Cats, Cooking, and Life!

Vietnamese Tomato-Noodle Soup

Vietnamese Tomato-Noodle Soup

Here's a warming noodle soup. So good yet I've never seen it available in any restaurant. Then The Wonder Woman introduced it to me and now it's one of my all-time favourite dishes. It's called soup but there's not much liquid in it, as you can see from the photo. Very satisfying.

The Wonder Woman says this is a modified version. The original recipe uses meat from small crabs. Just another way to use every bit of the crab.

Like a lot of Asian dishes, this needs lots of prep up front then the cooking time is fairly short.

This recipe is enough for 3 - 4 large bowls. And these bowls really are larger than your typical soup bowl.







Some ingredients




Soup ingredients

  • peanut oil for frying
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 250 g ground pork (1/2 lb) (optional)
  • 2 x 160 g cans of chopped shrimp or crab with spices (we use one of each). Use only one can if you want a taste that's not as strong, but we like two.
  • 1.5 l water (6 cups)
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 egg, broken into a bowl and gently mixed (optional)
  • 125 ml coriander leaves, washed and chopped (1/2 cup)
  • 125 ml bean sprouts (1/2 cup)
  • 5 ml fish sauce (1 tsp) or to taste










More ingredients



Toppings for the bowl

  • 200 g rice vermicelli, soaked in warm water for several hours
  • 1 lime, sliced into wedges
  • 1 head of leaf lettuce
  • 100 g bean sprouts (1/4 lb)
  • tofu puffs, 4 - 5 puffs per bowl, prepared as below (optional)
  • shrimp, 4 - 5 per bowl, depending on size, prepared as below (optional)


Cans of spiced prawns




Shrimp just about finished frying














Shrimp

Here's how to prepare the best fried shrimp you'll ever have. We purchase frozen shrimp that are of size 31 - 40 per pound, uncooked with the shell on. Those are the most flavourful. Defrost the shrimp in a bowl of cold water on the countertop. After defrosting, shell them. Put the meat back into the bowl and season lightly with salt and pepper. Let them sit in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Start the frying pan on medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add a bit of oil and add the shrimp. Saute for a short time. Turn the shrimp once. Remove the shrimp to a plate once it's just turned pink. It's important to not overcook the shrimp. Otherwise they'll be tough and rubbery.

Take the shrimp out of the pan, place them on a plate then set them aside until assembling the soup.




Bow-Tie Calico inspects the tofu puffs before they're put under the broiler



Tofu puffs


Rinse the tofu puffs in warm water to get rid of the oil. Drain. Slice the puffs in half, season them with some garlic powder and salt and arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Toast lightly under a broiler until crisp and barely turning brown. Remove from the broiler and set them aside until you put the soup together.


Make the soup broth

Heat a wok or deep frying pan over medium high heat. Add some peanut oil when the pan is hot. Add the garlic to the wok and saute for a short time.

Add the ground pork if using. Break it up and fry until it's no longer pink.



Garlic and a can of spiced prawns









Add a can of spiced shrimp and stir and fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the water and the second can of spiced shrimp or crab. Cover and bring to a boil.







Just after adding the tomatos


Add the tomatoes. Return the soup to a boil and cook for 2-3 minutes.


Adding the coriander



Add the bean sprouts, the coriander and the egg. Stir gently to mix the egg into the broth. Bring everything back to a boil and it's ready to serve.






Ready for the bowl



Assembly

  1. Place the rice noodles in the bowls.
  2. Pour the soup broth on top.
  3. Arrange lettuce leaves, shrimp, tofu puffs, sprouts and lime wedges on top.


Serve

Serve with a spoon and chopsticks (or fork). Squeeze the lime wedges into the soup and dig in. Have your favourite hot sauce available for those who like it spicy!











Pork Dumplings


Dumplings and dipping sauce

Pork dumplings, or pot stickers as they're sometimes called, are one of the main staples of some Chinese restaurants. For good reason, as well-made and well-cooked dumplings are such a treat.

The Wonder Woman introduced me to her homemade dumplings early in our relationship and I've learned to wrap them from her. There's definitely a knack to it. It took me several sessions to get good at it, and at first the initial few dumplings were kind of ugly and sometimes came apart during cooking. Each time, though, I slipped into the groove faster and faster.

We've since tried two vegetarian variations on the fillings. We'll cover those in later postings. Pork is the most popular so we'll start there.

We sometimes make our own dumpling wrappers but not this time. That will be a topic for a future post. They taste better but require much more work. But today, here's how to work with store-bought wrappers.

When buying dumpling wrappers, try to get as fresh as possible. We always select ones that are manufactured in our city, as they've had shorter travel from factory to store shelf. We are lucky in that respect. You may not be as lucky, so just get the freshest you can.


The Filling


Chopping the napa cabbage

  • 250 g ground pork (1/2 lb)
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced finely or crushed
  • 1 ginger, size of ping pong ball or to taste, finely grated
  • 6 napa cabbage leaves, chopped into small strips, about 2 cm long by 1/2 cm wide. this adds some crunch to the dumplings
  • 5 ml light soya sauce (1 tsp)
  • 2 ml sugar (1/2 tsp)
  • 1 ml salt (1/3 tsp)
  • fresh-ground black pepper


Ground pork

Mix everything together in a bowl.

Ready to wrap


Prepare to assemble

Get the bowl of filling, a small bowl of cold water, a package of wrappers and a large tray like a cookie sheet lined with wax paper for the finished dumplings. Keep the wrapper package closed until the last minute, and don't take out more than a few wrappers at a time. Get a damp, clean kitchen towel or paper towels to cover the wrapped dumplings to prevent them from drying out.


Assembly

Take a wrapper. There is usually one side of the wrapper that has more flour than the other. Try to wrap it so the flour side is facing out. That way, it forms a bit of a crust when fried to makes the dumpling crunchier.


video

Place a spoonful of filling on to the center of the wrapper. Do not overfill or the wrapper will come open when cooking. Dip a finger in the water and rub it around the outside of the wrapper to moisten. Fold the wrapper in half to seal into a half-moon shape. To be extra fancy, pleat one edge as demonstrated in the video. It's important to seal the wrapper to prevent it from falling apart when cooking.

Place the wrapper on the tray. They can be frozen at this point or are ready for cooking.


Ready to cook or freeze

For freezing, put them on a tray lined with wax paper and pop them in the freezer. After a day, remove the dumplings from the tray and put them into an airtight plastic freezer bag.  When cooking, no need to defrost, just go straight into the frying pan. Increase the steaming phase by a few minutes.


Dipping sauce 1

  • ginger, finely julienned
  • red vinegar

Place some julienned ginger in a small bowl and cover with red vinegar.

Ginger and red vinegar

Dipping sauce 2

  • light soya sauce
  • sesame seed oil

Simply pour a small amount of light soya sauce into a small bowl and serve with the dumplings.


Fry the dumplings

Heat a fry pan over medium heat. Add about a 15 ml (1 tbsp) of peanut oil. Place the dumplings into the pan. With your fingers, move the dumplings a bit to make sure they don't stick to the pan. Periodically check the bottom to make sure it browns nicely.


Placing the dumplings in the pan


Once the dumplings are brown on the bottom, pour about 75 ml (1/4 c) of water into the pan. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium low and let steam for about 10 minutes.


Steaming

After 10 minutes, remove the cover from the frypan and cook an additional 5 minutes until the dumplings are dry once again. Move the dumplings from time to time to keep them from sticking too badly. (There's a reason they're called pot stickers!)


Nicely browned


Serve

Arrange on a plate and serve with dipping sauce. Provide your favourite hot sauce for those who like them spicy!
























Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

Another month, another pie. And another seasonal one as well. Pumpkin, that fall classic, is as much as home at Thanksgiving as it is at Halloween. Or, for that matter, at any other time when pumpkin is available. No need to wait for a special occasion. We didn't.

Pie pumpkins, as they're called, show up everywhere these days, at least here in North America, and are very easy to turn into the smooth-textured, orange and tasty ingredient that makes you feel so much more confident in your pie than the canned version. According to most sources I've heard from, you can't even count on the canned pumpkin containing real pumpkin. That's not to say that they're no good for pies; of course they are. But saying "pumpkin pie" sounds so much better that "squash pie."

You could use the jack-o-lantern pumpkins for pie, but they're not as sweet, and are stringier in texture. So make it easy on yourself and get a pie pumpkin.

A little bit of a twist on traditional pumpkin pie, we opted for chiffon. That's a fancy way of saying it's fluffy from incorporating beaten egg whites. Sort of like an angel cake is fluffy.

What follows is a multi-stage preparation to produce the pie. None of it is difficult, but it does take a bit of time. Luckily, you can do everything ahead of serving time, and when it's time to serve, you simply take it out of the refrigerator, top with whipped cream and serve! That makes it the ideal finale for any meal where you want to impress.





Part 1: Prepare the Pumpkin

Using the pie recipe below, we found that one average pie pumpkin, 25 to 30 cm, is enough for about 3 pies. So you may want to make more pies and freeze them, or simply freeze the extra pumpkin for later use. Pumpkin is also good for spice bread, muffins and lots of other treats. Here's how to prepare it. You'll need a steamer, or a large bowl for the microwave.


Cut open

  1. Wash and gently scrub the pumpkin in cold or warm water. Don't use soap.
  2. Using a sharp knife, cut the pumpkin in half. 
  3. Remove the stringy insides with a spoon. Save the seeds, if desired, to roast them as described below. 
  4. Remove the stem and cut the remaining pumpkin into pieces to fit into your steamer or bowl. 
  5. Cooking with a Steamer method: Boil enough water and cook the pumpkin for 20 minutes. 
  6. Cooking with a Microwave method: Put water in the bottom of the bowl, add the pumpkin and microwave it for about 20 minutes. You'll need to periodically stir or re-arrange the pieces for even cooking. Watch the water doesn't boil over. 
  7. The pumpkin is cooked when it is soft for a fork. 
  8. Remove the outer skin using a sharp knife. 
  9. Place the remaining pumpkin in a food processor or bowl. Puree or mash it. At this point you may make your pie, or freeze the unused portion in an airtight container.



Scooping the inside


In the steamer


Removing the skin


Puree in a mixer


Part 2: Pumpkin Seeds

If you like pumpkin seeds, you can roast them. We think they taste good but are too small and much work so don't always make them. One pumpkin does not provide many seeds but they're tasty.

  1. Remove the seeds from the stringy parts of the pumpkin 
  2. Wash the seeds. The best way I found is to put them in a bowl of water and rub them with your hands. The seeds float and the pumpkin "strings" sink. 
  3. Place the seeds on a cookie sheet or other oven pan. 
  4. Optionally season the seeds with melted butter combined with garlic, lemon, green herbs like dried basil or just about anything else you like. 
  5. Place the pan in a low oven 150 C (275 F) for about 20 minutes more or less, depending on how wet the seeds were. You should stir them every 5 minutes to make sure they are evenly cooked. Be sure to watch them closely as they can burn easily. They are done when they are dried and slightly brown. 
  6. Cool 
  7. Enjoy. Crack the shell and eat the insides.

Ready to bako

Ready to eat



Part 3: Pumpkin Chiffon Pie 

 Here are the ingredients for one pie. You'll need a baked pie shell, about 25 cm (9 in). Please look at our pastry recipe for Rhubarb-Strawberry pie, or make your own, or purchase one. But you'll only need a single crust.

For this recipe, you'll need a double boiler. Or do as we did and use two pots, one to fit inside the other.

 Ingredients:

  • 1 envelope unflavoured gelatin (7 g or 1 Tbsp) 
  • 125 ml cold water (1/2 cup) 
  • 4 eggs, separated 250 ml evaporated milk (1 cup) 
  • 250 ml pumpkin, either prepared as above or canned (1 cup)
  • 180 ml brown sugar (or white sugar if you prefer) (3/4 cup) 
  • 2 ml salt (1/2 tsp) 2 ml nutmeg (1/2 tsp) 
  • 2 ml ground cinnamon (1/2 tsp) 
  • 1 ml ground ginger (1/4 tsp) 
  • 250 ml whipping cream, whipped (1 cup)


 Instructions:

  1. Dissolve gelatin in cold water. Set aside to soften. 
  2. In double boiler heat the egg yolks, milk, pumpkin, 1/2 cup brown sugar and spices. Cook, stirring for 10 minutes. 
  3. Remove the mixture from heat, add gelatin, stirring until dissolved. Refrigerate until it's thick. It needs to be thick to combine with the egg whites in the next step. Otherwise the egg whites will float to the top. 
  4. Beat egg whites until stiff. Fold into pumpkin mixture. 
  5. Pour into the pie shell and refrigerate until ready to serve. 
  6. Whip the cream and give everyone a spoonful on their slice (the size of the spoon is open to interpretation).



Whipping the egg whites


Our makeshift double boiler



Baked crust


And enjoy!

After refrigeration


We know Bow-Tie Calico did!


Approve!