I have accelerated rapidly from ‘just adding sprouts to a few dishes in small quantities’ through to ‘adding them to everything including those I promised I wouldn’t’. A pal pointed out I’d once lamented the overuse of these mini cabbages saying – and this is a direct quote – ‘God help us but it’s only a matter of time before someone dishes up a sprout Caesar’.

A sprout Caesar is the last recipe I posted on this website.

So yes, fine, I have given in to the sprouts because I feel like they’re just so much more interesting now I’m shredding them, which is ridiculous because I’ve been doing this for years. I’m adding them to fried rice, coleslaw, gözleme, CAESAR SALAD and now dumplings in lieu of cabbage, with pork.

Potstickers are one of my favourite carbs and… oh ok all carbs are my favourite carbs. Look, potstickers are easy to make if you don’t bother with the fancy pleating – tip: they will taste the same unpleated – and they freeze well which means you can always have an arsenal of hangover-smashing pork cushions on hand.

I’m going to try making my own dumpling wrappers next time because the frozen ones tend to get brittle around the edges which makes them a bit harder to seal. Other than that, it’s very simple. You will probably have filling leftover and I suggest you fry it and eat it on top of rice for a quick and satisfying lunch the next day.

Pork and Brussels Sprout Pot Stickers Recipe

This is quite a basic recipe which you can add to for e.g. some rehydrated dried mushrooms such as shitake would boost the umami or you could change the sprouts for the more traditional cabbage, add some minced prawns and so on.

2 packets frozen dumpling wrappers, available from Asian supermarkets (each pack had 16 in it I think) – defrosted!
75g sprouts, shredded
8 Chinese garlic chives (or a few spring onions), finely chopped
150g fatty minced pork (the fat is really important otherwise the dumplings will be dry)
2 tablespoons light soy
1.5 teaspoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon ginger, grated or finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, grated or crushed
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons oil, for frying
Spring onions, for garnish
1 teaspoon cornflour mixed with a couple of tablespoons of water, for sealing the dumplings

Serve with a dipping sauce made from 3 tablespoons dark soy, 2 tablespoons black vinegar, a teaspoon sesame oil and a little diced ginger and chilli – or whatever you prefer! Often I add chilli oil.

Plunge the shredded sprouts into a pan of boiling water and when they come back to the boil, drain and refresh under cold water. Dry thoroughly.

Mix the pork with the sprouts, chives (or spring onions), light soy, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, white pepper, sugar and salt. You can cook a small piece at this point if you want to check the seasoning.

Take a dumpling wrapper (keep the open packet underneath a damp tea towel to prevent them drying out) and place a teaspoon of filling into the middle. Wet the edge of the dumpling wrapper with the cornflour and water mix) and then bring up the edges. Use your middle finger to push one edge of the wrapper and make a pleat, closing with your opposite thumb (this is much easier than it sounds when you have a go at it). Repeat to make as many pleats as you like, then do the same on the other side. If you don’t want to pleat the dumplings, just press the edges together. I just remembered my mate Lizzie has a video on her blog!

Repeat with all the wrappers. Press the finished dumpling down onto a lightly floured surface to give it a flat bottom, then repeat until all the filling is used up. To cook, heat a lidded frying pan (preferably with a heavy base) over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil, brushing to distribute evenly. Arrange the dumplings in a circle until the pan is full and fry for a couple of minutes until the bottoms have browned. Carefully splash in a couple of tablespoons of water – it will spit and hiss furiously, so put the lid on. Steam the dumplings for around 3 minutes, adding another splash of water if it runs dry. Check the dumplings are nicely browned on the bottom. Serve the dumplings with the dipping sauce.

My first dish of manti was a crushing disappointment. I’d developed an interest in Turkish food and was determined, on a visit to Istanbul, to tick off as many experiences as possible – always a guaranteed route to spoiling the fun. I’ve learned over the years that while planning is all well and good, you need to allow for a certain amount of spontaneity when travelling, otherwise it just turns into an exercise in box-ticking. You may as well walk around with your eyes closed.

The manti happened because we were hopelessly lost in some back street – a really steep, cobbled lane which we trudged along in the early afternoon sun, moaning and bickering because we wanted nothing more than an ice cold beer and a plate of something really, authentically Turkish. Once the flip-flops on my newly exposed feet had rubbed the skin raw and our t-shirts clung to our backs we’d had enough and ducked into the next pleasant-enough looking restaurant.

The walls were covered in colourful mosaic tiles and the staff were young and spoke English – not exactly the ‘little old lady rolling yufka’ experience I’d been hankering after but hey, when did jumping to conclusions ever get me anywhere? Also: cold beer. We saw manti on the menu and I was thrilled at the opportunity to tick something off the list. My first, real manti experience was incoming.

They were multicoloured, these dumplings (a warning sign if ever I’ve seen one), and were as bland as flour and water can be. A bowl of flabby pouches in plain yoghurt, underseasoned and sorry for themselves. I’d never tasted manti before, but I knew they had to be more than this, because as a cook, I’m able to read a list of ingredients and have a pretty good idea what the final dish is going to taste like. That was the first thing we ate in Istanbul.

Thankfully, there were many better meals that holiday but actually, no better manti. I’ve had fantastic mantu (Afghani cousins) in Adelaide, glorious khinkali in Georgia and many other dumplings around the world, but no good manti. Even those I’ve eaten in the UK have been a different style entirely, such as the marvellous beetroot and feta version at Queen’s, almost a sort of hybrid dumpling, with various whispers of Eastern Europe and the Caucasus muddling in.

I wanted to start then, by making the very traditional Turkish lamb manti, little folded parcels containing minced meat, topped with garlic yoghurt and spiced butter. I was absolutely convinced I’d mess this up but actually they were fairly easy and I did a little dance around the kitchen when they came out exactly as I wanted them, the first time around. These are the dumplings I’d expected that day in Istanbul. The dumplings of my dreams.

Manti with Lamb, Garlic Yoghurt and Spiced Butter

This will serve 4 people in portions a little larger than the one in the photos. They’re pretty filling, to be honest.

For the dough

225 plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
1 egg
2 teaspoons olive oil
100ml cold water
Pinch salt

For the filling

150g minced lamb
½ medium onion, grated
½ teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch ground cinnamon

For the garlic yoghurt

3 cloves garlic, peeled
250g natural yoghurt (full fat, obviously)
Small handful parsley leaves

For the spiced butter

50g butter
¼ teaspoon paprika (make sure your paprika is fresh – in my experience, it’s the spice that most easily loses pungency)
1 teaspoon pul biber flakes (Turkish chilli/Aleppo pepper)

To serve

To make the dough, sift the flour and salt into a bowl, then make a well in the middle. Add the egg and olive oil and mix briefly. Add the water a bit at a time until it comes together into a dough. It shouldn’t be sticky. You might not need all the water, and I’d be surprised if you need more but flour is funny stuff – don’t worry too much. Knead on a lightly floured surface for 5 minutes or so until smooth and elastic. Divide into 4 pieces. Cover with a damp tea towel and leave for 20 minutes.
While this is happening, mix the lamb, onion, spices and some salt and pepper in a bowl, using your hands.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece at a time to a width of around 2mm. This is easiest with one of those skinny rolling pins, like this (available online or in Turkish shops). Cut the dough into squares. It’s up to you but about 4cm square worked for me.

Place a blob of filling in the centre of each square, approximately the size of a chickpea. Fold opposite ends inwards and pinch together, then set the manti down, push the filling inside (it will have popped up a little) and fold the other sides to form a cross shape. This sounds complicated but is obvious once you have a go (otherwise: Youtube). Set aside on a flour-dusted tray.

Make the yoghurt by simmering the garlic cloves in boiling water for 1 minute, then draining, crushing and mixing with the yoghurt, parsley and a pinch of salt.

Make the butter by melting it and adding the spices. Heat gently, taking care not to burn it.

Cook the manti in boiling salted water for 3 minutes. Arrange on the plate with yoghurt and spiced butter. Add some dill fronds if you like. Serve immediately.