We were at one of our favourite noodle and dumpling places for lunch, T. and William and me along with Canisha, Shanra, Aria and their mum. It's a good place to take children.
Shanra, 5, was carefully peeling the skin from her har gow dumpling and eating it after dipping it in a tiny dish of soy, leaving the filling. She did the same with another five dumplings, attempting the last two with chopsticks. I must admit the translucent, slippery, delicious skins are exceptionally good eating, even if you don't eat the middle. (While Shanra is still picky with her food, Canisha has left childish eating habits behind and likes to order and eat 'grown-up' style. One day she'll order the chicken's feet or the chili tripe and I won't be surprised.)
The dumpling fillings didn't go to waste. I added them to my noodle soup. They reminded me of a recipe I found in an old cookbook. (Hold on to your seat while we switch continents in one paragraph, from Asia to southern Europe.)
OK. Now we're in Italy. The following recipe is called Malfatti which apparently means badly made, but the author of the old book speculated that it may have come about after a batch of ravioli, tortellini or similar pasta-wrapped dumplings fell apart, losing their skins. In other words, how to use up the little nude dumplings after their skins came off, which then developed into a recipe of its own. I don't know. I had never heard of them. But they sounded good, and they were.
Cook half a bunch of spinach in a few drops of water, a little oil and a sliced clove of garlic. When well wilted, mix this with a cup of ricotta, a quarter cup of grated parmesan, a cup of bread crumbs, a quarter cup of spring onions, a handful of chopped basil or dried equivalent, two eggs and a quarter teaspon of nutmeg.
Roll the dough with floured hands into logs, cut into one inch sections and set on a floured surface or baking sheet.
Drop carefully into salted boiling water. Reduce heat and simmer four to five minutes.
Lift out carefully with slotted spoon, drain and place on serving dishes. Serve with your choice of sauce - good with a simple tomato-based sauce or a ragu. Or lightly fry them in some sage butter and top with parmesan.
So if you don't like ravioli, peel the skins off. Instant malfatti. Or get your kids to do it. They'll probably enjoy it.