February 8, 2009

Filed under: Far East, Japanese, Reared red meat, Malay/Indonesian — ros @ 4:39 pm

Well, maybe not, but this is as close as I’m likely to get.

So here we have some beef fillet steak, seared until just cooked on the outside as an attempt at beef sashimi, a hot peanut dipping sauce, tangy mango and papaya salad with lots of lime and a soothing contrast of coconut rice.

beef sashimi, coconut rice, peanut sauce mango and papaya salad

Many of the best meals I have made have come from absolute necessity. The realisation that you have a couple of pounds left in your bank account and only a few storecupboard staples can work wonders for your cooking inspiration. It was a similar mindset I had when creating the meal above.

No, I’m not for a second pretending that anything in the meal pictured above is a budget item but, at the end of a particularly long and tiring week, they were almost all sitting in my fridge and the fillet steak in particular needed to be used fast.

So how did I come to have some ’spare’ fillet steak sitting in my fridge. Exhaustion, that’s how.

Parents’ evenings are always tiring. The parents’ evening of the upper sixth year is the last one before the kids sit their A2 exams that determine which university, if any, they can attend. When you teach BOTH bottom sets in a subject like mathematics, you know you’re in for a long evening that will involve dealing with some emotionally fruaght parents.

In a school like mine, you can be sure that not even the bottom set kids are going to fail their A2 maths. However they are mostly B and C grade candidates trying to get into some very good universities to read subjects like medicine and engineering. They REALLY need As  and Bs. Their parents by this point are getting more than a little anxious about their child’s future and in particular their apparently incurable inability to do any work. 

I actually had one parent, scratching his head and looking perplexed saying, “Well he’s never done any work. He’s not going to start now but he needs an A in maths. So how do we make sure he gets it?

Ummm…… tricky one…… getting me to dress like a boy and sit his exam might work but unfortunately that’s called fraud.

Anyway, after three and a half hours of trying to console around 20 pairs of very worried parents,  I left, just caught Sainsbury before it shut and grabbed some fillet steak. Then I got home and passed out on my sofa before I even thought about what I was going to do with it.

A few days later, the steak needed to be used. Fortunately I had a little more time on my hands so I made up a dish inspired by a salad I’d had at my favourite local Thai restaurant which conveniently used up some of the exotic fruit my parents sporadically give me.

 Beef ‘Sashimi’ with Mango and Papaya Salad, Coconut Rice and Peanut Dipping Sauce

Quantities for One Person

For the Beef

  • 150-200g filet steak in one piece
  • A little vegetable oil or groundnut oil
  • Salt and pepper

Rub the steak with the oil so it is is just coated. Season with salt and pepper and sear over a high heat for 45s per side or until it is just cooked on the outside. Wrap in foil and leave to rest.

For the Rice

  • 2 handfuls of basmati rice
  • half a can of coconut milk (keep the rest handy in case you need some extra
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Rinse the rice thoroughly in cold water. Bring the coconut milk to a boil, stir through the rice  with a teaspoon of salt and bring back to a gentle bubble. Stir frequently until the rice is cooked (about 8 minutes) - test a grain to see if it is cooked. Drain off any excess coconut milk and add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

For the Peanut Sauce

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted peanut butter
  • 1 chopped red chilli, deseeded
  • a quarter can of coconut milk
  • half a tablespoon chopped coriander leaf
  • fish sauce- just a little

Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and heat through for a few minutes until the peanut butter thickens the sauce. Taste and season.

For the Salad

  • half a ripe mango, peeled and thinly sliced
  • half an under-ripe (green) papaya, peeled, deseeded and thinly sliced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • a few drops of fish sauce
  • half a teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 small clove garlic, pasted
  • 1 small green chilli, deeeded and finely chopped
  • finely diced red onion- mi just used a heaped tablespoonful and kept the rest to use another time.
  • a tablespoon of coriander leaves

Mix the fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, chilli and garlic paste. Toss this through the rest of the ingredients. 

Slice the beef fillet thinly and serve with the accompaniments.

January 5, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized, Cuisine, Far East, Japanese, Light, Oily fish — ros @ 2:38 pm

Regrettably, I’ve never been to Japan. I hope to one day. It sounds like an amazing place and the little bits I hear about the culture fascinate me.

Of course, the cuisine captivated my attention as soon as I heard about it. Raw fish! How many other cultures will serve this up? Ok, there’s the cured salmon we have in Europe and things such as ceviche in Mexico, but not such a range as you’ll find in Japanese cuisine.

Having said that, I remember being unimpressed the first time I was introduced to sushi. Those little rice rolls from M&S in the mid nineties did nothing for me. But then, sometime during my student years, I was at a certian popular conveyor belt restaurant and discovered sashimi. My fellow mathmos raised their eyebrows slightly as I devoured several plates of raw salmon and tuna and then they indiscreetly pointed ot that I was now responsible for most of the bill.

Within the last week or two I visited a nice Japanese retaurant in Westminister, heard a friend wax lyrical about his amazing new life in Tokyo ad was told about a nice restaurant in Barcelona that I must visit if I ever got around to going there. I take this all to be a sign that I should learn more about Japanese food. So my starting point was to buy some Japanese ingredients I hadn’t used before.

In the dish below, which is an amalgamation of various ideas I found online, we have my new purchases of mirin and soba green tea noodles. I used these and some wasabi powder and pickled ginger to create something which is probably not much like a real Japanese meal but at least is a step in the right direction. I’m not confident enough in my knife skills to atempt tuna sashimi yet. I go for the next best thing- tuna just seared so it’s practically raw but the very outside is cooked.

Tuna ‘almost sashimi’ with Soba Noodles, Mirin dressing and Raw Vegetables with Wasabi Dip

tuna and soba noodles

  • 350-400g fresh tuna steak in one piece. I find that it is best to let it come to room temperature before searing it.
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds( I think black would look good but I couldn’t get any) plus a bit extra to garnish
  • Sesame oil (2 tbsp should do)
  • salt and pepper to season the steaks
  • about 175g soba noodles
  • half a cucumber, finely diced
  • 4 small spring onions, sliced thinly on the diagonal
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped coriander

For the dressing

  • 4 tbsp mirin
  • 2 tbsp light soy
  • 2 tsp ginger, finely grated/crushed
  • 1 heaped tsp brown sugar
  • a squeeze of lemon

Accompaniments

  • 8 baby carrots, sliced into thin strips
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced into thin strips
  • wasabi and pickled ginger to serve, plus perhaps extra soy
  1. Prepare the vegetables and coriander.
  2. Rub the tuna steaks all over lightly with sesame oil. Season and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Sear over a high heat until just cooked on all sides, Wrap in kitchen foil and leave to rest in a warm place.
  3. Make up the mirin dressing. Combine the dressing ingredients as listed above. Taste and adjust to your liking.
  4. Cook the soba noodles according to packet instructions, drain and refresh in cool water.
  5. Toss the noodles with the spring onion, cucumber and coriander, then toss the mixture in the dressing. Place a portion of the noodle mixture on each serving plate.
  6. Thinly slice the tuna steaks amd arrange over the noodles. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  7. Serve with the matchstick vegetables and the wasabi and ginger.

************

I did a bit of research on my two new ingredients.

Mirin is an ingredient I haven’t knowingly encoutered before, although no doubt it was one of those flavours in plates of sushi unidentifiable to me. True mirin apparantly is about as alcoholic as sherry, although versions with less than 1% alchohol are produced now which have the same flavour. The flavour is unique and very strong, but dominated by a heavy sweetness.

The word soba can refer to any noodle of medium thickness- i.e. not an udon noodle. Usually they’re eated cold with a dipping sauce or dressing  or hot in a broth. Mixing them with salad vegetables like this is a fairly modern idea. My soba noodles were flavoured with green tea but the flavour was barely discernible even before the dressing was added.

Also, Goon says the noodles don’t taste good raw. He should know, he ate a quarter of a pack. You probably guessed that yourselves without trying them.