Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ready Steady Cook: Part One, The Starter


As i mentioned here, I'm taking part in the Ready Steady Cook challenge, hosted by Hila at Add to Taste. What I didn't mention is that i can only use 7 ingredients to make a full three-course meal. Obviously, that's what makes it a challenge, but I didn't realise just how much of a challenge it would be, until i got down to the cooking part.

My ingredients list went something like this:

  • Litchis
  • Oranges
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Button Mushrooms
  • Lasagna Sheets
  • Minute Steaks
  • Couscous

Luckily, the ingredients list i got from Tara was pretty straight forward. There was enough of everything and plenty starch to fill the gaps. And, being a little obsessed with pastry, i couldn't stop myself from finding reasons to make doughs for every course. Luckily, lasagna sheets were on the ingredients list, so i could buy them after i somehow made pasta dough that was too crumbly. That hasn't stopped me, though. i'll be making pasta again soon and hopefully, next time i'll get it right.

So here they are:

Deceptively Italian Mushroom Wontons with a
 Basilly Napolitana-esque Sauce

Ok, So i'm a bit obsessed with dim sum at the moment. I have so much rice paper in my cupboard that i have a whole section for it. Round rice paper, square rice paper, big, small, you name it. No rice paper has gone unbought once discovered. But what i didn't have, until now, was proper Wonton wrappers. Enter Ready Steady Cook, a reason to make pretty little things and show them to the world. well, the blogosphere.

It was really the lasagna (and the tinned tomatoes) that inspired the Italian theme. The fusion idea? I'm pretty sure it arose from my constant wish to go to Haiku, my favourite Asian tapas place. Even as I'm leaving Haiku, completely sated, i find myself wondering if i should have had that other potsticker or just one more har gau.

In order to make these delicious wontons, you'll need the recipe below, which requires me to stop fantasizing about Haiku, and actually getting down to business. Ahem. Here goes:

For the Wonton Wrappers (about 24 of them):

1 egg
1 tsp salt
2 cups flour, sifted into a large mixing bowl
1/3 - 1/2 cup water, as needed
extra flour for dusting the work surface
a small amount of oil for the bowl and for brushing the wontons before baking


  1. Lightly beat the egg and salt, then add 1/4 cup of water and whisk until incorporated.
  2. Make a well in the flour and pour into it the egg and water mixture.
  3. Incorporate the flour into the egg mixture, working from the centre outwards, until all the liquid is mixed with the flour. Add as much water as is required to form a dough. This will depend on the moisture content of the flour you're using.
  4. Form the dough into a ball and knead for 5 minutes on  work surface until a smooth, workable dough is formed.
  5. Put dough in a very lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel or plastic wrap and rest for 30 mins
  6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out as thin as you can, only a few millimeters thick. It might be easier to divide the dough and roll it out in batches. If you struggle with rolling evenly, Joseph Joseph makes this wonderful Adjustable Rolling Pin, which makes sure  dough is rolled evenly and to the required thickness.
  7. Using a ruler and a sharp knife, measure and cut 9x9cm squares. Keep the dough covered with some plastic wrap to prevent dehydration.

These little wrappers can be frozen or refrigerated for future use. I like to separate them with sheets of baking paper to prevent sticking when thawing.

For the Wonton Filling

1 cup couscous, prepared according to package instructions, kept warm
15ml olive oil
250g button mushrooms, quartered
2 cloves of garlic, crushed or sliced
a decent blob of butter
about a tablespoon of dried Oregano and Rosemary
a small handful of fresh basil leaves, torn.


  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius.
  2. Toss the fresh basil into the warm couscous and allow it to infuse and wilt slightly
  3. Heat the olive oil and butter in a frying pan over a medium heat
  4. Sauté the garlic, but keep the heat low enough for the garlic to infuse in the oil without colouring.
  5. Add the dry herbs, then the mushrooms, and toss them in the oil to coat. Cook them until they are well coloured, but not shrunken. If you are worried about losing moisture, you can put a lid on the pan while the mushrooms cook.

So now you have basil-infused couscous and herby, garlicky mushrooms. The best thing to do now is to remove the mushroom pan from the heat and to stir the couscous into the mushrooms until the ratio of the two seems right to you.

Prepare the wonton wrappers by laying them out on a surface and brushing the edges with a little bit of water. Place a spoonful of the mixture onto the centre of each wrapper and fold the wonton by bringing opposite corners together at the centre. Brush the outside lightly with oil and bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown. You might need to rotate the pan for even colouring.

While they bake, you can quickly make the tomato dipping sauce. The sauce is very important, because it'll be the main flavour separating the starter from the main course. Being limited to basically two vegetables, my dishes are similar, but I've made special effort to keep the textures and flavours different.

The sauce recipe is adapted from Jamie Oliver's Quickest Tomato Sauce

For the Basilly Napoletana-esque Sauce

30ml good quality olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
a bunch of fresh basil leaves, torn into shreds
1x 400ml tin of whole tomatoes (i tried with the chopped ones, but they seemed too watery)
Salt and black pepper to taste


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan
  2. Add the garlic and toss it around the pan until it starts to colour
  3. Add the basil and tomatoes, squisshing the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil
  4. As soon as it starts boiling evenly on all parts of the pan, remove from the heat and strain in into a bowl through a sieve
  5. Push as much of the tomato pulp through the sieve as you can, but dont't worry about the basil and garlic bits; they have already done their job.
  6. Once all the sauce is strained, put it back in the saucepan, bring back to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes, until it is saucy enough to be a dip, or to spread on pizza.
Freeze or refrigerate whatever you don't use and you'll have a perfect mid-week pasta sauce!


  1. wow very involved and delicious :)

  2. These look fabulous! I love how you've created an Italian fusion with these wontons.

  3. Thanks :) i'm just amazed i even have comments!

  4. That looks fantastic, excellent use of ingredients.

  5. I LOVE this!! Inspired use of ingredients and great photo!