I love the long, long nights of this holy season. The restful darkness so bright with stars, and the low, grey days so gentle on the eyes. I’ve been hibernating – trying to sleep twelve full hours a day, wrapped in wool and long clothes, slowly letting go of all the unreachable things, the things that never were, the excess, the busy, the noisy, the overfull; and reflecting on the hardships of this year past. In the middle of the night, sometimes I wake up when the white moon is overhead, and the dogs are barking in the cold distance, and I ask the silver moonlight my darkest questions, awake but wondering, wandering in the inner world where anything is possible. But mostly, I just rest.
Just as the shadows grow darker at the summer solstice, here at the other crossroads of the planetary dance there is always a little flicker of light behind the long night. I’m not ready yet for spring – like the sleeping seeds I need more time in the embrace of stillness. There is still so much that I want to let go of, and always that struggle with Fear and Uncertainty, and the quest for Wisdom, and what that means to me.
My garden is recovering after the frost. Still not as beautiful as it was, the greens are growing new leaves, and the carrots are frilling to the edges of the beds like green sea foam. The barley and oats are growing and growing – every day they seem a little taller.
These dumplings are so cheering on wintery days. Little, savory, doughy bites – a few make a meal everyone looks forward to. They are a bit of work, but with lots of beef and pork on hand, mushrooms and greens – these are a holiday favorite!
My friend William Wong grew the shiitake mushrooms – he runs a mushroom CSA (pictured above), as well as sells mushrooms at the High Springs Farmer’s Market, and the Union Street Farmer’s Market in Gainesville. He has other great mushroom recipes available here.
Bekana is a light green Asian mustard green that looks a bit like Black Seeded Simpson lettuce. It is very tender and mild-flavored, and can be cooked or eaten in salads. People often confuse it for lettuce when they see it growing, but it has a delicious Chinese cabbage flavor. You can see the frost damage on mine in the photo. I just clip off the damaged parts, and eat the rest!
Bekana is a loose, non-heading type of green, and always grows very quickly and easily, and thrives just from broadcasted seeds grown like cut-and-come-again lettuce (but it will fill out and be very leafy if spaced properly). I like this green in dumplings, because of its flavor, and because it adds nutritious green vegetables and melts into the filling. If I add it to soups, I always add it at the very end, as it is very delicate and cooks quickly.
However, a note on this recipe – you can use any kind of Chinese cabbage you might have on hand – Napa cabbage, cabbage, Pak Choy, Bok Choy, mizuna etc. Collards might be a little tough, but if chopped VERY fine, would probably work. The heading mustards are a little spicy – and might add some bitterness, but if you don’t mind that, then definitely that would work. Chop it finer the tougher the leaves. I have to have flexible recipes, or life is too stressful!
On that note –
FOR THE FILLING:
A big bunch of Bekana, or other winter mustard green or cabbage
1 lb ground beef or pork
1 inch of fresh ginger, grated
1 large clove of garlic, minced
A generous pinch of white pepper
6 Shiitake mushrooms
Sesame oil, lard, or other good fat for cooking
Salt to taste
- Remember, the smaller and finer the filling ingredients, the easier it is to fill the dumplings with it. Large chunks are clumsy and difficult to work with.
- Chop the Bekana very fine and set aside in a bowl. Remove stems from mushrooms (save them to add to stock) and chop the caps very fine (keep them separate from the greens).
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan, and crumble in the ground pork. Stir-fry until it is starting to brown. Add the chopped mushrooms, ginger, garlic, and pepper.
- Let it cook until the mushrooms look tender. Salt to taste, remove from heat, and pour the hot meat/mushroom mixture into the greens and stir to mix well. Let it cool while you make the wrappers.
Here follows a LOT of photos, detailing perhaps a tricky (not really) procedure in crimping the dumplings. This post was a hard to photograph – I had to move my whole kombucha experiment off the kitchen counter to make space!
For The Wrappers:
I have 2 methods here for the wrappers – with a food processor, and by hand (I didn’t have a food processor for years, so I appreciate by-hand recipes. Plus a friend whose grandmother made this kind of dumpling by hand thought the food processor was kind of silly. It is superfluous – and I always prefer old-fashioned recipes!). I made 2 batches of dumpling dough side-by-side, one by hand and one in the food processor. They looked slightly different at first, but they worked equally well for making dumpling skins. The ingredients are the same:
2 cups flour
About 1 cup very hot (just boiled but not boiling) water
The dough on the left is made in the food processor. The dough on the right is made by hand.
Put the flour in a bowl, and stir as you pour in the hot water. Depending on the flour, it might need slightly more, or slightly less than a cup. Knead the dough well. It should have a moist, but not sticky, and a springy texture. Put the dough in a shallow bowl with a plate on top, and let it rest about 5 minutes (which is about how long it takes usually for me to find a space to roll it out).
In the food processor:
Put the flour in the food processor and have it running while you pour the hot water in. Depending on the flour, it might need slightly more, or slightly less than a cup. Process for just a minute or less. Remove from the food processor, and put the dough into a shallow bowl. Knead a few times, and then set a plate on top and let the dough rest about 5 minutes.
Next I form the dough into a kind of log, and cut it into thirds. I keep any dough I’m not working with in the bowl under the plate so it doesn’t dry out. Next roll one of the thirds into a longish snake:
I cut the dough snake in half, then those halves in half again, and then in halves again (makes eight pieces. The halving makes it easier to cut it evenly. It’s easy to eyeball a half, more difficult for thirds, etc). Each little piece of dough I roll into a ball and flatten slightly, to be ready for rolling into a wrapper.
To roll out one of the little flattened dough balls, work from the center to the edge, turning it each time. This keeps it round, and also keeps the center a little thicker. The center is the weakest point and most prone to tearing or getting holes. Put a spoonful of filling in the center (I usually cup the dumpling skin in my hand for this whole part here). I dab a little water on one side of the edge of the wrapper.
Next you crimp it closed. You start by making the first crimp in the center of the dumpling, then working along the edge to the right until you seal up the whole right half (about 3 crimps). Then head back to the center and crimp the left half. I’ll kind of give the dumpling a little squish around the crimped edge when I’m done, to flatten it for frying and help the seal hold:
This recipe makes about 24 dumplings. There are also two different cooking options: Frying and cooking in broth! I hope this recipe doesn’t sound too complicated. It’s really a very flexible recipe.
Cooking In Broth:
Heat two quarts of broth (chicken or pork would probably taste the best – beef if you must. Definitely not fish or seafood), with 2 teaspoons of salt. Add a pinch of black or white pepper (and I would add a splash of tamari or something to the beef broth if you are using that. Maybe a spoonful of white miso to soften the beef flavor after cooking). Add the dumplings when the broth is at a rolling boil, and cook about 5 minutes. Serve with sesame seeds or a chopped garlic chive sprinkled on top.
This is such a warming meal on a chilly, rainy day.
Frying In Oil:
Frying is quite easy. Simply heat lard, or a mixture of coconut and sesame oil or some cooking-quality-but-still-healthy fat, in a frying pan, and fry the dumplings on each side until they are crispy and brown:
They are great with a dipping sauce! We bite off an end, and pour a spoonful of sauce inside, and eat it up.
1 Tablespoon Tamari or soy sauce
2 Teaspoons vinegar (I like to use raw apple cider vinegar, or coconut vinegar. I always have them on hand)
1 Teaspoon coconut sugar
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Chopped garlic chives
If you end up with more dough than filling, you can roll it out and cut it into strips and fry it. It’s delicious dipped in Honey Roselle BBQ Sauce, or home made egg drop soup.
Wishing you a cozy week!