooker, fear not! Neither do I. Get your biggest metal pot and put about an inch or two of water at the bottom. Then place your dumplings on parchment paper in either a metal bowl or a pyrex dish (something that won’t break when exposed to extreme heat) and place the dish in the pot. The way I rigged mine, I had the pyrex dish sort of hanging from the edge of the pot, but if you have it sitting right in the water it’s ok. Just make sure the edges of the dish you choose to hold the dumplings are high enough to keep the water out.
Then put on the head to boil the water, and cover the pot. You need to make sure it’s completely covered so that as little steam as possible can escape. I ended up having to use tinfoil and the pot lit to contain the steam!
Let your dumplings steam for 15-20 minutes, and then serve them hot with dipping sauce.