Saturday, 3 October 2015

Simple Sushi Shenanigans

I first wrote up this draft sometime in February but I never really had the time to post this. It's been a hectic year for, what with uni work, two jobs, a placement and a myriad of other things going on with the band. Anyway, I got some time to devote to the blog and I apologise for not posting any sooner but here we are! Now to business...

To be perfectly honest, the thought of making sushi maki rolls was a daunting one when I first considered attempting these little Japanese delights. The curiosity in my piqued at me to such a point, however, that I had to give into my sushi making urges. I certainly eat enough of it, why not try making it at home? Turns out it's actually deceptively simple (that is if you want to make your stock standard teriyaki sushi rolls. I have not experimented yet with anything fancy such as making my own nigiri at home with raw tuna/other types of sashimi merely because I don't know where to source proper, mercury free sushi-grade fish fit for raw consumption so I tend to leave that to the experts at the Japanese restaurants).

Another thing about making your own maki: It uses a few simple ingredients you can buy for under $40 and depending on how many nori sheets you get, you can easily make up to 20 half rolls or 40 half rolls (I prefer the quarter rolls, making eating so much easier). Not bad value for money and it keeps fresh for about a day and a half. I take these to uni for lunch whenever I make them, so they make a great healthy lunch option.

Important: I know a lot of you will be wondering if you can substitute the Kewpie (Japanese mayonnaise) with normal mayonnaise. Yes, you can. But the point is, Kewpie has a distinctive taste because it's made with soy milk and it really bring together the flavour of the roll so I suggest if you can find, it, use it. 

If you live in Australia, there is a brand called Obento that you can find at Coles/Woolworths that makes sushi making at home very very easy. The brand packs sushi rice, nori (seaweed) sheets, sushi rice seasoning, Wasabi paste and all the products to fulfill your sushi dreams and make your life a hell of a lot easier. If not, you'll probably have to do a bit of research into the Asian shops in your area that will be selling Japanese ingredients.

You don't have to stick to these common sushi flavours like teriyaki. Personally I love cooked tuna with avocado and spicy tuna with cucumber but as I was making these for Elliott who loves his teriyaki sauce, this is what I went with. If you look online you will come across a myriad of different sushi combinations that involve meat, seafood and vegetables to your liking. Brown rice is also a great alternative.

Sushi Rice: Here is a reliable recipe for making sushi rice. As a general rule of thumb, 1 cup of washed rice absorbs 1 cup of water. If you do not want to follow this recipe and if you are able to find ready made sushi rice seasoning (again, Obento has a sushi rice seasoning found at Cole/Woolies if you are in Australia which makes your life so much easier), you can cook the rice according to the instructions on the packet and then use the store bought seasoning on the cooled rice.

Alternatively you can make your own sushi vinegar by combining the following 3 ingredients and dissolving them together over low heat on the stove, then let the mixture cool:
4 Tbsp Rice vinegar
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt 

Makes 10-12 half rolls

300g-400g cooked sushi rice, seasoned
250g chicken (thigh/breast or both)
250g beef (gravy beef/chuck)
10 nori sheets
1 avocado
1 medium carrot (cut into batons)
1 cucumber (cut into batons)
375g ready made teriyaki sauce
1 tube Kewpie mayonnaise
1 bottle sushi grade soy sauce
1 bottle teriyaki mariande (375g of teriyaki marinade)

And here we have all the ingredients, sitting pretty. 

I seasoned my rice with ready made seasoning because, hey, convenience. If you are not doing that, please follow the instructions on how to make sushi rice in the link provided above.

1. The first step is to get the meat prepped and marinating to ensure maximum flavour. I used silverside, which I first cut into thin strips and then chopped into small cubes. The smaller cut of the meat keeps the beef really moist and bathed in sauce during cooking and won't dry out.

Treat the chicken the same way. Small cubes/shapes.

I used a combination of breast and thigh fillets, which is why the chicken is showing two shades of brown/pink here.

2. Divide the bottle of teriyaki marinade between the two bowls of meat and allow to marinate for a minimum of 45 minutes. You can add more flavours like a bit of chili, oyster sauce etc as you like.

3. Heat up 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan. When the pan is hot, add in the beef. Season with some white pepper and keep on the flame until the beef is cooked through and the sauce is almost a glaze on the meat. Repeat this process with the chicken. Transfer the cooked meats to clean bowls and let them cool to room temp.

5. Next up. Battle stations ready. The rice has to be completely cooled, your vegetables cut into batons/manageable shapes.

6. Prepare a bowl of lukewarm water and add a small amount of sushi rice seasoning/rice wine vinegar and a few drops of oil. This is to dunk your hands into, to ensure the rice won't stick to your hands too much. Alternatively, you can rub sesame oil on your hands but this method ensures you have something to ensure that your nori can be sealed shut when you're making the rolls.

7. Place your nori sheet shiny side down on your rolling map. No, rolling mat isn't a necessity but it sure makes the process a hell of a lot easier!

8. Start by dipping your hands to the seasoned water. Then, pick up a handful of rice and layer it onto the seaweed as shown below. Don't pack the the rice in too tightly and go overboard with squishing it. Make sure that you leave about 1-2cm of paper free towards the edge. This allows you to seal the paper to form a roll. 

9. Squirt a good old bit of that Kewpie mayo towards the middle of the roll. Arrange your fillings on this mayo line as show below. Again, don't go overboard with filling it up.

10. Now, the fun begins. Start by rolling the seaweed paper away from you almost in a tucking motion so that the edge of the paper that was towards you is almost sort of tucked under the meat. Again, a mat makes this so much easier. 

11. Once you're secured the first roll over, keep rolling the paper on its self until you reach the very edge.

12. When you've reached the edge, use a bit of water or the hand dipping water, apply this to the noti paper to make it stick and secure your roll. The fantastic thing about a mat is that it gives you so much control and ensures you have a nice, even shape.

Et voila! You can continue doing this until you run out of ingredients. You can cut them into halves and them quarters and then eights/sixteenths (which is what I did) or you can just do half rolls. Totally up to you what you want to do.... But you've mastered the maki and you should be proud! Don't fret if they look messy and not like the perfect ones from the shops. Sushi chefs train years mastering your craft. You just hand rolled the damn thing by looking at pictures on the internet. It's going to taste delicious either way. If you're still worried, YouTube has a lot of helpful tutorials. 

Here are some of the rolls I made with some avocado and carrot in addition to the chicken and cucumber. Avo and carrot work really well with teriyaki beef. The extra drizzle of Kewpie on top is optional but I like to live on the wild (i.e. chubby) side. These would've looked better if I had better lighting and a pro camera, but let me tell you, they go down a treat and are a perfect, light meal. Not bad, considering summer is around the corner! Serve with soy, wasabi and pickled ginger (I forgot I had them in the fridge when I took the picture)

Until next time!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

The Art of the Cheat's Kottu

Kottu is love, kottu is life. This much has always been clear to those of us who grew up eating this wonderful dish (which, in my personal opinion, should be declared the national dish already). The thing is, not all of us have the luxury of kipping down to Pillawoos for a spot of cheese kottu any night of the week or walking to the saivar nearby for a nice little parcel of steaming hot kottu. Therefore, for people like me, this recipe is the way to go. Of course, it's not the kottu we know and love and grew up with, but this is possibly the best version of a substitute that you can make at home which tastes pretty darn good. I made this beauty for a particular Australian who devoured it in one go and demanded that I make more (looking at you, Boothey). Traditionally, kottu is made by chopping up godamba rotis, For those of you who can't get them, either parathas from an Indian ship or tortillas from the supermarket would do just fine. I use the latter. 

There are two ways to making this; you can either use Sri Lankan chicken curry, or you can use rotisserie chicken/roast chicken and season it with Sri Lankan spices. Using the curry means the seasoning of the actual Kottu takes care of itself, so I prefer that route. 

However, if you prefer to buy roasted/rotisserie chicken, you would have to pick the chicken apart, toss it with turmeric, Chili flakes, curry powder and chili powder and fry it off in some oil before you add it to the kottu. Then, you would have to use those same spices to season the kottu as well. For this reason, using chicken curry is the easiest option. 

I would also advise you to use either a wok, a wide, spacious saucepan or a large frying pan, especially if you are using chicken curry. A pan with a large diameter means the heat is conducted better and moisture evaporates faster, which is important if you are using chicken curry. A large wok would be ideal. If not, a large saucepan would do:

For those of you who have an outdoor barbecue grill that has a flat hot plate (and you're motivated enough),I highly recommend using that as it is very similar to what real kottu shops use. 
So here goes, my cheat's version of chicken kottu (also remember this can be made with beef, lamb, pork, crab or completely vego). 

Serves 2-3

15 tortillas, cut into short strips
1 leek, sliced, stem separated from the leaves
1 large/2 small carrots, grated
1kg chicken curry (recipe here for an authentic Sri Lankan chicken curry)
1 red onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic
3 stems curry leaves
3 eggs
2 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbs oil
Salt/Pepper to taste


1. First step is to get all our ingredients together

The tortillas should be cut first into long strips, then into rectangular squares, as shown below.

As you can see, I have separated the greener leafy bits of the leek from the more tender white stem. This is because they cook differently to one another. The cling wrap is on there because I didn't want the veggies drying out. 

And of course, the chicken curry is of paramount. If you have a means of getting proper Sri Lankan chicken curry from a shop, use that. If not, it really is a rewarding experience to cook this at home. Look at how wonderful it is!

2. Oil in the pan. We start frying off the onion, garlic and curry leaves.

3. Once they've started to soften, add in HALF of the carrot and HALF of the leek leaf. Stir this through and allow to soften. 

4. Once softened, break the three eggs into the mixture and fry it off.

5. At this stage, add in the remaining carrot and leek, Stir fry. 

6. Now to the fun bits. Add in about half the cut up tortillas and about two large soup ladles full of chicken curry and curry sauce, as shown below. Mix thoroughly over a high heat. The idea is to get all the flavour into the tortillas but not have the tortillas too wet from the sauce. You need a fair amount of muscle power for this because you've got to make sure that the mixture doesn't burn at the bottom; you have to keep agitating the kottu and moving it around the pan.

Don't be stingy with the chicken.

7. Keep going until you've used up all of the tortillas. Then, at this stage, add in the rest of the spices to the kottu mixture. 

8. Once that's mixed in good and proper, add in the white stem bits of the sliced up leek from earlier. The reason we do this at the end is because this part of the leek is so soft and can overcook easily. The residual heat of the pan will cook this leek through and allow its flavour to permeate through the kottu. 

And once you are done, serve immediately with the leftover chicken curry (and perhaps a nice cold beer which would be very fitting) because let's face it. No one is going to wait for kottu, everyone will eat it at once.

 Didn't think it was that easy? Yeah, it is. So go on. Make this at home and tell me how you go and if I need to change anything!

Until next time!

Monday, 16 February 2015

Easy Peasy Bolognaise

Hello ladies, gents and giraffes! I am back, after a little while albeit but nevertheless I am here so rejoice for I will be sharing with you all  tried and tested recipe that has never failed me. Even though it's summer here in Australia, a hearty old bolognaise is perfect for that odd cold night... Or for using in a good old lasagna that you can make, freeze and eat over a couple of weeks. 

Two very important points about this recipe. This is the simplified version, which means that there are a few, simple, every day ingredients that anyone can make and these ingredients are CHEAP. 

Secondly, this is versatile and the bolognaise holds its tastes and improves when kept frozen. You can serve this with just pasta, or you can use this for a meaty pasta bake, for lasagne and anything else that requires bolognaise. 

Serves 3-4

1kg of mince of your choice
2 cans diced tomatoes 
3 stock cubes 
1 onion (chopped)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf 
1-2 cups flat leaf parsley (chopped)
1 tbs White sugar 
Salt and pepper 

1. The first step is to sort out your mince. I used a combination of beef and pork - 500g of each. You can get away with using just beef, or any sort of mince you like. The point of a bolognaise, however, is that it's hearty and rich and beef is the best way to go. If you want to use maybe chicken mince, lamb mince etc,obviously it wouldn't taste the same but it should still taste pretty damn good.  

2. Chop up the onion, parsley and mince the garlic. This is a simple bolognaise, I'm not going to complicate the flavours. Leave that to the side. 

3. Heat up some oil in a pot that allows you a considerable amount of depth. The first (and probably one of the most important) step where the meat is concerned is to brown the meat off in batches. The reason we do this is to help the meat stay nice and juicy without drying out. And because mince is essentially little kernels of meat, it can dry out quite easily. 

I browned off the pork first 

Leave that to the side...

....and brown off the beef. 

4. Once the beef has been left to the side, add in 1tsp of oil into the pan

5. Next, add in half the parsley, onion and ginger. 

6. Fry this off. Once the onion has fried off; add in the browned meat and parsley. 

7. Fry this off as well, and then add salt and lots of pepper. Remember, beef and pepper taste wonderful together. At this point, I also added in some dried mixed Italian herbs. You don't have to do this but if you can get some dried oregano, it will go nicely with the flavours. 

Then, add in the cans of diced tomato

8. At this point, add enough water (or stock) to just cover the meat. Also add in the rest of the parsley and give it a good mix. Add in the stock cubes next. 

This needs to come to a rather vigorous simmer. Let it cook for about 5 minutes. At this point, I usually add red wine but this is the kid friendly version. If you would like to add some red wine to enrichen the flavour, add in 300ml of either Merlot, Shiraz or a cheap Cabernet Sauvignon. I promise you this Tatars just as good without the wine. 

9. Sugar is my secret weapon for this recipe. The tomatoes are rather tart and the sugar cuts through this beautifully. This isn't some backwater house bolognaise with store bought readymade passata sauce. You need to put in the effort and balance the sugar, salt, pepper and acid by constantly tasting and adjusting until you are happy. 

10. Once you've stirred the sugar in, turn down the heat so that the bolognaise is bubbling very gently and let it sit pretty for about 20 minutes. This is what the beauty looks like after 20 minutes. You can see a lot of oil has come up to the top. This is because mince contains a lot of grizzle. To remedy this a little bit, let the oil settle and use a spoon to take out as much surface oil as possible. 

11. If you feel like there's too much liquid in the bolognaise, bring up the heat on the pan and reduce the sauce down to your liking; I reduced mine down a bit to thicken it up.  Add some fresh parsley to freshen the whole thing up and give it one final crack of pepper over the top. 

Look at that. So beautiful and red. 

So glorious. If someone doesn't love you after you make them this, they suck and you shouldn't be speaking to them. 

12. I served a good heaping of mine onto some pasta with lots of grated cheese (OF COURSE) and fresh parsley.  

You can, of course, do what you like. remember, this freezes well and it's great for lasagna! 

Until next time freaks!