Economy of scale can be applied to most things in life with the exception of illness, war and children. More war does not make peace and more illness does not make wellness. And more children do not make things easier, cheaper or quieter. When it comes to cooking for those difficult, expensive and noisy children however, economy of scale works wonders. Buying in bulk is cheaper, cooking in bulk is more efficient and to complete the trifecta of culinary competency, here is a single mixture that will make three different dishes!
The Magic Mixture
This mixture has several magic quantities. The first is it contains hidden vegetables. Whether or not your children like vegetables, and unlike meat and flour based foods, you can never ever eat too many vegetables. The second magic quality is the versatility of this mixture. One big batch, and suddenly you have three different dishes. The third bit of magic is that all the foods can be frozen and used for school lunches and weekend food for months. Abracadabra!
500 grams of minced pork or chicken
500 grams of cabbage (regular or chinese)
200 grams of chinese chives
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
knob of ginger
1 clove of garlic
2 teaspoons sesame oil
Variations: shredded carrot (make sure to squeeze the moisture out), finely chopped spinach, shredded zucchini, chopped bamboo shoots.
You will also need about 3 packets of round wonton/gyoza wrappers.
Chop the cabbage roughly and then process in a food processor until quite fine. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt. Let sit for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, finely chop the chives, and process the ginger and garlic until very fine. Mix chives, ginger and garlic into the meat. Add the egg, soy and sesame and mix well.
Taking handfuls of the cabbage, squeeze really well to get all the moisture out – it should run out like water. When it’s dry and crumbly, mix well into the meat mixture.
This is the basic mixture. If you watch the video below, you will learn how to make gyoza (or dumplings) using a mixture very similar to the one above, how to wrap them and how to cook them. The dance video at the beginning is an added bonus.
So, Dish number one is fried dumplings.
Dish number two is very similar – follow all the step in the video but rather than frying them in a frying pan, place your dumplings into a pot of simmering wonton broth for about 10 minutes (to make the broth: use 4 cups of chicken stock, 3cm piece of ginger sliced, 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 2 cups cold water in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cover. Simmer for 15 minutes, remove the ginger slices).
Dish number three is a meatball soup. You will need a portion of the above broth, simmering in a pot. Roll the mixture into small balls (about 4cm tall) and fry in minimum oil until lightly browned all over. Place them onto some absorbent paper to drain any excess oil and then place into the broth and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve with udon or soba noodles in a bowl.
And the hidden bonus is that you can prepare the mixture, wrap the dumplings and freeze them. To do this, place them on a tray, making sure they don’t touch, and once they are frozen you can place them into a container or zip-lock bag and keep them for several weeks. To cook either dish one or two, cook from frozen, don’t defrost first. You may need to cook for slightly longer.
You can also make a big batch of the broth and freeze it in serving sized portions. The meatball option can be cooked and frozen into portion sizes with some broth. The meatballs work really well as thermos food for school lunches. Defrost overnight, reheat for 10-15 minutes and put into the thermos pipping hot. Cook the soba or udon noodles and cool in running cold water. Place in a separate container – the child the puts the noodles into the thermos when they are ready to eat. This saves the noodles over-cooking and turning to mush.
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