Our guest blogger, Susie Lau, tells us how she celebrates the holiday and shares a special family recipe for a traditional sweet treat…
When people ask how I celebrate Chinese New Year, the unfortunate answer is that I’m now normally working as Chinese New Year falls during New York Fashion Week. Hurrah for the Year of the Dragon then as Chinese New Year has fallen early.
We kick off Chinese New Year Eve this Sunday on the 22nd and then Chinese New Year begins on Monday followed by fifteen days of festivities. In other words, that’s two solid days of eating. I’ll be stuffing my face with my mother’s cookies and cakes that she makes especially for this time of year. In particular, the peanut puff or “little horns” as we call them in Cantonese is a favourite of mine because they’re portable and I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t find them addictive and moreish.
They sort of look like tiny Cornish pasties and the pastry has a crunch/biscuit texture to them as they’re made by deep fat frying. You bite in to find a sweet peanut filling that can vary from recipe to recipe.
I’ve probed my mum for her particular recipe and here it is. She likes to make them quite small and dainty so they’re bitesize but you’ll see them in all sizes. The tricky bit is the pinching and locking of the puffs but it’s always funny to see how they turn out depending on how nimble your fingers are.
To make 48 little puffs.
Sieved Plain flour 225g
Peanut oil 2 tablespoons (try to buy it at a Chinese supermarket – my mother says it’s more fragrant)
Sesame seeds 60g
Unsalted peanuts 60g
Finely desiccated coconut 60g
Granulated sugar 120g
Vegetable oil for frying
Make the filling first so you have it ready to work with. Toast the sesame seeds and peanut in a pan over a low heat until they are golden.
Break up the peanuts in a food processor until they resemble fine breadcrumbs.
Mix the sesame seeds, peanut crumbs, coconut and the sugar together so that you have a dry filling.
Now make the dough. Mix all the dough ingredients together, kneading it until it forms a smooth dough. Add flour if it’s too sticky or a little oil if it feels a bit dry.
Divide the dough into four.
Roll each lump of dough out into a rectangular shape that is about 20cm wide and then roll from the longer edge like you would a cigarette so that you get a tube. This forms the layers in the pastry that puffs up when fried later.
Cut up the tube into twelve small pieces.
Do the same with the other three piles of dough so that you end up with 48 little chunks of dough.
Roll each piece out into a circle shape, about 7cm wide and 1-2mm thick.
Spoon a small teaspoon of filling into the middle and then fold over into a semi-circle shape and press the edges together.
Now lock the edges. This can be a little tricky. Starting from one end, pinch the edge and fold over and do this pinch and fold action until you get a sort of twisted braid going around the edge of the peanut puff.
Repeat for the other 47 puffs. It’s a real family exercise to fold and lock these little puffs and I used to help my mum do this even if mine always turned out a little misshapen.
If you use deep fat fryer, heat to 170 degrees and if you’re using a wok or a pan, heat the vegetable oil to medium heat. Make sure the oil isn’t too hot as you don’t want to burn the puffs.
Then drop in the puffs, ten to fifteen at a time, depending on the size of your wok or the deep fat fryer. Use a metal fish slice to stir the puffs into the oil to ensure an even colour.
Once they are golden brown, lift out and drain on kitchen paper.
It’s best to cool them for an hour before storing them in an airtight container (we use old biscuit tins at home) lined with greaseproof paper.
They should last a few months in the tin but you’ll probably eat them within two weeks!