Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fruit Nata de Coco

If ever you get the chance to try Nata de Coco, I well recommend it. I ate it for the first time a couple of weeks ago at a Denny's restaurant. It's made from fermented coconut milk, is sweet and has a juicy chewy texture. It's zero fat, high in fibre, and extremely low in calories (64 calories per 100g).

Since eating it, I was hooked, and started to try and buy it. It is made in the Philippines, and it appears from the web that there was a major craze for it in Japan back in 1993, and at that time could be bought just about everywhere. I had more trouble tracking it down, at least in its natural non-additive form, but eventually found it in a Seijo Ishii store in this tin.

This is the dessert that I made with it, using 100g nata de coco, 1 ruby grapefruit, and 100g black grapes.

Nutrition Data

Calories: 235
Protein: 3g
Fat: 0g
Carbohydrate: 59g
Dietary Fibre: 9g

I bought this nata de coco jelly dessert from Jusco this evening: whilst there was a lot less nata de coco in it, it is a 0 calorie dessert (as you can see!) and yet has 3.2% dietary fibre, pretty good eh?!

Sliced beef, the ultimate fast food!

Living in Japan, I am often struck by what a convenient country this is... When you go to a supermarket, there is a huge range of freshly-made meals and salads to tempt you. The same goes for the 24 hour convenience stores. And because of demand, turnover is very high - meaning that your meal was probably prepared no more than a couple of hours ago. In England, there are considerably more frozen ready-meals with lots of additives, but just not the same choice in fresh food.

I'm not really a big meat-eater, but sometimes I really like the fresh sliced cooked beef that I can get in the supermarkets here. I'd never go to the effort of cooking the beef myself, mostly because I would never be able to cook it to the same perfection as I can buy here. In England, on the odd occasion that I ate beef, I would always have it well-done. Here, it's delicious served medium-rare and it really melts in your mouth. It comes pre-packaged with a small salad, sliced onions and a light gravy. I love it!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Lentil and Courgette Gratin

Sadly I can't make this dish these days. Like many (most?) people living in a small flat in Japan, I don't have an oven. My cooking is done on 2 gas rings and in a microwave. But this dish was a favourite of mine in the UK. The recipe originally came from Sainsbury’s Healthy Eating Cookbooks: Beans, Nuts & Lentils by the vegetarian food writer Sarah Brown, and I found a copy of the recipe at - see for pictures and other nice recipes.

It's a very healthy recipe: it's high in fibre and low in fat, as the crispy base is not made from pastry but a combination of red lentils and oats.

Nutrition Data (per portion)
Calories 315
Protein 21g
Fat 11g
Carbohydrate 37g
Dietary Fibre 8g

Ingredients (serves 4)
125g/4ozs red lentils
15ml/1tbsp olive oil
1 onion, peeled & finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
15ml/1tbsp tomato purée
50g/2ozs oat flakes
15ml/1tbsp lemon juice
10ml/2tsp chopped mixed herbs (sage/thyme/marjoram)
250g/8ozs courgettes, diced
2 eggs, beaten
15ml/1tbsp wholemeal flour
50ml/2fl ozs skimmed milk
salt & pepper
50g/2ozs Cheddar Cheese


1. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5/375oF/190oC.
2. Cook the lentils in twice their volume of water for about 15 minutes, or until they are fairly soft. Beat well with a spoon, then drain excess liquid if any remains.
3. Heat the oil in a pan and gently fry the onion for 3-4 minutes or until soft. Add the garlic and fry for 2 minutes.
4. Remove from the heat and mix in the cooked lentils, tomato purée, oats, lemon juice and herbs. Season well. The mixture should be thick enough to hold together. If the lentils are a little wet, return the pan to the heat to dry them out before adding or add a few more oat flakes.
5. Press the mixture into the base and up the sides of an 20cm/8″ flan dish. It is easier to do this with your hands than with a spoon.  Pre-bake for 20 minutes until the crust has dried out.
6. For the filling, lightly steam the courgettes for 1 minute.
7. Blend the eggs with the flour, then add the milk. Stir in the cooked courgettes and season well.
8. Spoon the filling into the flan case. Cover with grated cheese.
9. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the filling has set.
10. Serve hot with jacket potatoes and salad.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Chipotle Spiced Baked Beans, Rice and Egg

On the trend of Mexican spiced breakfast dishes, but missing my regular brown rice breakfast, I made this for lunch... Very filling! You could add whatever chilli spice you like. The chipotle spice was a present, it has a very smoky taste. I actually cooked double the quantity and then refrigerated the other portion for breakfast tomorrow. Because of my job, I tend to eat a substantial breakfast about 10am and then 3 or 4 much smaller snacks at 2-3 hour intervals! I eat a bit more on days off because I get up earlier...

Nutrition Data (for 1)
Calories 449
Protein 19.4g
Carbohydrate 77.9g
Fat 6.5g
Dietary Fibre 13.5g

1/2 x 420g can of baked beans, drained of most of the tomato sauce
25g frozen peas
1 eggs, beaten
Chipotle chile ground spice, according to taste
150g cooked brown rice
2 plums
1/2 tablespoon sweet jalapeno sauce

  • Roughly chop the plums and stir in the sweet jalapeno sauce. Put in a small serving bowl in the fridge.
  • Put the drained baked beans and frozen peas in a saucepan and heat. Stir in the beaten egg and continue to heat, stirring until the egg is cooked throughout the mixture. Add chipotle chile spice according to taste.
  • Stir in the cooked brown rice and heat until hot. Taste again, and add more chipotle spice if wanted.
  • Serve in a bowl with the plum salsa side dish.

Nectarine, Chickpea and Green Pea Couscous Salad

Nutrition Data (per salad portion)
Calories 208
Protein 7.7g
Carbohydrate 40.8g
Fat 0.8g
Dietary Fibre 5.5g

Ingredients (serves 6 as a salad, or 3 as a main course, which means my diet will be a little unvaried over the next few days...!)
200g dried couscous
Spice to taste (I used 1 rounded teaspoon of Sainsbury's 'Taste the Difference' Rose and Harissa Rub, which I bought in the summer, a spicy blend of crushed chillies, coriander, cumin and rose petals)
1 x 400g tin chickpeas (ceci/garbanzo beans), drained
100g frozen green peas
1 large nectarine, chopped
1 medium carrot, thinly sliced with a potato peeler

  • Put the couscous and spice in a measuring jug (200g comes up to the 250ml mark). Pour in boiling water to the 500ml mark. Stir and leave for 5 minutes until the water is absorbed.
  • In a large bowl, mix the chickpeas with the couscous.
  • Stir in the frozen green peas, chopped nectarine, and thinly sliced carrot.
  • Serve.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Mexican Style Sausage and Egg Tortilla Wrap with Plum Salsa

In future, to reduce the fat content in this otherwise healthy dish, I'll make it with lean ham instead. 40g of the sausage I used accounted for 33% of total calories, 40% of protein, 2% of carbohydrate and a whacking 69% of fat. By substituting 40g of lean ham, you would reduce the calories to 336, increase the protein to 16.6g, the carbohydrate would stay pretty even at 48.4g, but the fat content would halve to a healthier 8.5g. This is good as breakfast because the combination of protein and fibre really fills you up and keeps your energy levels up!

Nutrition Data
Calories 403
Protein 15.4g
Carbohydrate 48.6g
Fat 17.3g
Dietary Fibre 8.5g

1 corn tortilla
40g cooked sausage, chopped (I use 2 thin lime and herb sausages)
1 medium egg
15ml of sour cream
15ml chilli sauce (I use 'Very Hot Cajun Sauce', but you could use a sweet chilli sauce)
15ml of jalapeno sauce/salsa (I use 'Mexican Hot and Sweet Jalapeno Sauce')
3 plums
100g cabbage, shredded
1 medium carrot, shredded (I use a potato peeler to do this)

  • On a large plate, arrange the shredded cabbage and carrot.
  • Chop the plums and mix with the jalapeno sauce/salsa in a bowl.
  • Brush the tortilla with hot chilli sauce.
  • Beat the eggs with the sour cream in a saucepan and stir in the chopped cooked sausage. Scramble very quickly, stirring continuously, over a high heat until just setting on the surface of the hot pan, but still wet (about 20-30 seconds). Remove from the heat immediately whilst stirring (it will continue to cook) and spoon onto the tortilla.
  • Roll the tortilla, place on top of the shredded vegetables and spoon over the plum salsa.
  • Serve immediately.

Chilli Sauces

I am a huge fan of Mexican food, having visited there twice, and like using different chillis. One of my brothers recently gave me these fantastic chilli sauces from around the world. Mexican-inspired breakfast recipe to follow tomorrow!

Mackerel on rye bread

Ingredients (makes lots of portions)
1 x 120g can of mackerel in olive oil with pickles, drained and rinsed
25g room temperature butter
2 teaspoons of the tiny capers
rye bread to serve

  • Drain and rinse the can of mackerel and put it in a bowl.
  • Add the butter and capers and mash together (or use a food processor)
  • Spread onto rye bread.

Caramelized Onion and Potato Frittata

Nutrition Data (for the whole frittata, serves 2 with a salad)
Calories 512
Protein 25g
Carbohydrate 59g
Fat 22g
Dietary Fibre 8g


1 large onion, chopped
about 250g potatoes
3 medium eggs, beaten with a teaspoon of dill and a good grating of pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil

  • Wash and scrub the potatoes and boil them whole in a pan of water until tender. Chop roughly into cubes.
  • Meanwhile, fry the chopped onion in 1 teaspoon of olive oil until brown.
  • Beat the eggs with a teaspoon of dill and a good grating of pepper.
  • In a frying pan, heat the remaining teaspoon of olive oil and coat the pan, making sure that the sides of the pan are oiled. Add the potatoes and onions and pour over the beaten egg.
  • Leave on a medium heat for about 10 - 15 minutes without disturbing, until the egg is set.
  • This can be served hot or, even better, cold from the fridge. I like to wrap up a piece of this tortilla when I go out for early morning walks in the countryside. Whilst this is delicious on the day you make it, it is much much better the following day straight from the fridge.
Note 1
This time I used my small tamagoyaki pan measuring 14cm x 19cm x 3cm to try and get an evenly shaped frittata, and the mixture completely filled this pan. However, the depth meant that the egg didn't set so well on top in the middle, and I had to turn it over to set it at the end when I smelt it was getting overdone on the bottom! I've also added sausages to this in the past.

Note 2
Made this again. This time I only used 2 eggs and a slightly smaller onion. I drastically speeded up the cooking time by mixing the whole mixture together as I poured the egg into the tamagoyaki pan and half scrambling for a couple of minutes. Just as it was beginning to set on top, I flipped it over into a larger frying pan. It probably took less than 5 minutes to cook (after cooking the potatoes and onions of course!) Reckon it would still serve 2 with a salad.

Japanese pear

It's high time I talk about this particular fruit. I live in an area which is famous for its pear orchards, and this is their season.

To a British person, when I first saw it 4 years ago, this looked like an oversized Russet apple. I was used to seeing the giant Japanese apples anyway, that take so long to get through, but this still gave me the thoughts, 'How on earth is anyone supposed to eat something that size?! It's like it's a fruit grown for a family of 4! How many portions of fruit does that count as?' However, one taste, and you know it's not an apple at all, but a particularly juicy pear, closest in taste to a Comice pear. And it's going to take you about 20 minutes to eat it.


This is my usual breakfast, it is absolutely delicious! It's very much just like a particularly simple risotto.

It's just very hot brown Japanese rice with grated cheese stirred in. I take the rice out of my rice cooker about 5-10 minutes early, so that the rice still has some moisture and is slightly al dente. I use Japanese rice, but I hear that Italian risotto rice works well as a substitute for Japanese rice as it is short grain. You want to use a mild to medium cheese for the best taste. Sometimes I add kimchi to this...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cabbage, Carrot and Ham Stirfry

This was very tasty! I made it for supper when I got back from work last night. Knowing I was going to be tired, I cut up the carrots and garlic in the morning and kept them in the fridge, I never want to mess around with fiddly preparation at the end of a working day - the meal has to be ready quickly!

Nutrition Data
230 calories
Protein 1g
Carbohydrate 16.5g
Fat 13g
Dietary Fibre 5.5g

Ingredients (serves 1)
1/4 cabbage (about 250g), shredded
1 medium carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 clove garlic, sliced thinly
8 slices (about 30g) of dry cured ham (nama ham in Japan), not separated and torn into small, thick pieces
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
about 2 teaspoons olive oil

  • Put a teaspoon of olive oil in a saucepan and fry the ham and sesame seeds for a couple of minutes. You could use bacon (and less oil), but I rather like the taste of the cured ham, even when cooked. Plus it was what I had in my fridge!
  • Add the carrot, garlic and cabbage and the rest of the olive oil, and fry for about five minutes until the carrot is just tender and the vegetables are turning golden brown.
  • Serve immediately with a good grating of mixed pepper.