Tamago-Yaki, it’s Sunshine on a Plate!

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Tamago-yaki is a perfect way to ease in to a lazy sunday morning, and seems especially good when the sun is shining!  The name translates literally as “grilled” or “fried” egg, created by rolling thin layers of egg mixture flavoured with soy and sake, and sweetened with sugar and mirin. A special rectangular Tamago pan is often used, which helps create the neat sides of the finished omelette, although I’m sure a regular pan would still give good results.

Until fairly recently, I think my experience of Tamago-yaki has mainly been of the mass made, factory variety – almost toxic yellow in colour, processed texture and not fresh at all (used in the majority of sushi chains around London and even many restaurants). Freshly made home cooked Tamagoyaki, on the contrary is totally delicious and so quick to make.

Substantial enough to eat on its own or cooked plain for a topping to sushi rice, I’ve been trying lots of variations recently (to feed my slight addiction). My first attempt was guided by Reiko Hashimoto’s recipe in Hashi Cooking and contained good quality smoked ham and english chives (recipe below). However I’ve also had them plain, or with minced prawns and chinese chives, shiitake mushrooms, shredded nori, sliced spring onions etc. etc. – the options are endless and can be based on whatever you have left in the fridge. Serve with some grated daikon seasoned with a little soy, or cucumber if you can’t get hold of daikon for a little freshness. I sometimes top this with a dollop of salmon roe, another very tasty addition!

Here’s the recipe from Hashi Cooking….let the good times roll.

Ingredients (makes 2 rolls, serves 4)
6 Large eggs
3 tbsp finely chopped chives
60g finely chopped smoked ham
1 tspn instant dashi powder
1 tbsp mirin
2 tspn caster sugar
1 tspn soy sauce
pinch salt
veg oil for cooking
Garnish – grated daikon, shiso leaves, few drops of soy
 
Method

Mix all the ingredients for the omelette in a large bowl or jug and stir well.

Heat the Tamago Pan over a medium heat and brush a little vegetable oil on the base and sides of the pan, coating evenly.

Pour about 10% of the egg mixture into the pan and tilt the pan to coat the base evenly. When the egg starts to set, lift up the edge on one side and roll upwards using chopsticks or a spatula – make sure you roll while the surface of the egg is still wet so the layers stick together. I found it helped to keep the heat very low on my first few attempts, buying more time to roll before the egg sets as it can be a bit fiddly the first couple of times.

Grease the empty part of the pan again, keeping the rolled omelette at the side of the pan furthest from you.  Then quickly pour another 10% of the mixture, tilting to cover the empty side of the pan, and lifting the roll up to allow the egg to run underneath. When it looks half set, roll the omelette backwards until you get to the other side.

And keep going – until you have used up about half the mixture.  Once it’s rolled, I let the outside colour just a little, then remove from the pan and leave to rest for 5 minutes.  Make the second omelette with the remaining egg mix.

Once the omelette has rested for 5 minutes, slice into 2.5cm thick slices (or thinner if using as a sushi topping), and serve with the grated daikon and chopped shiso leaves, and a few drops of soy.

Tamagoyaki

U-don think it’s easy to make Udon?

My latest cookery course endeavour was a fresh noodle making class with Reiko Hashimoto, possibly the first of its kind in London, for I’ve yet to come across anything remotely similar.  I’ve been to Reiko’s Gourmet course and left with nothing but praise for the standard of expertise in Japanese cuisine that Reiko offers, relaxed and informal surroundings and above all, damn tasty food that you CAN recreate at home (whilst wowing your friends as they marvel at your culinary skills!).

My assumption has always been that it’s pretty tough to make noodles and I was so surprised to see how so few ingredients and a little hard graft result in fresh noodles ready for the pot in less than 20 minuntes (or a little longer for feebles like me with wimpy arms).

We made Udon noodles – equal quantities of strong white flour and plain flour, and Reiko explained how to make Soba noodles – a combination of buckwheat flour and plain flour.  Nothing else needed, just a little cold water to bring the mixture together.  The soba noodles were made before the class began to allow for resting.

This is a very hands-on class, and no doubt the messiest one for Reiko’s kitchen, although aprons were thoughtfully provided for all of us. Everyone has their own Udon mix to knead and after about 15 minutes of taking out the days aggressions on the dough, it is miraculously transformed into a springy ball ready for rolling and cutting.

The noodles are hand cut, which all adds to the ‘feel-good’ factor when making something very tactile like this, and you get a much better idea of how thin the dough should be rolled and cut than if it were to be pressed through a machine.

We also rolled and cut the Soba, which were more tricky to work with as the dough was drier and less elastic, and the strands should be cut much thinner than for Udon.

Some of the noodles came out fat, some thin…and some with a rogue hair in them (whoops!).  For me, this was all part of the enjoyment and I’m sure we all left learning from our mishaps.

At the beginning of the class, Reiko started by preparing a traditional Dashi stock with Kombu and Bonito flakes and we revisit the pot at several stages throughout the class. Of course when you’re in a rush it’s ok to use instant dashi stock, but you really can taste the difference if the stock is made from scratch.

We went through a variety of accompaniments for the noodles – Soy & Honey Glazed Smoked Mackeral or Saba and Deep Fried Tofu or Kitsune for the udon, and a sweet soy based Zaru dressing for the Soba noodles which are traditionally eaten cold with a little wasabi and chopped spring onion. We also had some sliced Japanese fish cake to serve with the udon. Needless to say, this then led to the inevitable slurping of the noodles, with a refreshing glass of wine or beer.  I dare say we deserved it for all that kneading!

The Udon and amazing dashi stock were especially good – when freshly made they have a certain spring to them that you don’t get with dried or frozen udon. This is something I will definitely try at home, I really was amazed at how simple they were to make, with no specialist equipment or ingredients needed.

All in the evening costs £65 and it’s one of a kind. Reiko’s classes always attract a nice mix of attendees from all kinds of backgrounds, and the ice is broken quickly with such a hands on class where everyone rolls up their sleeves and mucks in. Another triumph from Reiko which I wholeheartedly recommend!

Japanese Coleslaw

A lighter and more fragrant alternative to traditional Coleslaw, from Hashi Cooking.  Perfect for grilled meat or fish.  Feel free to mix it up a bit by using different vegetables – normal radishes are lovely, as is red cabbage or a little fennel bulb or celeriac. Just try to stick to vegetables that have a good bite.

Ingredients
For the Slaw
200g Chinese Cabbage
2 tsp Salt
1 Carrot
150g Daikon Radish
2-3 tsp Black Sesame Seeds
 
For the Dressing
1/2 cup Japanese Mayonnaise
1 tbsp Rice Vinegar
1 tbsp Sake
1 tsp Japanese Mustard (not wasabi) or 2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp Sesame Oil
3 tsp Soy Sauce
1 tsp Sugar
1/4 tsp White Pepper
 
Method
Finely slice the cabbage and add to large bowl.  Cut carrot and daikon into very thin matchsticks and place in a colander, sprinkle with salt and roughly mix by hand, then allow to sit for 5-7 minutes.  Rinse with cold water and squeeze out any excess moisture with your hands.  Pat dry with kitchen paper.

Put all the ingredients for the dressing in a mixing bowl and mix until combined and smooth texture.  Season to taste with salt and white pepper.

Add the daikon, cabbage and carrot in a bowl and mix.  Toss the mixture with black sesame seeds and dressing just before serving.

 

BBQ Chicken Yakitori Skewers

Copius amounts of sunshine, a BBQ and a few of delicious recipes from Reiko Hashimoto’s ‘Hashi Cooking – A Japanese Cookery Course’ make for a good evening.  I’m delighted with the results of my first BBQ this year.

These Chicken Skewers are seriously good on the BBQ – the Teriyaki marinade takes on a lovely charred flavour with the chicken thigh meat staying gloriously succulent and moist. I made mine substantially bigger than the delicate nibbles in Reiko’s book so they could take a bit more of a hit on the BBQ without overcooking.  The key to a gloriously sticky skewer is to keep turning and basting, a few minutes at a time.  I served this with a Prawn, Wakame and Cucumber Salad and Japanese Coleslaw (recipe links below).

BBQ Chicken Yakitori Skewers

Ingredients

600g Chicken thigh (boneless and skinless), cut into 1-2 inch pieces
2 Courgettes, sliced (or 5 Baby Leeks and 1 Red Pepper in Reiko’s recipe)
Bamboo Skewers (12-16 for Small Skewers or 5-6 for Large Skewers)
Seven Spice Red Chili or Sansyo Pepper (for dipping)
 
For the Teriyaki Sauce
200ml Soy Sauce
100ml Sake
100ml Mirin
3-4 tablespoons sugar
 
Method

To make the teriyaki sauce, mix all the ingredients in a small sauce pan and simmer on lowest heat for about 20-30 minutes until you are left with a sauce thick enough to baste with.

Allow the sauce to cool, loosen with a little water and marinade the chicken for a day if possible, or at least 2-3 hrs.

Soak the skewers in water for 5 minutes to prevent them from burning on the BBQ.  Skewer the chicken pieces, alternating with a slice of courgette (or baby leeks and red pepper as per Reiko’s recipe) and lay on a tray.  I continued to baste these with left over marinade whilst the BBQ was getting ready.

Cook the skewers on the BBQ, basting and turning every few minutes.  These large skewers took about 15 minutes to cook.

To serve I sprinkled with a few Toasted Sesame seeds.

Devine!!

 
 
 
 
 
 

Hashi Cooking

I first came to hear of Reiko Hashimoto through a glowing review by The London Foodie.  Convinced that this would be the introduction to authentic Japanese cuisine that I was looking for, I signed myself up for the 4 week Gourmet Cookery course in Jan/Feb this year.

I eat Japanese food on a fairly regular basis – and apart from the odd occasion have to admit that up until now, it invariably consisted of sushi take outs from the various chains or quick stop lunches from independent sushi bars about London.  Whilst there’s nothing wrong with this, I have always been aware that there is far more to Japanese cuisine than the atypical sashimi, sushi rolls and tempura that so many of us believe Japanese food to be. Eating (good) Japanese food in London tends to leave you with a much lighter wallet – of course the freshest fish and seafood comes at a premium, which I am prepared to pay, but I also wanted to create authentic Japanese flavours at home using some of the more modest staples available everyday.

With this in mind, I descended on a very cold winters night to Reiko’s home in Wimbledon for the first session.  Immediately introduced to everyone and presented with a warming green tea, I noticed that the kitchen was perfectly designed for the occasion, with a central island that the guests (no more than 6) gather around, allowing optimum viewpoint and interaction with Reiko as she teaches and preps the dishes in front of you.  It was a friendly group of people of all ages and backgrounds. A shout out to the amiable Reg, a retired photographer whose wife had bought him vouchers for one of Reiko’s courses some time ago and he hasn’t looked back since.  He kept the group well entertained with his stories (and me entertained on the walk back to the station – week 1: chives stuck to his chin; week 2: sushi rice stuck to his cheek.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him on either occasion).

We were given print outs of all the recipes, aswell as the basics such as Dashi stock and the perfect Sushi Rice – all Reiko’s recipes are written with attention to detail with any hints and tips already included.

Each session lasts just over 2 hours and the majority of prep is already done, allowing for plenty of discussion on the intricacies of each dish, general tips and advice on how to source or prepare the right ingredients (or substitutes where feasible).  Throughout the sessions, we supped on prosecco, wine and sake (not all at once!).

Before I move on to the dishes (which may take some time since there were so many and they were SO good!), I’d like to add that I couldn’t recommend Hashi Cooking enough.  I have been to quite a few courses, and this is up there with the best of them.  I’ve sometimes found home based courses a little squashed or awkward, maybe lacking a little in finesse.  On the contrary, Reiko provides a beautiful environment to impart her knowledge of Japanese food and culture, effortlessly making the group feel at ease with her informative yet relaxed style of teaching.  The dishes are mouth-watering, and since the course I have recreated many of the dishes at home with relative ease.

And so, onto to the best bit – the FOOD.

Week 1

Grilled Scallops on Sushi Rice with Creamy Spicy Sauce

This is Reiko’s signature dish.  It’s so tasty!  A bed of delicate sushi rice dotted with shreds of Nori and Flying Fish Roe (an absolute must for this dish as it brings a colour, texture and savouriness that no other substitute could offer), generously topped with hunks of sweet scallops and finished with a creamy sauce spiced with chinese Toh Ban Jan.

Cha Soba (Green Tea Noodles) with Squid and Spicy Yakumi Sauce.

A really fresh and well balanced noodle dish, with the addition of minced pork adding a nice texture.  The squid was tender and the Yakumi dressing was light and flavoursome.

Tofu Steak with Japanese Mushrooms in Soy Butter Sauce.

This dish was a tasty marriage of east and west.  The firm tofu steaks are tossed in cornflour and Sansho pepper, then pan fried to give a slightly crispy edge.  The mushrooms were cooked with butter, anchovies, streaky bacon and white wine amongst other things.  This was my first encounter with Sansho pepper (derived from the prickly Ash tree), which had a tangy flavour and complemented the earthiness of the mushrooms and bacon nicely.

(as if that wasn’t enough….)

Duck Breast with Ginger and Apple Sauce

Another cracking dish.  Duck breast cooked to perfection and dressed with a pungent ginger and apple sauce and scorched baby leeks.

The sauce cut the richness of the duck meat really well.  I liked Reiko’s method of pan frying the breasts, partially covering the pan to quicken the cooking process and keep the meat moist, whilst ensuring that all important crispy skin.

Week 2

Spicy White Miso Soup with Prawn & Chicken Quenelles

A much welcomed start to an even colder evening of sub-zero temperatures, we begin with a spicy white miso soup with prawn and chicken quenelles.  Reiko used a mix of white miso and sweet white miso (which is harder to come by), and finished the dish with a little watercress and additional Toh Ban Jan for those of us who like a bit of extra heat.  Unfortunately no photo’s of the evenings dishes due to a memory card malfunction!  I’ve made this dish a couple of times since and friends have been very impressed, it was my favourite soup of the course.

Black Cod 2 Ways – Sake-Kasu and Miso

I love black cod.  It’s an expensive fish and can be hard to find so its something I’ve only eaten a handful of times.  The texture and flavour so unlike any other fish. Despite the name, it’s actually a type of sablefish rather than cod, rich in fat which gives its unctuous melt in the mouth texture.  I’ve read elsewhere that if you can’t find black cod, belly salmon would be the next best thing due to its higher fat content. Although purists may disagree!  The fillets are marinated for 2 days allowing the Miso and Sake flavours to permeate through.  Both marinades were delicious, the miso and sweet mirin marinade slightly caramelises under the grill and complements the black cod perfectly.  The Sake-Kasu marinade is far more subtle, allowing more of the delicate black cod flavour to come through.  Both were served with Hajikami pickled ginger stalks.

Beef & Vegetable Rolls

Al dente green beans, carrots and enoki mushrooms rolled in thin cut rib-eye steak and drizzled with teriyaki sesame dressing?  Yes please.  This dish looks more delicate than it tastes – beefy sesame soy flavours and beans still with some bite. We all had a go at these and most of us succumbed to the over/under filling of the rolls.  Reiko still managed to make them look pretty on the plate! (a little bit of post op re-stuffing never caused any harm).

Wild Mushroom Rice

Another fusion of flavours, it’s interesting to see how eastern and western flavours can be combined to create dishes with a twist on tradition. Cooked sushi rice is mixed with a concoction of japanese & western mushrooms (shitake, enoki, chestnut, shimeji, porcini) and flavoured with butter, anchovy, chilli, dashi, nori, white wine and leeks.  A really quick and tasty way to use up that leftover sushi rice.

Week 3

Ganmodoki Tofu Patti with Clear Broth

We learnt how to prepare Tofu properly.  Prior to this course I wasn’t aware that Tofu should be pressed to release excess water.  This is done for a couple of hours before hand.  Reiko then squeezed it by hand with a muslin cloth, before crumbling and mixing with wakame, carrot, soaked shitake and seasonings.  The patti’s were then deep fried in a very elegant tempura pot, and served with a light dashi ginger broth (normally thickened with cornflour but on this occasion Reiko forgot, I imagine Reg was causing a distraction!).

Sea Bream Rice

Despite this being one of the simplest dishes on the course it was one of my favourites.  Very few ingredients are needed, using staples which are always in the cupboard such as soy, sake, mirin and ginger.

A single sheet of kombu is placed on top of sushi rice in a japanese casserole dish (with a small outlet to let some, but not all steam escape during cooking), then layered with pieces of sea bream fillet and then the remaining ingredients added.  Lid goes on and straight in the oven – 30 minutes later (allowing 10 mins to rest) and the result is a flavoursome rice with a fishy aroma and moist pieces of sea bream.  A little fresh thinly sliced ginger and spring onion is served on top.

Seared Tuna with Ponzu & Sesame Dressing

A very elegant dish of seared tuna steak marinated in Ponzu dressing, which is a traditionally based on the Japanese lime but can be substituted with lime and lemon juice.  I had never actually seen a yuzu lime before and Reiko promptly defrosted one from the freezer (brought back from Japan), the smell was more akin to a satsuma or clementine.  I tucked into seconds it was so good.

Buta – Kakuni (Slow Cooked Pork Belly)

A really comforting and hearty dish, reminiscent of Uyen Leluu’s Vietnamese Thit Heo Kho Tring (Braised Pork Belly in Cider & Coconut Juice) in the sweetness and richness of the sauce which envelops the pork belly after slow cooking.  The pork was cooked with leeks along with the usual mirin, soy, sake, dashi, ginger and Japanese mustard.  Served with al dente green beans and a little fresh grated ginger for contrast.

Smoked Mackeral Kombu Rolls

Not on the itinerary for the evening, Reiko showed us a novel way of re-using leftover Kombu after making dashi stock.  Smoked Mackeral was simply rolled in pieces of Kombu and secured with lengths of spring onion, then simmered in a dashi, mirin and soy broth and served in bite size pieces.  The mackerel and kombu flavours worked really well.

Week 4

Chirashi Zushi – Salmon Special

Chirashi Zushi is typically known as an assortment of raw fish served on a bed of sushi rice.  Reiko’s offering included Salmon 3 ways – raw, cooked (using slightly salted Wild Alaskan Salmon) and Ikura (salmon roe) to create an eye-catching, fresh and delicate dish.  This rice is also interspersed with shiso mint, nori, avocado, shredded japanese omelette and sesame seeds.  I could eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  


Mizore – Jiru – Cloudy Soup

‘Mizore’ translates as Sleet in Japanese, an apt name for this soup with the addition of grated daikon radish giving a sleety/snowy appearance and texture.  This soup was refreshing, with slices of deep fried tofu and julienned carrots and sliced spring onion.

Beef Tataki and Creamy Sesame Sauce

Another triumph, rare cooked fillet steak served with shredded sweet white onion, crispy garlic and an intense Sesame sauce.  The garlic added a depth of flavour and crunch to the dish whilst the sweet onions lifted and cleansed after the rich tahini sauce.

Monk Fish with Porcini and Citrus Ponzu Soy Butter

Hunks of monkfish are dusted in a little seasoned cornflour and pan fried and served with mixed mushrooms cooked in a similar fashion to the Tofu Steak and Japanese Mushrooms dish above.   The dish is lifted with a citrus ponzu sauce, Reiko used a bottled Yuzu lime juice which is handy to know.  This provided a nice zing which suited the meaty monkfish well.  Reiko also served this with a light watercress and apple salad.


Verdict – I thoroughly recommend Reiko’s Gourmet Cookery Course.  At £280 it doesn’t come cheap but the quality of ingredients, number of dishes taught and Reiko’s wealth of knowledge make it money well spent.  It won’t be long till I am signed up for the next course I’m sure.  Reiko sells a few specialist cookware items imported from Japan (not for profit) – I purchased a ginger grater and Tamago pan (for omelettes).  She has also released her cookbook this year ‘Hashi Cooking’ (pictured above) which contains all the recipes covered on the course plus many more.  I have it (gracefully signed by Reiko herself!), and it lives in the kitchen instead of the lounge bookshelf which says it all really.