Recently, I've taken to nipping down to the Taiwanese restaurant Leong's Legends in London's Chinatown. They do great dumplings and my favourite is their house special – dumplings filled with liquidy soup. Dumplings and dim sum snacks can be made quite easily at home with pre-made gyoza and wonton wrappers bought from Asian supermarkets. You can also make dumpling paste simply with flour and water and flavour it how you wish, as I've done below.
While I was queueing for my Asian goods in a supermarket, I bumped into the chef Peter Gordon; he was surprised to see me going off the British track, but gave me some hot tips on cooking dumplings.
Rabbit and herb dumplings with mushrooms
Although it's the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, it isn't easy to actually get your hands on one in Soho, as I found out when trying to buy some rabbit for this recipe. Luckily, we had a few rabbit's legs at the restaurant.
Peter Gordon suggested that I blend some of the flowering garlic chives into a dumpling paste which is exactly what I've done, and a very good idea it was too.
For the dough
80-100g Chinese chives or garlic chives
275g plain flour
For the filling
The back legs from 2 wild rabbits, boned
2tsp sesame oil
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
A piece of root ginger weighing about 30g, scraped and finely grated
300ml chicken stock
2tbsp rice wine vinegar
2tbsp soy sauce
1tbsp chopped Chinese chives or garlic chives, finely chopped
1tbsp chopped coriander
6-8 fresh shiitake with the tough stalks removed and quartered
15g black fungus, soaked in warm water for an hour, trimmed and cut into rough 1-2cm pieces
Other Asian fungus if you prefer, such as king oyster or inoki
1tbsp groundnut oil
To make the dough, put the chives in a blender with the water and blend as finely as possible, then strain in a fine strainer over a bowl to catch the liquid. Bring the liquid to the boil, then mix in a bowl with the flour and the green pulp to a smooth dough. Add a little more hot water if the mixture seems dry, but it should be soft-pastry or bread-dough consistency. Knead the mixture on a floured worktop for 7-8 minutes, then return to the bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and let it rest for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, dice the rabbit as finely as you can with a sharp knife. Heat a tablespoon of the sesame oil in a heavy-based saucepan and fry the rabbit, garlic and ginger for a couple of minutes on a high heat, lightly colouring it. Add the chicken stock and rice vinegar and simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes. Dilute the cornflour with a little water and stir into the rabbit with 1tbsp of the soy; continue simmering for a few minutes until the sauce is sticky and just coating the rabbit. Remove from the heat, add the chives and coriander and leave to cool. Knead the dough again for about 5 minutes, then form into a long roll about 25cm long. Cut the roll with a sharp knife into 18-20 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and flatten it on the floured worktop, then roll them out into rough circles about 6cm in diameter and store on a lightly floured tray; cover with a tea towel until you are ready to use them.
Put a heaped teaspoon of the filling into the centre of each circle, dampen the edges with water and roll one end over the filling, just overlapping it. Press each end to seal it, then trim any excess dough so you have little rectangular dumplings.
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the dumplings and then simmer gently for 7-8 minutes and drain them carefully in a colander.
Meanwhile, heat the rest of the sesame oil in another frying pan and fry the mushrooms on a low-ish heat for 4-5 minutes, turning them as they are cooking until tender; then add the rest of the soy and simmer for another 15-20 seconds. To serve, spoon some of the mushrooms onto a serving plate, arrange the dumplings on top, then spoon a few more mushrooms and the juices on top.
Steamed prawn and scallop dumplings with chive flowers
These are relatively simple to do, but make sure that you use firm-fleshed fish or shellfish.
100g peeled weight of raw sea-water prawns
100g fresh scallop meat
80g canned water chestnuts, rinsed and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few Chinese flowering chives
12 wonton wrappers
Chop the prawns and scallop finely or blend quickly in a food processor. Mix in the water chestnuts and season. Lay the wontons on the work surface and spoon the mixture into the centre of the wonton skins. Bring the sides up and press around the filling, leaving a bit of the filling exposed.
Using a Chinese bamboo steamer over a pan of simmering water, or a rack over a tray of water, put the dumplings on to a plate and lower into the steamer or rack and put the lid on or cover the rack with foil. Steam over a low heat for 10 minutes; scatter over the chive flowers; steam for another 5 minutes. Remove from the steamer; arrange on plates with the flowers scattered on top.
Beef tendon broth with wontons and green peppercorns
I'm rather partial to beef tendons, but you won't find them in your local butcher's – they are more common in Asian supermarkets. If you can't get hold of them, then you can use flank or shin to make an equally tasty broth, but you won't quite get the same gelatinous texture as you do with tendons. Asian supermarkets often sell fresh green peppercorns, or you can use canned.
For the broth
400-500g beef tendons cut into 4-5cm chunks
2ltrs beef stock
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
60g root ginger, scraped and sliced
150ml rice wine
1 star anise
30-40 fresh green peppercorns
For the wontons
150g fatty minced beef
2 spring onions, finely chopped
20g root ginger, scraped and finely grated
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
12 wonton wrappers
150g bok choi or pak choi, cut into pieces
10 spring onions, shredded on the angle
A few sprigs of coriander
For the broth, put all of the ingredients except the green peppercorns into a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for about 2-2 hours very gently with the lid on, or until the tendons are soft and tender; top up with water if necessary. It's difficult to put a cooking time on tendons so they may well need longer. Add the peppercorns for the last 15-20 minutes of cooking.
Meanwhile, mix the minced beef with the spring onion and ginger; season. Lay the wonton wrappers on a work surface and spoon the mixture into the centre of each. Dampen the edges with cold water and gather the edges up over the filling and gently pinch the wonton together just at the top of the filling to seal it. To serve, remove the pieces of tendon from the broth, cut into bite sized chunks and return to the broth. Re-season the broth if necessary; top up with a little more water if it has reduced too much. Bring the broth back to a simmer and drop in the wontons, simmer for 3-4 minutes then add the pak choi and simmer for another couple of minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl or bowls; scatter the coriander over.
Vegetable spring rolls with ginger dipping sauce
Rice paper gives these spring rolls a much lighter texture and you can see the filling through the rice paper.
16 or more sheets of rice paper wrappers
Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying
For the filling
30g bean thread transparent noodles, soaked for 15 minutes and drained
tbsp sesame oil
6 spring onions, shredded on the angle
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 small piece of root ginger, peeled, grated
1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded
20g Chinese black fungus, soaked in warm water for an hour then shredded
1tbsp chopped coriander
A few leaves of pak choi, shredded
Some crisp leaves of lettuce such as iceberg
Shredded spring onions
Finely shredded red chilli
A few sprigs of coriander
For the ginger dipping sauce
3tbsp finely grated root ginger
1tbsp rice wine vinegar
tbsp ground nut oil
Mix all of the filling ingredients together; leave for 30 minutes. Heat the sesame oil in a large frying pan and quickly fry all of the ingredients for the filling, apart from the noodles, for a minute, stirring every so often; season and transfer to a plate and leave to cool.
Dry off the noodles and mix with the other ingredients.
Lay a tea towel on a work surface and have ready some warm water in a bowl large enough to fit the rice paper wrappers. Soak the rice paper wrappers one at a time for 20 seconds then carefully remove and lay flat on the tea towel. You can do these a couple at a time but no more as it can get tricky if you haven't done it before.
Place about a tablespoon of the filling in the centre of the end that is towards you. Fold over the two ends towards the centre then brush with the beaten egg and roll up as tightly as possible and transfer to a tray. They will keep in the fridge for a few hours, but not much longer as they tend to go soggy.
Preheat about 8cm of oil to 160-180C in a large, thick-bottomed saucepan or electric deep-fat fryer and fry the spring rolls for 2-3 minutes, turning them with a slotted spoon and draining on some kitchen paper.
To serve, arrange on serving plates with piles of the lettuce and other serving ingredients and wrap the rolls in the leaves with the other ingredients to taste.
Serve with the ginger dipping sauce or sweet chilli dipping sauce.