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Oyakodon (Chicken and eggs)

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Alright – this recipe comes with a caveat. No looking at the picture until you read the recipe. It’s the Japanese food equivalent of trying to photograph baked beans, or scrambled eggs. Hard to make it look appealing!

It’s basically eggs, chicken, onions, and Japanese flavourings on a bed of rice. A good weekday meal that I can make quickly, though it does require a few Japanese ingredients (of the kind that you can’t substitute for, sorry!).

Also, the recipe is one of the Japanese basics of home cooking. It’s from a basic cookbook I picked up in Japan called ‘Single cooking’. I was very excited when I learned this phrase on my last trip – given how many Japanese live in small apartments on their own, there’s a whole lot of cookbooks focused on basic home cooking for one. Perfect for me both in portion size, and in finding cookbooks that deal with basic home cooking. And I’ve saved you the translation!

Ingredients:

50g chicken thighs, cutinto strips (that’s the Japanese measurement! Try one boneless, chicken skinless, thigh)
1/4 onion, sliced lengthwise
2 eggs, lightly whisked
1/2 cup dashi stock
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp cooking sake*
1 tsp sugar

Note: I’ve made a double serving in the picture below, but the quantities above are for one serving.

Put the rice on.

Simmer the dashi, soy sauce, sake, and sugar in a nonstick frypan with the onions and chicken until the liquid is reduced to half its original volume (about 10 minutes).

Pour over the eggs and gently stir to combine. Turn off the heat, and stir 2-3 times until the egg is cooked.

Serve over rice.

 

 

*Fun Japanese cooking fact #1: Japanese food doesn’t tend to focus on gamey flavours. Sake and mirin (both alcoholic ingredients used in Japanese cooking) bring out the umami flavour, and reduce the gamey flavour of meats. This is why you usually see sake, mirin, onion, and ginger with meats like chicken in Japanese cooking. Maki from Just Hungry talks about it more here. She also gives some substitutes if you can’t source sake and mirin, but if you’re substituting ingredients for a dish that you’ve tasted in Japan, I think it’s fair to say that a substitute won’t cut it.

 

Fun Japanese cooking fact #2: There is a specific order to adding the five basics of Japanese cooking to a  dish – sugar, salt, vinegar, soy sauce, and miso. For those of you who speak Japanese, it’s easy to remember, as there’s a mnemonic based on the the five moras that start with s – sa, shi, su, se, so. The reason is that you want to add flavours that are affected by heat – soy sauce and miso – last. Again, here’s the Just Hungry explanation.

This was taught to me by a friend who learned to cook from her Japanese mother-in-law. The kind of stuff you don’t usually get when you’re trying to replicate recipes!

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Stir-fried chicken and mushrooms

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This one is from my colleague and namesake, Nicola, and makes a really good weeknight meal as it takes about 10 minutes to throw together!

Ingredients:

250g chicken breasts, cubed or sliced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
5-6 spring onions, cut into 3cm pieces
2 tbsp dark  soy sauce
2 tsp crushed garlic
1 tsp crushed ginger
1 tsp cornflour
1 heaped tsp honey
4 tsp olive oil
½ tsp sugar

Take a quick look – these are all about to disappear.

Warm pan with oil and cook chicken.

Add mushrooms and spring onions.

Mix together all other ingredients and mix through chicken, mushrooms and spring onions.

Serve with rice or noodles (told you it was fast!).

Lancashire Hotpot

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Lancashire Hotpot – from the name alone you can tell it’s comfort food.

I was looking for a new way to cook the wonderful supply of lamb chops that I get from my parent’s farm, and came across this. It’s basically slow cooked lamb chops with slices of potatoes over the top, which crisp up to form a topping that’s halfway between scalloped potatoes and potato chips.

There are probably as many recipes as there are Lancastrians, but this is what I’ve settled on. It’s drawn from a couple of sources, including a Delia Smith recipe, so it’s not one for dieters. You could probably make it healthier by trimming the fat from the chops and switching the butter for olive oil, but I think winter comfort food should add a (small) bit of insulation.

Ingredients:

6-8 lamb neck chops
2 onions, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp plain flour
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1 sprig fresh thyme, or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon cornflour
10g butter, cut into small slices
3 medium sized potatoes, peeled and sliced
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lightly dust the lamb chops with flour.

Heat some oil in a pan and fry the lamb chops for 2 minutes on each side, until browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, cook the onions for 2-3 minutes, or until the onions have softened.

Add the stock to the pan along with the thyme, bay leaves and Worcestershire sauce. Mix the cornflour with a little bit of the stock and add. Stir until the liquid is simmering, then gently add the lamb (if your pan isn’t oven-safe, put the lamb into a greased oven dish and pour the liquid and onions over the top instead).

Add the bay leaf and thyme, then arrange the potato slices on top. If you have a mandoline, go for almost the thinnest setting. If you’re doing it by hand, cut them as thin as youcan.

You can arrange these tidily, but I like them to be messy so that some parts get crispy. Season the potatoes and add a few cubes of butter on the top.

Cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook near the top of the oven for 1½ hours at 160C, then remove the lid and cook for a further 50 minutes. Serve with veges.

Lots of things to do when life gives you lemons

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When you have a lemon tree (or your parents and sister do) finding out what to do with a large crop of lemons can be a bit of a task.

My mum always made cordial, which then served as cold drinks in the summer, after mowing the lawns or helping get the hay in.

Last time I was home I grabbed some lemons and juiced them, as well as some limes from boredgoldfish‘s tree, and froze them to bring back for cordial. My other sister thought of making the leftover skins of the lemons into preserved lemons, so now I have lime cordial, lemon cordial, and preserved lemons from the farm in my inner city apartment.

 

Lemon Cordial

Juice and rind of 6-9 lemons
700g sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons tartaric acid
2 teaspoons citric acid
1200mls boiling water

Measure everything into a large pot, and stir over medium heat to dissolve sugar.

Pour into bottles and seal. It makes about 2 litres.

Dilute 1:5 or 1:6 to make up a drink.

Lime Cordial

10 limes
800g sugar
1 teaspoon tartaric acid
1 teaspoon critic acid
up to 2 litres water

Prepare in the same way as above – warm over medium heat to dissolve sugar, then pour into bottles and seal.

This one is really good with a few lime slices and some tonic water.

Chickpea Salad

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This is a slightly unusual salad for me, because there’s no lettuce. Salad always has lettuce in it in my mind.

Credit for this goes to my friends Kirsti and Ady, who not only shared this recipe with me, but can probably take all the credit for getting me into vegetarian cooking. I always knew that vegetarian food could taste really good, but they turn out consistently good vegetarian food so that I’m constantly stealing recipes (even if they don’t notice it sometimes…).

I first had this as a side with cannelloni, but this time I paired it with smittenkitchen’s zucchini fritters (also fabulous!).

Ingredients

200ml condensed milk-style mayonnaise*
2-3 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
squeeze lemon juice
salt and peper
1 tomato
2 spring onions, sliced
half a cucumber, or three lebanese cucumbers
415g can chickpeas (or 400g of cooked chickpeas)

Chop up the veges into small cubes, mix together the lemon, mayo, salt, pepper, and sweet chili sauce.

Mix everything together, and serve. It’s just that easy!

* you can buy this at the store now – thanks, Eta!

Calzone

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I’ve just been away for a few days snowboarding, and before I went, I made a pile of calzone for lunches.

Calzone are like cornish pasties, except instead of mince, veges, and pastry, it’s like a folded over pizza. Perfect for carrying up the mountain and eating with gloves on if its too cold.

Basically, you make some pizza dough (I must post a recipe on this!), and then make eight little mini pizzas.

 

What I’ve used is marinated artichoke, red onion, olives, sundried tomatoes, and parmesan and tasty cheese.

 

Roll out the dough into eight round pieces. Pop the pieces between baking paper if you run out of room.

 

For each calzone, spread pizza sauce on one half of the dough, then pile on the ingredients. Don’t overdo it – you still have to fold it over!

 

Fold it over, with a bit of water around the edges so they stick. Press down the edges and put two slices in the top for vents.

 

 

Pop them in a hot oven (about 220C) for 10 minutes.

I’ve put mine on a pizza stone, but a baking tray will do. If you use a stone, sprinkle a bit of cornmeal on the stone just before you put the calzone in to stop them from sticking.

Double ginger cookies

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A few years ago, a friend gave me a ‘triple ginger cookie’ that his colleague has made. It was chewy and strong and had this warmth to it. I still remember it well.

This recipe is close, though its only double ginger – I think his colleague may have had ginger paste in her recipe, so I’ll keep experimenting in my spare time!

This recipe was adjusted from a recipe that uses weights in grams for flour and sugar. I’ve guessed the cup measurements, but I’d recommend going on weight


Ingredients

275g (2 1/4 cups) plain flour

1 desertspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon salt

125g butter, softened

200g (1 1/2 cups) sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon water

4 tablespoons golden syrup (or treacle, if you have some)

4 tablespoons sugar for rolling cookies in

80g (3/ 4cup) crystallised ginger, chopped into chunks

Sift flour, spices, and salt in a bowl. Set aside. Drink some wine.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar. Mix in the egg, water, and syrup.

Slowly mix in the flour and spice mix (I did this in three batches). The mixture will be just on the workable side of sticky.

Shape the dough into balls about the size of a giant jaffa. Roll each ball in sugar and place on the baking tray, spacing at least 5cm apart.

Flatten the balls slightly, and bake 8-10minutes at 180C. Rest for five minutes on the tray before placing on a rack to cool.

For slightly harder cookies, bake just a bit longer.