Sunday, 29 September 2013

Week 33- Making Maki My Way

Sushi and Sashimi- restaurant version
Sushi is very trendy at the moment. It's healthy and pretty- and very tasty too.

I ate in a sushi restaurant in the summer and had some gorgeous dishes, as you can see here.

It occurs to me however that this delicacy is not just a classy-looking meal- it can be cheap too, especially if you use leftovers and less specialized ingredients.

For example, instead of nori seaweed sheets- how about wrapping in spinach leaves?

Or instead of sushi rice- leftover cooked rice, seasoned well?

And what about using smoked salmon trimmings instead of premium slices?

With this idea in mind, I've made a cheapskate's version of a Japanese meal- sole and salmon maki with miso soup to start, followed by mixed sushi and sashimi main dish and sweet maki rolls for pud.

In each case, you can contrast the restaurant dish with mine. I guarantee you two things- mine won't look so pretty but will cost a fraction of the price.

First of all, the sole and salmon maki.

I used fresh lemon sole (£1 each) , using 1 small fish (4 fillets) for two people. You can buy the fillets ready done of course but it's not that hard to do yourself, and much cheaper.

Lay the fish on a chopping board and make a long incision down to the bone, Then with sweeping strokes of your knife, gently cut the fillet away from the bones. Freeze the leftover fish skeletons in a plastic container for making stock or soups.
Filleting a lemon sole
Once you have your fillets, you are ready to assemble your maki rolls.

Lay spinach leaves on a rolling mat or tea towel (J cloths are good). Place your sole fillets on top. Lay a small slice of smoked salmon over the top, or use smoked salmon trimmings, and then roll up.

Now give each roll 1 minute at 650w in the microwave, slice and serve with a bowl of miso soup (1 tablespoon of miso paste dissolved in 500 ml of boiling water.)

Sole and salmon maki 

Restaurant version- £5.95
My version- 63p
The next course is easy too. Make 3 different sorts of yummy bits: I've copied the restaurant dish at the top of the page by doing some sushi rolls, and two different sorts of sashimi (rice topped with prawns or salmon).

This time, for the sushi rolls I have used nori sheets - (approximately 20 p each, but blow the expense for once!)
For the rice, I've used cooked short grain rice, mixed with a little rice wine vinegar and some dry sherry (or saki if you have it). Any sticky rice is good- leftover risotto would be interesting, sort of fusion sushi. Might give that one a try.
I used blanched red pepper slices, smoked salmon trimmings (£1.50 per pack in supermarkets) and cucumber to jazz up the fillings.

So, as before, lay the nori out on the mat or tea towel.
Brush with water to make it sticky and then work quickly before it curls up- spread over some rice, add some strips of cucumber, salmon or pepper (or tuna, or avocado or even cooked carrot if you have any of these to use up).

Ready, steady, roll - and slice.

Use the rest of the rice for the sashimi.

Line a small rectangular dish with cling film and oil it very lightly with vegetable oil.

Press the cooked and seasoned rice down into the dish and chill.

Using a sharp, wet knife- cut small oblongs of rice. Lift out the cling film and lay each of the pieces on your serving dish.

Top with a butterflied cooked prawn or slices of smoked salmon.
My sushi and sashimi- £1.25  for two

Now for the piece de resistance- the pudding!

In the restaurant, we had sweet maki rolls: bean curd pancakes, filled with sliced banana and topped with swirls of Nutella. My version uses up some leftover coconut rice pudding (remember I told you to put some aside last week), some stewed blackberry and maple syrup to garnish. Use your imagination, and your store cupboard to come up with any version you like.

Lay a crepe on your rolling mat: I've cheated and got one ready made here because I'm sure you don't need me to show you how to make a pancake. Warm is best though, as the crepe is more pliable when freshly cooked.

Spread on your rice pudding (or sliced banana and toffee sauce for a ban-ushi roll/ Nutella and cream cheese/ toffee apples/ anything you like in a pancake!), then some fruit.

Roll up, slice, stand on it's ends and garnish with syrup, sauce, cream, ice cream whatever you want!

It's a sweet maki- but maybe not as you know it, Jim!
Restaurant version- £6.50 - worth it though!

My version is a bit scruffy- but it was a first attempt.
My version- 30p- but a bit meagre
They look a bit underfilled with just maple syrup on the top- so a swirl of cream or chocolate sauce would have helped. I bet you could do better.

I look forward to seeing the photos!

どうぞめしあがれ (douzo meshiagare)

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Week 32- Support Your Local Fisherman!

As dedicated blog readers will know, I live facing the ever-changing waters of the English Channel.

My morning view

I only have to look out of my bedroom window to see the fisherman at high tide laying their crab and lobster pots- and it's only a short bike ride to the fish shop to buy their catch.

I always like to look for their special offers- like lemon sole for £1 each (which will feature on another post soon)- and yesterday's bargain which was 10 freshly caught plaice for £2.50!

We had two for supper last night- and I made two into dishes for the freezer. The rest I cleaned and trimmed and froze whole in layers to make more meals as the autumn goes on.

So, today's menu is all about fish: a simple Fisherman's Salad to start, an even simpler tray baked plaice with crushed new potatoes, and a coconut rice pudding to finish (well, a fishy pud might not be that nice.) I did use local blackberries to make the coulis though.

For the salad, dress some mixed leaves with a lemon vinaigrette ( 2 parts olive oil, 1/2 tablespoon white wine vinegar, juice of half a lemon, a teaspoon of mustard, lots of salt and pepper and 1/2 tsp sugar all shaken up in a screw top jar). Add an assortment of flaked cooked fish- smoked salmon strips, cooked peeled prawns or crayfish tails, fresh anchovies, flaked cooked salmon or tuna- just little tastes of whatever you can spare. Simple as that.

Fisherman's Salad

For the main course, I am grateful to Hugh F-W for this recipe. Bring a pan of new potatoes up to the boil with some mint leaves, then drain, put back in the pan, dot with butter, salt and pepper and a handful each of chopped spring onions and chives. Put on a lid and leave to steam for a few minutes whilst you prepare the fish. Ask your fishmonger to trim the fish-  to cut off the head and sharp fins. You then just need to clean any blood from the top of the fish and pull away any innards that haven't come away with the heads. Only takes a few minutes under a running tap.

Now crush the new potatoes roughly with a masher or a fork and mix in the spring onions etc
Crushed new potato 'bed'

Lay in a baking dish with some cherry tomatoes, place your plaice on top, drizzle with olive oil, sea salt and the juice of half a lemon (zest as well if you want). Dot with some more butter, cover with foil and bake in a moderate 170 degree oven until the cherry tomatoes wilt down and the skin of the fish begins to blister but not crisp too much (about 15-20 minutes.) Simples.
Place your plaice on top

This is wholesome eating- I'm sure you could make it look pretty but I didn't try!
Tray baked plaice with crushed new potatoes

For dessert, I was using up some leftover coconut milk ( from a curried courgette soup I had earlier in the week, which in turn was using up some leftover courgette flesh from my cauliflower cheese stuffed courgettes!) I dare say those recipes will feature at an appropriate moment on the blog.

Place a cupful of rice in a saucepan (arborio is good, but so is plain old long grain), add a good 1/2 cupful of sugar, two teaspoons of vanilla essence, the coconut milk (I had 2/3 of a can left rinsed out with a little milk or water if you want to stay dairy-free) and 1 tsp of mixed spice. Bring to the boil and then turn down the heat to a bare simmer until the rice begins to show holes in its surface.  with a little icing sugar for sweetness.
Rice ready to rest
At this point, test the rice- if it isn't tender, add a tiny bit more liquid and allow to cook a little longer. If it is tender, you can do one of two things: you can spoon it into ramekins, top with grated nutmeg and place in the oven for a little while to develop a 'skin'. If you don't like a skin, just flavour it with whatever you like: nutmeg, apple, cinnamon, rum and raisins or fruit puree. I used stewed hedgerow blackberries
Coconut rice pudding with blackberries

I have deliberately made more rice pudding than I need as I have a cunning recipe for the leftovers which will feature next week. 

As for the other leftovers from today's meal: the leftover smoked salmon (can you believe there was such a thing?) went into a salad with the leftover new potatoes and a horseradish cream dip (creme fraiche and horseradish sauce mixed- scrumptious with salmon!)

Smoked salmon with horseradish and potato salad

And there's a freezer full of fish to think about too!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Week 31- Warming Things Up

What a difference a week makes. Last week I was basking on a sun lounger, seeking shade in restaurants and going to evening barbecues.

This week, a 10 degree drop in temperature, jumpers and jackets coming out of the bottom drawer- and rain!

Time to warm things up- figuratively speaking (as today's recipes all contain spices) and literally - as they are all made out of  re-styled leftovers!

Firstly I have made vegetable samosas, followed by a chicken and vegetable biriyani (two ways) and a ginger tiramisu for pudding.

Leftovers to be used up- cooked veg, chicken pieces, vegetable curry and rice from the freezer, ginger biscuits and apricot jam.

Samosas are a genius way of making about two tablespoons of leftover cooked veg (from Sunday lunch perhaps) feed 6 people as a starter. The only tricky bit is folding the samosa- and once you've mastered that you can soon get a production line going. If you don't want to waste any food, you can always practice using a square paper towel or napkin.

First, make your filling: I had some leftover potato and courgette to use up so that was my base. I fried some mustard seeds, garlic paste, chili paste and ginger paste together in a pan in some oil until the mustard seeds began to pop. Then I added a chopped onion and fried it until soft, then some frozen peas. I worked in a heaped tablespoon of curry powder and then added the potatoes and courgettes (cubed). A little splash of water to moisten and then the filling is ready. Leave it to cool a little before rolling into the samosas.
Cook your filling

For the pastry, I used spring roll wrappers (from the Chinese supermarket) but you can use filo pastry. (In both cases, keep the pack under a damp teatowel whilst you work.)

1. First, fold the edges in to the middle so you have an oblong, three layers thick.
2. Then place a heaped teaspoon of filling into one corner and fold over to cover like a little fat triangle.
Lay filling in one corner

Fold over one corner 
3. Brush the pastry with water as you go to help it to stick
4. Then fold the triangle back upwards, then downwards, then up again until the strip is used up.
5. Seal up, and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet
6. Brush with oil and bake in a moderate oven -180 degrees- until lightly browned. (Much nicer and healthier than fried!)
7. Serve with mango chutney to dip

Fold triangle again upwards

And down again until you reach the end of the strip

3. Brush the pastry with water as you go to help it to stick
4. Then fold the triangle back upwards, then downwards, then up again until the strip is used up.
5. Seal up, and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet
6. Brush with oil and bake in a moderate oven -180 degrees- until lightly browned. (Much nicer and healthier than fried!)
7. Serve with mango chutney to dip
Seal up by brushing with water
 Samosas ready for the oven
Vegetable samosas with mango chutney

I made the biriyani from some leftover vegetable curry and rice - and some marinaded chicken pieces. You can buy either these ready cooked and 'tikka' marinaded or do-it-yourself with some chicken breast marinaded in a tikka paste and then fried in the frying pan.

If you do it that way, lift the chicken out but fry some onion, garlic and ginger paste in the tikka spices in the pan, then add your cooked rice. Stir through quickly and add your vegetable curry and work it in, then add the chicken pieces.

When piping hot (because it is reheated after all), serve in bowls with a yoghurt and mint dip flavoured with a teaspoon of turmeric and some sambals of chopped tomato, cucumber and grated coconut, if you have it.
Chicken and vegetable biriyani

I also took some of the biriyani from the pan and spooned it into a blanched pepper which is then cooked in the oven (along with the samosas). It made a lovely lunch with salad. 

Biriyani stuffed pepper
If you don't have leftover curry in the freezer (and why not?)- I have a recipe for one here:

Use whatever vegetables you like in this veggie curry- I always like sweet potato, and something green like broccoli, beans or peas- but you can use anything, any combination of fresh, frozen, leftover, cooked or tinned. They all work well- even baked beans added in go well. First, fry some chopped onion until soft, add your prepared veg and a good tablespoon or two of curry paste.( I don't have a good enough palate to blend my own spices for indian curry so prefer to use a spice paste.) I use korma - and then mix in coconut milk and stock to make the curry- or rogan (as here) with extra chopped tomatoes and stock.
I put it all in a slow cooker (or casserole) for a good few hours until the veg are soft and the flavours have developed.
Sweet potato curry

Finally- pudding!

This is simple and delicious- and uses up half a jar of jam and biscuits which are threatening to go stale in the biscuit barrel.

Lay a layer of ginger biscuits in the bottom of a dish, moisten with some rum or fruit juice, spread with jam (I used apricot but lemon curd would be good too) and then spread on a layer of whipped cream. Continue to build layers like this and then sprinkle the top with a crushed ginger biscuit.

Chill well in the fridge before serving.

Ginger 'tiramisu'

So, a touch of colour and warmth to brighten up a wet week- a bit like this photo I took of the rain and mist rolling in over the Sussex Downs:

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Week 30- Last of the Summer Sun

September is a glorious month- the sun still has plenty of warmth in it, but there's an anticipatory feel of a new season round the corner.

It's also one of the best months for produce- summer fruit and veg is still in abundance: melons, courgettes, peppers, soft fruit and tomatoes to name a few. And autumn favourites are also now starting to appear: blackberries, apples and pears, marrows and sweetcorn.

You can take your pick of fresh fish too:

It's a great time to be shopping and cooking.

So, today's menu celebrates all of this bounty- stuffed summer veg for starter, hake with mijot of vegetables and iles tropiques for dessert (floating islands but in a tropical sea!)

Stuffed veg are a great way to use up leftovers (rice, curry, pasta, paella...all go well inside a pepper or an aubergine) but are also lovely as a dish in their own right. 
I used (for 4 people) 2 onions, 1 large courgette, 1 aubergine, 2 tomatoes and 2 peppers.
Peel the onions and place in a steamer, over a pan of simmering water. Steam for about 15 minutes.
Whilst they steam, halve the aubergine and courgette lengthways, and then cut each half into two.
Add those to the steamer for 10 minutes.
Then halve and de-seed the peppers and add them to the steamer for the remaining 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut a lid from the tomatoes and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. (Squeeze the juice into a pan and then discard the seeds.)
Veg in the steamer

Once steamed, remove the veg. Cut the bottoms and tops from the onions and gently press out the inners (so you are left with just a hollow onion tube), chop the inners and put in the pan with the tomato juice. Use your teaspoon to hollow out a groove in the courgettes and aubergines too and chop their flesh to add to the pan.
Hollowed out veg
Fry the mixture with some garlic and some chopped bacon (not essential if you prefer a vegetarian version). Add 2 cups of soft breadcrumbs (I used polenta crumbs from leftover cornbread - I keep all sorts of odds and ends of breadcrumbs in the freezer!) and fry until soft.
Fry the chopped 'flesh'

Stuff back into the vegetable cases, sprinkle with grated cheese and bake in a moderate (170 degree) oven for about 15-20 minutes until browned.
Stuffed veg ready for the oven

Serve warm with a green salad.
Stuffed Summer Vegetables

No apologies for using similar vegetables for the mijot (stew to you and me!) which accompany the fish.

In a saucepan, gently stew 1 diced aubergine, 1 sliced onion, 1 chopped clove of garlic and 1 tomato (peeled, deseeded and quartered) in a tablespoon of olive oil. As it becomes tender (about 10 minutes), add a glass of white wine and simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed.
Meanwhile, fry your fish: place firm white fillets of fish (hake, bass, cod, pollock or halibut) in a cold frying pan, skin side down. Add some olive oil and heat up quickly. As soon as the skin becomes crispy and you can lift it out of the oil without it sticking to the pan, flip it over with a palette knife and cook for a minute or two more on the other side.
Hake with stewed summer vegetables.

Serve on a bed of the stewed vegetables. Nice with some boiled potatoes (add a pinch of saffron to turn them golden if you want, as here)
And with saffron potatoes

Dessert is a crafty way to use of leftover fresh soft fruit- as versatile as using fruit up in a crumble but a little bit fancier.

We had fresh melon as a starter earlier in the week (so half of one left) and various fruit in the fruit bowl looking a bit 'now or never'.

I decided to puree it all into a 'fruit soup' and use it a base for floating islands (poached meringues with caramel sauce). 
This is simplicity itself (as I cheat and buy my poached meringue and sauce from the supermarket when in France! They freeze well and you can use spoonfuls of it as and when you need it.) Incidentally, the fruit soup freezes well too and can be defrosted and used as a standby pud.

If you want to make your own meringues ( and they are great for using up leftover egg white - which also keeps well in the freezer, for those of us who waste nothing!)- here is a link to a video of how to do it. Or you can follow Raymond Blanc's recipe here: 

I usually recommend this when people ask me for the recipe. (With my tongue firmly planted in my cheek).

Good luck!

Meanwhile, here is my tropical floating island:

Tropical floating islands

And so, the summer sun goes down on another batch of recipes. I hope you enjoyed them.

Sunset over Sussex