Japanese cuisine

Ben’s Japanese style fried fish

Ben'sjapanesefish

Well it’s not really Ben’s recipe, it’s actually Nic Watt’s from the Saturday Kitchen at Home cookbook. This is a very good book if you fancy upping your game in the kitchen from time to time. The dishes are or all a little more complicated than your average Nigella, Nigel, Jamie or Delia recipe but still achievable for the ambitious home cook. Look out for it in your local charity shop – it’s a few years old now so it’s bound to crop up.

Image result for nic watt chef

This is Nic Watt.

This has become one of Ben’s signature starter dishes. Ben by the way (if you’re new to this blog) is my husband. He does not look like Nic (above).

The recipe involves deep frying the fish skeleton (not shown in the photo above). This sounds vile but it crisps up beautifully and tastes rather like a fishy version of pork crackling.

The dipping sauce and marinade is amazing and I guess you could use the concept for other meats like pork or chicken if you like.

We have made this with turbot instead of lemon sole and you could probably substitute any firm white fish. The deep fried skeleton however only really works with sole.

Nic Watt’s Crispy lemon sole with chilli, sesame and soy

For the marinade and dipping sauce

  • 1 teaspoon of chopped green chilli
  • 1 teaspoon of chopped red chilli
  • 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh ginger
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of chopped garlic
  • 2 teaspoons of ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of black sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of Djon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 50ml of soy sauce
  • The juice of half a lemon
  • 5 tablespoons of vegetable oil

For the fish

  • 2 lemon sole
  • 50g-75g of potato starch (you can buy this from Holland and Barrett)

To serve

  • The zest of two lemons
  • A little coriander

Put all the ingredients for the marinade (except the oil) into a bowl and mix to combine.

Heat the vegetable oil on a high heat until it is smoking, then pour it over the other marinade ingredients and stir. It may spit a little so be careful. Put one half of the mix into little bowls for the dipping sauce and leave the rest in the bowl for the marinade.

Prepare the fish by cleaning, descaling, skinning and filleting it. Or ask your fishmonger to do this for you. Cut the filleted fish into bite size pieces and place in the marinade for 15 minutes.

For the skeleton, cut in half lengthways keeping the backbone intact on one half. Discard the half without the back bone. Dust the skeleton with potato flour and place around a small bowl placed upside down to shape.

Heat some oil in a very large saucepan to 190oC

IR GM300E Infrared Thermometer

PS.These infrared thermometers are brilliant for testing the surface temperature of oil and can be bought online for less than £20.

First place the skeleton in the heated oil for 2-3 minutes until crispy and drain on kitchen paper. Hopefully it will keep it’s bowl like shape.

Lift the sole from the marinade and coat evenly in potato starch. Shake to remove any excess flour, then drop into the oil and fry for 2-3 minutes until a light golden colour. Drain on kitchen paper.

To serve, arrange the fish pieces and skeleton nicely on a serving plate, grate over some lemon zest and sprinkle over some chopped coriander (these garnishes are not shown in the photo above).

Serve the bowls of dipping sauce alongside.

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Yaki udon

udon noodles

This dish is becoming a firm family favourite. It makes an excellent, quick, midweek dinner and can be easily adapted to please the fussy tastes of children. This was the dish that I always used to order at Wagamamas. I don’t bother now that I can make it so easily at home but the reduced portion sizes at Wagamamas have put me off going there in any case.

In this recipe everything revolves around the sauce and noodles. You can then freestyle the rest adding whatever vegetables are in your bottom drawer of your fridge. The original recipe (from Tim Anderson’s ‘Nanban – Japanese Soul Food’) adds beansprouts and mushrooms but I generally use cabbage and carrots because I always have those in and everyone in our household likes them. Tim also adds bacon and you could add chicken or prawns if you like, but I prefer to keep it vegetarian.

With regards to the noodles, I use ready made quick cook udon noodles which I buy from Tesco. Loyal followers of this blog may remember that I did once attempt to make my own but this was very hard work (you have to knead and walk on the dough multiple times and then hand roll the noodles!). I generally don’t mind putting in the effort if the end result is fabulous but in this case the final noodles were a bit rugged and rather stodgy.

My children don’t like onion and so I only put the crispy onion and spring onion on the adult plates. Likewise with the sesame seeds. Everyone likes the omelette topping though and the children squabble over who gets the biggest portion of this.

Yaki-udon

Serves 4

  • 4 x 200g cooked udon noodles
  • ½ a cabbage cut into very thin strips
  • 4 carrots sliced lengthways as thinly as possible and then cut into fine strips
  • 3 cloves of garlic finely sliced
  • A thumb sized piece of ginger finely chopped or grated

Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
  • ½ a teaspoon of ground white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of mirin
  • 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of dashi powder or MSG (optional – obviously don’t use dashi if you’re a vegetarian)

To garnish

  • Thin omelettes cooled and very finely sliced
  • Sesame seeds
  • Crispy fried onions (you can buy these ready made or make your own buy slicing an onion very, very thinly and then frying on a high heat in a lot of oil for 5-10 minutes until brown and crispy. Drain well on kitchen roll before using)
  • The green tops of spring onion

This makes a large amount. You will need a large wok, otherwise cook in two batches.

Heat a little oil in a large wok until hot. Stir fry the carrots for 1-2 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and cabbage and stir fry for another 3-4 minutes until wilted.

Mix up the ingredients for the sauce and add to the pan, then stir in the cooked or straight-to-wok udon noodles. Stir fry for another couple of minutes until heated through and then serve.

Garnish with the sesame seeds, egg, spring onion and crisp fried onion (or any combination of these that you like).

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.

Brown sugar ice cream with a miso caramel swirl

miso caramel ice cream

I don’t own a mobile phone and I’m not on facebook (which I hate) but I do rather uncharacteristically use (and even like) twitter. And I don’t mind admitting that this is mainly to salivate over pictures of beautiful food. Some people may find it super sad but I really am interested in what Nigella (who lives a life of glamour and privilege so far removed from mine) is eating for lunch.

I also follow my almost-neighbour and culinary magician Sat Bains (although I could happily do without the macho gym and gun photos) and he once tweeted a picture of his miso fudge which had me dribbling all over my laptop. I could literally taste how great that flavour combination would be.

Despite not being able to try the real thing (because I’m not wealthy enough to eat at his restaurant on even a yearly basis) the idea stayed imprinted in my brain. Then recently I came across a recipe for miso caramel in Tim Anderson’s new Japanese cookbook ‘Nanban’ and so I just had to give it a go.

In Tim’s recipe he uses the miso caramel to flavour a ‘whippy’ ice cream (made with cornflour not egg yolk) and mixes it in completely. In my version I use my favourite standard vanilla ice cream recipe (only this time I replace the caster sugar with brown sugar) and then use the miso caramel as a ripple. This way you get a pure hit of sugary umami* (for all those Sat lovers out there you’ll know what this means).

All pretensions removed, if you like ice cream, salted caramel and Japanese flavours then it’s very likely that you’ll love this ice cream.

NOTE: umami* – a category of taste in food (besides sweet, sour, salt, and bitter), corresponding to the flavour of glutamates, especially monosodium glutamate (miso is naturally high in MSG, as are many other foods that we all love – Parmesan cheese, soy sauce, marmite, ripe tomatoes, breast milk!)

Brown sugar ice cream with a miso caramel swirl

For the miso caramel

  • 120g caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 150ml whole milk
  • 55g miso paste
  • ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract

For the brown sugar ice cream

Makes 1 1/2 pints

  • 4 egg yolks
  • 100g soft light brown sugar
  • 1 dessert spoon of cornflour
  • 300ml milk
  • 300ml double cream

First make the caramel. Heat the milk in the microwave or in a pan until it is nearly boiling.

Then put the sugar and water in a saucepan and heat slowly until the sugar has dissolved. Raise the heat to medium and let it bubble away until in turns a dark amber caramel. Keep a careful eye on things because it will turn very quickly.

Whisk in the hot milk but be careful because it will bubble up. Keep whisking until all the caramel has dissolved.

Remove from the heat and whisk in the miso and vanilla extract.

Pass the mixture through a sieve and then return to the heat and let it simmer away until it thickens up a bit. You want a nice thick pouring consistency. Leave to go completely cold.

Now for the ice cream. In a bowl beat the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar together.

Heat the milk in a saucepan slowly until it is almost boiling and then stir this into the egg and sugar mixture.

Tip the whole lot back into the pan and place on a medium heat stirring continuously with a whisk until the mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Try not to let it boil or there will be a chance it will curdle and ruin.

Cover the mixture and leave it to cool first to room temperature and then in the fridge.

Once cold, stir in the cream and churn in an ice cream maker until thick.

To assemble, take a plastic container and first put in half the ice cream mixture, then drizzle over half the caramel. Spoon in the remaining ice cream and then finally the rest of the caramel. Take a butter knife and run it through the mixture in a wavy motion to create the swirl.

Place in the freezer to finish hardening.

NOTE:

If you like ice cream and don’t already have one I really do recommend buying an ice cream maker. I have a Magimix Le Glacier ice cream maker – the cheaper sort where you have to freeze the bowl overnight before using (about £50 from John Lewis or Argos). If you don’t have an ice cream maker then you can still follow this recipe but you will need to whip the double cream first before adding it to the milk/egg/sugar mixture. Fold the cream into the custard and then freeze, beating every couple of hours with a fork or in a food processor until it is firm enough to scoop (usually about 6 hours).

If you really can’t be bothered with making ice cream then just make the caramel and pour over shop bought vanilla.

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.