Pan Fried Pork with Ginger

We’re keeping it Japanese tonight with yet another recipe from Kimiko Barber’s Cook Japanese at Home. This time it’s a pork dish with lots of cruciferous vegetables.

I got things a bit mixed up though when it came to timing. I decided to cook the with a side of rice, and I’d forgotten how long it can take to make rice “properly” – first washing it, then leaving it to stand for 10 minutes, then putting it on the hob in cold water and brining it to the boil for 10 minutes, and then leaving to stand (lid clamped on!) for 20 to 30 minutes.

This threw out the rest of my timings… I started the vegetables too soon. They were supposed to be steamed, a key fact I missed from the recipe, so I boiled them instead. But they were cooked too soon, so I had to keep them warm in the oven. I also probably left the pork in the sauce (equal parts mirin, soy and sake plus some grated ginger) for too long…

…but none of that really matters because it all came together in the end and tasted great! I was a bit worried that there was too much veg, but that wasn’t the case at all. The rice worked really well with it, and the sauce was really delicious. My only hesitation is that this isn’t what I would call a “japanese” meal… but that’s probably just my own narrow stereotypes coming into play. Either way, we had a great meal for dinner!

Tofu and Miso Gratin

Continuing our Japanese theme with Kimiko Barber’s Cook Japanese at Home, we picked this recipe out to give our first major try at cooking tofu. It’s not a food that we’ve really ever had much of before – and my attempts at cooking it in the past haven’t been all that great or successful. It seems the trick is to make sure it’s properly drained before cooking so that it’s firmer… so let’s give it a go.

There’s a fairly long list of ingredients for this recipe, but it’s not actually all that hard to put together. You dust the chicken in flour and then fry it for a few minutes. Then the vegetables get added to the pan, chopped into bite sized chunks. Next you add the dashi stock (again, we used instant dashi for ease) and the mushrooms. After it’s simmered for a bit, add some miso paste and tofu and simmer it some more… then transfer the whole thing to a buttered gratin dish and sprinkle parmesan over it and bake it in the oven for a little under 15 minutes.

There’s lots of protein and vegetable in this, but not very much carb. As Kimiko suggests, we served it with some crusty bread which worked really nicely for mopping up all those umami juices. I expected this to be a really heavy meal but it wasn’t at all. I’m not saying that I’m 100% sold on tofu yet, but this was a really tasty and satisfying meal.

Niku Jaga

We’ve cooked Niku Jaga before but this recipe is from our latest book purchase – Kimiko Barber’s Cook Japanese at Home. That said, she also wrote the book the previous version came from…

We took the lazy route with this one, using dashinimoto to make some instant dashi stock, rather than making our own from konbu and bonito flakes. It didn’t seem to suffer for it.

I was actually a bit greedy with this meal. Mark is away, so the big slab of steak I bought ended up being consumed by me and me alone! Ribeye works really well in this, coming out really tasty and tender. The potatoes also dissolve a little into the sauce which makes it delicious and thick.

I enjoyed niku jaga last time I made it, and I enjoyed it even more so this time. Not sure if it’s because the recipe has been refined, or if I am getting better at following instructions, or if it was just a better piece of beef! Whatever, I’m one very content boy right now.

Eton Mess (ish)

OK, this isn’t strictly an Eton Mess but it’s certainly inspired by that dish. The recipe was a Nigel Slater one we found via the BBC on one of those days when you want dessert but want to try and be healthy… so a fruit pudding seemed like a great idea!

We took the easy route and used shop bought meringues. Whip up some double cream, then crumble the meringues into it. Add the berries (we used blackberries and raspberries as suggested) and some shelled pistachios and fold it all together.

The end result is then served up with some ice cream and provides a really satisfying combination of flavours – sweet from the meringue, tart from the berries, smooth with the cream and crunchy with the nuts. A really delicious treat.

Chicken, Bacon and Avocado Salad

Now that we’re well and truly into the habit of roasting chickens, it’s opened up a few sections of Nigella’s recipes that we never really looked into before – uses for leftover chicken! This recipe comes from Kitchen, a book which has a whole chapter devoted to chicken recipes.

It’s incredibly easy to make too. The chicken’s already done, so you just fry up some bacon and then crumble it into a bowl with chopped lettuce, shredded chicken and avocado. Throw together a dressing of dijon mustard and rice wine vinegar, and that’s basically it.

So it’s super easy to put together, but it also tastes great. The bacon is basically used as a seasoning and works really well. American streaky bacon is best because of the way it can be crumbled into the dish.

Italian Vibe Vegetable Soup

We’ve been followers of Dennis The Prescott on Instagram for quite some time now, so when we were looking for something healthy to eat and he posted a link to this recipe for Italian Vibe Vegetable Soup, we thought we’d give it a go.

There’s a mountain of vegetables and healthy stuff in this, so you can’t go too far wrong with it. We had to make a few substitutions but nothing drastic – for example, we had no conchigle pasta so we used macaroni instead.

Somewhere along the line I made a mistake because my quantity of liquid seemed to low. As such, this turned out to be more of a pasta and vegetable stew but still tasted great.

Shortbread Biscuits

We came back from our holiday to Japan with a little treat to ourselves – we always try and pick up a fridge magnet and tea towel from our travels, but we also found some cute little katakana stamps for biscuits. It’s basically an alphabet set so you can clip the letters you want into place and then stamp them onto what you’re making.

I decided to spell out “Hungry Boys” in katakana. An online tool told me it was ハングリ ボイズ, but I’ve since been informed (thank you, eiichinyc!)that it should be ハングリーボーイズ . Not too far off, anyway! Now we needed a biscuit recipe which would hold the imprints of the letters, so we turned to good old traditional shortbread.

The Guardian has a great article on how to make the best shortbread, and they favour adding some rice flour to the plain flour. However, it also mentions Sue Lawrence’s recipe using cornflour and I realised we actually had the book this recipe came from on our shelf – Sue Lawrence’s Book of Baking. We also had cornflour in the cupboard, so no trip to the shops was necessary.

The shortbread recipe is practically perfect – it produces some truly scrumptious biscuits. They also held the imprint of our stamp really well. We will be making many more batches of these, I believe!

Mackerel in Miso

We had a fantastic holiday in Tokyo last week and now that we’re back in the UK we are really missing Japan! So in no time at all we invested in a new cookery book – Kimiko Barber’s new title, Cook Japanese at Home, and tonight we gave it its first trial run.

Like a lot of Japanese recipes, there are some ingredients which may be unfamiliar at first. We already had konbu (seaweed for making stock) in the cupboard, but had to take a trip to the supermarket for miso paste and sake.

There’s quite a lot of prep for this one, but none of it is too strenuous – just leaving things to soak in water for half an hour or so. Also, it doesn’t really create anything tough to wash up so I was happy with that!

End result was nice with some authentic flavours, but didn’t really blow me away. That’s probably my inexperience as much as anything, but we’re going to be putting this book through its paces to get a real taste of Japan.

Spiced Vegetarian Paella

We’ve done quite a few recipes from the Thrive on Five book, but recently discovered that there are some more recipes listed on their website, including this one for spiced paella.

The premise is the same – one meal containing your five portions of vegetables for the day. I was particularly intrigued to see how paella could work without chorizo though!

Things didn’t get off to a great start though when I realised there were no cherry tomatoes in the fridge and we’d used the last chilli. By way of compromise, I threw in an onion for extra vegetables, and found a dried and smoked chipotle chilli which was brought into service.

There was another mistake too, when I decided it wasn’t spicy enough and added some chilli flakes, but the lid came off the jar and I added far too many!

The resulting meal though worked surprisingly well. There were definitely some strong paella-style flavours here – helped, no doubt, by the saffron – and the spiciness didn’t overwhelm. I’d still prefer a meaty paella, but with all the health in this one I can’t really complain.

Chicken and Squash Laksa

This was supposed to be chicken and pumpkin laksa, but UK supermarkets never seem to stock any kind of pumpkin except at Halloween. Squash is basically the same thing though. We’d had a roast chicken on Sunday, and this recipe from Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand is how we decided to use the leftover chicken.

Recipe wise you can probably say this one is pretty healthy – lots of veg in the form of steamed squash, tomatoes, spinach and onion. You steam the pumpkin first and make a paste out of chilli, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, lime zest and coriander stalks. Then you fry the chopped onion, followed by the paste, and then add coconut milk and chicken stock. Bring the whole thing to the boil then add the tomatoes and simmer for a little bit (Diana says 7 minutes but I got distracted and it was much longer!). Finally add your chicken and spinach, then serve the whole thing up with some noodles.

There are some great flavours here, but I regret using a regular chilli instead of a birds eye chill as the recipe states. This should teach me to heed Diana’s wise words!