Monday, October 19, 2009

Is this really tofu?!

A friend recently gave me a souvenir from Sendai. Sendai is famous for beef tongue, but this was tofu marinated with onions and soy sauce to have the flavour and texture of beef. Delicious and very unusual!

New rice and seasonal gifts

This is the time of year in Japan when rice is harvested. I've just bought some new brown rice (packaged on 12th October so pretty fresh!) New rice (新米) has a little more flavour, contains more water and has a bit more bite. Seasonal food is very important in Japan, and many people send gifts of natural produce that are special to their particular region of Japan.

In Britain and many other countries, it would be too expensive to send fruit and vegetables by post. But in Japan, there is a fantastic network of relatively cheap next day delivery services, where you pay by size and maximum weight. I'm lucky enough to have some very kind students that sometimes give me fruit and vegetables from their families' farms or hometowns, most recently some delicious potatoes from Hokkaido.

Red Grapefruit Water Ice

This idea came about by chance, as I left a grapefruit too close to the back of the fridge, and it partially froze. If you freeze a whole grapefruit, run it under hot water and cut the peel away, it can be sliced and eaten like sorbet - very refreshing. I've also just tried freezing segments of satsuma on a tray and then putting them into bags - works the same way, but much easier to eat! They would also be nice instead of ice cubes in a drink.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Melted Oozing Camembert with Toasted Walnuts and Brandied Raisins

It's taken me a couple of goes to get a photo of this recipe and so be able to add this post, I'm usually too hungry to hang around taking photos!

Nutrition Information
Calories: 325
Protein: 12g
Fat: 10g
Carbohydrate: 34g
Dietary Fibre: 7g


2 slices of rye bread (total 62g)
2 segments of camembert or brie (total 34g)
8g walnuts (4 halves)
3 teaspoons of brandied raisins

  • Roughly crumble the walnuts into a saucepan and dry fry until hot and toasted.
  • Put the rye bread on a microwaveable plate, a piece of camembert on each slice, and sprinkle over the brandied raisins and the walnuts.
  • Microwave for 40 seconds until the camembert is just oozing. Flatten the camembert slightly.
  • Eat immediately!

Brandied raisins

As the weather starts to get cooler, and as a memory of making the Christmas cake in England, here is a very simple recipe for brandied raisins.

It has been a family tradition to make the Christmas cake in about September or October, in order that it is well-matured by Christmas. A good dark fruit Christmas cake will actually last about a year undecorated, believe it or not - and be absolutely delicious for it! Even decorated with marzipan and royal icing, I have memories of still eating absolutely delicious Christmas cake in March..!

The secret is in the brandy. It is preserved with brandy. From the three weeks prior to making the cake (when you are soaking the raisins in brandy) to the months after baking the cake (and before decorating it), when you are carefully unwrapping the cake and sprinkling it with a tablespoon of brandy on a weekly basis - it is steeped in brandy - this cake is good stuff!

A few years ago, my mother did some of these raisins over ice cream, and believe me, they're wonderful! It's very simple - just put some raisins in a container, pour over a generous amount of brandy (you don't have to cover the raisins, but enough to swill them around in), shake well and keep in the fridge. Every few days when you think of it, open the container and toss the raisins a bit more. After at least a week, you can start eating them!  However, they do last almost indefinitely if they remain covered with brandy...

As I say, they're delicious hot or cold on ice cream or on Melted Camembert with Toasted Walnuts and Brandied Raisins.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Tofu and Wakame Miso Soup

It was about time that I put a recipe for my miso soup on here. Recently, a friend of mine gave me some homemade niboshi dashi which is a dried stock mixture of grated dried anchovies and grated kombu. It's best to use a fish stock for this recipe if you substitute, although I've used chicken gravy granules before successfully enough...

Servings for this recipe vary... I had it all for myself for breakfast, but depending on when you're eating it and what you're eating it with, it could probably serve up to 3 people!

Nutrition Data
The thing I would note most with this is that whilst miso soup is very healthy, and much healthier than many other food choices available, it is worth choosing low salt varieties of stock and miso. This nutrition data is only for the tofu and the miso, and with the assumption that you eat it all!
Calories: 146
Protein: 10.5
Fat: 7.2g
Carbohydrate: 10g
Dietary Fibre: 2g

400 ml of dashi stock (use the instructions according to your recipe)
6 pieces of wakame seaweed
150g silken tofu
1 heaped teaspoon of miso

  • I made the dashi by putting 2 rounded teaspoons of the homemade dashi in a saucepan with 400ml of water, and heating it to simmering point.
  • Whilst it is heating, cube the tofu and add this, together with 6 pieces of wakame.
  • Take out a tablespoon of dashi and mix the miso in this, then quickly stir it in just as the dashi is simmering.
  • Serve immediately.
If I was doing this properly or for other people, I would have strained the dashi before adding the other ingredients, but I don't usually bother when I'm being quick.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fruit and Nut Oat Bars

Like most people living in small apartments in Japan, I don't have an oven, making do with a 2 ring gas stove, a microwave, a rice cooker and a blender. Wanting to make a healthy-ish snack today, this is what I came up with...

Nutrition Data (per portion)
Calories: 199
Protein: 5g
Fat: 9g
Dietary Fibre: 3g

Ingredients (makes 3 bars)
25g almonds
25g dried apricots
25g raisins
25g fresh pineapple
2 tsp pineapple juice
10g butter
50g rolled oats

  • In a blender, finely chop the almonds, dried apricots, raisins and pineapple.
  • In a saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the oats and pineapple juice. Mix in the fruit and nut mixture and form into a ball.
  • Put some clingfilm in a square container and press in the mixture.
  • Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes and cut into bars.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Balsamic Figs, Ham and Blue Cheese

I had this same snack minus the balsamic vinegar last night, when I got home from work. It definitely needs a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar and lemon zest to bring out the flavour of the figs, which otherwise get dwarfed by the flavour of the raw ham and blue cheese.

Nutrition Data
Calories 130
Protein 5g
Fat 4.5g
Carbohydrate 21g
Dietary Fibre 2g

Ingredients (serves 1)
2 fresh figs
15g cured ham (eg parma ham)
10g soft creamy blue cheese (I used Arla Danablu, but a mild dolcelatte would be good)
1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar
a little lemon zest (optional)

  • Quarter the figs and put on a plate. Roughly tear over the raw ham, and crumble over the blue cheese.
  • Sprinkle with the balsamic vinegar and lemon zest.
  • Serve immediately.

Mabo-doufu or Spicy Beef and Tofu on Rice

As always, I am cooking with minimum ingredients so this is my version of mabo-doufu, or spicy beef and tofu. Often recipes include sake, and chicken stock. It's eaten hot, served on steaming rice. This is a Chinese-Szechuan dish, very popular in Japan. This looks to be quite high in fat - I wasn't sure how lean my beef was, although I chose a pack that looked lean, for the nutrition data I probably overestimated the fat content, calling it 75% lean meat, 25% fat.

Nutrition Data (per serving, including rice)
Calories: 658
Protein: 33g
Fat: 34g
Carbohydrate: 66g
Dietary Fibre: 6g

Ingredients (serves 2)
1 tsp olive oil
1 teaspoon ginger paste
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
3 spring onions, snipped (reserve 2 teaspoons of green top for a garnish)
2 heaped teaspoon of spicy bean paste (toubanjan)/you could probably use a mixture of chilli flakes and sauce
200g minced beef/ you could use pork or TVP
2 heaped teaspoons red miso
300g of silken tofu, chopped into chunks
2 tbsp reduced salt soy sauce
100ml water
2 tsp of cornflour or potato starch mixed with a little water
400g cooked brown rice to serve

  • Cook the rice according to instructions.
  • Put the olive oil in a small pan, with the garlic and spring onions. Fry over a low heat for about 2 minutes, add the ginger paste and spicy bean paste and fry for another minute until thick.
  • Add the ground beef and fry until it changes colour. The beef will quickly produce more fat for frying. Stir in the miso paste.
  • Stir in the water, soy sauce and tofu being careful not to break the tofu too much; cover and cook over a medium heat for about 10 minutes.
  • Stir in the cornflour paste and heat for about a minute more until thickened slightly.
  • Put the hot cooked rice into bowls, and top with the mabo-doufu. Sprinkle with the reserved spring onion tops.
  • Serve immediately.