They may not look it, but beneath their wontony exterior beats a gutsy Irish heart.
I adore having people over for dinner. I like the way my kitchen seems to be transformed by the presence of other people, how chatter and the sounds of countless bottles opening seem to fill the space, giving life to it, a happy buzz surrounding the process of cooking, the anticipation of sitting down to the table, getting to use my favourite serviettes which I don’t trust myself not to ruin any other time (I don’t seem to mind the idea of them getting ruined at something as joyous as an ‘occasion’, it seems like an honourable way for a serviette to leave this world) and how inevitably some cracked plate or dirty glass ends up on the table, but it doesn’t matter because even the ordinary, the doldrum seems to take on a new hue when the house is full of friends, restored somehow by the laughter of these people who have come to my house to let me feed them. Mostly though I love the planning, I like thinking of what people would like to eat, and how they will react when they eat it. I love making food for people that ‘matches’ them. I think about them a lot before they come over (in a non creepy feathery stroker kind of way of course).
Recently I had one of my all-time favourite reactions to something I made. My lovely brother in law was over for dinner, my eloquent financial wizard brother in law, more reserved than my other lovely brother in law, a science genius who dances as though his legs are disconnected from his torso. I decided to continue my recent fusion experiment, wrenching foods from where they are cosy and plonking them firmly into a style to which they are not accustomed. Sticking with an Asian/Irish theme, I took inspiration from one of my favourite cities in the world, Hong Kong. Hong Kong itself is a fusion of cultures, Chinese and colonial. Traditional dark wood panelled tea-rooms nestle alongside dim sum joints serving tasty morsels from stainless steel carts for breakfast next to which cram streetfood stands spruiking chicken feet stewed in black beans.
A great little place to eat in Hong Kong. Yes, that is a snout in the centre.
With thoughts of a traditional Hong Kong breakfast of dim sum, and a traditional Irish breakfast of black pudding I set to meld the two traditions together, mindful not to compromise the graceful simplicity of dim sum, nor the gutsiness of the black pudding. In my experience Irish men are not very receptive to having their breakfasts frou-froued (you should have seen the reaction at Chez 9 Bean Row when I tried to introduce salad leaves with breakfast) but figuring it was dinner, I thought I was pretty safe. Nevertheless, I decided to tread carefully, not make a big production out of the desecration of the revered breakfast meat. I needn’t have worried. Making dim sum is so methodical, so repetitive that it almost takes on a meditive quality. I was quickly snapped out of my reverie by the realisation that all of the twenty wontons I had made were eaten within seconds of being slapped out onto the serving plate, without even a chance to make it to the table and I had two enthusiastic Irish men jostling to get closer to the pot, waiting for the little parcels to rise to the top of the water, to be fished out by my favourite of kitchen implements, the holey spoon. They were practically devoured direct from the pot, with much chop smacking and craning of necks to see if there were any more lurking at the bottom of the murky water waiting to glide to the top of the water, and be snatched up and greedily eaten. I didn’t get a single one, high praise indeed.
I made some for my breakfast the next day and before Mr 9BR could catch me served with a nice bowl of mixed leaves. There are all sorts of fancy folds you can learn if you have a search online, but I quite like the triangular shape of these ones.
25 Wonton Wrappers (you can buy these frozen from Oriental stores)
100 grams of black pudding, broken into small pieces
A piece of ginger about a third of the size of your thumb, minced
Half a small onion, minced
Two garlic cloves, minced
Tablespoon soy sauce
Half a teaspoon ground white pepper
1 L Stock or water to cook
Soy sauce and wasabi (optional) to serve
Serves 4 (or two if you are Mr 9BR and his brother)
Combine black pudding, ginger, onion, soy sauce, garlic and pepper in stir well to combine.
Lay wonton wrappers out on a clean surface.
Assemble wontons by placing a 3-4cm ball of filling in the corner of each wonton skin.
Fold into a triangle by brushing each edge lightly with water and then pressing edges together.
Close the edges firmly to get the air out.
Bring stock, or water to the boil.
Add a few wontons to the pot and let simmer gently for 2-3 minutes or until they rise to the top of the pot.
Fish out with a slotted spoon and continue until all are cooked. Serve immediately with a drop of wasabi dissolved in soy sauce on the side.
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