Japan-easy

photo Marina Oliphant

There is a Japanese saying that the best cooking is the least cooking. A respect for only using ingredients in their season means that they will be at their freshest and full of flavour.

The underlying principle of Japanese cooking techniques is to preserve and enhance the natural flavour of these ingredients, so the preparation is kept simple.

Of course, this makes Japanese food perfect for hot summer days; small dishes, quick to prepare and often served cold. Summer food in Japan takes into account the hot, humid weather with a variety of cold sushi and sashimi dishes and refreshing cold noodles and salads.

It’s easy to prepare, once your pantry is stocked with a few key ingredients. Most large supermarkets will have an international section where you can buy specialty Japanese food items. Or search out a local Japanese supermarket, as there will be a large range of authentic ingredients, plus useful kitchen equipment and even inexpensive crockery, sake and Japanese beer.

This style of food preparation requires sharp knives and fine slicing. Accordingly, Japanese knives have a very good reputation. Check the aisles for affordable mandolins and slicing machines to make the job easier.

Presentation is equally important, which also happens to appeal to me. However, you don’t need to spend a fortune, as small bowls and plates can all be charmingly mismatched. It’s more about the aesthetic on the plate, so take this into account and not only will your dishes be delicious, they will look beautiful, too.

 

tuna tataki with black sesame seeds

A very simple and tasty way to enjoy sashimi quality tuna. Select fishmongers offer seafood suitable for sushi and sashimi. You need to use the freshest possible fish when eating it raw.

300g tuna loin, sashimi grade

¼ (quarter) cup black sesame seeds

1 tbs vegetable oil

¼ (quarter) cup soy sauce

¼ (quarter) cup mirin

1 tsp sesame oil

 

Roll tuna in sesame seeds to coat.

Heat a nonstick frypan with a little oil and quickly cook the tuna on all sides, until it is just cooked on the outside, but still raw in the middle. Remove from heat and refrigerate.

Mix soy, mirin and sesame oil together. Place in a dipping bowl.

 

Remove tuna from fridge and slice into 3mm thick slices. Serve with dipping sauce.

 

serves 4.

 

soba noodle salad

photo Marina Oliphant

All the individual salad ingredients can be laid out on the table for guests to help themselves. When we were in Japan, the hand-made noodles were served on a flat bamboo basket as a plate.

1 chicken breast

2 tbsp soy

1 tsp sesame oil

270 g packet buckwheat soba noodles

1 lebanese cucumber, deseeded

1 small bunch coriander

1 carrot

½ (half) daikon radish

1 punnet baby cress

2 tsp pickled ginger

 

mentsuyu sauce:

½ cup soy

½ cup mirin

¾ cup water

2 tbsp bonito flakes

 

Finely slice the chicken and marinate in soy and sesame for 1 hour.

Cook soba noodles for 4-5 minutes, drain and place in iced water to cool completely. Drain again and set aside.

Make the metsuyu sauce by mixing ingredients together in a small pot. Heat, then allow to cool completely.

Cook the chicken in a non stick pan, then remove and shred finely.

Prepare the vegetable garnishes: deseed and finely slice the cucumber. Wash the coriander thoroughly, pick the leaves and dry on paper towel. Finely shred the carrot and radish (use a Japanese vegetable grater or a mandoline). Pick the baby cress leaves.

Assemble all the ingredients onto small plates and allow your guests to make up their own salad. Use the mentsuyu sauce for dipping  and flavouring the noodles.

 

Serves 4.

 

 

green beans with black sesame seeds

A delicious salad with textural crunch from the black sesame seeds.

 

350g green beans

100g black sesame seeds

1 tbsp caster sugar

½ (half) tbsp mirin

1 tbsp soy

 

Slice the beans using a French bean slicer, then blanch for a minute, drain and cool in iced water, then drain again.

In a mortar and pestle, crush the sesame seeds, add sugar, mirin and soy and mix to a paste.

Toss the green beans in the dressing and serve.

 

serves 4.

 

green tea icecream

The distinctive flavour of green tea in a refreshing ice cream.

photo Marina Oliphant

1 tbsp green tea powder

2/3 (two thirds of a cup)  cup sugar

3 egg yolks

¾ (three quarters) cup milk

200 ml pure cream

 

Mix green tea powder with 2 tbsp sugar.

In a separate bowl, mix egg yolks with remaining sugar.

Pour milk into pan and heat gently, do not boil. Remove from heat and mix some of the milk into the green tea powder. When you have a smooth paste, add it to the remaining milk in the pan. Whisk in the egg yolks and leave to cool.

Whip the cream then add to the cold green tea mixture.

Freeze in an ice cream machine.

 

makes approx. 500 ml.

 

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