Sorry, No Sushi tonight!

Last night for iftari we ate Japanese. Anyone who knows me knows that I love sushi, however in order for my family to eat the meal the remit was that it should be sushi free!!! Obviously being Ramadan we all want and probably need a hot meal at the end of a long day.

I’ve often wandered past Wasabi and looked longingly at the steam escaping their cooked dishes and thought they looked very tempting. Sadly, none being gluten free I’ve never had the pleasure in trying their delights. It was quite challenge trying to firstly find dishes that were hot as a) I didn’t know the names b) the Japanese seem quite secretive about this angle of their cuisine c) there was a lot of fish, and sadly everyone isn’t as pro-fish as I am d) there was tons of pork!

Some of the dishes had to be altered significantly just to create an appropriate taste balance after all when omitting sake (rice brew), mirin (rice wine) etc I feel it is important to put something back into the dish otherwise you aren’t left with much. The end result might not be authentically Japanese but I feel that it tastes good and left me feeling as if I had eaten Japanese.

Our menu consisted of:
Prawn and Vegetable Tempura
Tsukure (minced chicken balls)
Rice Shapes
Ingen No Goma-ae (green beans in sesame dressing)
Beef Teriyaki
Berry Uire cake

Prawn and Vegetable Tempura
Tempura, in the modern world sounds very Japanese and indeed it is. However, looks can be deceptive and this was a coloniser import. The Portugese may have brought Tempura to Japan, however the Japanese have added their own twist to things making the batter lighter and crispier than other battered food that I have ever tried. The trick with Tempura is not to over mix the mix, don’t leave it to stand and only make it as you need it.

Ingredients
1 cup of plain gluten free flour (I used Doves Farm Plain Flour)
1 egg
Very cold or iced water to mix
Oil for frying (I used rapeseed oil)
Thinly sliced vegetables
Whole raw prawns / bite sizes pieces of fish

Place the flour and egg in to a bowl, gradually mix in enough very cold water/iced water to create a thin batter (thick enough to hold on your finger). Mix using a knife or chopsticks, this is so that the batter is not over mixed. If you have occasional small flour lumps in the batter this is ok!

Dip the vegetables and seafood in the batter and deep fry in hot oil until the seafood is cooked and batter is crispy.

Tsukure (minced chicken balls)
1 small chicken breast
1 clove garlic
1 piece of lemon peel (zest only) the size of your thumb

Slice the garlic thinly, slice the lemon peel in to thin slithers, chop the chicken. Place all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until the chicken is mince. Form into golf ball sized balls. Each chicken breast should produce approximately 4 balls. Grill or deep fry until cooked all the way through.

Rice Shapes
For the rice shapes, I used a ‘toy’ that I bought in Malaysia. It is absolutely fantastic, you place the hot rice in to the moulds, push on the lid and then push out the shaped rice. If you do not have a similar gadget, I would suggest placing the hot rice into a dish with an edge about an inch deep. Pack the rice in and either score squares out and remove or cut out into shapes using a biscuit cutter. Ideally you don’t want to use shapes that are too big, a mouthful size is ideal.

1 cup of rice that has a high starch content eg sushi rice (I used a supermarket ‘basics range’ long grain rice that has a very high starch content). Leave the rice to soak for about an hour in water. Then rinse only once. It is very important that the starch stays in the rice as this is what will hold the shapes together. Cook the rice using a method where the rice soaks in the water, rather than one where you pour the water off. Once the rice has cooked either use a mould or pack into a tray and then shape the rice.

Ingen No Goma-Ae (Green Beans in Sesame Dressing)
For the dressing
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1 tablespoon tamari sauce (naturally gluten free)
2/3 tablespoons of water

1.Toast the sesame seeds without oil in a heavy based pan until they are golden. Then transfer to a pestle and mortar and break down until they resemble breadcrumbs.
2.Blanche the green beans, and then spread the sesame seeds over them.
3.Mix the caster sugar, tamari sauce and water together then pour over the green beans.

Beef Teriyaki
Alhumdulilah we are very lucky that our butcher actually does know his cuts of beef. Most halal butches in London tend to have a slab of beef wrapped in plastic in a corner from which they cut slices upon request. If I ever asked what part of the animal the meat came from they would normally respond with a grunt. If you ask if it is suitable for steak they say yes, if you ask if it for stewing they say yes! How can it be both? If your butcher is like the aforementioned I suggest taking in an illustration of where the sirloin can be found.

Thin Serloin steak slices
Tamari sauce
1 clove garlic sliced
1 inch ginger sliced
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
5 Victoria plums (if you use other plums make sure they are small)
1 onion
1 red chilli

1.Boil the Victoria plums in enough water to cover the plums until they are cooked all the way through and their skins have come off. If the skins do not come off, remove them.
2. Place the sirloin steaks in to a container big enough to hold them.
3. Cover the steaks with enough tamari sauce so that they are covered in the sauce
4. Place the sliced ginger, slice garlic, rice vinegar, sugar and boiled plums into the container along with their juice.
5. Leave to marinate for approximately 3 hours
6. On a hot griddle pan, cook the steaks. Place them straight on to the pan and do not move until you are ready to change sides.
7. While the beef in cooking, put one thickly sliced onion in to a saucepan and place the marinade on top. Cook at a high heat for approximately 10 minutes to cook off any impurities that may have been in the meat. While you are doing this the mush the plums so that they come away from the stone and remove it.
8. Serve the beef teriyaki with the sauce on top of the meat and place the sliced chilli on top.

Berry Uire cake

To call Uire (pronounce ooo-ree) isn’t exactly truthful. Traditionally cakes are not eaten at the end of meal, instead the Japanese had accompaniments to the traditional tea ceremonies and this is one of those accompaniments. Considering the amount of sugar in this, this isn’t very sweet but it is a very tasty end to a meal. If you want a sugar rush I suggest replacing the fresh/frozen fruit with jam.

125g of ground rice
75g raw cane sugar
75g frozen mixed berries
Water

1.Microwave the berries until they become soft and liquid starts to release (approximately 3 minutes)
2. In a separate microwave suitable flat container mix the ground rice and sugar with ½ cup of water. Then microwave for 3 minutes.
3. Remove from the microwave and mix in the berries, their juice and additional ¼ cup of water
4. Pack in firmly into the microwave container and microwave for 5 minutes (5-7 minutes) until it has puffed and cooked.

5. Allow to cool before cutting into squares or cutting with a biscuit cutter.

PS
My apologies regarding the absence of photos for each item…I forgot!

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Cooking up a Storm

I’m not exactly sure why, but last night I decided to cook a few things rather than just one or main plus carbohydrate. We’ve still been working our way through various countries but some iftaris weren’t really worth blogging about eg the night we had England as our theme, we had fish shop fish and chips…well the gluten eaters did. I had supermarket gluten free fish fingers with chips and baked beans. The following night with the US as our theme it had to be burgers. Last night we hit Spain.

Our menu was:

Lamb Paella with peppers and green beans
Prawns and mussels in garlic and chilli
Patatas Bravas
Tomato and goats cheese salad

Lamb Paella with peppers and green beans

1 onion
1/3rd of a shoulder of lamb (meat and bones)
Olive oil
2 ripe tomatoes or 2 tomatoes from a tin of tomatoes
230g of cooked Butter beans
100g green beans
1 red pepper chopped into large cubes
1 cup long grain rice
Approximately 2.5 cups* of Water
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons of sweet paprika (adjust to taste)
1 pinch of saffron diluted in hot water

* Cup = any mug you have just make sure to use the same for both the measures.

1. Wash the rice and set aside in some water.
2. Dice an onion
3. Put enough olive oil to cover the base of the pan, then fry the onions on a low heat until they are golden.
4. When the onions are done add the lamb shoulder, browning the meat.
5. Add 4 cloves of chopped garlic to the lamb and continue to brown.
6. Add the salt and paprika, stir and coat the lamb with them.
7. Finely chop the tomatoes then add to the pan.
8. Now add enough water to cover the meat entirely, bring to boil and then leave to simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes with a lid on. The water should have reduced slightly but there should be enough covering the meat.
9. Wash the butter beans until the water runs clear then add the beans to the pan. Stir to adjust the placement of the meat and beans in the pan.
10. Finally add the drained rice to the pan. Level out the rice so that it is evenly distributed in the pan. Do not stir the rice at all.
11. Heat the pan till the liquid till it boils, then reduce and leave to simmer for 15-20 minutes with the lid on.
12. Switch the heat off, and place the green beans and red pepper on top of the rice. Place the lid back on to the pan and leave standing for 10 minutes. Do not open until the 10 minutes are up.

Patatas Bravas

4 medium potatoes
Spray oil

Cube the potatoes into approximately ½ inch cubes, put in a pan of water and boil for approximately 5 minutes. Drain and place on an ovenproof tray and spray with spray oil and place in the oven at 200 degrees for an hour and a half or until golden brown. Serve hot with the bravas sauce and allioli.

Bravas Sauce
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 onion
1 red chilli
½ tin tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon smoked chipotle

Slice the onion and fry in the olive oil until golden, add the chilli, tomatoes, salt and smoked chipotle. Gently stir on a medium heat until the sauce is thick.

Allioli
1 egg
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil + extra for pouring
1 crushed garlic clove
A pinch of salt to taste

Combine the egg, garlic, teaspoon of vinegar, teaspoon of olive oil in a food processor and blitz until they take on an emulsified consistency. Gradually pour in a little olive oil until you reach a thin mayonnaise consistency. I find doing this bit slowly helps.

Prawns and mussels in garlic and chilli

Allow approximately:
200g of mussels per person (ensure they are cleaned with beards removed)
5-7 raw grey prawns per person (ensure that all intestines are removed)
1 crushed clove of garlic
1 chilli finely chopped
3 tablespoons water
Olive oil

Put approximately 1cm of olive oil in a pan with the crushed garlic and heat on a very low heat for approximately 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium and then add the chilli, prawns, mussels and the water. Place a lid on the pan and cook for 7 minutes or until the prawns and mussels are cooked all the way through. Serve with sliced limes.

Tomato and goats cheese salad

Slice tomatoes, goats cheese. Arrange the goats cheese on the tomatoes and sprinkle cracked black pepper and coarse sea salt on top.

Laksa, Two Ways

Laksa is a noodle soup of Malaysian origin, a mix of the Chinese and Malay food culture and there, my friends, endth the lesson!

My laksa is unconventional. I chose not to make it as soupy as normal simply because soup for iftari when you aren’t used to a soup can be a bit hard to deal with (mentally I mean), so it is more saucy than soupy. I’ve made other changes too in the laksa paste, but I assure you this works. It is just as tasty. It is both spicy and zingy, it hits all the buttons.

While it may seem strange to chop in a food processor AND use a mortar and pestle there is method in my madness. The food processor will simply chop the spices into fine pieces however a mortar and pestle will break down those fine pieces changing them from individual ingredients into the laksa paste. Doing both reduces the amount of pounding.

In the ingredients I’ve listed two tins of coconut milk, simply because there is nothing worse than sitting down to a meal which is too hot. Use one tin, see how you feel and without a second of a doubt if you find it too hot add more coconut milk as this will reduce the heat. For children who are not used to hot food, it might be an idea to split the laksa into two pans, one for adults (as it is) and one for the children (with more coconut milk in).

One final point when I photographed the prawn laksa it was photographed as a single portion and the lamb laksa was photographed in the serving dish.

Serve in bowls, eat with spoons and forks with plenty of napkins at hand and perhaps a cooling melon to put out the heat!

Lamb Laksa
Serves 6

500g of lamb chops
2 limes
200g of flat rice noodles (Banh Pho or Pad Thai)
2 spring onions
1 red pepper
1 small aubergine
2 tins of coconut milk ( I used ¾ of a tin)
Rapeseed oil

For the Laksa paste
4 – 5 long red chillies
8 shallots
3cm piece of ginger
3cm piece of galangal
4 cloves garlic
25g of walnuts

1 teaspoon dry lemongrass
½ lime juice
½ teaspoon of tumeric powder
2 teaspoons of tamarind paste
1 teaspoon of coarse sea salt
½ teaspoon sugar

1. Juice 1 lime and pour over the lamb, mix well and leave to tenderise for at least 1 hour preferably in a fridge.
2. Peel and chop the shallots, galangal, ginger, garlic.
3. Chop the chillies
4. Place the : shallots, galangal, ginger, garlic, chillies, walnuts, for the laksa paste into a chopper until very fine, then remove
5. Place the fine ingredients into a pestle and mortar, then add the coarse sea salt, tamarind paste, lime juice and pound for around 3mins.
6. Heat up 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pan, pour in the laksa paste, then add in the lamb and any remaining marinating lime juice and cook the meat in the paste. The paste will cook off while the meat browns.
7. After about 5 mins of cooking add in the coconut milk and continue to cook for a further 20 mins making sure the laksa does not stick. Remember to stir from time to time.
8. Chop the aubergine into cubes and add to the laksa. Cook for another 20 mins.
9. Chop up the pepper and 1 spring onion and add to the laksa.
10. Boil a kettle and pour the kettle hot water on to the rice noodles and cover with a lid. Leave for approximately 5-7 mins but do check the noodle packet for details. When the noodles are ready drain and set aside.
11. At this stage check the lamb it should be tender. Taste the laksa and add sugar to taste, also check the heat the level.
12. To serve, place the noodles in a serving bowl, and place the laksa on top. Chop the remaining spring onion and ½ lime and place on top of the laksa.

Prawn laksa


500g of black raw prawns
½ quantity Laksa paste as above
2 Spring Onions
2 tins coconut milk (again adjust to taste, start with one tin and if find it too hot add some more coconut milk)

1. Remove the shell and de-vein the prawns (remove the intestine visible along the spine and underneath)
2. Heat the oil in a pan and add the laksa paste and cook off the paste for a couple of minutes.
3. Add in the prawns and coat well in the paste before adding the coconut milk and leaving to simmer gently until the prawns are cooked. The prawns will look pinker won’t be so dull.
4. To assemble the dish, place the noodles in a bowl and top with the prawn laksa, top with spring onions and wedges of lime.

A Dish for 1


Ramadan is often seen as a time for communal eating and indeed it is. There have been times in my life where I have been totally alone and with that in mind I would like to dedicate this post to all those people who for whatever reason are alone over Ramadan.

I simply adore noodle soup. It can be as filling or as light as you want it to be. It can also be adapted to suit the seasons and the change of ingredients that are available. This can obviously be made to feed more but with the dedication in mind I have listed the ingredients for one.

For the soup
1 chicken leg (thigh and drumstick)
½ a chopped onion
3 peeled cloves of garlic
1 inch knob of ginger
1 Bay leaf
1 Star anise
1 small cinnamon stick
4 cloves
6 black pepper corns
1 pint of water

Place all the ingredients in a pan and bring to the boil before allowing to gently simmer until chicken is cooked. Remove the chicken and set aside. Place a strainer over a bowl and pour through. The soup in the under bowl should be free from onion and the whole spices. Pour the soup back into the pan with the chicken to keep warm while you prepare the rest. Once this has been cooled this can be frozen.

For the fun bit

Thick flat rice noodles
Fresh coriander – handful
Fresh mint leaves – handful
1 sliced red chilli
100g of ready to eat prawns
1 Spring onion
4 radishes
¼ cucumber
Gluten free Tamari sauce or Soya sauce
Sesame oil

Place the rice noodles in a bowl and then pour some freshly boiled hot water on top, and then cover with a lid, and allow to soak while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. It should take approximately 5 mins but check the instructions of the rice noodles.

Slice the cucumber, radishes and chilli. Slice the spring length ways into long thin strips.

Drain off the noodles and place into a serving bowl. Now decorate the salad ingredients into the bowl, being careful to ensure that all the items are spread evenly. Add in the mint and coriander leaves. Add in the prawns. If you are eating the chicken then tear it off the chicken bone and add into the serving bowl. Pour on the hot soup. Finally add a few drops of gluten free tamari sauce and sesame oil.