Better bolognese

Spaghetti bolognese is the one dish that no Australian needs to be told how to make. Every family and every person has their own way of doing it. And often more than one.

An Australian spaghetti bolognese is nothing like the Italian dish(es) that inspired it more than half a century ago. Often made with beef, it’s thick and meaty and often more about the meat than any tomatoes.

But rather than just making it the same way you always have done, what if you could take a dish you know inside out and change it to suit your changing tastes?

For this bolognese recipe I really wanted to focus on the tomato sauce. I love a meaty bolognese, but when you want something a little lighter a simple tomato based pasta, lightly accented with meat, is a great option. I also wanted a smoother texture, rather than having chunks of celery through the bolognese.

I settled on making two main changes to how I would usually make bolognese. Firstly, pureeing the battuto ingredients rather than roughly chopping them gives an effect similar to a rempah in Malaysian cuisine, adding richness to the sauce. And secondly, stirring through a puree of raw cherry tomatoes at the end adds freshness to the rich ragu.

Makes about 1L of sauce (enough for 6-8 people)


1 carrot, stalk removed and roughly diced

1 large brown onion, peeled and roughly diced

1 stalk celery

6 cloves garlic

a handful of parsley (optional)

½ cup olive oil

500 g mixed veal and pork mince, or 250g each beef mince and pork mince

700ml tomato passata

1 tsp salt

1 cup whole cherry tomatoes

To serve

pasta of your choosing

extra-virgin olive oil

freshly grated parmesan cheese

black pepper


Combine the onion, celery, carrot, garlic and parsley (if using) in a Vitamix high-performance blender and blend to a smooth puree.

Heat a heavy saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. Fry the puree (called a battuto or soffritto) for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly so that it doesn’t burn. Add the mince and cook for a further 5 minutes until browned. Add the passata, salt and 300ml of water. Cover and simmer for 1.5-2 hours, stirring occasionally.

To finish the sauce, puree the cherry tomatoes and stir the puree through the warm sauce just before serving.

To prepare the pasta, cook about 100g of dried pasta per person in plenty of salted water until al dente (around 1 minute less than the packet directions). Heat a large frying pan over medium heat and add about 1-2 tbsp of olive oil or butter per person (or a combination of the two). Add the cooked pasta and ladle over the sauce, stir to mix well then transfer to serving plates and top with freshly grated parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper.

Top Tips for Bolognese

  • Even though bolognese is made with mince, you really want to make sure the meat cooks for long enough to break down connective tissue and contribute gelatine to the sauce. It’s a real bonus for mouthfeel.
  • Finish pasta in a frying pan rather than just pouring a sauce over noodles. Finishing over heat in a pan allows the noodles to absorb some of the sauce, which provides a lot more flavour.
  • In Malaysian cuisine the pureed aromatics is known as a rempah, and it’s essential to cook it for a long time to develop the flavour. The same goes for mirepoix, soffrito and battuto as well. Keep stirring in plenty of oil until the aroma really develops.

Battuto of pureed vegetables.

Cook the battuto for at least 10 minutes, stirring frequently to develop the aromatics.

Pureed cherry tomatoes add freshness to the long-cooked ragu.

Pokeball Cake (for Beginners)

When it comes to making cakes I am more “enthusiastic dad” than cake expert. Honestly, this would probably be the first proper iced cake I’ve made in 10 years. My baking is mainly limited to banana bread, and maybe a tea cake, pound cake or cheesecake now and then.

I wouldn’t usually write a recipe for something I’d made just once but I know that because this is on my Instagram people will ask for the recipe and I’m not likely to make another cake like this anytime soon so here’s really just a record of what I did if you’re like me and only bake these kind of things once in a blue moon and want to follow along. This isn’t a perfect recipe. It’s just what I did and I was very happy with the result.

I’m not trying to win any awards here. Just to make one Pokemon-obsessed kid’s day on his birthday. And I think I succeeded.


Salted white chocolate mud cakes (makes 2)

350g unsalted butter, chopped

450 g white chocolate

300 g caster sugar

5 g salt

350 ml milk

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

525 grams plain flour

3 teaspoons baking powder

Golden sugar syrup

¾ cup sugar

½ cup golden syrup

1 cup water

(or just use 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water)

Italian meringue buttercream

6 egg whites

1 ½ cups caster sugar

450g unsalted butter

1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Additional ingredients

black fondant icing (small amount)

white fondant icing (small amount)

violet, pink and red gel food colours


9-inch non-stick cake tin

cake scraper

offset spatula


  • Weigh a large saucepan and make a note of the weight. Place the butter, white chocolate, sugar, salt and milk in the saucepan and heat over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar and melt the chocolate until the mixture because smooth and silky. This can take about 20 minutes for the chocolate to melt fully. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Whisk the eggs and vanilla together and whisk them into the melted chocolate mixture. Sieve the flour into the liquid ingredients and beat to combine using a whisk or spatula. It doesn’t matter if there are a few lumps in the batter. Weigh the saucepan again and subtract the empty weight to find the weight of your batter. Place a 9-inch non-stick springform baking tin on the scales and pour in half the batter (You don’t need to grease the tin if it’s non-stick). Bake at 180C for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes our clean. Allow to cool in the tin for 5 minutes and then transfer to a rack to cool. Wash the tin and then repeat for the remaining batter.
  • When the cakes are just slightly warm to the touch wrap them in cling film and aluminium foil. Leave overnight but do not refrigerate.
  • To make golden sugar syrup combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. If needed, trip any very high domes from the cakes and brush all over with the golden sugar syrup.
  • To make the buttercream, wipe the bowl of a stand mixer with a little vinegar on a paper towel and fit it with the whisk attachment. Place the egg whites in the bowl, and place the sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring the sugar to a boil and continue to heat until the sugar reaches 114C (use a candy thermometer to check the temperature) or 110C if you’re using induction. (The difference here is that you want the sugar to reach 121C just as the egg whites form soft peaks. That will be much faster on induction than gas or electric.) Immediately start whisking the eggs in the stand mixer at high speed. Once the sugar reaches 121C pour the sugar into the whisking eggs an a very slow, steady stream. Walk away and do something else for a while, continuing to whisk the eggs in the stand mixer until touching the metal bowl of the mixer feels cool to the touch. This can take 30-40 minutes. While this is happening, cut the butter into 1cm cubes.
  • Stop the mixer and change to the paddle attachment. Beat in the butter a cube at a time until almost all the butter has been added.
  • Getting white buttercream. After adding the butter you should see that the buttercream has gone from bright white meringue to a yellow colour. To neutralise the yellow you need to add a little violet or purple food gel. Before you’ve used all the butter, take about 1 matchhead sized amount of food gel with a toothpick and smear it onto a piece of butter. Add the butter and you should see the yellow colour neutralised. If it still looks a little too yellow, add a little more violet gel. You can flavour your buttercream at this point if you like, by adding vanilla or other extracts, or you can just leave it plain.
  • Take your cake board and press 3 small pieces of fondant into the base. Place the cakeboard onto a cake turntable, or if you don’t have one a metal pizza tray. Smear a little buttercream over the fondant and place once cake on top (dome up, although there really shouldn’t be much of a dome). Make sure it’s centred and spread a cup of buttercream over the top. Place the other cake on top (dome down). Smooth a thin layer of buttercream all over the cakes with an offset spatula and cake scraper, smoothing the top and sides until the cake is completely covered. This is called crumb coating and is like a primer coat for your cake. It makes sure that you won’t end up with crumbs all through your final layer of batter. Refrigerate the cake for 20 minutes to firm the crumb coat.

The crumb coated cake.

  • While the crumb coat is firming, divide the remaining icing into equal portions. Reserve the white icing for half of the cake. Leaving one half in the mixer bowl, beating on low speed add enough pink food gel until the cake turns a medium-deep pink. It’s hard to get a vivid red with red alone, but starting with a pink base helps. Add enough red food gel until the icing is about as red (or dark pink) as you can reasonably live with. The thing is that the red will deepen over time, so if you stop adding the colouring when it’s the bare minimum it will generally deepen to a point you’re happy with.
  • Spread half of the cake with red icing, and the other half with white icing, getting the final coat as smooth as possible. Watch out with this step, as you really don’t want to mix the colours. After you’re finished the red colouring, wash everything – hands, spatulas etc. – and keep plenty of paper towel on hand to wipe away any red. You don’t have to have the red and white halves touching, as they’ll be covered by a strip of black fondant. Reserve any remaining icing.
  • Dust a board lightly with icing sugar and roll out the fondant to around 3mm thick. Using a metal ruler cut two strips of black fondant around 2 cm wide and perhaps 20 cm long (long enough to cover halfway along the cake). Lay the two bands along the centre of the cake, dividing the red and white halves. Trim the fondant to meet the cake board flush. Press the fondant into the icing so it sits flush.
  • Use a round cookie cutter to cut a circle of black fondant and place it in the centre of the cake. Wash your board and dust again with icing sugar (you don’t want any black fondant on your white fondant when you’re rolling). Roll out a small sheet of white fondant around 3 mm thick and using a smaller round cooking cutter, cut a smaller circle placing it inside the black circle.
  • With your remaining icing, create some small swirls where you plan to place your Pokemon figures. Place the figures on top and you’re done. Keep the cake at room temperature (or around 18C) but do not refrigerate. Please read the tips below, as a lot of them you might find really useful.

Top Tips for Pokeball Cake

  • You can keep the cakes wrapped in plastic and foil for 2-3 days, so feel free to make them in advance.
  • The cake in the picture was made using a 10-inch tin, but a 9-inch tin would result in a more moist and higher cake so that’s how I’ve written the recipe If using a 10-inch tin each base will cook in around 30 minutes.
  • There are PLENTY of cake tutorials for getting flat and moist mud cakes. Watch those if you’re looking for perfection but if you’re not all that interested in using cake wraps, water baths, detailed lining techniques for baking tins etc. then you can get by (like I do) with a simple non-stick tin and not bothering with greasing or lining at all.
  • Some cake makers frown on brushing cakes with syrup to keep them moist. I’m not really a cake maker so I couldn’t care less.
  • Rather than just placing the toys on top, try to integrate them into the cake. Here I just added a bit of extra icing to create some movement around the characters to give the impression they’re moving and fighting. It makes a big difference. The cake becomes a scene rather than a base.
  • Make sure the toys are in character. In this case the Pokemon are fighting so the most important part for placement is that they keep eye contact. If the figures aren’t making eye contact with each other they’ll seem disconnected.
  • Pro cake makers would sculpt toppers from fondant or marzipan (and they frown on just buying toys and putting them on top of cakes), but as a parent I think I’d rather my kid had a toy to play with at the end of things rather than eating an entire fondant Pikachu that took me 4 hours to sculpt, so I think it’s better just to buy a toy and whack it on top.
  • I’m not sure whether the plastic used for the figures is food grade, but also I absolutely do not care.

Authentic Mapo Tofu

Literally meaning “pock-marked old lady tofu” this dish has to have one of the least complimentary names in all of Chinese food. It uses Chengdu’s famous Pixian chilli bean paste -豆瓣酱, sold in English as tobanjian, doubanjiang or other variations, this has become a classic of Sichuan cookery. It’s very easy to make, too.


600g firm tofu

200g beef mince

4 tbsp canola or peanut oil

¼ cup doubanjiang (Sichuan chilli bean sauce)

2 tbsp salted black beans

1 tsp chilli powder (optional)

4 cloves garlic minced

1 tbsp grated ginger

6 thick spring onions, cut into 5cm lengths

salt and sugar, to season

1 tsp cornflour mixed with 2 tbsp cold water

1 tsp ground Sichuan pepper, to serve


Bring a pot of water to just below a simmer and season lightly with salt. Cut the tofu into 2.5cm cubes and add to the water. Heat gently for about 10-15 minutes.

Heat a wok over high heat and add a tablespoon or two of the oil. Fry the beef mince until well browned then remove from the wok and set aside. Add the remaining oil to the wok and fry the tobanjiang until the oil turns red. Add the black beans, chilli powder (if using), garlic and ginger and fry for about a minute until fragrant.

Drain the tofu and add it to the wok, along with 1-2 cups of water. Stir gently and bring to a simmer. Add the fried beef and spring onion and simmer for about 5 minutes, until the onion is softened. Adjust for seasoning with salt and sugar as required, and then thicken the mixture with the cornflour slurry, adding a little at a time so that the sauce is thickened and silky, but not gloopy. Transfer to a serving boal and serve scattered with ground Sichuan pepper.


Top Tips for Mapo Tofu

  • You can use pork mince if you prefer, but beef is more traditional.
  • Try to use a firm tofu that holds its shape but is still tender. You don’t want the tofu to be too hard, but you also don’t want it breaking apart to much in the dish.
  • The doubanjiang chilli bean paste can vary a lot between brands – both in texture and in taste. Make sure you adjust the seasoning with salt and/or sugar if needed before serving.
Apricot kernel pudding (Almond pudding) with stewed longans

You may have seen similar dishes to this called ‘almond tofu’, ‘annin doufu’ or ‘almond pudding’. These are usually made with milk or cream flavoured with almond essence, or from almond milk. Those modern versions are delicious, but this Chinese dish is traditionally made not with almonds but with apricot kernels of two different varieties.

Both northern and southern apricot kernels have a strong almond-like aroma, but southern apricot kernels are sweeter, while northern apricot kernels are more bitter and aromatic. Use a blend of kernels to get the best flavour.

Although they are a traditional food and medicine in China, northern apricot kernels may contain potentially dangerous natural compounds, so they must be heated before eating. Don’t be tempted to snack on the raw kernels.


160 g southern apricot kernels

50 g northern apricot kernels

1 L water

100 g sugar

3 tsp gelatine powder

Stewed Longans

80 g dried longans

500 ml water

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp sugar

2 pcs dried tangerine peel


Combine the kernels and water together in a Vitamix high-performance blender and blend for 1 minute. Allow to stand for 5 minutes then blend again for 30 seconds. If using a normal blender, soak the kernels overnight (or for at least 1 hour) before blending.

Pour ½ a cup of the mixture into a small bowl and mix through the gelatine. Transfer the remainder to a saucepan and add the sugar. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring often and taking care that it doesn’t boil over. Add the gelatine mixture into the hot liquid and whisk for a further 5 minutes until the gelatine is dissolved. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine sieve or muslin, pressing to remove as much liquid as possible. Divide the liquid between i4 serving bowls and refrigerate for around 4 hours or until set.

For the longans, combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, then allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate until ready to use.

L: Northern apricot kernels, R: Southern apricot kernels

How to make Yum cha-style Siu Mai

Meaning “cook-sell” these dumplings are said to get their name from being so delicious they are sold as soon as you cook them. The key to a good siu mai is having the pork filling in large enough pieces to give them a meaty, instead of a mince-y texture, and enough fat to keep them moist. Often made with a mixture of chopped lean pork and pork fat, using pork belly gives you the perfect combination. Roughly chop it, don’t mince it.


800g skinless pork belly

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine

3 tsp caster sugar

¼ cup chicken stock

400g raw peeled prawn meat, roughly chopped

2 spring onions (white and light green part), finely chopped (about ½ a cup)

6 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water and finely diced

2 tbsp minced ginger

50 square wonton wrappers (yellow egg pastry)

flying fish roe, crab roe or finely diced carrot



Slice the pork belly in 1cm wide slices, then cut across the slices into 1cm pieces. Roughly chop the pork with a cleaver. There should still be large pieces of pork visible, rather than a mince. Add the pork to the bowl of a stand mixer with the beater attachment. Add the salt, soy sauce, Shaoxing wine, and sugar. Beat the pork at low speed at first, gradually increasing it so that the mixture doesn’t spill, for about 10-15 minutes. Gradually add the stock to the pork mixture.

Add the prawn and mix through the pork at low speed. Then add the spring onion, mushrooms, and ginger, if using. Combine at low speed. Rest in the fridge for 30 minutes. Taste the filling and adjust the seasoning if necessary. If you don’t want to taste the raw filling, just steam a little of it and taste that.

With a circular pastry cutter that just fits inside the square wrapper, cut a circle and discard the outside. Take a wonton wrapper and with a butter knife or small spatula, place a small amount of filling in the centre of a wrapper. Gather the pastry around the filling and continue adding more filling with the knife or spatula, pushing the filling down tightly to ensure there are no air bubbles. Once the wrapper is gathered into a filled cylinder shape, tap the base against your board to flatten it, and place onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Top each dumpling with a little roe or a small piece of carrot. Rest the dumplings in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before cooking. Repeat until all the filling is used up. Sit a steamer over boiling water and steam the siu mai for 8-12 minutes.

Top Tips for Siu Mai

  1. Use pork belly to get the right mixture of fat and meat in the dumpling to give it it’s signature texture. Kneading the filling in a stand mixer will help it stick together and stay moist by helping to create a net of proteins released from mixing the meat.
  2. This is traditionally a very simple dumpling, so you can leave out the aromatics like ginger and spring onion if you like. You can even leave out the mushrooms and just keep the filling as meat and prawn.
  3. Freeze the siu mai while raw, and to cook you can steam them directly from frozen. It will take 12-15 minutes if steaming from frozen.
Chengdu Zhong Dumplings

Zhong dumplings are named for the family who first made these in Chengdu around 100 years ago at their stall in Lychee Lane. Today, they’re officially recognised as one of Sichuan’s most famous snacks. They’re a VERY simple meat-only boiled dumpling served with a sweet, aromatic soy sauce and red chilli oil. They are a PERFECT beginner dumpling!


approx. 50 round, white dumpling skins (gow gee), or homemade skins

Sweet aromatic soy sauce

¼ cup dark soy sauce

2 tbsp light soy sauce

appprox. 5 tbsp yellow rock sugar

2 bay leaves

1 tsp Sichuan peppercorn

1 star anise

1 stick cassia

4 slices ginger

¾ cup water

Dumpling filling

¾ cup cold water

1 tsp white peppercorns

1 piece ginger

500g pork mince

1 egg

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine

½ tsp salt

To serve

Minced garlic

Sesame seeds

Red chilli oil


Combine the ingredients for the sweet aromatic soy sauce in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes until aromatic and reduced, then allow to cool. Strain to remove the solids. This soy sauce can be kept in a jar or bottle at room temperature indefinitely.

For the dumpling filling, first combine the ginger and peppercorns with ¾ cup of cold water and allow to infuse for around 10 minutes. You’ll be surprised how much of the ginger and bitter pepper flavour infuse in such a short time.

In a bowl or medium saucepan (my preference) combine the pork mince, egg, Shaoxing wine and salt. Stir in one direction until well combined, then add the infused ginger-pepper water a little at a time, continuing to stir until the mixture is a wet and floppy paste. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before folding the dumplings.

For folding the dumplings, wet the edge of a dumpling skin and place around 1 tsp of the filling in the centre of the skin. Fold into a half moon and seal the edge well. You can freeze these dumplings raw at this stage if you aren’t cooking them fresh.

To cook, place the dumplings in boiling water, and then each time the water returns to the boil add about ½ a cup of cold water to reduce the temperature. When the dumplings float to the surface, cook for a further 1 minute and then remove.

To serve, drain the dumplings, pour over a generous amount of the aromatic soy sauce and chilli oil, and serve with minced garlic and a few sesame seeds.

Top Tips for Zhong Dumplings

  1. Always stir the filling only in 1 direction. This will help to capture the ginger-pepper liquid added to the filling (as well as the liquid released by the meat during cooking).
  2. To freeze the dumplings, lay them in a single layer on a lined sheet in the freezer until they are firm to the touch, then you can transfer them to a Ziploc bag.
  3. Be generous with the sauces. They are essential.


Red Chilli Oil for Dumplings

This red oil is great for serving with dumplings, but it is also an essential ingredient in Sichuanese food. Combined with soy sauce and sugar it becomes “Red Oil Flavour”, one of the key flavours of Sichuanese cuisine. It may look spicy, but the level of heat will depend entirely on the chillies you use. Chinese dried chilli flakes (available from Asian grocers) are often much milder than those found in the West. I’d strongly suggest finding them if you’re making this oil, as you’ll get a stronger chilli flavour and colour, without as much of the heat.


1L peanut or canola oil

4 star anise

4 black cardamom, bashed

2 large pieces cassia

5 bay leaf

6 spring onions, cut into 5cm lengths

1 red onion, peeled and sliced

5cm ginger, thickly sliced

2 cups Chinese dried chillies flakes


Heat the oil to 200C and add the star anise, black cardamom, cassia and bay leaves. Then add the spring onion, onion, and ginger and continue to fry until the wet aromatics appear dry and lightly browned. Remove all the ingredients from the oil with a strainer scoop and remove the oil from the heat.

Allow the oil to cool for about 10 minutes to around 120C, and then add the dried chilli flakes. Allow the oil to cool completely for about 1 hour, and then transfer the chilli oil to a jar. The chilli oil will keep at room temperature for years.

Top Tips for Red Chilli Oil

  1. You can make variations on this by including Sichuan peppercorns, sesame seeds or other ingredients you might like. However, I prefer to keep mine simple, as the more simple it is the more versatile it will be.
  2. Definitely try and source Chinese chilli flakes rather than using Western dried chilli. Western dried chillies are made from different varieties of chilli and tend to be over-dried, contain too many seeds, and have less colour and flavour than Chinese chillies.
  3. This kind of chilli oil can be made with a mix of chilli varieties, providing heat, flavour and colour separately.
How to Make Basic Dumplings

Just about every Chinese family will have a freezer stocked with homemade dumplings. Jiaozi are the classic homestyle dumpling found all over China. You can customise the filling to be whatever you like, and make different batches depending on your own personal preference.

The first time you try your hand at homemade dumplings, it may seem like a chore to do, but they taste so much better (and cheaper) than ones that you would buy in the supermarket. Don’t worry, the second time you’ll make them better and faster, and if you persevere making your own dumplings will soon become a breeze (and actually a great way to relax too).

Makes about 100 dumplings


¼ Chinese cabbage

1kg fatty pork mince

2cm ginger, peeled and grated

2 cloves garlic, finely minced (optional)

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine

½ tsp sugar

¼ tsp white pepper

½ cup garlic chives, cut into 1cm pieces

Hot water dumpling skins

3 cups plain flour, plus plenty of extra for dusting

1-1½ cups boiling water


For the dumpling skins, place the flour in a the bowl of a stand mixer with the dough hook. Add the hot water and knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth. Remove from the stand mixer and wrap in floured cling film and rest for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling, first bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add the cabbage and cook for about 5 minutes until tender. Drain well, refresh in cold water and then drain again. With your hands, squeeze out as much liquid from the cabbage as possible and finely chop it, squeezing out the liquid again after it’s chopped.

Combine the pork, ginger, garlic, salt, Shaoxing wine, sugar and pepper in the bowl of a stand mixer with the beater attachment and beat for about 10 minutes until the mixture is springy. Fold through the chopped cabbage and garlic chives at low speed. Refrigerate the filling for 30 minutes. If you don’t want to use a stand mixer both the dough and the filling are easily made by hand. Just knead the dough by hand, and mix the filling in a large bowl.

Refer to the video for the process of rolling and folding. Cut about a quarter of the dough from the piece of dough and roll it into a cylinder around 2cm in diameter. Cut the cylinder into 1cm lengths and roll into a circle around 1mm thick and 7cm in diameter. Add about 2 tsp of filling to the centre of the skin and fold the dumpling as you like.

You can freeze the dumplings in batches on a tray lined with baking paper, or cook them by boiling, steaming or fry-steaming them. For boiled dumplings, place the dumplings in boiling water, and then each time the water returns to the boil add about ½ a cup of cold water to reduce the temperature. When the dumplings float to the surface, cook for a further 1 minute and then remove.

Top Tips for Basic Dumplings

  • Don’t worry too much about folding. The technique shown in the video is very simple for homemade skins, but if you’re using commercial skins I’d suggest just folding them in a half-moon just to get started. You can go onto fancier folding techniques later as you get more confident.
  • Tasting the filling is all-important. You don’t want to fold 100 dumplings and find out that they don’t taste any good. Taste the filling and adjust the seasoning if necessary BEFORE you start folding.
  • Y0u can customise the filling however you like. Try adding herbs like dill or coriander, additional vegetables and egg, prawns, spices like Sichuan peppercorn. You can really add just about anything here.


How to Make Sweet and Sour Pork

Sweet and sour pork gets a bad rap for being a non-authentic Westernised imitation of Chinese food, but it is actually a very common dish in modern Cantonese cuisine, even in China itself. There are many variations of sweet and sour pork dishes across China, but the Cantonese version is what is most commonly found in the West.


500g pork belly, neck or loin, cut into 3cm pieces

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp Shaoxing wine

1 egg

½ cup cornflour

canola oil for deep frying (approx. 1L), plus extra

1 small carrot, peeled and cut into irregular chunks

1 red capsicum, cut into irregular chunks (or a mix of different coloured capsicum)

1 onion, cut into large chunks

3 cloves garlic, crushed

8 cherry tomatoes, cut into wedges

150g fresh pineapple, cubed

Sweet and sour sauce

¼ cup chicken stock (optional)

¼ cup white vinegar

2 tbsp Shaoxing wine

2 tbsp white sugar

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp tomato sauce

1 tbsp grated ginger, juice only

½ tsp cornflour (optional)


Combine the pork with the soy sauce, Shaoxing wine and egg, and allow to stand for 10 minutes. Toss the pork in the cornflour to coat.

For the sauce, combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well.

Heat your oil to 180C and deep fry the onion, carrot and capsicum in separate batches for just a minute or so each until just barely tender. Deep fry the pork in batches for 1-2 minutes until golden brown.

Heat your wok over high heat and add about 2 tbsp of oil. Add the garlic and toss for just a few seconds. Add the sauce and bring to a simmer. Allow the sauce to reduce by about a third until it is thickened and glossy. Add the vegetables, pork, pineapple and tomato to the wok and toss to coat in the sauce.

Top Tips for Sweet and Sour Pork

  • The more concentrated the sauce is, the crispier the pork will be. If you really want crispy pork, you can leave out the stock and make sure the sauce is very reduced so that there is less water to soak into the pork coating.
  • You can use other fruits such as dragonfruit, kiwi, peaches, or lychee instead of pineapple.
  • The sauce will thicken further after the pork is added and absorbs some of the liquid, so bear that in mind when reducing the sauce.


Red Wine Teriyaki Steak Donburi

This variation on my easy homemade teriyaki sauce uses red wine instead of sake, so it’s a great option if you can’t get hold of many Japanese ingredients. A donburi is a rice bowl and it’s just as it sounds – rice with a simple topping that makes a easy one-bowl meal. This version is slightly fancy with garlic chips and chopped wasabi stem, but you could use a little horseradish or ordinary wasabi instead.


3 cloves garlic, sliced

1 tbsp vegetable oil or olive oil

400g good quality sirloin or scotch fillet steak

salt and pepper, to season

3-5 cups cooked Japanese rice

1 piece nori, cut into fine shreds

1/2 tsp wasabi or horseradish, or 1 tsp prepared wasabi stem, to serve

Red wine teriyaki (Makes 600ml)

250ml light soy sauce

200ml Australian shiraz

200ml mirin

80g sugar


To make the red wine teriyaki, combine the ingredients in a saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Transfer to an empty wine bottle and store in the pantry until ready to use.

Heat a frying pan over low-medium heat and add the oil and garlic. Fry the garlic, stirring frequently, until golden brown. Remove the garlic from the pan, leaving the oil in the pan. Increase the flame to high. Season the steak with salt and black pepper, and fry the steak until cooked to your liking. Remove and set aside to rest.

Add about 1/2 cup of the red wine teriyaki sauce to the pan and bring to a simmer. Reduce the sauce until it is the consistency of maple syrup, then return the rested steak to the pan and turn briefly to coat.

Place the rice into a serving bowl and scatter with the nori. Slice the steak and place it on top of the nori, pouring over a little more of the reduced sauce. Scatter with garlic chips and add little wasabi or horseradish on top of the beef.

Top Tips for Red Wine Teriyaki

  • I used a shiraz for this but any dry red wine will work perfectly well.
  • The key with all teriyaki is controlling the reduction. If it is too reduced, it will be too thick and salty. If it is too thin, the sauce will be insipid. Luckily, it’s easy to get it right. If it’s too thin, keep simmering. And if it’s too thick, add a little extra teriyaki sauce to thin it out.
  • Of course, you don’t need to search for wasabi stem for this. A little ordinary wasabi (like for sushi), horseradish or even English mustard would be totally fine. You just need something a little pungent to lighten the dish.