The open air market each Wednesday at Oxford's Gloucester Green is a delightful medley of produce, antiques and food from around the world.
One such stall is "Sasha's Dumplings", a haven of home made Chinese dumplings that serves the diverse crowds. People keep coming back not only because the dumplings are homemade and then steamed in front of you, but also because Sasha has the most captivating smile and is brimming full of energy. You need it to make over 800 dumplings a week, and on a cold January morning Sasha gave me a little lesson in how it's done.
A simple dough made from hot water and flour had been prepared earlier, and Sasha brought a small ball from home that she rolled out into a sausage-like shape. (I made some at home the next day, and used a recipe that called for 140g of flour mixed with 125ml of very hot water.)
After cutting the tube of dough into thumb sized chunks (without cutting ones thumb), Sasha then rolled each piece into a small and very thin circle of dough. This was done at a bewildering speed (she's obviously done this before) and then a spoonful of filling was placed in each circle. In her hands these then formed into morsels of deliciousness that looked like small cornish pasties (or varenikiy, to borrow from a Ukrainian classic).
In this instance the filling was a vegetable concoction made from cabbage, mushroom, carrots and peas and was sublime. At home I tried with a pork filling seasoned with spring onion and ginger and lots of other things. I don't have photos from that adventure as my hands were already full with flour and bits of onion and the camera was in danger of being steamed.
Sasha kindly presented me with the dumplings rolled out for me, and they were promptly steamed at home (for 15 minutes) and provided a very well-received after school snack.
In some of the images below the dumplings are nestled alongside some red chillies and coriander, and have found a natural friend in some sweet chilli sauce - the second of the sauce trilogy. More of that to come soon, but suffice to say that the dumplings were a hit. So much so that I wanted to try the next day. Mine tasted fine, but my technique will need to improve dramatically to get close to 800 a week. And I need to learn how to not coat every surface of the kitchen in flour. When I learn that, I'll be back with the camera for dumplings, round 2.