Overcoming food fears

I love cooking but there are things I avoid. They all have something two things in common:

  • they’re fiddly
  • there’s a high probability (in my head) that it’ll be disastrous and my ‘good cook’ cover will be blown

This ‘to be avoided’ list includes intricate desserts/cakes that need a light touch, fresh custard,and by default home-made ice-cream, finicky pastry, home-made ravioli and home-made gnocchi. The last was the first and only time I’ve tried to make gnocchi but it went so horribly wrong that certain recipes just get a wide berth.

Let me set the scene. It was a dinner party for some friends in the house of my then-boyfriend’s parents who were away on holiday – a kind of up-market empty, if you will. I was still cutting my cooking teeth and on this night I had mainly meat-eaters and one extremely picky vegetarian to cater for. I can’t even remember what the rest of us ate that night but I was already fretting about the gnocchi before the guests arrived.

I had everything under control until the vegetarian and her hubby turned. He was brandishing, not a bottle of wine, but a bottle of tequila for the hosts. I got the starter out of the way before it was cracked open but once the genie had been released we realised the only thing we had to slam it with was beer.

I don’t remember much about the rest of the night – I only have fleeting memories engrained on the back of my retinas in hallucinogenic Technicolor. This included a pot of glutinous potato (the vegetarian got crisps for dinner), someone surfing on the ironing board in the kitchen, one of the guests being walked round the back garden where he later fell asleep and was found the next morning with his head resting in the flower bed, oh and the stain on the lovely green carpet of my boyfriend’s parent’s bedroom carpet where I barfed whatever I’d managed to eat before the tequila/beer slammers took hold. We had to find an emergency carpet cleaner the next day because they were due back that night.

Now I reckon the tequila had a lot to do with my failure that night but I have a dread of my cooking going so badly wrong that people have to either go hungry or phone a takeaway. So, it was with trepidation that I attempted Gok Wan’s Magic Chicken and Leek Pot Stickers last night.

I prepared well, left myself plenty of time in case we had to phone the Chinese takeaway down the road and I put on Craig Charles Funk and Soul show on the iPlayer to sooth my frayed nerves. And guess what – they only bloody worked! I wasn’t out my face on tequila or anything else, which helped.

From that I learned:

  • Gok Wan is a cookery genius
  • when it comes to cooking there’s nothing to fear except fear itself – and tequila

Tonight’s track

Tonight’s recipe

Magic Chicken and Leek Pot Stickers


Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main

Stolen unashamedly from Gok Cooks Chinese. I get my Chinese provisions from SeeWoo in Glasgow who I can’t recommend highly enough. If I’m ever stuck or confused the staff are really friendly and help me out. Go for a look at the live seafood and the fabulous cakes. You’re guaranteed to come out with a shopping bag full of goodies.


200g minced chicken

half a leek, finely chopped

2 spring onion, finely chopped

1 tsp Lazy Ginger

2 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp Shaoxing rice wine or dry sherry

salt and pepper

cornflour for dusting

1 egg yolk, whisked slightly

white wanton wrappers

1 tbsp groundnut oil

For the dipping sauce

2 tbsp runny honey

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp chives, chopped

150 mls water

I added the juice of a lime

Method: Put all the ingredients up to and including the salt and pepper, into a bowl and mix together well with your hands.

Dust your work surface with cornflour and put out some wrappers. Put just over a teaspoon of chicken mixture into the middle of each one. Brush the edges with egg yolk then pick one up and fold over, squeezing out any air and sealing round the edges. Repeat till the chicken is used up. I got 21 out of it.


Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan with deep sides to medium/hot. Put the dumplings in the pan for 30 seconds to a minute until the one side is crispy and golden. Add about 200mls of water and cover for 5-8 minutes, topping up the water if the pan dries out. Transfer to a hot plate if you have to cook them in batches.

I served them as a main on a bed of salad with the dipping sauce drizzled over the top. Nom 🙂

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