Japan

Yakitori (and other barbecued delights)

yakitori2

As regular followers of this blog will know, we are a family obsessed with all things Japanese. So when we light up a BBQ you won’t find boring old beef burgers and sausages. It’s yakitori for us.

My five year old son mentioned eating yakitori in his school diary and had to explain exactly what it was to the class. His teachers must think we’re a right bunch of pretentious ponces.

However, although yakitori sounds fancy and exotic, it’s really just little bits of chicken on a skewer (a kebab basically) brushed with a special sauce. The recipe comes from this book.

Harumi

Yakitori sauce

  • 100ml of mirin
  • 3 tablespoons of sake
  • 100ml of soy sauce (preferably Japanese)
  • 50g of caster sugar

Mix all the ingredients above together in a pan and then simmer over a medium heat until the mixture thickens (don’t let it thicken too much however or you’ll have soy sauce flavoured caramel). Set aside until you are ready to use.

Thread small cubes of chicken onto skewers. Season with salt and pepper then barbecue until cooked through.

Once cooked and still hot, brush liberally with the yakitori sauce and serve straight away.

NOTES:

Store any leftover sauce in a clean jar in the fridge. It keeps very well.

You don’t have to use chicken. You can use the sauce on other meats such as beef and pork. Or try with fish or vegetables.


Another recipe I’ve tried recently is this from James Martin. He uses beef foreribs which he cooks in the oven, however I’ve adapted it to use brisket (cheaper and easier to get hold of) and then cook it on the barbecue.

Barbecued brisket with a sticky bourbon glaze

I don’t have a photograph of this dish – sorry. It’s tasty but not very photogenic, if you want to imagine what it looks like then just think of black squares. There’s not even a picture in the ‘Saturday Kitchen at Home’ book it comes from.

For the brisket

  • a large piece of rolled brisket (approx 1.5kg)
  • 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • A small bunch of parsley
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped

For the glaze

  • 175g tomato ketchup
  • 150g chilli ketchup
  • 110ml dark soy sauce
  • 175g honey
  • 4 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce
  • 4 tablespoons of bourbon

First place the brisket in a large saucepan with the peppercorns, bay, parsley, onion and carrot. Fill the pan with water to just cover the brisket. Bring to the boil and simmer for 3 hours with a lid partly on. Skim off any foam that forms on the surface.

When cooked and tender leave the brisket to cool in the stock. Drain, unroll, cut off most of the fat and cut into large wedges. You can save the stock for soup or risotto.

Place all the ingredients for the glaze in a pan and bring to a simmer. Take the chunks of brisket and dip in the sauce to coat.

Barbecue the pieces of brisket until warmed through basting with more sauce halfway through.

NOTE:

Just like the yakitori sauce, you can store any leftover sauce in the fridge in a clean jar.

Jamesmartin

Poor old James Martin. I like his recipes but he’s totally demeaned himself with those deeply embarrassing ASDA adverts.

Teriyaki

teriyaki

I’ve completely failed in my new year’s resolution to be a more exciting cook. Slowly I’ve crept back into lazy habits and three months on I’m cooking mainly tried and tested old staples that are already on this blog.

I’ve not yet told you about this one though. It’s a really easy way to transform any piece of meat or fish into something more exciting. You can buy teriyaki sauce ready made in a bottle but it’s much nicer (and cheaper) to make your own.

This is in memory of our epic holiday in Japan which was exactly a year ago. We just have to wait 9 more years before we get to go again.

Teriyaki sauce

Makes about 6 tablespoons

  • 120ml of mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
  • 60ml of Japanese soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of caster sugar

Put all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, turn the heat to medium and simmer for about 4 minutes until syrupy.

Any unused sauce can be kept in a clean jar in the fridge.

Using the sauce

Lightly season two chicken breasts with salt and pepper and fry on a medium heat with a little oil until just cooked through (I cook mine for 5 minutes each side).

Spoon over 3 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce and continue to cook for about a minute spooning over the sauce all the time to glaze the chicken. Remove the chicken from the pan and slice thinly.

Serve over rice and drizzle over any remaining sauce from the pan.

This is also nice served over a simple green salad.

NOTES

For Japanese style rice cook according to the guidance in my post Sushi rolls but omit the vinegar, sugar and salt and serve while it’s still warm.

This technique can also be used for steak, pork or fish.

Japan

A year ago in sunny Japan some geisha asked to have their photo taken with Elizabeth and Eddie. Today we’re in Nottingham and it’s raining.

Sushi rolls

sushi rolls 4

I am obsessed with Japanese food but I’m not particularly skilled at making it. Despite this I keep trying because my mother told me ‘if at first you don’t succeed try, try and try again’. This saying is so true that I now hear myself repeating it to my own children.

And here’s a good example. Despite failing many times to cook perfect sushi rice, I have kept at it and have finally found a method that works. I can’t tell you how pleased I am and I’ve got to write it down quickly for the record before it escapes me.

This is an amalgamation of two recipes – the first is from ‘Harumi’s Japanese Home Cooking’ and the second is from the Japanese section of ‘The Essential Asian Cookbook’.

Staying with the Japanese theme, I also tried to make my own udon noodles this week. They weren’t too bad but I need to keep trying before I can confidently post the recipe.

Sushi rice

This makes enough for 5 sushi sausages the length of a sheet of nori (about 20cm), ready to be cut into rounds

  • 2 cups of sushi rice
  • 1 ½ cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

First rinse the rice really well in cold water until the water runs clear. My technique for doing this is to measure the rice into a saucepan, cover with cold water and swill around with my hands until the water turns cloudy, then drain carefully using the lid (making sure no rice escapes down the sink). It’s quite therapeutic and I repeat this up to 10 times until the water is clear (well clearish anyway).

Drain and leave to the rice to rest uncovered for 30 minutes (this is Harumi’s tip and I think it’s the secret).

Add the water, bring to the boil, then lower the heat and cook for 15 minutes with a tight fitting lid on.

Remove from the heat and leave for a further 10 minutes, still with the lid on.

Mix 2 tablespoons of rice vinegar with 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt and stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved.

Stir this into the hot sushi rice (gently so that it doesn’t go mushy) then spread the rice out thinly on a baking tray or two and pop in the fridge to cool.

Sushi rolls (sushi maki)

You can use this rice for a variety of Japanese dishes. Shape it into ovals with your hands and place some thinly sliced raw tuna on top and you have a rough kind of sushi.

I prefer to make sushi rolls which are a nice alternative to sandwiches at lunchtime. You can stuff them with virtually anything. The ones in the photo above have teriyaki pork inside but you can also use raw tuna, raw salmon, cucumber, strips of omelette, avocado, tuna mayonnaise, egg mayonnaise. The last two don’t seem very authentic but they are very popular in Japanese Seven Elevens and are very popular with my children.

Rolling up

Cut out a sheet of greaseproof paper and put a sheet of cling film on top. Then place a nori sheet on top of that. You can buy nori sheets in most supermarkets these day. Using damp hands spread the rice thinly over about half the nori sheet leaving a small gap around the sides (1 cm).

Place a strip of filling in the centre of the rice and then, using the greaseproof paper/cling film to help you, roll the nori up from the bottom enclosing the rice around the centred ingredients. You will probably need to trim the nori, it needs to overlap slightly but you don’t want a double layer all the way round.

Now discard the greaseproof paper and wrap the cling film around the sushi roll a couple of times and twist the ends to make a nice, tight sausage shape. Place in the fridge until you are ready to serve.

When you’re ready to serve take a very sharp knife and cut the roll into rounds about 2 ½ cm thick. I find it easier to do this with the cling film still on and then remove it after cutting.

Serve with wasabi and soy sauce.

Note: My children go mad for an egg mayonnaise filling but they are not keen on the nori outer so I roll up without (as in the photo below).

sushi rolls for kids

Japanese style salad dressing with sesame

geishas

So I’m back from Japan and have spent the last week in a jet lagged haze barely able to put two words together let alone cook a decent meal.
And I’ve been slightly demoralised in the kitchen having been spoilt by Japanese cuisine which for me is absolute food heaven.

The high end of Japanese dining is not really accessible to clueless westerners who can only speak two words of Japanese (arigatou gozaimasu/thank you very much) especially ones with two young children in tow, but fast food in Japan is often very good quality and not at all expensive. There are plenty of Japanese food outlets where you can get a decent bowl of udon noodles or beef over rice and feed a family of four for around £10.

And even when you come across Japanese versions of international dishes they just seem to do it so much better – the fast food chain Mos Burger is a good example. I hate McDonald’s and Burger King but the burgers and chips in Mos Burger are absolute perfection. We also tried some unusual combinations that just shouldn’t work but were delicious, such as deep fried shrimps with beef curry sauce (first with rice, and then bizarrely inside a doughnut!!!).

Anyway, this week in an attempt to inject some Japanese flavours in my lazy (what time is it?) cooking I’ve attempted to recreate a sesame salad dressing that often came with set menu side salads in Japan. My next step is to get a bit more adventurous and so I have just ordered a couple of Japanese cookbooks from Amazon. My dream is to learn to make my own udon noodles and authentic yakitori but in the meantime here’s my simple Japanese style salad dressing recipe.

Japanese style salad dressing with sesame

Enough for a large simple lunchtime salad for one person made with lettuce, cucumber and carrot

  • 2 teaspoons of mirin
  • 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons of light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 1 heaped teaspoon mayonnaise

Put all of the above ingredients into a jam jar and shake vigorously. Pour over your salad.

noodles (2)

Simple udon noodles for lunch – I will learn to make these.

Lovely little dumplings – Gyoza

gyoza

I adore Japanese food and I’ve had a mini obsession with gyoza (Japanese dumplings) since I first had them in Wagamamas 15 years ago.

When I was travelling in Tokyo my love affair even led me to seek out a ‘Gyoza Stadium’ (inside Namja Town a rather bonkers video game theme park featuring a strange cartoon girl and a ghost cat!!!) which had a whole ‘street’ of booths selling hundreds of types of gyoza. I was expecting a taste sensation but the dumplings I tried there were a bit disappointing. I decided (dare I say it) that I preferred the anglicised Wagamama’s version back home.

This recipe takes the Europeanisation of gyoza one step further and uses home-made pasta sheets as the dumpling wrappers. I came across the idea in Jamie Oliver’s ‘The Return of the Naked Chef’ and I think it works really well. If you’re not into making your own pasta then you could use ready-made gyoza wrappers  which you can buy from Asian supermarkets. The filling is similar to Jamie’s recipe but I form mine into half-moon shapes and cook by frying on one side and then steaming in the same pan – which I believe is more traditional.

These are a labour of love and you have to have a calm head as they are rather fiddly to assemble. In my view though, they are definitely, definitely worth it.

Gyoza

Makes about 20 (enough for 4 people as a starter)

Pasta

  • 110g 00 flour, or plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • A dash of oil (use a tasteless oil, not olive oil)
  • A pinch of salt

Filling

  • 150g pork (I use the scraggy ends of a piece of pork filet)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 10g ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 1 handful of fresh coriander, including stalks
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 8 water chestnuts (from a small tin)
  • A good pinch of salt
  • A little black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of groundnut oil for frying
  • A ladleful of hot water

Preparing the filing
To make the filing whizz up the ginger and garlic in a food processor or mini chopper. Then add all the other filling ingredients (meat, lemon juice, coriander, sesame oil, chestnuts, salt and pepper) and blitz again until relatively smooth.

Making the wrappers
Put all of the pasta ingredients in a bowl and mix together with your hands until it comes together in a ball. Lightly flour your work surface and knead the dough for a few minutes until smooth. Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Clamp your pasta machine to your work surface and set the machine to its thickest setting. Start by flattening the ball a little with your hands and then run through the machine. Keep rolling the piece through the machine changing for thinner and thinner settings until you reach the thinnest setting possible.

Cut out circles of pasta with a 7cm diameter cutter. Put the offcuts back through the pasta machine and cut out more circles, repeating until you have run out of dough. You should be able to get at least 20 circles from this amount of dough.

Assembling the gyoza
Put a small dollop of filling into the centre of each pasta circle. Lightly water the edge of the circle with your finger and fold the circle in half. Seal the edges and then pleat around the edge as in the photo below.

gyoza uncooked

This is a little laborious so make yourself a nice pot of tea, or pour yourself a glass of wine and set about it with a calm head. If you’re in the right frame of mind then it’s actually rather enjoyable.

Put each gyoza onto a cling film covered board sprinkled with a little semolina or flour to stop them sticking.

Cooking the gyoza
Heat a tablespoon of groundnut oil in a frying pan until hot. Add the gyoza to the pan and fry until they are golden on one side. Add a ladleful of boiling water to the pan and then immediate put a lid on and steam the gyoza in the pan for 4-5 minutes until the water has evaporated and the dumplings are cooked through. Serve immediately.

Serving
I like to make a dipping sauce using 3 parts soy sauce to 1 part rice wine, garnished with some coriander and red chilli.

NOTE: You can also make this recipe using chicken or prawns instead of pork.

My little helper.

My little helper.