Combining much of what I love about Middle Eastern and North African cooking in a plethora of moreish little parcels, this recipe actually showcases three different Mediterranean fruits: date, lemon, and pomegranate. Dates add a wonderful rich sweetness that balances the slightly sulphuric bitterness of roasted cauliflower, while preserved lemons – a salty staple of North African cooking – lend an intriguing depth of flavor that combines perfectly with warming spices.
A ripple of syrupy pomegranate molasses (or you can use date molasses for a double date hit) lifts the tahini dipping sauce both visually and on the tongue. Altogether, this might sound like an odd fusion of East Asian and Middle Eastern, but the result is a delightfully satisfying taste adventure, with a textural depth and richness sometimes lacking in vegetarian dumplings. A true homage to Mediterranean botanicals.
For the filling
1 cauliflower, broken into rough 2.5cm florets, stalks and leaves reserved
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons rapeseed or olive oil, plus extra for frying
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
Half teaspoon sea salt flakes
½ teaspoon chili flakes
a generous pinch of ground cinnamon
More Ingredient Sorry
40g pine nuts
20g coriander, roughly chopped
70g dates (preferably Medjool), stoned and roughly chopped
120g feta, crumbled
1 preserved lemon, or finely grated zest of 2 lemons
300g pack gyoza or wonton skins, defrosted if frozen
2–3 tablespoons plain flour, for dusting
freshly ground black pepper
For the sauce
1 garlic clove, crushed
juice of ½ lemon
3–4 tablespoons pomegranate or date molasses
Preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas mark 7.
Insruction Of This Delicious Recipe
Put the cauliflower florets into a baking dish or tray. Tear any tender cauliflower stalks and leaves into small pieces and add these, along with the red onion. Drizzle over the rapeseed or olive oil and scatter over the cumin, sweet smoked paprika, salt, chili, cinnamon, and a generous grinding of black pepper. Toss everything together with your hands or a spoon.
Put the tray in the oven and roast the vegetables for around 20 minutes, giving everything a stir halfway through, until the cauliflower is slightly charred and just tender. Be careful not to overcook it or it will turn to mush, so check its progress after 15 minutes. Set the tray and its contents aside to cool.
Lower the oven temperature to 180°C/160°C fan/gas mark 4.
Put the pine nuts in a small oven dish or tray and place them in the oven for 8–10 minutes, until lightly toasted and fragrant. Set aside to cool.
Turn off the oven.
While everything cools, prepare the sauce. In a small bowl, whisk together the crushed garlic, lemon juice, and tahini. Gradually add enough water (you’ll need about 50–100ml) to make a fairly thin dipping sauce, whisking as you go – it should be the consistency of double cream. Set aside.
Once the cauliflower is cool, put it in a food processor and add the coriander, dates, and feta. Cut the preserved lemon in half, scoop out the flesh and discard.
Finely chop the peel and add this to the food processor, too. If using lemon zest, just add that to the processor. Pulse a couple of times, just to bring the mixture together and disperse the ingredients. You definitely do not want it to turn to a homogeneous paste – you should be able to see small pieces of individual ingredients. Use a spatula if necessary to move the mixture around a little so it pulses evenly. Scoop the mixture out into a large bowl and gently fold in the cooled, toasted pine nuts.
Now it is time to fill the dumplings.
Have a small bowl of cold water to hand, and a large baking tray lightly dusted with plain flour. Take one gyoza skin from the packet. If you’re right-handed, hold it flat on the palm of your left hand; hold it in your right hand if you are left-handed. Dip a finger of the opposite hand in the bowl of water and moisten the edge of the wrapper in your palm to create a border of around 1cm. Place a heaped teaspoon of the filling in the center of the wrapper, then fold the wrapper in half to enclose the filling.
You should end up with a half-moon shape. Moisten one side of the curved edge of the wrapper, then use your fingertips to pinch small pleats into the curved edge of the dumpling. (There are lots of helpful internet tutorials on dumpling shaping if you want to brush up on the technique.) Place the finished dumpling on the floured baking tray, then repeat with the remaining filling and dumpling skins until everything is used up and you have a tray of beautiful dumplings.
You will need to cook the dumplings in about three or four batches, depending on the size of your pan. Heat a large, non-stick frying pan with a tight-fitting lid, over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of rapeseed or olive oil to the pan and swirl it around to coat the bottom. Once the pan is hot, place some of the dumplings in the pan, with the pleated edge facing upwards – you want to cover the base of the pan with dumplings, but don’t overcrowd it – they should not be touching one another.
I Hope You Cook It For You Loved Ones
Fry them for 3–5 minutes, until the bottoms have become golden and crispy. Then, splash 25ml of water into the pan – it will immediately hiss and start to steam. Quickly put the lid on the pan and leave the dumplings for about 2–3 minutes, until the water has been completely absorbed. Transfer the cooked dumplings to a plate and keep them warm in a low oven while you repeat the process to cook the remaining dumplings.
Divide the tahini sauce between small bowls or dipping dishes, one for each guest. Drizzle a little pomegranate or date molasses into each bowl using a circular motion so you have a pretty swirl of dark syrup. Place the dumplings on a large platter in the center of the table and let each guest take and dip as they please.