Sunday, 27 September 2009

Scallops with Asparagus and a Bean Mash

Mostly I'm a meat girl. I eat sushi and sashimi here of course, it's Japan after all, but when it comes to home cooking I'm much more comfortable cooking meat than I am fish or seafood. However, I'm trying to branch out a little and vary my diet, and practice is the only way to make me better at cooking these things, so I found this recipe and thought I'd give it a go. My scallops didn't turn out perfectly, I should have cooked them at a higher heat for a shorter time to get a nice crust on them, but it's all a learning curve.

This recipe originally came from here, and had a cauliflower puree instead of the beans. I wanted something a little more substantial though so I switched things up a little, any white bean would work for it, I used soybeans because they're the only canned beans I have and I didn't want to wait until tomorrow for my dried ones.

Ingredients serves 2

1 lb jumbo sea scallops (about 10)
1 small head cauliflower
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch asparagus*
2-4 tbs snipped fresh chives
1/2 c Greek yogurt
1/2 tbs butter
Olive oil spray (or you can brush/drizzle)
Salt and pepper to taste
Seasoning salt

*bunches here only ave 4-5 stalks, so you may one one per person


The big one was my bean mash: replace the cauliflower with a can of white beans/soybeans, then put the beans into a bowl with the cloves of garlic (crushed/grated). Mix the two until well combined and put in the microwave until heated through. Add to a food processor with the yogurt to mix, or mash together with a fork/masher if you don't have a mixer.

Instead of yogurt, I used sour cream and a little milk to get the consistency I wanted in the mash because I happened to have them in the fridge and didn't want to go out and buy anything.

I used a saute pan to cook my asparagus because my grill is awful.

My scallops were smaller instead of jumbos.

I didn't have any chives so I skipped them.


If using cauliflower:
Bring a large stockpot of water to boil. Add chopped cauliflower and whole cloves garlic. Simmer until cauliflower is fork-tender. Drain and remove from heat, mash with a fork until cauliflower and garlic are completely pureed. Add chives and Greek yogurt, stir to incorporate.

If using beans: follow the instructions in the 'substitutions' section.

Meanwhile, heat a grill pan over medium heat. Spray or drizzle asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill until just done and still crisp.

While the veg is cooking, in a saute pan heat butter until foam subsides. Season scallops on both sides with seasoning salt. Place scallops in pan and do not move until they can be moved freely (not sticking at all). Turn over and remove from heat. The heat of the pan will continue to cook until perfect.

To serve, mound cauliflower puree/beans in the center of the plate. Top with asparagus spears, then scallops. Garnish with chives and serve immediately.
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Saturday, 26 September 2009

Baked Chicken Stuffed with Pesto, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, and Cheese

I've gained a bit of weight recently (heh, too much baking, those Cheesecake Brownies get me every time). Wanting to continue fitting into my clothes, finding foreigner-sized clothing can be difficult here, I've started up on the South Beach Diet again. I don't want to get too boring, but it means for the next couple of weeks I'm on low-carb, then I'll start adding in whole grains again. Don't worry though, feel free to serve any of the recipes I post with mashed potatoes, pasta, or whatever other carb-filled goodness might catch your fancy. Don't be scared dear reader; it's only for a couple of weeks.

With that out the way, let's move on to this delicious looking recipe I found on Kalyn's Kitchen. Usually I post the original recipe as written and then list my substitutions, but I ended up making a lot of changes so I've linked the original recipe above and will list the final one I used.


1 chicken breast
1-2 sun-dried tomatoes
2-3 tsp pesto
28g (1oz) soft cheese
28g (1oz) grated cheese


1) Chop your sun dried tomatoes finely. The only sun-dried tomatoes I can fin are packed dry, but if yours are packed in oil then blot any major excess off.

2) Mix the chopped pieces into the pesto, leave while you prepare the chicken.

3) Place your chicken breast between two piece of saran wrap, smooth side up, and pound it until it's of even thickness (about 1/4 inch thick). If you don;t have a meat hammer to pound it with then don;t worry, you can use any heavy object (e.g a heavy bottomed pan, a heavy jar base etc). I ended up being a bit clumsy here because I'd forgotten that I'd thrown away the heavy jar I usually use for this kind of thing. This led to me experimenting with a few different things, not all of which were successful. I ended up with a tear in my chicken where I'd it a little too hard in one spot, try to avoid that if you can.

4) Remove the saran wrap, and flip your chicken to the other (not smooth) side. Take your pesto and smooth it evenly over the surface, then add a layer of soft and hard cheese. The original recipe called for goats cheese, which I couldn't find and don't really like, so I used a mix of soft cheese (I got 'Fromage Roux', but Camembert is readily available here and would work instead), and some of the grated cheese I had in the fridge.

If you decide to go with goats cheese, a good way to combine the ingredients is to whiz the pesto, cheese, and tomatoes in a mini food processor and just spread it all on. I don't have a mini chopper so I went for layering the ingredients.

5) Starting from the thin (pointed) end of the chicken, roll the breast up like a Swiss roll. Secure the roll with toothpicks to ensure it doesn't come undone while cooking.

As I said before I had some problems during the hammering section of this, so mine doesn't look as pretty as it could.

Put in the oven to cook, times will change depending on the final size and thickness of your chicken breast, but mine took about 35 minutes. This is optional, but you can also sprinkle a little cheese on top before putting it in the oven.

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Monday, 21 September 2009

Beef Fajitas with Pico de Gallo Relish

Mexican food is harder to come by in Japan for some reason. Italian foods (or an approximation of it) are widespread, as are Indian and other Asian cuisine, but for some reason Mexican just isn't as common.

In an attempt to satisfy the craving I dug this recipe out. In the book it calls for store bough tortilla wraps, but with the closest supply being an hour or so train ride away I made my own using this recipe. The beef has to marinate overnight, so keep that in mind when planning this meal.

Ingredients serves 4

500g (1lb) beef steak (calls for rump, but whatever you have)
8 tortill wraps
chopped coriander to garnish
1 avocado, stones, peeled, and diced
sour cream

Juice of 1 orange and 1 lime,
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander,
a few drops Tabasco sauce
salt and black pepper

Pico de Gallo Relish
6 tomatoes, diced
10 radishes, coarsely chopped
5 spring onions, thinly sliced
1-2 green chilies, halved, seeded, and chopped
4 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
juice of 1/2 a lime


I used dried coriander instead of fresh. The ratio is 3:1, so 3 tbsp fresh coriander = 1 tbsp dried.

I forgot to grab chilies at the store (duh!) so I put a bit of chili powder in with the relish.

I sliced my beef before putting it in the marinade, and then cooked it in a hot pan rather than under the grill. If you saw my grill you'd understand.


1) Make the marinade: In a large, non-metallic (metal will react with the acid in the juices) bowl, combine the orange and lime juice, garlic, coriander, and Tabasco, and season with pepper and salt.

2) Turn the steak in the marinade, cover, and leave to marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

3) Make the pico de gallo relish: on a bowl combine the tomatoes, radishes, spring onions, chilies, coriander, lime juice, ad salt to taste. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

4) Remove the steak from the marinade and pat dry. Put the steak under a hot grill, 7-10cm (3-4in) from the heat, and grill for 3 min on each side for rare steak, 4 minutes for medium, or 5-6 minutes for well done. Cover with foil and leave to stand for 5 minutes.

5) Meanwhile, warm your tortillas (sprinkle each tortilla with a little water, and stack them in a pile. Wrap them in foil and warm them in a preheated oven at 140C (275F) for 10 minutes). Or if making them using the recipe linked above, get a dry pan and cook them (details in the link).

6)Slice the steak, arrange on serving plates, and sprinkle with coriander. Serve with tortillas, relish, diced avocado, and soured cream

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Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Lemon Vinaigrette Roasted Chicken with Gorgonzola Mashed Potato

The weather was cool enough when I woke up this morning that I could wear sleeves that go past my elbows, meaning I am officially justified in roasting, simmering, slow-cooking, stewing, and otherwise spending hours in the kitchen: hurrah!

Ingredients (Serves 6)

For the chicken:
2 unwaxed lemons
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, halved
6 boneless chicken breasts with skin
A handful of fresh thyme sprigs
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp sherry or cider vinegar
4 tbsp honey
85ml (2/3 cup) olive oil
salt and pepper

For the mash:
1.3kg (3lbs) baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 8 pieces
3 fresh rosemary sprigs (optional)
250ml (1 cup) milk, warmed
5 tbsp unsalted butter
115g (4oz) Gorgonzola cheese, cubed
sea salt


I found apple vinegar, and figured cider is made from apples so went with it.

I used dried herbs instead of fresh, just eyeball how much you'd like.

Next time I might use a tiny bit less milk for the potatoes, or rather I'd add the milk bit by bit instead of dumping it all in at once.

I used a little less cheese then the recipe stated because I find it a little strong, but just a hint of the flavour was really good.


1) Preheat oven to 220C/425F

2) Grate the zest and squeeze the juice from 1 lemon and set aside. Thinly slice the remaining lemon. Scatter the lemon slices, onions, and garlic over the base of a roasting pan just large enough to hold the chicken breast comfortably in a single layer.

3) Place the chicken breasts on top of the lemon slices. Season well with salt and pepper and sprinkle with thyme.

4) Whisk together the reserved grated lemon zest and juice, vinegars, honey, and olive oil in a bowl.

5) Pour the vinaigrette over the chicken and cook in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

6) Meanwhile, make the Gorgonzola mash. Rinse the potatoes and cook them in a large pan of boiling salted water with the rosemary sprigs (if using) for 12-15 minutes, or until they start to break up. Drain and mash, the put the potatoes back in the pan. Beat in the warm milk and butter and season well. Stir through until smooth, and gently fold in the Gorgonzola just before you serve so the cheese is just beginning to melt.

7) Remove the chicken from the oven and then from the tin, set it aside in a warm place. Place the pan over a medium heat and bubble the juices until syrupy.

OK, here is where I made some changes.

At this point you're supposed to pour the reduced sauce oven the plated potatoes and chicken and serve, but after reducing it down there was a lot of oil and it didn't look that good. The oil separated to the top though, so pour the oil away and then add some water to the pan. Take the pan back to the stove and use a spoon to get all the blackened goodness from the base of the pan, then add a stock cube, and mix it in. Let the sauce reduce down again to the consistency you prefer. This ended up so much better than the book version.

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Sunday, 13 September 2009

Tarte au Citron

I put together this lemon tart I came across in Mary Berry's Kitchen Favourites for a friend that was coming for lunch. Just a quick word of warning though, this recipe makes tonnes of filling. I had a smaller tart base so I expected to have leftovers, but I could have halved - possibly even quartered! - the filling recipe and been fine. I ended up freezing what was left into a really nice ice-cream. I think that even if I had made a 28cm base the way the recipe said I still would have extra.

Ingredients (serves 10-12)

For the pastry:
250g (8oz) plain flour
125g (4oz) chilled butter, cut into cubes
60g (2oz) caster sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp water
28cm (11in) 4cm (1½in) deep loose-bottomed fluted flan tin
baking beans

For the filling:
9 eggs
300ml (½pint) double cream
grated zest and juice of 5 large lemons
375g (12oz) caster sugar
icing sugar for dusting
lemon twists to decorate


The lemons I had were a little small so I used 6 instead of 5.

I used granulated sugar instead of caster sugar


1) Make the pastry: put the flour into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Alternatively you can put it food processor and pulse until it reaches the right consistency.

2) Stir in the caster sugar, then bind together with the egg and water to make a soft, pliable dough. I didn't need all the water, so use your own judgment. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.

3) Put the oven on to preheat at 200C/400F.

4) Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface and use to line the flan tin. Cover in foil and weight with baking beans (dry beans or dry rice work just as well), then bake blind for ten minutes. Leave some extra pastry around the edges because the shell will shrink a little as it cooks, you can trim it later.

5) Remove the baking beans and foil, and bake the pastry shell for 5 minutes or until the base has dried out. Remove from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 180C/350F.

6) Beat the eggs in a bowl and add the cream, lemon zest and juice, and caster sugar. Stir until smooth, and pour into the pastry shell.

7) Bake for 35-40 minutes until the lemon filling has set. Cover the tart loosely with foil if it gets too brown on the edges.

8) Leave the tart to cool a little, then dust with icing sugar. Decorate with lemon twists, and serve warm or at room temperature.

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Monday, 7 September 2009

Not Quite Falafel with Homemade Pita

I had an almost disaster when I realised (after I'd had them soaking over night and was excited about trying the recipe) that I'd actually bought dried soybeans instead of the dried chickpeas I thought I'd purchased. JAPANESE LANGUAGE FAIL. I nipped back to the shop to see if I could find the right kind of beans, but I couldn't. Not wanting to waste food I decided I'd just go ahead with the soy, I mean for this purpose beans are beans right? I certainly hoped so. The recipe actually calls for canned beans but I couldn't get them so I had to go the slow way. Revel in the convenience of your canned beans Westerners!

Ingredients serves 4

400g/15oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1 small red onion, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
Handful of flat leaf or curly parsley
1 tsp each ground cumin and coriander
1/2 tsp harissa paste or chili powder
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tbsp sunflower oil
toasted pita, salsa, salad to serve (optional)


The aforementioned language issue means my version was made from soybeans instead of chickpeas. Given that it was a success I'm going to say choose whatever beans make you happy.

When it said coriander I wasn't sure if it meant ground coriander or coriander leaf, so I added both.

I used canola oil instead of sunflower.

If you don't have a food processor then cut you ingredients a little finer, then mash and mix together until it's well combined and a consistency you like.


1) Pat chickpeas dry with kitchen paper. Tip into food processor along with the onion, garlic, parsley, spices, flour, and a little salt. Blend until fairly smooth.

This was the consistency mine ended up, it may change depending on what kind of beans you use, but once cooked the burger patties were fried the bean texture was quite soft under the crust, so I'd err more towards coarse than smooth if you're not sure. As long as it keeps shape you're fine.

2)Shape into 4 patties with your hands. I had small pita bread so I made smaller patties. I made 4 and only used half the mixture, so size is up to you. If you're having trouble keeping your patties together you can either try adding a little more flour, or (if you have time) chilling the mixture to help it bond.

3) Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan, add the burgers, the quickly fry for 3 minutes on each side until lightly golden brown (I overdid mine a little so they're darker)

Serve in a toasted pita with salsa and a green salad, or any other way you'd like.

With the exception of the oil you use to fry them, these are really healthy. If you'd like to cut down on the fat, you could try baking them in the oven (flip over half way through) until both sides are nicely browned.
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Saturday, 5 September 2009

Pasta with Prosciutto and Peas

This recipe from my Great Food Fast book is simple, tasty, and quick. I didn't actually take any pictures of the process because I didn't think I would post it here, and with there not being many steps I didn't bother grabbing my camera until I saw how pretty it looked in the bowl. Once I'd tried it though, I changed my mind.

Ingredients serves 4

340g/12oz fettuccine
1 tbsp butter
1 large shallot, finely chopped
65ml/¼ cup heavy cream
1 package (280g/10oz) frozen peas
8 slices prosciutto (about 115g/4oz), halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
50g/½ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated, plus more for serving (optional)


As I've mentioned before, my pasta choices are limited, so I used spaghetti for this instead of fettuccine. I think any 'strand' pasta would work.

I used a mix of finely chopped onion and garlic instead of a shallot.

I can't buy frozen peas at my store, so I settled for canned. If I were in the UK I wouldn't do this because tinned peas are really soft and wouldn't hold up to mixing very well. The tinned peas in Japan seem to be a little more robust so it worked, but I would recommend using frozen if at all possible.

I couldn't get fresh Parmesan so I bought ready grated. I also threw in a big pinch of shredded mixed cheese to the sauce, but that is personal preference.

If you wanted to switch the Prosciutto with bacon or a smokey ham I think it would work really well.


1) Cook the pasta according to packet instructions, until al dente. Reserve 1 cup (250ml) of the pasta water, drain the pasta, and return the pasta to the saucepan/

2) Meanwhile, make the sauce: In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat; add the shallot and cook until softened (about 5 mins). Add the cream, peas, and prosciutto; bring to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Simmer until the peas are heated through (3-4 minutes).

3) Stir in the lemon zest and juice. Pour the sauce over the pasta; add the Parmesan, and season generously with salt and pepper. Add enough of the reserved pasta water to thin the sauce as desired. Serve immediately; top with additional Parmesan if desired.

Note: I was really tempted to leave out the lemon because I would convinced everything would curdle and it would be gross: not so! The lemon gives a subtle lift to the dish, making it lighter and the flavours brighter.
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Friday, 4 September 2009

Beef with Mushrooms and Red Onion

I actually made this a little while back, but never got around to posting it up. The beef in this dish gets fork-tender, and (though I ate it in mid-summer) is the perfect dish to leave simmer on the stove as the cooler weather comes in.

Ingredients serves 6-8

1.5kg/3lb 5oz beef braising steak, thickly sliced
3 red onions, thinly sliced
600ml/1 pint boiling water
15g/½oz dried porcini mushrooms
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp plain flour
425ml/¾ pint port or red wine
250g/9oz chestnut mushrooms, whole, or halved if large
handful chopped parsley, to serve


This recipe tells you to preheat the oven, but I actually did all this in a heavy bottomed pan on the stove. You can put it in the oven like a casserole if you want, but I didn't need to. It was perfectly happy with a slow simmer on my cooker top.

This simmers long enough that you don't have to worry too much exactly what type of beef you buy, but a bit of marbling for flavour tends to be good.

I bought some mushrooms, but have o idea what type they were because I couldn't read the kanji. They were quite large so I quartered them.

I skipped the parsley, personal choice. A scattering of green brightens up the dish to the eye, but it's up to you.


1) Preheat oven to 160C/320F for fan assisted, 140C/285F/Gas mark 3 for not. Pat beef dry with kitchen paper and season both sides. Pour the boiling water over the dried mushrooms. Soak for 30 minutes, then strain, keeping the juices for later.

2) Heat half the oil in the casserole dish/pan, then add the meat in batches and fry on both sides, until browned.

3) Remove meat from the pan, pour in the remaining oil, fry the onions for 10 minutes until softened.

4) Return the meat to the pan, spinkle with flour and cook for 1 minute

5) Add the port/wine, mushroom liquid and soaked mushrooms. Bring to the boil, season, then cover and cook for 1½-2 hours until tender. Check after 1 hour, if the sauce looks like it's getting too thick, add a splash of boiling water.

If you're doing this on the stove like I did, then bring to the boil, season, cover, turn heat down to medium (so it's not quite so vigorous) the check every half hour to give it a stir to make sure the onions don;t stick to the bottom because of the direct heat.

6) After meat is tender, taste ad season, then add the chestnut mushrooms and cook for a further 10 minutes. Serve sprinkled with parsley (or not). I served mine with some broccoli and sliced carrots that I tossed in olive oil, seasoned, and roasted in the oven for about 20-25 minutes
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