July 2003

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LEFTOVER FRIED RICE

Which is a nice little tautology or should that be a redundancy.

Rissotoey gruel still left over after the nabe.

Chinese cabbage quickly stirfried in toubanjan. Smoking alleviatedby a splash of Chinese rice wine. Taken out of the wok and chopped up.

Egg beaten and then tossed into the wok, quickly scrambled and taken out.

A bit of oil and then was quickly stirfried, splash of rice wine, added some chopped spring onions, the cabbage, and the egg.

Served

LEFTOVER LAKSA

Stuck in my mind after being linked with an Islamic terrorist group by our PM. Laksa Jihad will no doubt join other revolutionary menu items such as the fearsome Bread Rigade and the Ultra Maoist Shining Parfait.

Some leftover fried tofu, chicken, chinese cabbage, and carrot.

The laksa paste is stir fried until “fragrant”. I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant but the spices need to be cooked, so a few minutes seemed to be enough. Added a can of coconut milk and two cups of chicken stock. In went the rest of the ingredients, simmered for 10 minutes and then poured over some rice noodles.

Nabe

Short notice dinner party. Pronounced Nah beh and is the Japanese version of the Chinese Steam Boat which is a kind of stock based interactive casserole. It always amazes me that the closest Western food came to this is the Fondue as a way of letting the cook having a look in at the dinner table. The price to pay for this extra social interaction is the kitchen nazi must yield control of the cooking process to others and I have to confess that this is a difficult thing to do. I’ve almost lost a friend because they forked their sausages before they were cooked, taken mortal offense at somebody using salt, and so on…

Nabe is just shopping and chopping.

From the fish markets: some crabs, prawns, fish bones and, in lieu of salmon and cod, Spanish Mackeral Steaks.

From the markets: savoy cabbage (the big chinese ones), carrots, bamboo shoots, daikon (giant white radish/geisha), spinach, spring onions, deep fried tofu, shiitake mushrooms.

From the freezer: some chicken wings and breast.

All are chopped up into bite sized pieces. The larger they are the longer they’ll take to cook. Crabs peeled and chopped, prawns kept whole but the pooh tube wangled out with a skewer. Chicken wings – very tip of wings chopped off and separated into wing bit and drumstick bit. Chicken breast was defrosted in the microwave and stuffed up by crossing the razor thin rubicon from frozen to well done. Should have been raw. Gah

Gear: I’ve got the real deal, an earthenware nabe pot, and a table top gas burner to keep it bubbling. The latter is handy- take it camping. The basic need though is a heat source and something to cook the food in so Mum’s orange crock pot, an electric frypan, or a fondue set will do. Everyone needs a bowl, some chopsticks, and a spoon. Leave a bowl out for bits of prawn and bone.

STOCK: Water- the stock gets its flavour from the ingredients as it’s cooked OR a head start can be given by a piece of konbu soaked in the water for half and hour, bought to the boil and then taken out. Fish bones or head simmered for a while and also taken out. Or traditionally, some dashi and a splash of mirin.

DIPPING STUFF Lemon Soy: half a cup of soy and a tablesoon or two of lemon juice.

Grated Daikon and chopped spring onions.

That was it. Everything went on the table and the ingredients were put into the pot in dribs and drabs. They come out when cooked and dipped in the bowls with some dipping stuff in it. Once we’d had enough, a brief pause, and I added cooked short grain rice to make a (no really) tasy gruel.

ABRIDGED Version: Sorry this really shouldn’t look so hard. Chuck seafood, chicken, and veges in a pot, simmer and then help yourself maybe with some soy sauce with bit of lemon juice in it.

TOAST WITH CHEESE

Not cheese toasties. Sliced cheddar on a warm piece of toast is far superior to melty cheese with toast. Why? Well there’s a contrast between the hot toast and the cold cheese which accentuates the contrast between the sweetness of the bread and he sharpness of the cheese. The toast is the yan to the cheeses’ yin. Smooth peanut paste with wholemeal, and white with crunchy.

SCALLOPS

Dinner with friends in the bush last night so I found some scallops* in the shell and took them up with me. Half the shells I sprinkled some sake and a smidgen of salt over them and the other half I put some butter, some pepper** and a narrow strip of lemon rind for some placebic flavour. Cooked them under the griller for 3 minutes.

They’re better cooked from under on the BBQ, from the top tends to dry them out on the top too much without cooking them enough for most ( I like them raw best but anyway). The ones in the shell still had the orange roe on them which has a different taste altogether and not to everyone’s liking. The salt wasn’t needed as the shell and their cooking in their own juices imparts an oceany flavour.

*I used to assume, growing up in the country myself, that scallops, like all seafood had a skin of breadcrumbs which could be fried and eaten.

**Sarawak Black Pepper, if you can’t find this, ordinary pepper will suffice however blah blah blah….

TAN TAN MEN

This broth is from a Japanese book on sauces. It seems the easiest to do of the Ramen family – the pro cookbooks require a few kilos of pork fat and unrecognisable bits of innards for the magical taste. Anyway it’s better than most of the soups here in Perth, which taste like greasy water.

Anyway the broth – 6tbs soy sauce, 2 tbs of toubanjyan* (spicy bean paste), 2 tsp of rice vinegar, 2tbs sesame oil, salt/ pepper and 2tbs cooking sake. Mix them up and then add a couple of cups of chicken stock and another four cups of water and heat. A great and subtle mix of meatiness, sourness, and spiciness. I decide to add a teaspoon or two of powdered chicken stock and it then tasted like crap. So, needless to say, don’t add powdered stock.

As for the rest, I sliced up some fresh bamboo shoots and quickly stir fried them in sesame oil to be used as a topping later I diced up some fried Tofu, soaked a little while in hot water to get the oil out beforehand, and stir fried it with toubanjyan, ginger, garlic, spring onion whites and a bit of sake to stop it sticking. Mince could have been used instead of the tofu. I added the broth to this then the firm ends of some Chinese greens, later followed by the leafy bits and simmered them until soft. Poured this over some egg noodles, placed the bamboo shoots on top and ate.

* Not at all hard to get and very good for the addition of spicy oompf to stir fries.

POTATO, PANCETTA, LENTILS

Tasty, healthy, easy. These three so often have to apologise for eachother but no need. As a Volvo driver I can appreciate the quiet practicality of lentils and wonder at their malignment from burger munchin’ Falcon drivers. This is from a great recently purchased book by Loukie Werle on Italian cooking “Splendido” that had been popped into the discount. Undeservedly so as its only crime seems to have been a lack of pictures and a lack of catchy character pushing on her own behalf that would have helped her stick in my mind as firmly in my head as my favourite soap star of Big Brother contestant. This is a POP but takes some time stirring so I passed the time with a few snorts of sherry.

Diced up a carrot, an onion, a small carrot, some celery finely and sauteed in a casserole dish in olive oil with a couple of sprigs of thyme and some finely diced pancetta for 10 minutes. Added a cup of brown lentils, stirred, seasoned and added enough water to cover by a centimetre. It took me about 30 minutes to get the lentils cooked with the lid on and another half an hour to cook the four diced potatoes with the lid off in an additional cup of chicken stock. As an addition I fished an Italian sausage out of the freezer and fried it up, mixing it in with the dish.

Ate it with some tasty pumpkin and herb damper from the markets with some olive oil on it.