Dumplings and Noodles, cookbook review: 'A must-have for your kitchen shelf'

For those with an appetite for home-made delights from China, Japan and beyond, this book is worth investing in

Noodles and Dumplings
Accessible, informative and undeniably delicious Credit: India Hobson and Magnus Edmondson

If you’ve experienced the euphoria of tucking into a deep bowl of ramen or soft, squidgy soup dumplings, splattering chilli oil in every direction, you can now learn to make them all from scratch with Pippa Middlehurst’s debut cookbook, Dumplings and Noodles (Quadrille, £16.99) – and take your Friday-night fakeaway to new heights.

The concept

A noodle enthusiast with a degree in micro and molecular biology, ­Middlehurst has an impressive ­understanding of the science behind the perfect noodle or dumpling wrapper, which she shares in her detailed instructions for making, kneading, shaping and filling. The book is split into dumplings, noodles and side dishes, ranging from five-minute fixes to slow, five-hour braises. Shop-bought alternatives are given in each noodle dish if you don’t have the time or inclination to make and stretch your noodles beforehand, and a ­glossary of ingredients and suitable alternatives is provided at the start. A well-stocked pantry of Asian ingredients, however, is highly recommended.

The recipes

Encouraged by Middlehurst’s instructions, I felt emboldened to try some of her more time-consuming recipes, as well as a quick-fix for when I had built up my arsenal of ingredients.

Xingjiang lamb dumplings

Middlehursts dumplings (left); my own version (right) Credit: India Hobson and Magnus Edmondson

Throwing myself in at the deep end, I began with a recipe requiring home-made dumpling dough, encasing a ­filling of juicy, cumin and Sichuan pepper-spiked lamb mince. Perhaps too deep, admittedly, as my dumpling skins were far from the perfectly uniform, paper-thin rounds the book pictured. Their flavour once filled, however, was enough to persuade me that this is certainly a skill worth mastering; the ­dumplings were tender, succulent and just on the right side of mouth-­tinglingly peppery.

Ox cheek mala xiao mian

Middlehursts noodles (left); my own version (right) Credit: India Hobson and Magnus Edmondson

With liberal use of Sichuan pepper, white pepper and a generous spoonful of home-made chilli oil (also a recipe in the book), I was ready to have my head blown off by this pungent, slow-cooked beef broth. After five hours of gentle simmering (and hardly any hands-on work), the beef was meltingly tender, swimming in a rich stock teeming with spice. Though I couldn’t get hold of one or two ingredients, the end result didn’t suffer too much.

Hangover noodles (charred broccoli noodles)

Middlehursts noodles (left); my own version (right) Credit: India Hobson and Magnus Edmondson

One of a handful of Middlehurst’s own inventions, this was the simple quick-fix I was craving after a busy day. The dish came together in 20 minutes, the combination of charred broccoli and chilli-spiked noodles (rice noodles rather than soba, as I was catering for a coeliac) making an addictive combination. It was so good, in fact, that the eggs sitting on the counter waiting to be fried (for an optional addition) were entirely forgotten.

Verdict

If you have a hunger for home-cooked dishes from China, Japan, Taiwan and beyond (and have a bit of extra cupboard space – online purchases are likely to be needed for some of the ingredients), this is a must-have for your kitchen book shelf. ­Middlehurst has a fantastic knack for making the complicated seem simple, encouraging you to try out recipes you would normally stare at longingly before flicking over to the next page to find ­something a little ­simpler to attempt. And in every case, the resulting dish is more than worth the effort.