Friday, January 13, 2006

Japanese comfort food meets Scottish smokieness

Happy new year!! May 2006 bring you many culinary adventures, new flavours and satisfaction, both in the kitchen and outside :-) It’s been a while since I’ve posted, after a luxury three week holiday its back to work now and I have many things to post about, both from last year and since Christmas so best get on with it....
When my brother came to visit at the start of December I wanted to cook something I had eaten while in Japan. I also wanted to use the local produce I’ve recently been getting from a local farm. They deliver organic veggie bags, eggs, bread and more, which are all very tasty. I had also bought some lovely smoked mackerel from a smokehouse in the highlands at the monthly farmers market.

I picked a recipe from Untangling my chopsticks by Victoria Abbott Riccardi. This is a great book in which she describes her move to Kyoto for a year where she studies tea kaiseki, the formal cooking that accompanies Japanese tea ceremony. She beautifully describes life and food in Japan, both from an authentic point of view and as an outsider. I read this book while I was working and living in Tokyo last summer and found it accurately described the way I felt about moving to this extraordinary country. Plus it contains a number of recipes so you can recreate the food yourself, what more could you want!

The recipe I chose was for Donburi, which Victoria describes as “Hot, soupy, salty, sweet and satisfying….that just about sums up Donburi, which is quintessentially Japan’s comfort food”. Its lovely food, which is easy to prepare by mixing stock, soy, sugar and mirin (sweet syrupy rice wine) with egg. While frying this I added spring onions and served it on top of rice with the baked mackerel. You add quite a lot of stock but it turns out great, not too soupy at all, and all the flavours balance each other out nicely. The salty flavour of the mackerel fitted well.

For dessert I found this recipe for a beetroot and mandarin tarte tatin. I was intrigued to use beetroot for dessert as I only cook or roast it normally. It was straightforward to make and the colors looked beautiful in the pan (although the pictures didn’t turn out very well). The taste was really nice, the caramel brought out the flavour of the beetroot but the tangy mandarin cut through it nicely. All in all, a very good meeting of east and west.

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