Certain food references in books stay with me – the vanilla cake Anne bakes in “Anne of Green Gables” or the towering chocolate cake from “Matilda” – but generally food is not my focus when I’m reading novels.

That may change after spending time with Kate Young’s “The Little Library Cookbook: 100 Recipes from Your Favorite Books.”

A self-described “hungry reader,” the London-based food writer was inspired by her dual love of reading and cooking to create a collection of recipes based on her favorite books, ranging from “Harry Potter” to “Pippi Longstocking.” The resulting cookbook is a somewhat random collection of recipes, each introduced with a passage from a book and a short essay about Young’s connection to it.

“The Little Library Cookbook” by Kate Young. Sterling Epicure. $24.95.

Young divides the recipes into sections based on time of day: before noon, around noon, after noon (tea), the dinner table and midnight feasts. She also includes sections for parties and celebrations and Christmas. The recipes – generally easy to follow – are clearly written with helpful tips and instructions. (And yes, both Matilda’s chocolate cake and Anne’s vanilla layer cake are included in this book.)

Fresh off a viewing of “Crazy Rich Asians” and thinking of a scene where the characters gather around a table to make dumplings, I couldn’t resist Young’s recipe for “A Thousand Pork & Ginger Dumplings.” The recipe is a reference to “The Kitchen God’s Wife” by Amy Tan and a passage that reads “Back home, I told the cook girl to boil enough pots of water and chop enough pork and vegetables to make a thousand dumplings, both steamed and boiled, with plenty of fresh ginger, good soy sauce, and sweet vinegar for dipping.”

Young also made the process of making dumplings sound so appealing I couldn’t resist.

“The slow, calm repetition, while you watch your pile of dumplings grow, has been a lifeline for me on more than one occasion,” Young writes.

But the idea of rolling out my own dough for the wrappers, filling each dumpling and pinching it closed didn’t seem particularly relaxing to me, especially on a weeknight after work. Young notes on the recipe that she often buys pre-made dumpling wrappers when she is short on time, so I elected to do the same (I could only find square wonton wrappers at my small-town grocery store, so I went with those).

The dumpling filling is quick and easy to make, and has a nice balance of ginger and garlic. The dipping sauce, which Young suggests drizzling over the dumplings before serving, was also nicely balanced and easy to make. But it turns out I need practice when it comes to shaping dumplings: most of mine were a little wonky and a few leaked some filling when they were boiled.

My dumplings were not the prettiest, but it turns out that didn’t matter to my dumpling-loving husband, who pointed out he’s tried plenty of dumplings that looked perfect but didn’t taste great. After boiling the dumplings, I decided to pan-fry most of my batch to give them a little more flavor and texture.

Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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Twitter: grahamgillian

Pork and Ginger Dumplings

Makes about 30 dumplings


1 1/3 cups plain all-purpose flour

Pinch of flaky sea salt or kosher salt

Generous 5 tablespoons just boiled water

1 tablespoon flour and 2 tablespoons water (for sealing wrappers)


1 tablespoon sesame oil

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 large scallions, finely chopped

1 1/2 tablespoon finely chopped ginger

1 large green chili, finely chopped

7 ounces ground pork

Zest and juice of a small lime

1 tablespoon soy sauce


1 tablespoon sesame oil

5 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce

2 tablespoons soy sauce

Pinch of sugar

1. First, make the dough for the wrappers. Put the flour and salt in a bowl, then pour in the boiled water. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon to combine and then, once it is cool enough, continue to mix with your hands. Cover and allow the dough to rest for half an hour.

2. For the filling, heat the sesame oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Fry the garlic for a minute, stirring to ensure it doesn’t brown. Add the scallions, ginger and chili and cook for a minute, then add the pork. Cook for 5 minutes, moving the meat around to ensure it all cooks through. Add the lime zest, lime juice and soy sauce, cook for a final minute, then remove from the heat. Set aside to cool.

3. Once the dough has rested, knead it for around 10 minutes until smooth. At the start, it will be hard to manipulate, but keep working, stretching the dough out with the heel of your hand. If the dough is too hard to work with, add extra water, a teaspoon at a time. It will get there. Once it is smooth and pliable, cut into 6 pieces and return 5 of these to the fridge, covered in plastic.

4. Flour your work surface, roll the piece of dough out to around 1/8-inch thick, then cut into rounds with a 3 1/4-inch cookie cutter. Set each wrapper aside, covered in a tea towel. You might like to put a bit of parchment paper between each one to ensure they don’t stick, but I just layer them, then peel carefully when I come to use them. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Keep any scraps, re-knead them, and cut out additional rounds.

5. Once your filling is cool, mix 1 tablespoon flour and 2 tablespoons water into a paste and set up a production line. To fill the dumplings, place a generous teaspoon of the filling mixture into the center of the wrapper. With a finger, run the flour paste along the top edge of the wrapper and fold the other side over to create a semicircle.

6. Working from the edge of the mixture, push the wrapper closed, ensuring there are no air holes, then seal the edges. Starting at one corner, crimp the dough between your thumb and forefinger, with your middle finger supporting the dough underneath. Repeat at close intervals along the edge. Store each unfinished dumpling under a cloth and continue with the rest of the wrappers and mixture.

7. To prepare the sauce, put all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and leave to simmer away quietly while you cook the dumplings.

8. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then reduce to a confident simmer. Drop the dumplings into the water in batches, giving them room to move. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon. Allow to drain, then transfer to a serving plate. Spoon the sauce over the top and serve immediately.

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