Turning Japanese

We really liked the Japanese style food we had over the Christmas break, and we’ve been experimenting a bit here and there since.

I still haven’t tried rolling sushi, but it’s half-term next week and I might clear the decks and give it a go.

Mostly what we have been doing is having a bowl of plain boiled rice, topped with small portions of a variety of protein and vegetables, some hot, some cold, wet, dry, soft, crunchy. It’s been surprisingly filling, you can mix and match a whole range of tastes and textures so that each mouthful is a little surprise.

The toppings so far have been:

  • cold smoked fish – salmon, eel, trout, mackerel (Waitrose do one with honey and soy), and lumpfish roe
  • cold veg – avocado, cucumber, mooli / daikon radish, alfalfa or radish sprouts, shredded carrot, shredded nori
  • pickles – Chinese mustard pickles, seaweed, gherkins, sushi ginger
  • hot meat – variations on marinated grilled or stewed chicken, casseroled pork belly, steamed Chinese sausages
  • hot veg – stir-fried pak choi, steamed edamame beans, miso-stewed white baby aubergines
  • omelettes – made with mirin and egg, rolled, sliced, and served hot or cold – also cold quail eggs
  • also some sprinkle mix of chilli, sesame seeds, garlic and powdered orange peel, the odd dabs of wasabi

I have some crabsticks, smoked and marinated tofu, and kombu seaweed ready to try next. At a northern Chinese restaurant last week I had a starter of sliced cold pork belly, which had been plainly cooked in a clear broth and then dressed with chilli and garlic. I’ve been doing ours in mirin and soy with ginger and star anise, so it’s very dark and rich. This was a lighter and cleaner flavour, so I shall try that next time.

Also on the list for future experiments are:

  • hot fish – stewed squid, grilled salmon, mussels, tuna
  • more hot veg – green beans, aubergines with peanut sauce, something with candied sweet potato
  • hard boiled eggs – soaked in tea, or soy
  • lean red meat – venison liver, buffalo steak

And I want to try some of the mini-burger-type-things, meat and veggie, that are featured on the bento recipe sites.

Bento in a Big Way is beyond my energies at the minute. I could happily make a lunchbox along similar lines to the dinners, but the decorative stuff is so not happening. No colouring eggs, carving hot dogs, ¬†or making little stars out of carrots and cucumbers. I’m up for arranging a box so that it looks appetising, but I’m not making a diorama out of it.

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Best kedgeree ever

I never thought of kedgeree as a budget supper dish before, but the astonishing cheapness of smoked hoki the other day persuaded me otherwise.

  • Cooked white rice
  • Smoked fish (boneless skinless smoked hoki fillet)
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Leftover peas from a roast dinner
  • Leftover kashmiri veggie curry (sweet and creamy with bananas – about half a takeaway portion)

I used a wok. Cut the fish into bite size pieces, and stir fried. Add the rice and peas, stir fry again until hot through. Add curry (or mild curry paste and sour cream if no spare leftover curry), some pepper, no salt as the fish and curry are salty enough. Stir in chopped hard boiled eggs. I would have put in a load of fresh chopped parsley, but John doesn't like it.

It was gorgeous. One fillet and three eggs made about four servings, and it was creamy, rich and very moreish. Didn't need any side dishes or extras, and you could stretch it easily with more rice and green veg.

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Orange Rice

Went really well with spiced lamb, better with a plainer meat than a rich sauce or casserole.

In a heavy pan (preferably one that has a lid for later), fry in a little oil:

  • 1 onion
  • 1 orange pepper
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 6 whole peppercorns
  • 2 inch stick of cinnamon
  • 2 heaped tablespoons cut mixed peel (or diced citron, or shredded tangerine peel)
  • 2 handfuls carrot batons

When it's all soft and smelling spicy, stir in a cup or so of preferred rice (tonight was easy cook brown Italian), and cover with boiling water, some chicken stock concentrate or salt to taste.

Cook slowly-ish, for about half an hour, with a lid on. In the last few minutes, nibble a grain or two of rice to check it's cooked, add a little fat (butter, or fat off the meat if you're having it with a roast), and raise the heat to boil off the liquid.

Take the cinnamon stick out, and warn people about the cloves and peppercorns.

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Chicken Livers times three

I posted this elsewhere in response to a query about what to do with chicken livers:

Stir-fry with butter and garlic, toss into your favourite warm plain tomato pasta sauce, with just a tad of balsamic vinegar and nutmeg, and serve over pasta with a spoonful of sour cream and plenty of fresh basil.

Or cook in loads of butter until the centres are still slightly pink, let it cool til nearly solid, then whizz up in a food processor with a spoonful or two of your favourite strong booze – brandy, pernod, or cointreau are all good. Stir in appropriate flavourings such as green peppercorns or fresh citrus peel shreds, and mix lightly with whipped double cream. Let set in small pots in the fridge. Cover with melted butter to seal and it will keep for about a week. Great on thin crisp toast, or alongside a sharp green salad.

 

The first is a Northern Italian influenced thing, I've used NCG Plum Tomato and Creme Fraiche soup instead of pasta sauce in the past, which has worked well. It needs the nutmeg and maybe even cinnamon to boost the warmth. I can't remember where I got it from …

The parfaits are probably from a Glynn Christian Sainsbury cookbook, either Pies Pates and Terrines, or his Christmas one.

And of course there's the classic Dirty Rice, cooking them with loads of onion, celery and green pepper, with plenty of black pepper and paprika / cayenne, and then adding long grain rice and letting it simmer in wine and stock til done. Adding spicy or garlic sausage at the beginning if you like, and prawns and fresh chopped tomato at the end.

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