Thursday, January 14, 2010

Chahan Induced Nostalgia

On the 20th of December it was exactly one year since I left Japan. It's a bit sad not being able to think "this time last year I was..." I've had to move onto "this time two years ago..." Which can be weird, I cant believe it was so long ago, all the memories still feel so recent. One of the hardest things is seeing what my friends still in Japan are up to, statuses from friends all over Japan are starting to talk about snow, and it's making me think of two years ago (eek) when I had just returned back from Japan after being home for the holidays, waking up, opening my windows and seeing this!!
It isn't much for normal northern hemisphere people, but damn, I very near wet myself! The first problem I had with the snow (which I only saw twice in my entire 18 months in Japan) was what footwear to use! I was so perplexed, I had never thought of it before! About five minutes before leaving for work I looked at my little plastic shoes and thought "well that's not gonna work at all," then looked over at my ug boots and thought "yes, brilliant, brilliant idea Michelle, you GENIUS." After much stomping, slipping and giggling I started to realise that the non waterproof super absorbent footwear was not a great choice... But I'm Australian, how on earth was I meant to know??
Next snow day I fought fellow cold footed shoppers and got me some gumboots, only to find that by the time I had finished work the snow had not only stopped falling, but it had melted as well. Ah, Tokyo winter. Snow--melt--gone. Here's the slushy stage!
So yes, with these memories and many others, I've turned to cooking foods that remind me of my time in Japan, some may say I'm torturing myself, but I like to think I'm just being nostalgic. Please enjoy the first of many Japanese recipes to come, I know I will!
Vegetable ingredients looking like a dog hiding in the bushes...
Vegetables added while the meat is still cooking, I did what I was told, but it scared me and I just don't think I'll do it again. I've got a mad fear of salmonella poisoning going and yeah, the vegetables were pretty damn overcooked before I was convinced the pork was done.
Cooked Japanese rice added, all coming together, just one more ingredient...
A nice cold bottle of Sapporo! My beer of choice while Izakaya hopping in Japan was Asahi, but I do enjoy a good Sapporo, I've never been, but I really do think that this is what Hokkaido would taste like, I recommend!

Missing you always Japan, even though sometimes you can be scarily cold, I'll always love you!

Chahan (Japanese Fried Rice)

By Brooke from Take it and Like it

  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 carrot (The recipe says it can be chopped but they grated it, I thought this was a great idea, I don't think I would appreciate crunchy carrot in this, but if you would, go nuts!)
  • 3 shallots
  • 60g chopped cooked pork (I don't like chopping meat so I bought stirfry pork and ended up with huge pieces of pork all the way through, would not recommend, next time I think I'm just gonna have to man up and get meat juice all over my hands.)
  • 1/2 tbsp grated fresh ginger (Woolies ran out of ginger. I know, nuts, so I had to use tube ginger, not as strong but still good, i GUESS, *sulky face*)
  • 2 cups cooked Japanese rice
  • 1 tbsp sake or mirin (I used mirin)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • handful of chopped greens (I got a packet of mixed rocket and baby spinach from the fruit and vege section)
  1. Heat the oil over medium heat. Add any ingredients that need to cook first - I put the carrot, green onions and pork in now, and because I had shredded the carrot instead of chopping it this only required 1-2 minutes of cooking time.
  2. Stir in the ginger then add the cooked rice. Break the eggs on top of the rice and quickly mix everything around so the rice grains are coated with the uncooked egg.
  3. Add the sake & soy sauce then the greens, and serve.
  4. You definitely want to move fast when making this; if you let the eggs overcook it tends to be a bit too dry. Remember, the heat from the rice will keep cooking the eggs while you're plating it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Queen of Kitchens, Thy Name is Nigella.

Forgive me Nigella for I have sinned. The first time I met you (ie saw you on an ad for tea) I thought you were snobby and full of yourself, swanning round, smirking about drinking tea in bed. But oh how I was mistaken, the shame I feel for ever judging you is immense. I now harbour no ill feelings towards you, only feelings of wanting to be you. I know it was Austar that decided to put on a weekend marathon of your wonderful show, but I like to think you had something to do with it, a chef-like angel swooping into my loungeroom and opening my eyes to your brilliance. Thankyou, I will be forever grateful. In return, I shall buy all your cookbooks (as my bank account permits) and not let anyone say anything bad about your big bottom. One of the big things I miss about being home (along with being with family etc etc) are the Austar marathons. 72 hours of Will and Grace? Yes please! Mind numbing amounts of Friends? Don't mind if I do! 100 episodes of Girls of the Playboy Mansion? I shouldn't... but okay! This past New Year long weekend I was flicking around trying to find a marathon I could commit to, when I stumbled upon the food network. I saw Nigella, and she wasn't talking about tea, so I was intrigued. I was instantly drawn in by her adjective and simile filled descriptions of food. Who knew cheese could be voluptuous? I sure didn't, but I'm so glad that I do now. The real clincher I think though was her statement that burning your tongue while taste testing your dinner is a "tragedy." Something that I have always felt, but never been able to put into (such melodramatic) words. As I watched I frantically wrote down especially amazing recipes (very near all of them), missing steps and measurements as I went, being crushed when I had to pop to the shops and missed an entire episode. Since then I've missed Nigella, I wish every day were Nigella marathon day. But then yesterday I discovered that my favourite of the Nigella shows (Nigella Express) is a book! AND it has all of the recipes I hastily wrote down, and so so so many more! Instant buy. Instant sitting on my front veranda with my bird and reading it all the way through. It is honestly just the best cookbook that has ever happened to me; the intros, the methods, everything, you can just hear Nigella saying it all. "Place the potatoes in a freezer bag and hit them with a rolling pin." I love that she can sound all fancy British yet still be the kind of person that beats potatoes with a rolling pin. So please buy it, if not for me, for Nigella and her neverending list of adjectives. Or you could just sit around and wait for me to make everything in the book, which is totally going to happen. Number one: Doughnut French Toast. Nobel Peace Prize material, seriously, no one can fight when they have Donut French Toast in their lives.
First few stages - not looking so appetizing, but oh, just you wait...
I made this the day after the marathon and was going off my rough notes, so I didn't know I had to soak the bread for so long, but it was still good, I don't think I would want any more mixture soaked in than this...
See? They Still turned out super thick, so it's up to you!
My first time making french toast, I was NOT disappointed.
Incase you hadn't already noticed, my photos are now being taken with a super fancy camera. Christmas is the best. Thankyou family for getting it for me, I promise I will learn to use it properly... one day.

Doughnut French Toast

Nigella Express

Serves 2

  • 2 eggs
  • 4tsp vanilla extract (I haven't taken the plunge and bought extract yet, I'm just so cheap, one day I will, but till then essence works just fine!)
  • 60ml full fat milk (that's what I love about Nigella, she isn't scared of a little fat)
  • 4 slices from a small white loaf or 2 slices from a large white load, each slice cut in half.
  • 25g butter plus a drop of flavourless oil for frying (on the show she said adding the oil helped prevent the butter from burning, fascinating! I used vegetable oil here.)
  • 50g caster sugar (Nigella uses this sugar to dip the bread in, I decided this might be a little too much sugar so instead just dusted the toast with some cinnamon sugar, because who has ever heard of a doughnut without cinnamon??)
  1. Beat the eggs with the milk and vanilla in a wide, shallow bowl.
  2. Soak the bread halves in the eggy (eggy!) mixture for 5 minutes a side.
  3. Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan, and fry the egg soaked bread until golden and scorched in parts on both sides.
  4. Put the sugar on a plate and then dip the cooked bread in it until coated like a sugared donut.

In the intro to this recipe (yes, this little gem hidden away in an intro!) Nigella gives the recipe for a strawberry sauce if you so choose to swing that way. I myself swung in the golden syrup direction but it's always nice to have choices!

Direct from the pages of Nigella - You Can turn this into a dinner party doughnut-allusive dessert by whizzing up 150g hulled strawberries, 4T icing sugar and a spritz of lemon juice in the blender, to make a sauce to pour or puddle (puddle!) over.