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Basic recipe Healthy cooking Japanese food Recipes Vegan/Vegetarian

Okayu

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Okayu with an umeboshi on top

Recently, with the cold season in full swing and my baby being weaned, I find myself making a lot of okayu, which is the Japanese version of rice porridge or congee. Okayu is often given to the ill as it is easier to eat and digest than white rice. In fact, when I was in the hospital after giving birth in Japan, I was given okayu instead of white rice for the first few meals. Then, in a weaning class several months later, I was taught how to prepare okayu as it is the recommended first food for babies in Japan. (In case you’re wondering, this is what okayu as baby food looks like; the different colors come from the different foods that can be added into the okayu as the baby grows, like broccoli, white fish, kabocha, egg yolk, tofu, etc.) Some people also like to use okayu as a way to lose weight by simply replacing white rice with the lower-calorie okayu.

Here, I will describe the basic recipe for okayu.

Ingredients:
Japanese rice
Water
Salt
Optional toppings (e.g., umeboshi (pickled plum), spring onions, etc.)

There are several types of okayu, which differ according to the amount of rice and water used and the final ratio of gruel to liquid in the okayu. Here is a quick list:

  • zengayu
    1 rice : 5 water (this gives gruel without any extra liquid)
  • shichibugayu
    1 rice : 7 water (this gives okayu with a 7 gruel : 3 liquid ratio)
  • gobugayu
    1 rice : 10 water (this gives okayu with a 1 gruel : 1 liquid ratio)
  • sanbugayu
    1 rice : 20 water (this gives okayu with a 3 gruel : 7 liquid ratio)
Cooking okayu
Cooking okayu

Instructions:
– wash rice until the water runs clear.
– add the appropriate amount of water and heat on high while stirring occasionally to avoid clumping of the rice.
– once the water is boiling, allow to simmer covered on low heat for 30 mins.
– add salt as needed
– serve hot with or without any toppings

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Japanese food Recipes Travel eats

Kiritampo nabe

Kiritampo nabe
Kiritampo nabe

I love surprise parcels, especially those involving food! So when we received such a parcel from my sister-in-law, I was ecstatic; she had sent us a set for making kiritampo nabe, a type of hot pot from Akita prefecture in Japan, complete will the soup base, raw hinai-jidori (free-range chicken from Akita that is famous all around the country) meat, vegetables, and of course, kiritampo.

Kiritampo is made from mushed-up cooked rice (if authentic, of the delicious Akita komachi variety, of course!) wrapped around a cedar stick and toasted. It can then be slid off the stick to be used in nabe. The set also included damako mochi, which is similar to kiritampo, but instead of cylinders, the mashed rice is formed into balls about 2 cm in diameter.

Kiritampo nabe set
Kiritampo nabe set- ingredients all included!

The soup base was included in the set, but since this nabe set is not available everywhere, I will describe the recipe for making the soup base from scratch, as well as the ingredients used in kiritampo nabe. As with all nabe, there is no strict rule for the amounts of ingredients that must be used, but here is a guideline that can be changed according to the ingredients on hand, and personal tastes.

Ingredients:
200 g raw boneless chicken meat
1 leek
1 carrot
200 g maitake (Grifola frondosa or hen-of-the-wood mushrooms)
1 burdock root, peeled and sliced
1 bunch seri (Japanese parsley/dropwort greens)
400 g shirataki noodles
Kiritanpo (about 2/person)
Damako mochi

For making the soup:
1.5 L chicken stock or water
50 ml soy sauce
75 ml mirin
Salt (approx. 1 tsp or as needed)

– add the burdock root and chicken to the water/soup stock in a pot and bring to a boil
– add the soy sauce, mirin and salt, and allow to boil
– add the maitake, carrot and shirataki, then simmer for about five minutes
– add the leek, kiritampo and damako mochi, and simmer for several more minutes
– place seri on the top and allow to cook for a minute
– serve hot!

Kiritampo nabe and rice
Kiritampo nabe and rice
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Baking Breads Breakfast Healthy cooking Recipes

Oatmeal and bran muffins

Looking for a delicious way to increase your fiber and fruit intake? Tired of overpriced bran and fruit bars? Need a little excitement in your life?

These muffins are really easy to make, and the recipe is adaptable for whatever fruits, nuts or other fillings you have on hand or want to add. For the muffins in these photos, I added frozen blueberries, almond slivers, chocolate chips, and a prune center for each muffin.

Here is the basic recipe:

Ingredients
1 1/4 cup milk
1 cup oats
1/2 cup bran
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter or vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Optional: nuts, fresh or dried fruits, chocolate chips, shredded coconut, etc.

-Combine milk, bran and oats in a small bowl. Allow to soak for 15 minutes.
-In a separate bowl, beat the egg, sugar and oil together.
-Add the egg, sugar and oil mixture into the oatmeal mixture.
-In another bowl, mix the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
-Stir the flour mixture into the wet mixture.
-Mix the optional fruits, nuts, chocolate chips, etc., into the batter.

-Spoon batter into the muffin cups until about 3/4 full.
-Bake at 190 degree Celsius for approximately 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean.

If you find the batter a little dry, try stirring in a little milk at the end before spooning the batter into the cups. Be careful when adding fresh fruits as the batter may become too moist; in this case, try adding less milk.

Wasn’t that easy?

Japanese food Meat Recipes

Miso fried chicken

In this recipe, chicken is marinated in a miso sauce and fried in a frying pan. I like this recipe because it is so easy to make and is very flavorful. I’ve made it without letting it marinate when I didn’t have time and it was still delicious.

Miso chicken
Miso chicken

Ingredients
600 g chicken
2 tbsp miso
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar or mirin
Oil for cooking

Cut chicken into the desired sizes.
Combine miso, soy sauce and sugar.
Add the sauce mixture to the chicken and combine until chicken is well coated.
Allow to meat to sit for several hours in the fridge, wrapped.
Heat oil in frying pan.
Place chicken in the pan and fry until golden brown.
Flip the chicken and fry the other side.

Fry until brown and thoroughly cooked.
Serve hot.

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Chinese food Meat Recipes

Soy sauce chicken- Hong Kong style

Hong Kong style soy sauce chicken
Hong Kong style soy sauce chicken

Soy sauce chicken is popular in Hong Kong. It is often served with noodles or rice, or even alone, at restaurants and stalls.

In this recipe, I omitted Chinese cooking wine (simply because if didn’t have any at home), but the wine can be added to the sauce for a deeper flavor. Also, for those who dislike star anise, it can be removed from the sauce prior to the addition of chicken for a lighter flavor.

This recipe also works great for chicken wings!

Ingredients
Approx. 10 chicken drumsticks
3-4 cloves of garlic, crushed
A few slices of ginger, finely chopped
3/4 cup dark soy sauce
2 tbsp of sugar (or rock sugar)
1 star anise
3 cups of water
Dash of white pepper (optional)
1 tbsp cooking oil

– heat cooking oil in a pan or pot.
– add garlic and ginger and fry to bring out the aroma.
– add soy sauce, water, sugar and star anise, and bring to a boil. Add white pepper if desired.
– lower the heat and add the chicken one by one into the sauce.

– simmer for approx. 15 mins, then flip the chicken and simmer or another 15 mins. The chicken should take on the color of the soy sauce.
– remove chicken from the sauce and serve hot or cold on a plate. The sauce can be spooned onto rice and vegetable side dishes for added flavor.

About the leftover sauce- it would be a waste to throw it out! Most restaurants keep the sauce and reuse it a number of times for chicken, but at home, I like to add potatoes, carrots and boiled eggs to the sauce. Allow to boil for about 20 mins or until the potatoes are cooked through and the boiled eggs have turned brown, and voila! It’s delicious!

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Baking Bento Recipes Vegan/Vegetarian

Peach ginger crumble – bento friendly!

 

Fall’s bounty is hitting the markets, and yesterday, I found the most beautiful, and absolutely huge, apples and peaches.

Since I was turning on the oven to roast a chicken, I decided to add a baked dessert to the menu too. Fruit crumble is so easy to make, and baking these in individual servings make them very bento (and portion size) friendly!

Apples and cinnamon are natural together. For the peaches? I decided to experiment by adding ginger. Yum yum! It turned out moist and gooey on the bottom, and slightly crunchy on top, with a touch of sweet ginger heat. I might use ginger again as an alternative to the cinnamon that permeates so much fall and winter baking. Although, I’m not sure how it’ll pair with ice cream (one of my recipe books says that apple crumble must be eaten with vanilla icecream – it’s the law!

In this tray, I made six apple crumbles and six peach crumbles (half recipes of each). The measurements below are for full recipes.

Filling for apple crumble:

4 medium sized apples
½ tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp brown sugar
¼ cup currants (optional)
Filling for peach ginger crumble:

4 medium sized peaches
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp brown sugar
Topping:

¼ cup butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 cup rolled oats
Line cupcake pan with muffin cups. Large cups are better – makes bigger servings Seriously though, small cups will make the serving minuscule!

Peel and core the fruit, and dice into small pieces. Mix well with the rest of the filling ingredients. Spoon into the muffin cups, about 3/4 of way full.

Melt butter, and stir in the sugar. Mix well with the oats and cinnamon. Spoon over the fruit filling in the muffin cups. Press down firmly, and keep filling until it reaches the top (as it bakes, the crumble sinks a little, so next time I’ll try heaping more topping on top.)

Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 mins.

Bento tip!
This is my bento the next day (chicken, roast potatos, turnips, parsnips, broccoli, and peach crumble).

And for saving to enjoy later, I froze some of the cups in slight wedge shapes, which can easily be thawed and transferred into bento boxes.

Recipes Soups and Stews

Lobster bisque

Last night, at a local oyster joint, we were tantalized by the lobster platters arriving at out neighbouring tables. So, we ordered one too! At the end of the meal, having teared into the succulent tail and juicy claws, I asked for the remainder to be packed to-go. Today, that left over lobster was turned into a creamy bisque. It was a bit of an experienment, but I was surprised how easy it was. The lobster broth was surprisingly flavourful, salty and sweetly fishy (in a good way:)

1 left over lobster (head, legs, and whatever shells you have)
1/4 cup celery, diced
1/4 cup carrots, diced
1/4 cup onions, diced
1 tomato, diced
3-4 cup boiling water
splash of sherry or white wine
1 cup fish stock (I used 1/2 tsp of powdered dashi mixed in water)
pinch of thyme
1/4 cup heavy cream
cornstarch
chives, chopped for garnish
salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot, cover left over lobster with hot water, and simmer for 2 hours. (If there is any meat left in the lobster, remove and reserve before boiling). Remove the lobster shells from the broth. Strain the broth if necessary to remove all the bits.

In a fresh pot, sautee celery, carrots, and onion until tender. Toss in thyme and sherry or wine. Then immediately add lobster broth and fish stock, and simmer for 30 mins. Blend well with a handblender and mix in reserved lobster meat, cream, salt and pepper. Thicken with cornstarch if necessary.

Serve with a swirl of cream and garnish with chopped chives. Makes about 6 servings.

Meat Recipes

Turkey cranberry meatloaf

Turkey meatloaf with a carrot heart center
Turkey meatloaf with a carrot heart center and vegetables and mashed potatoes

Here is an alternative for a turkey dinner that is easy and works well for large and small groups. It is perfect for holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. It uses the same flavors as a turkey dinner, and tastes great with the traditional mashed potatoes, gravy and stuffing.

Ingredients:

500 g minced turkey or chicken
1 egg
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 apple, grated
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2-3 tablespoons dried sage leaves
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Dried cranberries or cranberry sauce

– mix onion, apple, garlic, sage, parsley and breadcrumbs.
– add the minced meat, and mix by hand.
– add egg and mix until the meat is well mixed.
– place meat evenly in the pan.

*optional: place a carrot cut into a heart shape in the middle of the loaf so that, when sliced, a heart can be seen in the middle. Consider precooking the carrot, either by boiling or steaming, to ensure that it is fully cooked. As a bonus, less baking time is required. This is especially good for those who often worry whether the middle of the loaf is cooked. And it is cute!*

– press the dried cranberries onto the top of the loaf. Alternatively, coat with a layer of cranberry sauce.
– cover with foil and bake for about 1-1.5 hours at 180 degrees Celsius.

– remove from the oven and allow to sit for 15-30 minutes.

Turkey meatloaf topped with cranberries
Turkey meatloaf topped with cranberries

– slice and serve hot.

A slice of turkey meatloaf
A slice of turkey meatloaf
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Recipes

Christmas Beef Wellington

One of my favorite traditions (adopted from my in-laws) is preparing a Beef Wellington for Christmas dinner. What is more indulgent than tender beef tenderloin, smothered in pate, mushrooms and onions, and wrapped in flaky puff pastry, then served with all the roast dinner trimmings?

This dish is notoriously finicky to make, and the goal is a beef wellington where all the components are perfectly cooked (meat medium-rare, pate heated through but not soggy, and pastry perfectly browned). Luckily, even not-too-perfect beef wellington tastes great – which is awesome for someone practicing for repeated consistency in beef wellington roasting

This year, I opted to try making individual beef wellington servings. This method makes it easier to suit everyone’s taste for beef roast, from very well-done to very rare. It also makes serving and plating much easier. And who would ever complain about the additional pastry to filling ratio?

Ingredients:

– 1 lb of beef tenderloin, cut into 4 medallions about 1 inch thick (AKA 4 slices of filet mignon)

– chunky pork pate

– 4-5 white mushrooms, sliced

– 1/4 onion, diced

– 1 clove garlic, minced

– 1/2 tbsp butter

– thyme, salt, and pepper

– 1 egg (to make an egg wash)

– cooking oil.

– puff pastry (store- bought or home made. I like to use a rough puff pastry recipe, which can be found online)

Season the beef on all sides with salt and pepper. Then sear on all sides in a pan on high heat (only sear about 1/3 way to desired done-ness. For medium-rare, no more than 30 seconds per side. For well-done, about 1 minute per side). Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, saute mushrooms, onions, butter, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper, until everything is cooked through. I like to cook this slowly until the onions caramelize. Set aside to cool.

Lay out sheets of puff pastry, and cut to size (approximately 4 inches x 6 inches). For each beef wellington, place the beef in the center of the pastry, top with a slice of pate, and then a spoonful of the mushroom mixture. Carefully wrap the pastry around the filling, pinching to seal all sides (I usually do a seam a long the top, and then on both sides). Poke 2-3 holes at the top using a toothpick or fork. Then brush eggwash on top.

Bake at 425 F for 20-25 mins (or until the pastry is golden brown on top).

Pictures above and below: individual beef wellingtons served with roasted root vegetables, brussel sprouts, and a red wine gravy.

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Fusion Japanese food Recipes

SPAM onigiri (rice ball)

SPAM onigiri (rice ball)
SPAM onigiri (rice ball)

You read it right. This post is for spam rice balls. Spam, as in the processed meat, which is popular in the heavily american-influenced southern Japanese island of Okinawa. Incorporating the American canned meat into their Japanese food, spam onigiri is an interesting fusion food that is simple to make, and is handy for bentos.

Ingredients:
Spam
Cooked rice
Nori
Salted water
Cheese (optional)
Ketchup (optional)
BBQ sauce (optional)
Teriyaki sauce (optional)
Omelet (optional)

-cook white rice as usual
– slice spam horizontally into ~3/4cm thick slices

– fry spam on both sides in a pan

– lay out the spam and place optional ingredients onto the middle of the spam slice

– prepare rice by using hands wetted in salt water to form rice balls about the same shape as the spam slices.
– place rice on top of the spam

– lightly press the meat and the rice together
– wrap a strip of nori around the rice ball

Eat hot or cold. These are great for bentos, or simply wrapped in plastic wrap, they are easily portable.

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