Day 3 - Japan

For the third day we venture out of Europe and to the East for a dish that we love but were quite nervous about tackling - gyoza!

If you're in or near Leeds and have never been to Fuji Hiro we suggest you correct that at your nearest convenience. It's in a bit of an odd part of town but the food is beautiful, particularly they're pork and veggie gyoza. We've always wanted to give making these Japanese dumplings a go but it seemed such a daunting task, turns out it's not that bad at all. 

There is a lot of prep though so you need to set aside quite a bit of a day to get cracking. The filling is easy enough, just a case of blitzing or finely chopping all the ingredients and making sure they're well mixed. It's tempting to get making the dumplings immediately but we would advise you chill the mixture in the fridge for a couple of hours beforehand as it just firms up the filling and makes it easier to handle. 

One of the things that most put us off giving this a go was sourcing gyoza skins, they're not that easy to come by even in many Chinese supermarkets and buying them online seemed a little ...odd. Yes we could make them ourselves but that would mean finally buying the pasta maker we've been putting off getting so buy them online we did, from here. Delivery makes them quite pricey but it's a well oiled operation, the gyoza skins arrive next day suitably packaged to keep them cold and will last for up to a day in the fridge so you kind of need to plan your gyoza day in advance. 

Of course actually creating the dumplings was another challenge that kept us unwilling to give it a go but it turned out to be quite fun and pretty straight forward. 

Every skin is filled with a heaped teaspoon of filling, keep a bowl of water handy and wet one half of the pastry, fold, make sure that the filling stays in the centre and you've got nice pressed together edge that will hold everything together then pleat, (which is basically little folds in on itself all across what becomes the top of the dumpling)! 

One tip we would give while constructing is try and keep your fingers as clean and dry as possible throughout, the wetter everything gets the more chance you'll have of tearing the pastry or everything falling apart. You'll get about 26 or so gyoza out of this, some of which you can freeze after cooking if you'd like.

The cooking is pretty easy, though a little nerve-wracking, they're not called 'pot-stickers' for noting. You fry the gyoza initially in a little oil just until the bottoms are browned (a few minutes) then add a splash of water and a lid to steam them for a further 5 minutes of so. We added a bit too big of splash and a few did get a little too soggy to rescue from collapsing. All in all though we were rather chuffed with the end result and feel a little foolish for leaving it for so long, it wasn't as difficult or faffy as first percieved. 

They didn't end up being quite as good as Fuji Hiro's gyoza but they were pretty damn tasty, we ate the whole lot as a meal! 

The dipping sauce at Fuji Hiro is what really makes them amazing gyoza, it's extra vinegary and there's another flavour there two that you can't quite place, must be some secret ingredient! We just used two parts soy sauce to one part rice vinegar and it was tasty but not same. However, 9/10 will try again. 

Enjoyed with: A Tiger lager of course! 

Day 2 - France

For day two we stepped it up a bit. Now we've free-styled a tarragon chicken before but for this we thought it best to follow the advice of an actual French person at risk of pissing off a country that takes it's food very seriously! 

As such we went all out on the ingredients, particularly the chicken which for the price it must have had a better life than most of us! Really this should have been done with morrel mushrooms but we couldn't get our hands on any so oyster mushrooms had to suffice. 

It was a much more comfortable style of cooking than throwing flour all over the kitchen, there was a lot of browning and setting aside however leaving you with ingredients in lots of little bowls like a TV chef only you have to wash it up yourself afterward! 

Eventually it turned into the best kind of cooking - one pot cooking! Stirring a thickening sauce really does comfort the soul and though it's not entirely weather appropriate food the prospect of devouring it was over whelming. 

A very English part of us took over however and wondered if having no accompanying potatoes was going to be a problem but we'd cut up the biggest baguette we could find and decided that it probably was going to be enough.

And enough it was!

It's only the second dish of the week but it's far and away the best so far. It was so tasty and comforting and the French, much like Yorkshire folk know a thing or two about sopping up sauce with a stodgy carb. 

There's that stereotype though isn't there that French people don't get fat, after all that cream and bread we're not quite sure how that can be possible! 

Enjoyed with: A *whispers*Chilean*whispers* Sauvignon Blanc

 

Day 1 - Italy

So the first stop on our Week of World Food is Italy, arguably one of the best cuisines the globe has to offer, come on, a country that gives you pasta doesn't really need to do much else! 

We decided to start off quite simple with that internet favourite - pizza. Thought it seems to be a bit of a mortal sin to confess on the hallowed code of the internet but ...some of us are the not the biggest pizza fans. Although, perhaps it's the greasy sea of cheese, cubes of 'chicken' takeaway pizzas that are off-putting. So if you're going to do it you might as well do it somewhat authentically, yeah, we can get behind a thin crispy dough with a simple topping of fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, olives and basil.

So that's what we made. Starting with the dough. Which was just strong white bread flour, semolina flour, salt, water and yeast but it initially turned into a bit of a disastdough! The recipe called for mixing the flours and forming a mound then creating a well in the top for the water. Next you to collapse the surrounding flour into the well and form into a dough, easy peasy right, well here's the thing once the flour wall starts to crumble that water will spill out all over the work top, down the cupboard doors and onto the floor. Top tip, don't try to be all cool and rustic like you have a huge country kitchen and a TV crew who will clean up after you, put that shit in a bowl, the end result will be just the same.

It was alright in the end in what turned out to be a surprisingly fluffy dough, half of which went in the freezer and the other half made four (quite small) pizza bases. The passata was more familiar ground and went without a hitch then all that was left was the fun part of assembly! Artfully placed slices of mozzarella, a scattering of olives, lovingly placed basil leaves and just a splash of olive oil then just 10 minutes in the oven. 

Yes all in all it takes longer than calling your local takeaway but surely it's better than eating two pounds of cheese in one sitting alongside some dubious meat that makes you feel like you're expecting food triplets for the entire night and much into the next day. It tasted as fresh as it was and the best thing is that the dough is the most taxing part and there's already some more in the freezer so next time it will be just as quick as ordering from Charred Charlie's Pizza. 

Enjoyed with: A lovely Argentinian (whoops) Malbec ...and a couple of Birra Moretti.

A Week of World Food

What's the best kind of personal project?

One that involves food of course! All next week dinner at chez Greenhead is going to be extra special with dishes from a little trip around the globe including stop overs in France, Japan and Spain!

We'll be documenting our culinary delights (and disasters) on Twitter and here, Julie & Julia style, although probably with a touch more melodrama than even Amy Adams and Meryl Streep can cook up!