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Easy peasy japanesey dairy freezy


Or something.

This week I was cooking for CL and MS in Paris. He is ALLERGIC to meat (strange, but true) and she is lactose intolerant. EASY.

They're currently editing a documentary about an ancient calligrapher from Kyoto, which they filmed last year in Japan. I've been wanting to test a couple of Japanese recipes (courtesy of JL and SQ), and decided this was the occasion. It would undoubtedly help to put them in touch with their inner Japanese psyche, essential for editing. Also, Japanese food naturally avoids dairy products and offers plenty of meat-free options.

These recipes really are super simple. Once you have the various necessary ingredients, you're away.

The visit to the Japanese supermarket was fun. I was all prepared with my little list, but when confronted by HUNDREDS of different options of every condiment and ingredient available, was temporarily paralysed in front of the vast selection. I soon came to my senses and adopted the stealth technique of following other (savvy looking) Japanese shoppers around the store and choosing the same products. Arigato.

I went for a clean and simple meal of miso grilled mackerel, sesame infused spinach and rice, followed by a lurid green matcha coconut ice cream with black sesame sticky tuiles. Easier than it sounds, I promise. We drank white wine and a splash of sake which our guests had brought back from Japan. Who's to say you couldn't serve wasabi peas to start? No-one.

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Et en français


Spinach goma-ae (sesame spinach)

Serves 4, takes 15 minutes, plus marinading time

vegetarian / side / dairy free / gluten free / vegan / salad / perennial / date night / easy peasy / quietly smug / detox / ready in a jiffy

This is so simple and tasty. Many thanks to JL and SQ for the recipe. It has now become a staple in my kitchen, as you can use the same sauce with any number of greens (courgette, cavil nero, runner beans).

* Baby spinach - 400g

* Sesame seeds - 3 tbsp

* Soy sauce - 3 tbsp

* Mirin - 3 tbsp

* Sesame oil - a glug

Place all the spinach into a large saucepan and pour over a freshly boiled kettle of water. Immediately turn the spinach into a colander to drain and leave to cool.

Heat a large frying pan over a medium high heat. Toast the sesame seeds for a few minutes in the hot pan, shaking the pan occasionally to turn the seeds, and trying not to throw them all over the floor. Once the seeds begin to colour (and smell DELICIOUS) pour them onto a sheet of baking paper. Be careful not to burn them as this can happen quite quickly. Use the baking paper to funnel the toasted seeds into a pestle bowl, and grind the seeds to a rough powder. It's easier to do this in a couple of batches.

In a large bowl, combine the soy, mirin, sesame oil and ground sesame.

Once the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze as much water as you can from the leaves. Then toss the spinach in the sauce and place in the fridge to infuse for a couple of hours, if you can.

Serve at room temperature with a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds.

Mackerel dengaku (miso glazed mackerel)

Serves 4, takes 15 minutes

fish / main / perennial / easy peasy / quietly smug / date night / gluten free / dairy free

'Dengaku' is a sweet and salty miso based sauce. JL and SQ introduced me to this sticky delicacy with grilled aubergine, which makes a creamy and scrumptious vegetarian dish**. Aubergines aren't in season at the moment, and I wanted something a little more substantial, so I decided to go for a grilled mackerel variation. It was crazy delicious. Mackerel is a sustainable and economical choice, but this would also work wonders with salmon.

* Soy sauce - 3 tbsp

* Mirin - 3 tbsp

* Sugar - 1 1/2 tbsp

* Cooking sake - 1 1/2 tbsp

* White miso paste - 3 tbsp

* Mackerel - 8 filets

Preheat the oven grill to a high temperature.

In a small pan, mix the soy, mirin, sugar, sake and miso. Bring to a simmer and cook for a few minutes, stirring often.

Lay the mackerel filets out on a large baking tray lined with tin foil, skin side down. Pour the sauce evenly over the fish, coating each filet. Place under the grill and cook for five minutes, until the fish is just cooked through. Serve immediately.

**To make this dish with aubergines, first half the aubergines lengthways and score the flesh with a knife in a criss-cross pattern. Drizzle with sesame oil and bake in a hot oven until tender. Then drizzle the sauce over the aubergines and place under a hot grill for five minutes, until bubbling.

Perfect sushi rice

Serves 4 generously, takes 30 minutes, plus 30 minutes soaking time

side / perennial / gluten free / dairy free / easy peasy / nothing fancy / date night / on a budget / vegan / hands free / party / store cupboard

Chefs in Japan spend literally YEARS learning how to cook perfect rice. This should get you pretty close, for an amateur. Sushi seasoning is available at Japanese food stores, and probably at Waitrose (like everything else). Otherwise you can make your own by boiling rice vinegar, sugar and salt (4 tbsp of vinegar, 2 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp salt).

* Japanese short grain rice - 1.5 cup

* Sushi seasoning - 80 ml

Start by washing the rice. Place the rice in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Swirl the rice around with your hands for about 10 seconds, then drain the rice. Repeat this process four or five times, then soak the rice in cold water for 30 minutes.

Drain the rice for 5 minutes.

Place the rice in a heavy based saucepan with 1.75 cups water over a high heat. Cover and bring to the boil. As soon as the water starts to boil (take a sneak peak under the lid) reduce the heat to low medium and leave for 12 minutes. Don't be tempted to take off the lid. Then remove the pan from the heat (without taking the lid off the pan, again) and leave to steam for a further 10 minutes.

Break up the rice using a large spoon (a rice paddle, if you're fancy enough to have one), working in circular, folding motions. Pour the seasoning over the rice and fold in. Serve immediately or place a tea towel over the pan and set aside for later.

Matcha Coconut ice cream with black sesame, honey and peanut sticky tuiles

Serves 4 with extra tuiles, takes 30 minutes, plus freezing/setting time

dessert / gluten free / dairy free / easy peasy / detox / perennial / show off / vegetarian / vegan / store cupboard

Coconut ice cream is the BOMB. It's so easy to make, dairy free, nutritious and delicious. Really. I already posted this recipe for a simple, cardamom infused version. This time, to fit with the Japanese theme, I went for a lurid green matcha delight. Apparently the strength in flavour of matcha powders can vary greatly depending on the brand and quality. Mine seemed pretty pungent so I only needed 1 tsp for 400ml coconut milk. Add more if you think it needs it.

These lil' sticky sesame crackers are also quick to throw together and make a moreish, intensely flavoured snack. Plus they look pretty with the green ice cream. I had honey comb lying around (it's been lurking in my kitchen for who know how long but seems to keep IMMENSELY well), or you could just use honey.

For the ice cream

* Coconut milk - 1 can, 400ml, ideally refrigerated in advance

* Icing sugar - 5 tbsp

* Matcha powder - 1 tsp

For the black sesame tuiles

* Honey (comb) - 1/3 cup

* Raw peanuts - 1/3 cup (or 1/4 cup ground peanuts)

* Black sesame seeds - 1/2 cup

* Sea salt - a pinch

Ideally start by placing a 1 litre tupperware box in the freezer to chill for half an hour.

Sift the icing sugar into a large bowl with the chilled coconut milk. Add the matcha powder and whisk for a couple of minutes.

Pour into the chilled tupperware box and place in the freezer. After an hour, remove the ice cream from the freezer and whisk thoroughly with a fork. Repeat every half an hour for the next couple of hours, each time being sure to incorporate all the outer frozen crystals into the centre. You should finish with a smooth, whipped ice cream. Remove from the freezer 15 minutes before serving to allow the ice cream to soften.

For the tuiles: melt the honey or comb in a small saucepan over a low heat.

If using whole peanuts, blitz them in a blender to a rough powder.

Add the sesame seeds, peanuts and a pinch of sea salt to the melted honey and stir to combine. It will be very sticky.

Spoon the mixture onto a sheet of baking paper. Place another sheet of baking paper over the top and use a rolling pin (or a wine bottle) to flatten out the mixture. It should be a few mm thick.

Carefully peel off the top layer of paper and use a sharp knife to cut the mixture into cookie sized squares and triangles. Rinse the knife, the carefully remove each tuile from the baking parchment and place lightly on a fresh sheet of parchment (they will be less likely to stick permanently to the paper if you do it this way). Leave to set for a couple of hours. Store in a airtight container, they'll keep.

Serve a couple of tuiles with a scoop of ice cream.


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