Friday, September 25, 2009

Nemoto Kiko’s Na-no-hana and tomato pasta

I recently got my hands on some frozen na-no-hana (flowering canola), which to me is a real symbol of Japanese spring. So, yes, a weird thing to be buying at the onset of autumn, but I couldn’t resist.
I’d wanted to make a recipe from her book Uchi No Shuumatsu Gohan (Homestyle Weekend Meals) that combines na-no-hana with a tomato-based pasta sauce. Now was my chance!
I had some homemade tomato pasta sauce crying out to be used, so I used that as my base, adding the grilled spring onions and na-no-hana to it. Nemoto Kiko’s recipe follows:
Na-no-hana Tomato Pasta
1 tomato
3 sun-dried tomatoes
the white stem of 1 large spring onion
½ a bunch of na-no-hana (approx 150 g)
160 g spaghetti
3 Tbsps olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste

Remove the stem from the fresh tomato and roughly cube. Soak the dried tomatoes in water to plump, then slice finely. (Omit this step if using oil-packed dried tomatoes). Cut the spring onion into 3 cm lengths.
Heat the olive oil in a frypan and fry the tomatoes over a low heat until lightly crushed.
Grill the spring onion and na-no-hana until lightly browned.
Cook the spaghetti to packet directions, then add to the tomato pan. Adjust flavours with salt, then transfer to serving dish. Top with the grilled spring onions and na-no-hana and freshly ground black pepper.
Serves 2.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Jam Buttons

For a recent playdate I made some Jam Buttons, another recipe from Yamazaki Shizuka. These cookies are a really delicate shortbread, filled with jam – I used raspberry.

Jam Buttons

100 g unsalted butter (room temperature)

35 g icing (confectioner’s) sugar

¼ tsp salt

150 g baking flour

30 g ground almonds

150 g (approx) jam of your choice

Cream the butter, sugar and salt.

Sift the flour and ground almonds together and mix together with the creamed mixture to form a dough. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and refridgerate for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough between two sheets of clingfilm to a thickness of 2 – 3 mm. Cut circles using a 3 cm circle, then transfer to baking sheets lined with oven paper.

Make four holes in each cookie using a bamboo skewer or toothpick, then bake at 160C for 15 minutes.

Cool the cookies on a wire rack, then sandwich together with jam.

Makes 30 3-cm cookies.

Note, these cookies quickly soften due to the jam, so eat them up quickly!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Nemoto Kiko’s Mexican Brown Rice Salad

In the process of indulging my cookbook obsession, I’ve bought lots of books by Nemoto Kiko, a food coordinator and writer who runs a café called Coya in Zushi, not far from Tokyo. Her books feature simple, tasty recipes that are ‘new old fashioned’ – by which I mean she takes traditional ingredients and gives them a twist. Her style is very much neo-japonica – rediscovering beautiful, rustic and simplistic Japanese design for today.

I recently made her Mexican Brown Rice Salad from her book Uchi No Shuumatsu Gohan (Homestyle Weekend Meals) which was simple and delicious. The leftovers kept well for lunch the following day too, which was even better!

Nemoto Kiko’s Mexican Brown Rice Salad

2 rice bowls of cooked brown rice
150 g chickpeas
130 g corn kernels
150 g flaked tuna (note, I replaced tuna with extra chickpeas)
1 celery stick
2 tomatoes
1 avocado
cubed cheese to taste (parmesan, mozzarella etc)
2 Tbsps olive oil
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsps wholegrain mustard
½ tsp sea salt
black pepper to taste
mint or oregano to taste

Put the rice in a large sieve or strainer and rinse under cold water to remove any stickiness. Set aside to drain thoroughly. Drain the chickpeas, corn and tuna (if using).

Cut the celery into 1 cm cubes. Cut the tomatoes in half and de-seed, then cut into 1 cm cubes. Cube the avocado and cut into 1 cm cubes, sprinkling with lemon juice or vinegar to prevent it browning. Cube the cheese.

Put the rice into a large bowl and add the cubed vegetables and cheese, then mix. Combine the dressing ingredients and mix with the rice mixture, then top with fresh mint or oregano as desired.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sesame Spinach

Some of my favourite Japanese food is the simplest. Sesame Spinach or Hourensou no goma-ae is one example – lightly cooked spinach in a salty-sweet sesame dressing. This a standard homestyle Japanese recipe and so easy to make. Before you know it you’ll be eating as much spinach as Popeye!

Sesame Spinach

1 bunch spinach (approx 200 g)
3 Tbsps toasted sesame seeds (white or golden)
½ Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsps dashi (Japanese soup stock) or water

Wash the spinach well and trim any roots off. Cut partway through any thick stems with either a line or cross-hatch.

Add the spinach to a large pot of rapidly boiling water and boil for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Drain and rinse in very cold water. Once cold enough to handle, squeeze out excess water and cut into 3 cm lengths.

To make the sesame dressing, partially grind the sesame seeds in a small mortar and pestle and then add the sugar, soy sauce and dashi. Continue grinding until well mixed, then stir through the spinach.

Serves 2. Approximately 120 kcal per serve.

Note, this sesame dressing works with a range of green vegetables, summer beans being top of the list.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Addiction : recipe books

I’m the first to admit I have an acquisitive, magpie-like nature. I love buying new cookbooks, my collection of OPI nail polish borders on excessive and shoes, well, let’s not go there.

Last week I was killing time at Book First, waiting for the tracks to be cleared after an accident. Book First is my favourite bookstore – the shelves are crammed with beautifully produced, affordable books.

Japanese cookbooks have long been an obsession of mine. I love the way they’re produced and the way the authors sprinkle essays about their philosophy throughout the books. So, I came home with three new books last week, one of which is Watashi no o-yatsu, kodomo no o-yatsu (My snacks, kids’ snacks), by Yamazaki Shizuka, a food-coordinator, blogger and author.

I want to make almost every recipe in this book! She uses simple ingredients, and has an interesting way of adding Japanese flavours to ‘western’ style baking, with recipes like Kinako Shortbread and Miso Biscuits.

Surprisingly, the first recipe I made from this book was not biscuits, but Daikon Mochi, or Daikon Fritters. We had a massive daikon that needed to be used up, and I’ve always loved the daikon mochi that you get with dim sum.

I made one small change, as noted below:

Daikon Mochi

300 g daikon (approximately 1/4 to 1/3 of a whole daikon)
1/2 large spring onion, finely diced
3 Tbsps sakura-ebi (tiny dried shrimps) – I substituted 3 Tbsps frozen organic corn kernels
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbsps flour
1 Tbsp sesame oil

Finely grate the daikon and lightly squeeze the moisture from it. Add the spring onion, ebi (or corn), salt and flour and mix together.

Heat the sesame oil in a medium – large frypan and add spoonfuls of the batter (I found it easiest to use two dessert spoons to lightly shape each mochi). Fry over a low – medium element for 3 minutes with the lid on.

Flip the mochi over and fry the other side for 3 minutes with the lid on, then remove the lid, increase the heat and fry until lightly golden and crispy.

Serve with a dipping sauce made with white rice vinegar and soy sauce as liked. Chilli is good too – but not for kidlets!

Makes 8 fritters.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Baking Bread

I’ve loved making bread since I had the good fortune to have Mrs Hamilton as my intermediate school home economics teachers. She taught me the basics of bread making, and now I’m a pretty confident baker. In fact, we rarely buy bread – apart from some speciality breads – because I try and bake my own.

Last time I lived in Japan I bought a bread machine, but I wasn’t a fan of the bread it made. Also, it felt like cheating. One of the best things about bread making is seeing the magic happen in front of your eyes. Another is of course the kneading, which is a great way to work out frustrations!

A couple of years ago Healthy Food Guide featured a basic bread recipe that could be easily tweaked to make white – wholemeal – multi-grain or fruit bread. I’ve made some adaptions of my own to the basic recipe, playing around with the sugars and volume of flours, and now use this recipe 99% of the time I make bread.

Of course, making multigrain bread in Japan is not as simple as in New Zealand. There just isn’t the same baking culture here, and certainly a limited but growing awareness of the variety of grains available. Let’s just say this – you can’t buy wholemeal flour at the supermarket!

Luckily there are several baking supply companies that deliver. I’ve found both Cotta and Kikuya great – they have a massive range of baking suppliers, from ingredients to tools to packaging.

Anyway, here’s the recipe for multigrain bread. The basic rule is to keep the flour at 7 cups (unless adding lots of extra grains as below. Then 6 cups is fine).

Mixed Seed Bread

2 level tsps active dried yeast
1 ¼ cups hot water (boiling)
1 ¼ cups cold milk
1 ½ Tbsps raw sugar
2 cups white flour
3 cups wholemeal flour
½ cup rye flour
½ cup rolled oats
½ cup cornmeal
1/3 cup amaranth
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
4 tsps salt
¼ cup olive oil

Combine water, milk and sugar, sprinkle yeast on top and leave aside till frothy.

Combine dry ingredients in a big bowl.

Add frothy yeast mixture and oil to dry ingredients, mixing to form soft dough.
Turn dough onto a floured board and knead well, stretching and turning dough for 5 - 10 minutes until it becomes smooth, elastic and satiny. Add flour as required during kneading to prevent the dough sticking. Less and less will be needed as the dough is worked.

Place the dough into a clean greased bowl, flip it over once to grease the top surface to the dough, cover and leave it to rise. (Placing in a large plastic bag can improve rising times). Leave in a warm place until doubled in size.

When dough has risen to double its bulk, knead it lightly and shape as required.
For loaves, divide the dough into two, roll or press the dough into rectangles slightly longer than the tin. Roll up tightly from the long edge, tuck the ends under and place, seam side down, into a well greased loaf pan. Cover loosely with a clean cloth or return to plastic bag.

When loaves have risen for about 10 or 15 minutes, cut diagonal slashes in the top with a serrated knife.

Leave until doubled in size then bake at 200°C for around 40 minutes, until golden and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Makes 2 loaves. Slice and freeze if you don’t plan to eat within a few days.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Language Milestones

Since we’ve been back in Japan (approximately two and a half months), Isaac’s language skills, in both English and Japanese have blossomed. While he’s always understood Japanese, because we’ve made an effort to talk to him in it since he was born, English has always been his language of choice.

Cut to this week, when suddenly he’s making his toys talk to each other in Japanese! A leap in both language and imaginative play. He starting to create scenarios for his toys now too, which is interesting to listen to. Inevitably, they involve crashes – I’m sure it's the influence of Thomas The Tank Engine – every tank engine on that island seems to have crashed at least once. Thank god Japan Rail’s a bit more reliable….