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.

Quick Palov

I’ve been slack of late, not necessarily in art of cooking but more in remembering to photograph or where I have remembered to photograph I’ve just been lazy in writing things up! Not good! Alhumdulilah, we’ve been fortunate enough to choose a different country to eat from every day this Ramadan and my objective was to share this so inshallah I will start sharing!

Last night for iftari we ate Palov from Uzbekistan done earlier (click Uzbekistan on the side – I can’t figure out links!). Actually it was very easy almost too easy! Before Ramadan I had prepared the lamb stock for the palov which meant that with iftari at approximately 8:23 last night the food didn’t actually get on to cook until 8pm! My husband did actually question me a couple of times to make sure I was on schedule.

The plus point was that all I had to do was chop carrots, if I had been at work I would have bought pre chopped carrots, but honestly I needed something to do just to pass the time! Once my carrots were chopped perfectly all that remained to do was drain and wash the chick peas, throw in the pre-soaked rice, the mandatory head of garlic and hey presto iftari was done! It was so easy, quick and brilliant for when your head just isn’t functioning.

Alhumudlilah everyone enjoyed iftari.

Paella


Before this evening if you had asked me what I thought about Paella I would tell you the first word that would spring to my mind was grit! Yes, honestly, grit! I think back to the first time I ate Paella and this was the first texture that hit my mouth followed by my taste buds being assaulted by salt. Not one to repeat mistakes it wasn’t until recently that I ate Paella again that I liked it. You may think what is there not to like in rice, but honestly grit can have that kind of an effect on a person.

Paella apparently has muslim origins. Back in the days when the Arab Moors had the Caliphate of Cordoba (approximately year 1000) following the banquets of the rich the servants would be given “Baqiyah” (leftovers in Arabic) and this would then be mixed with what ever meat, fish and vegetables were to hand. Modern Spanish legend of the origins of Paella are entirely different naming the banks of lake Albufera near Valencia where fishermen caught fish, fried snails, a few legumes and rice grown on the edges of the lake, omitting any Moorish involvement. Either way this is now a dish in its own right.

This recipe is lovely, no grit in sight! The lamb is soft and sweet, the beans filling and the sugar snap peas vibrant. The taste is both garlic-y and nutty. Paella is normally cooked in a large flat paella pan like a large frying pan however because I wanted to speed up the process and wanted the lamb to be tender I used a Le Creuset shallow casserole pan with a lid. Finally a note regarding the paprika, I’ve used 3 teaspoons of paprika as I felt it did not give enough taste to the dish and this may well be because the paprika was not very strong. I would none the less suggest starting with 2 teaspoons and increasing if you need more.

Lamb Paella
Serves 4

1 onion
5 lamb chops including their spare ribs
Olive oil
2 ripe tomatoes or 2 tomatoes from a tin of tomatoes
230g of cooked Canneloni beans
100g Sugar snap peas
1 cup long grain rice
Approximately 2.5 cups* of Water
4 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
2 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 chops and spare ribs, 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. Taste the liquid to see if more paprika is needed.
9. Wash the 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 sugar snap peas 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.

¡buen apetito!
For Mrs B!

Uzbek Palov

When I first came across a recipe of Uzbek Palov (or Plov) I have to confess that I was a tad if not entirely dubious of its merits. After all the first recipes I found were pretty much meat, onions and carrots. There seemed to be a total lack of warm fragrance that would waft from the similarly named plau that I had grown up with. None the less I rolled up my sleeves and got surfing the internet with the belief that there had to be more to this than meat, onions and carrots. Happily I can inform you that there is, however if you are not careful you can end up with all and sundry in this and some things not for the better – and that is what the Uzbeks say ! I don’t claim that this is a definitive version of Uzbekistan’s national pride, but this palov contains an authentic combination of ingredients that taste sensational.

Dried apricot paste, adds a tangy sweetness to the dish that just blends in with the spices. If you are unable to obtain this then dried apricots will do, however their flavours will be localised and it won’t blend with the rest of the spices.

This dish does take some work however, as a form of Ramadan preparation I would suggest doing stages 1 to 9 in advance and freezing before the final ingredients. Once the base has been defrosted the only time required is to soak the rice and then to cook the rice.

As an accompaniment a simple side salad of cucumber, tomato and onion is all that is required. This dish is substantial enough to not require anything else.

Ingredients – Serves 6
½ a kilo of lamb shoulder meat chopped in to small pieces with bones (ask your butcher to do this)
1 cup of basmati rice
3 onions – peeled and sliced
4 carrots
1 tin of chickpeas
4 inch strip of apricot dried paste or 4 dried apricots
2 teaspoons of whole cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
1 teaspoon of pepper corns
1 teaspoon of garlic paste
1 teaspoon of salt
1 whole head of garlic – unpeeled and washed
Sunflower/rapeseed oil
A handful of chopped parsley

1. Wash the rice until the water runs clear, then leave it to soak with approximately 2cms of water covering the rice
2. Place about 2cms of oil in a heavy based casserole pan and heat the oil until it begins to smoke. Then gently place the meat into the pan and brown the meat. Add in 1 teaspoon of garlic paste, 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds and continue to brown.
3. Once the meat is browned and crispy add the onions, lower the heat and allow them to gently cook until the onions have broken down and are very soft and mushy.
4. Just as the onions begin to caramelise, lower the heat and slowly add in a little water to deglaze the pan. Make sure to rub the caramelised bits off the pan so that they start to form a darker broth.
5. Pour in enough water to completely cover the meat and then add in 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper corns, 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, and the dried apricot paste/ dried apricots.
6. Increase the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes.
7. Pierce each clove of garlic (leaving the head intact) with a knife to allow the flavour to escape, and then place the garlic head into the pan.
8. Allow the meat to simmer for an hour or until the meat is tender, checking to see if the water needs topping up (the water should fully cover the meat).
9. If preparing in advance, the meat and liquid can now be frozen after leaving to cool. Defrost fully and heat before using and resume at stage 10.
10. Reduce the heat to low. Drain and wash a tin of chickpeas and add to the pan. Add the julienned carrots.
11. Drain the rice and add to the pan.
12. Bring the pan to the boil and bring the heat down to low again. Place the lid on to the pan and cook for 20 mins or until the rice is soft and the liquid has evaporated. Try not to open the lid as the steam will escape. Once the rice is cooked do not stir the rice, gently comb a fork through it.
13. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve with the meat and garlic on top with a final sprinkle of parsley on top.
14. Serve with a cucumber, tomato and onion salad. Dress simply with salt, pepper, oil and vinegar.

For a meal en famille serve directly from the pot. With guests, place the rice at the bottom, and then lay the meat on top of the soft bed of carrots. Place the whole head of garlic on top of the meat and sprinkle with parsley.