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Japanese Rice Paella


(serves 4)
Paella is a combination of meats from land, sea and air, simmered to perfection with saffron-infused rice in the pan, a culinary gift from the Valencia region of Spain to the rest of the world. Not that many people cook Paella because they believe it requires a special variety of rice from Spain and a special Paella pan. It does not, everybody can cook a reasonably authentic Spanish Paella even if they are not from Spain. My recipe uses Japanese Rice, the ideal substitute rice for Paella.       
 

IngredientsPaella

  1. Prawns (6 large)
  2. Chicken Legs with Thigh (2)
  3. Black Mussels (8)
  4. Smoked Pancetta (80g)
  5. Spicy Chorizo Sausage (80g)
  6. Onion (1)
  7. Tomatoes (1)
  8. Raw Japanese Rice (1 cup)
  9. Chicken Stock Cube (0.5)
  10. Lemon (2 wedges)
  11. Saffron Threads
  12. Garlic
  13. Parsley
  14. Paprika
  15. Oregano

Cooking paella is a bit more tricky than other rice dishes and the proportions need to be just right. For this recipe you’ll need a large frying pan that is 11 inches in diameter (top) and 2 inches deep. It can be a slightly bigger but definitely no smaller.

Preparation

  1. Debone the chicken legs and cut the meat into bite sized chunks. Cut the heads of your prawns just behind the carapace and snip off all whiskers. Shell and then devein the prawn bodies and slice lengthwise down the middle to halve each prawn.
  2. Boil 2 cups of water in a pot with 1/2 a chicken stock cube. Add the chicken bones and prawn heads into the boiling stock pot and keep the stock simmering on a low flame.
  3. In the meanwhile marinate the chicken and prawn meat in a mixture of 1T oil, 1t oregano, 1t chopped parsley, 1t paprika and 0.5t of salt.
  4. Julienne the onion into small bits, roughly mince enough garlic to get 1T of raw minced garlic and dice 1 tomato. Furthermore cut the Chorizo into thin slices and the pancetta into small pieces.
  5. Soak and agitate the mussels in some cold water. Strain, then clean and de-beard the mussels.
  6. Drizzle some oil onto your frying pan and turn up the heat. When the pan is really hot stir fry the chicken in the pan till they are browned on all surfaces. Place the chicken in a casserole dish.
  7. In the same pan, stir fry the pancetta and chorizo on low heat until the fat has been rendered from the meat. Place the Chorizo pieces into the simmering stock pot.
  8. Next add the onion to the pan. Stir fry on low heat until they begin to brown. Then add  one cup of Japanese rice and stir fry for a minute to coat the rice grains. You may stop at this stage until you are almost ready to serve the paella.
  9. Pour the stock through a strainer into the pan. Add the minced garlic, diced tomatoes together with 1t paprika, 1t oregano, 1t of saffron threads and 0.5t sugar. Add the juice from 2 lemon wedges and the mussels. Top off with enough hot water to bring the water level halfway to the top and bring to a simmer. You’ll need to keep the pan on a low simmer uncovered for about half an hour for the rice to be done.
  10. After 20 minutes arrange the raw prawns in the casserole with the chicken and place in a preheated oven. Grill till the prawns twirl up. Remove from the oven and drizzle the drippings onto the rice. Mix the rice gently, then leave the rice to settle. Return the casserole to the oven (turned off) to keep your meat warm.
  11. When the pan begins to dry, check the rice for texture and decide if you need to add additional hot water – drizzle only a little each time. Too much water will result in mush. Once you are satisfied that the rice is properly fluffed up and at its maximum size, turn up the heat, arrange the chicken and shrimp over the top and let the paella dry up almost completely.
  12. When the ‘socarrat’ or crust has formed at the bottom of the pan, serve your paella in the pan itself.

Notes

  • The ideal rice for Paella is a short-grained Spanish variety like Bomba, but those are not easy to buy outside of Europe. Many tend to use Italian Arborio as a substitute because it also happens to be short grained but that is entirely the wrong type of rice to use. Rice meant for risotto cannot absorb too much water without becoming mushy because of its high amylopectin content which is why risotto is eaten wet and al dente. Paella must be cooked until it is dry outside but fully hydrated inside which is what makes Japanese rice ideal in this case.
  • A personal secret ingredient when I cook my paella is cod liver oil. I usually add some diced smoked cod liver and use some of the oil that comes in the tin instead of vegetable oil. This adds tons of rich seafood flavour.
  • You can also use mussels that were pre-cooked in brine and frozen but pour away the brine. It is very easy for Paella to get overly salty. Sometimes I use clams instead of mussels.
  • Try not to disturb the rice except in step 10. These rice grains are delicate and you don’t want to break them; you do not to keep stirring like you are cooking a risotto.
  • You will notice I boiled the Chorizo in the stock. In my opinion this is the best way to extract its flavour to the rice. Do not add the boiled Chorizo back to the rice, it will be mushy.
 
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Posted by on August 2, 2016 in Japanese, Main Courses, Poultry, Recipe, Seafood

 

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Lamb Sausage Ragu with Conchiglie


(serves 3)
This is a speedy (relatively) and convenient method of making a Lamb Ragu Pasta that makes no compromises on taste. I avoid the arduous task of slow-cooking mutton by using the minced meat from lamb sausages. In fact I find the starch, fat, herbs and spices of the sausage actually make for a better pasta sauce. The result is a delicious wholesome and flavourful meat sauce that can’t be beat.
 
Ingredients Lamb Conchiglie 1200
  1. Lamg Sausage (350g)
  2. Brown or White Mushrooms (100g)
  3. Onion (1)
  4. Garlic(1 bulb = 12 cloves)
  5. Conchiglie (3 cups)
  6. Oxo Stock Cube (2)
  7. Red Wine (1 cup)
  8. Turmeric
  9. Coriander Seed Powder
  10. Oregano

Preparation

  1. Peel and then cut your onion into 6 wedges. Then slice them coarsely and pan fry in a large pan with some oil on low heat.
  2. In the meanwhile, slice your lamb sausages lengthwise on one side and peel off the skin. Place all the minced lamb in a bowl with half a cup of water. Mix well to loosen up the meat.
  3. Remove the onion from the pan, turn up the heat, add some oil and throw in the meat. Break up the clumps of meat as the water boils away. When the meat begins to brown, return the onion plus any drippings to the pan and continue stir-frying for another minute.
  4. Next add 1 cup of wine. Then add 2 oxo stock cubes (I normally use beef but you can also use lamb) dissolved in 2 cups of hot water.
  5. Peel your garlic bulb and throw the individual cloves into the pan. Quarter each mushroom into and add them to the pan as well.
  6. Add 1t sugar, 1t turmeric, 1t coriander seed powder and 1T oregano. Turn down the heat and simmer covered for 45 minutes to1 hour – until the sour taste of the wine is gone. Add water as needed such that you end up with a light sauce. You can make the sauce ahead of time, just keep it in the fridge til its needed.
  7. Boil your pasta in a pot of water with a dash of olive oil until it is about 2/3 cooked. Strain and then add your pasta to the pan and stir fry until the pasta is al dente. Add water as required such that you end up with a thick sauce just as the pasta is done. Splash on 4T of olive oil after turning the fire off.
  8. Sprinkle on some black pepper and perhaps some parsley after plating.

Notes

  • You can use 3/4 cup red wine plus 1/4 cup Marsala wine for a more authentic Italian taste – remember to skip the 1t of sugar in step 6.
  • Conchiglie a.k.a. seashell pasta is the best choice of pasta for this kind of sauce as it can hold the bits of meat better. Another type of paste suitable for this dish is farfalle, a.k.a. butterfuly pasta.
  • The picture would look nicer if I had just cooked the pasta separately and then poured the sauce over it, but then it wouldn’t taste nearly as good. Sometimes you have to sacrifice looks for taste.
  • Ragu and Ragout are both a dish made from gamey meat and chopped vegetables. Ragu is Italian and is usually cooked as a sauce. Ragout is French and is usually a stew.
 
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Posted by on July 18, 2016 in Italian, Main Courses, Pasta, Recipe, Red Meat

 

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Smokey Russian Potato Salad


(serves 8-10)
The Russian Potato Salad (some people say Ukrainian) is the king is potato salads, so much so it is more of a cold appetizer than a side dish. It has great texture, being the perfect blend of starchy vegetables, crunchy vegetables and meat. It also looks great, its a kaleidoscope of colours bathed in a milky white dressing. Most importantly Russian Potato Salad tastes great. A perfect dish to make ahead of time so there is less time-pressure when you are cooking and serving your meal.   
 

IngredientsPotato Salad

  1. Potatoes (6 = 3 cups)
  2. Carrots (3 = 1.5 cups)
  3. Frozen Peas (1.5 cups)
  4. Red Onion (1/4)
  5. Eggs (4)
  6. Ham (200g)
  7. Heinz Sandwich Spread (1/3 cup)
  8. Sour Cream (1/3 cup)
  9. Mayonnaise (1/3 cup)
  10. Liquid Smoke
  11. Dill Weed

Preparation 

  1. Boil 4 eggs in a pot, starting with cold water. Simmer for 10 minutes once it is boiling and then place the eggs in cold water.
  2. Peel the carrots and potatoes and cube them into 1cm blocks. Place the cubed potato and carrot in a large sauce pan and add boiling water from a kettle. Add just enough water to cover everything and bring to a boil.
  3. Simmer for 8 minutes once it is boiling. Strain
    Boiling in Pan

    better to cube first, then boil

    through a colander and after a minute pour into a large salad bowl lined with some paper towels.

  4. Rinse the peas in water to remove any ice and then place those into the same pan. Again add just enough water to cover everything and bring to a boil. Simmer for 3 minutes once it is boiling. As with before strain through a colander and then add to the salad bowl.
  5. Julienne 1/4 of a red onion and cube 200g of ham.
  6. Mix 1/3 cup Heinz Sandwich Spread, 1/3 cup sour cream, 1/3 cup mayonnaise, 1T of dill weed, 1T of liquid smoke in a bowl. Add also 0.5t each of sugar, pepper and salt.
  7. Remove the paper towels from the vegetables.
  8. Peel the eggs and put them through an egg slicer a few times. The whites should end up cubed while the yolk should fall apart. Add the egg bits to the bowl together with the chopped onion and ham. Mix everything up gently and then add the dressing and do a second mixing.
  9. Refrigerate at least for a few hours before serving.
Potato Carrot Pea

everything the same size

Notes

  • Some people call this the Olivier Salad, after a Chef Olivier who served a similar style salad in the Moscow Hermitage Restaurant. That may well have been the original inspiration for this salad but its quite different, containing more exotic ingredients like grouse, crayfish and capers.
  • One important feature of the Russian Potato Salad is all (except the onion) the pieces should be of the same size. Since you can’t change the size of the peas, that becomes your standard.
  • Do not use canned peas, they are too soft and mushy and will get mashed.
  • Heinz Sandwich Spread provides the taste of pickles and additional layers of flavour. It is the ‘secret ingredient’ of my recipe. If you can’t find some you can chop up some pickled gherkins with 1/3 cup of Crosse and Blackwell Salad Cream as an alternative, that’s how I used to do it. 
  • Everybody has their own version so feel free to experiment. You can use roast chicken or bologna instead of ham, these are the common alternatives for meat. Swap in beetroot if raw onion is not to your liking. You can also choose to leave the egg yolk out.
 
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Posted by on May 11, 2016 in Appetizers, Recipe, Salad

 

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Pressed Tofu (Tau Kwa)


Pressed TofuWhy you do it
Pressed Tofu is a sturdy form of tofu used in situations where normal tofu would fall apart and disintegrate, such as in salads or in stir-fried dishes. Commercial tofu already comes in different levels of firmness and manufacturers control tofu’s hardness by varying the amount of water they press out of it. What you are simply doing is squeezing more of the water out of your tofu to increase its firmness even more. The hard part is how you can squeeze tofu without smashing it.

Pressed tofu is actually quite common in East Asia outside of Japan. In Southeast Asia it is called Tau Kwa. There is a style of Haka cuisine from China called Yong Tau Foo where minced fish is stuffed into Tofu. Obviously if the tofu is not firmed up beforehand, there would be no way to stuff anything into it.  In Teochew cuisine, also from China, pressed tofu is stewed in soya sauce together with goose. Often pressed tofu is deep fried. Fried pressed tofu is an essential ingredient in Pad Thai, a common type of fried noodles from Thailand found worldwide. It is also used in a dish called Mee Siam, which is a ‘Thai’ style vermicelli dish popular in Singapore and Malaysia (but paradoxically not in Thailand/Siam).

How you do it
Pressing TofuPlace a block of tofu onto a flat bottomed tray or dish after draining away the water it comes in. I usually use the tray from my toaster oven. It should be of the firm type, sometimes labelled as ‘stone’ tofu. In any case, be very careful not to damage the tofu in anyway as any localized weakness in structural integrity will cause the tofu to crack when it is pressed.

Wrap some cling film tightly around the side of the tofu, twice. Don’t wrap the bottom because that’s where the water escapes from and cut away most of the extra cling film protruding at the top. You are only interested in constraining or reinforcing the side walls so the tofu doesn’t bulge sideways and burst. Some people use towels but I find that cling film is the best way of preventing the tofu block from crumbling under pressure.

Place a stiff cutting board over the tofu, making sure the tofu is exactly at its centre. Place a can of food on the cutting board to start off with and gradually increase this to 6 cans over the course of an hour. When you notice the cutting board tilting to any particular side, adjust the position of the cans to bring it level again. Wait another hour after you reach six cans and you are done. Your tofu should be sitting in a pool of water about half as high as it was when you started, but twice as firm.

One example of a recipe that uses pressed Tofu is my Chinese Pork Rib Curry recipe.

 

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2016 in cooking, Ingredients, Oriental, Salad

 

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Oven-Steamed Miso-Cured Salmon


(serves 2)
Here we have a simple no fuss way to cook salmon by wrapping it in foil and steaming it in its own juices in the oven. Miso with its strong distinct flavor is one of the best ways to marinate meats which don’t absorb flavor easily, such as fish. Steaming is one of the best ways to cook salmon fillets as you don’t need to overcook the outside to ensure the middle is done. Put the two together and you have the trappings of a great salmon recipe. This recipe is also great for BBQ and toaster oven friendly as well.  
 

Ingredients Miso Salmon

  1. Salmon (Belly Fillet, 400g)
  2. Coriander (chopped, 1 cup)
  3. Miso
  4. Minced Garlic
  5. Sesame Oil (1/4 cup)
  6. Honey
  7. Cointreau

Preparation 

  1. Rinse and pat your salmon fillet dry with a kitchen towel. We want the belly cut (the type without a bone in the middle).
  2. Prepare 1 cup of chopped coriander. I usually just hold a bunch in hand and snip away with scissors from the top. We only want the leafy portion.
  3. Mix 1T of miso, 1T minced garlic, 1T Honey, 1T Cointreau and 1/2 t pepper with 1/4 cup sesame oil. When the mixture is even, mix in the chopped coriander.
  4. Place a large piece of foil on a plate. You can see from the photo it is the same plate the salmon is served on later. Spoon one third of the miso coriander mixture onto the foil as a base for your salmon.Salmon B4 After
  5. Position the salmon on the base. If you look carefully at the right side of the upper picture (you can click on photo to zoom in), I cut off the thinner tip of the fillet and stacked it back on in a way to make the thickness of the salmon even, like a brick.
  6. Spoon on the rest of the marinade, making sure some of the coriander adheres to the side. Wrap up the foil by rolling the long edges of the foil together, then crumpling in the two ends.
  7. Place the foil parcel in the fridge. You can cure the salmon overnight if you wish. The minimum curing time is 2 hours in the fridge plus one hour to warm up to room temperature.
  8. Preheat your oven to 180oC. Put the foil parcel in and turn the temperature down to 150oC. Bake for 8 minutes, 9 if you insist on having your salmon 100% cooked.
  9. Allow the parcel to rest for a further 5 min once removed from the oven. Then cut open and serve.

Notes

  • One of the purposes of  the coriander is to allow the marinade to adhere to the salmon instead of pooling at the bottom of the foil parcel. If you don’t like coriander, you will need to replace it with Italian parsley or something similar instead of just skipping it altogether.
  • For more information on Miso, refer to this page
  • If you are into steamed fish, have a look at my Cantonese style Steamed Snapper which uses the pan method.
 

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Duck Confit and Sherry Pot Pie


(serves 6)
This Duck and Sherry Pie is a great festive dish for the winter season. It is quick and convenient as the Duck Confit (Cuisse de Canard Confit) will provide all the flavor that you’ll need. And the meat in Duck Confit already comes tender, so you don’t need to stew any duck for hours either. Furthermore the recipe resolves the issue of confit being overly salty by cooking the pie filling with sherry and sweet potatoes.     
 

IngredientsDuck Confit Filling

  1. Duck Leg Confit (2)
  2. Carrot (1 large)
  3. Onion (1)
  4. Sweet Potato (2)
  5. Mushrooms (100g)
  6. Peas (1/2 cup)
  7. Milk (1 cup)
  8. Sherry
  9. Mustard
  10. Flour
  11. Potato (2) – for the crust

Preparation 

  1. Peel sweet potatoes and carrot. Cut the sweet potatoes and the mushrooms into 1 inch pieces. Dice the carrot and onion into 1/2 inch cubes or pieces.
  2. Debone the duck confit. This should be an easy task as the meat is practically falling off the bone anyway. Break up the duck meat into large chunks with two forks. Gently heat the duck confit in a pot, just enough to liquefy the lard the confit comes in.
  3. Spoon 6T of the duck oil into a pan and decant the rest into a bowl or jar for storage.
  4. Place the pan on a low fire and fry the onion and carrot bits until the onion softens.
  5. Sprinkle on 2T of flour and continue to stir fry for a minute. Slowly stir in 2/3 cup of milk, followed by 1/2 cup of sherry. Next add sufficient hot water to result in thin sauce. Add the sweet potatoes and simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Next add the mushroom, peas and duck to the pan. Sprinkle on 1t sugar, 1t mustard and 1t of black pepper. After simmering for a further 5 minutes your filling will be ready.
  7. For the crust, boil 2 large potatoes for 15 minutes, peel and then mash them with 1/3 cup milk and 2T of duck oil.
  8. Pour your pie filling into either a large baking dish or spoon into individual ramekins or gratin dishes. Cover with a layer of the mash. Bake in the oven at 180oC until the crests of the mash get brown.

Duck Confit Pie

Notes

  • For a traditional pastry type pie, skip step 7 & 8 and follow the procedure as described in my Savoury Pies Page.
  • You’ll notice that we didn’t need to use any salt, stock cubes or herbs. This is because confit is pre-marinated with herbs, garlic and a hefty amount of salt and then cooked in its own rendered lard as you will see from my Duck Confit Page, If we had used butter and flour to make the sauce instead, you’d need to add all kinds of other ingredients to get the taste right.
  • As you are not baking the duck confit directly to get a crispy skin, there is no need to buy ‘fresh’ duck confit from the grocer. Those that come in a can are perfectly fine for this recipe.
  • Some of my friends prefer to eat my duck filling with bread instead of inside a pie, as pictured at the top of the page. This is even more convenient.
  • If you would like a creamier pie, add 2T of sour cream in step 6.
 

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Japanese Wafu-Style Orzo


(serves 3)
How does one cook a light pasta that still tastes good? For the answer we have to look not to Italy, but to the Far East where the Japanese have developed Wafu Cuisine, a style incorporating the best of Japanese and Western cooking. Miraculously, my Wafu Pasta recipe is not based on cream, cheese or oil, yet it’s still delicious and satiating. You will find this Italy meets Japan recipe great for the formal dinner table but also perfect for those times when you just want to have dinner on the sofa.      
 

Ingredients Wafu Orzo

  1. Scallops (12=200g)
  2. Shaved Ham (100g)
  3. Mushrooms (100g)
  4. Corn (1 ear)
  5. Scallion (4 sprigs)
  6. Orzo a.k.a. Risoni (200g)
  7. Miso
  8. Butter
  9. Sesame Oil
  10. Sherry

Preparation 

  1. Slice each scallop into 3 discs. Marinate them in a mixture of 1T of sesame oil and a flat 0.5t of salt.
  2. Cut the mushrooms into thin slices. Any kind of brown or white mushrooms will do. If they are large, cut them in half before slicing.
  3. Julienne the bottom 1/4 (white) of the scallion into one bowl and the second 1/4 (green) into a separate bowl. Discard the remaining tips.
  4. Cut the ham into small pieces. Brine soaked pre-sliced ham, the type that is sold for sandwiches, has the texture best suited for the Wafu style.
  5. Shave the corn kernels into a bowl. Retail the cob.
  6. Fry the white scallion bits with1T of sesame oil in a pan. When the scallion begins to brown, add the shaved ham. Continue to stir fry for a minute. Mix 1 heaped t of miso with 1T sherry and add this to the pan followed by 1 cup of water. You now have a ham and scallion miso soup base.
  7. While the mixture is simmering, rinse 200g or orzo in boiling water and then add the orzo to the pan, followed by the corn kernels and mushroom. Scrape the cob with the back of a knife blade over the pan. Leave uncovered on a low simmer.
  8. In the meanwhile melt a large knob of butter in a second pan over high heat. When the butter browns add the scallops. Stir fry for thirty seconds and then turn off the heat. Immediately add a second large knob of butter to cool the pan.
  9. When the liquid in the first pan thickens, test the texture of the orzo. If it is still hard, add 1/4 cup of hot water and continue simmering. Repeat until the orzo is just right, then pour the scallops and butter into the pan and mix well.
  10. Spoon the orzo into your serving dishes. Dust with black pepper and garnish with the green scallion bits.

Notes

  • I suppose I should start off by explaining what the Japanese Wafu-style is. It translates as ‘Winds in Harmony’ and refers to the way the Japanese prepare Western dishes to suit local tastes. Its a style of cooking that developed gradually after WWII and has now become immensely popular in family restaurants in Japan. You could go as far as to say it is a type of fusion cuisine. Salad dressing containing soya sauce, yozu or sesame oil and mayonnaise containing wasabi are both examples of Wafu.   
  • One important aspect of Wafu cooking is it tends to be balanced with delicate flavours. If you want to stay true to the Wafu style, stay away from strong tasting ingredients like garlic, olive oil, bacon, blue cheese. A little cream is ok, but not too much. 
  • This is quite a flexible recipe and you can substitute a number of ingredients to create many different varieties of the pasta. You could for example swap the corn for baby asparagus (you might want to add a bit of sugar though), the shaved ham for smoked turkey or the scallop for clams.
  • The prime flavour for the sauce is Miso. For more information on Miso, refer to this page
 

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