Penne with Celery Sauce – How to use up a big bunch of Celery

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We buy celery very often. It is reasonable and often on sale. It can be eaten raw and is good in any cooking. It is just, especially with 2 of us in the household, sometimes it is difficult to use up a big bunch of celery while it is still fresh.

The other day, I was looking in the fridge and thinking what I can do with this “better to eat now” celery. A new idea came to me when our manager took us for lunch. One entrée we were sharing was “chilli octopus with CELERY PUREE”. I thought this is it!

While the sauce features celery’s flavour,  garlic + chilli + parmesan cheese bring richness and funkiness to the sauce. I add bacon because I think the smokiness makes a good contrast to the celery’s freshness, however if you are after vegetarian option, it can be removed.

Ingredients: Serving for 2-3 people

For Celery Sauce

3 Celery Stalks including leaves – roughly chopped

3 cloves of Garlic

300ml Water

A good pinch of Salt

A pinch of Black Pepper

50g Parmesan Cheese

For Pasta

250g Penne

3 slices of Bacon – roughly chopped

½ Onion – finely chopped

1 clove of Garlic – finely chopped

1 Red Chilli – finely chopped

Method:

  1. Firstly make celery sauce. Place celery stalks, garlic and water in a pan and cook them until the celery stalks become soft. This will take about 20-30 minutes.
  2. Once the celery stalks are soft, remove the pan from the heat. Blend and mash them with a hand blender or food processor until it becomes smooth. Once it becomes smooth, add parmesan cheese and combine with it. Season the sauce with salt and pepper. Put aside.
  3. Start cooking pasta as per instructions on the package.
  4. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a frying pan over medium/high heat until it becomes crispy. Add onion, garlic and chilli. Cook them for 2-3 minutes. Add the celery sauce into the frying pan. Add a ladle of the pasta cooking liquid (from Method 3), if the sauce becomes too thick.
  5. Add the cooked pasta into the sauce and toss to combine. Serve hot.

 

Chestnut Rice – Autumn has come

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One thing that I really like in Japanese culture is that we can feel the season through food. Now it is autumn. In Japan, we say “Shokuyoku no Aki”, which means “autumn brings a good appetite”. This is because autumn is the season when a lot of fresh produce is in season, such as rice, ginger, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, mushrooms, salmon, saury pike, apple, persimmon, grape etc… yummmm….

I do not feel much of this “enjoy the season through food” concept here in Australia, however if you try, we can still see some differences in the supermarket in each season. Did you realise that apples are much tastier these days and persimmons are in the shops now? And…, do not forget my favourite, Chestnuts.

I especially love chestnut desserts; Mont Blanc Cake, Chestnut Tart, Chestnut Pound cake (see my recipe!), Chestnut Manju (Japanese sweet bun stuffed with sweet bean paste) and Chestnut Yokan (Sweet red bean past bar)…, yummmm….

However, to satisfy my nostalgia, I would like to introduce this Chestnut Rice recipe today. When my mother cooks it, our family realise that the summer has ended and that autumn is here now. This recipe reminds of my family and of Japanese autumn.

 

Ingredients (serving 4 people)

200g Chestnuts with shell – about 13-15 chestnuts

2 cups of Rice – Japanese Rice, Sushi Rice or Short Grain Rice (Please use Rice Cooker’s cup). If you wish, replace ½ cup of the rice to Sticky Rice (Mochigome), which can be purchased at some Asian food stores.

½ Teaspoon of good quality Sea Salt

2g of Dried Kelp – wiped with a wet cloth

How to prepare chestnuts

  1. Soak chestnuts in water over night. This is to make the shell soft so that it will be easier to peel it off.
  2. Using a knife, slice a little bit of the bottom of the chestnut off.
  3. Using your fingers, peel the hard shell off from the cut end. You can peel it off quite easily.
  4. Then, using a knife, peel the inner skin completely. Place the chestnut into a bowl of water as soon as it is peeled. Please be careful with your fingers when you peel the inner skin, as it is time consuming and slippery to peel small chestnuts.

Method:

  1. Put rice in a rice cooker’s removable bowl and rinse the rice. Rest the washed rice in the bowl for about 20 minutes (if your rice cooker includes this time into the cooking time, it is not necessary to do so).
  2.  Add water up to the line of 2 as marked inside the removable bowl (not included in the ingredients list above).
  3. Add sea salt and dried kelp to the rice.
  4. Place the prepared chestnuts on the rice.
  5. Set the rice cooker and cook it as per the rice cooker’s instructions.
  6. Once the rice cooker has completed cooking, let it sit for about 30 minutes (if your rice cooker includes this time into the cooking time, it is not necessary to do so). Remove the dried kelp. Fold over the rice with a rice paddle and serve it in a rice bowl while it is hot.

 

GyozaRoo – Kangaroo Mince Gyoza

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One of the ingredients that is frequently on our shopping list is Kangaroo Mince. Apparently, there are many right reasons to eat kangaroo meat – low fat, low price, low impact to the environment etc…. However, since I am not a scientist, I really cannot say what is right or wrong. I just like to eat something fresh, healthy, tasty and seasonal that is reasonably priced. In my opinion, kangaroo meat appears “right”. I often use kangaroo mince as it is versatile and very easy to cook. The bonus is it is very reasonable- $9ish per kilo!

I have been curious if kangaroo meat works in Japanese cuisine. In this gyoza recipe, I have alternated pork mince to kangaroo. This makes gyoza light and less fatty. I spice the mince up with garam masala, garlic and ginger and it creates a nice flavour. Vegetables make the gyoza juicy and sweet. I think it works.

 

Ingredients: (about 50 Gyoza, serving 4 people, using 26cm frying pan)

50 Gyoza Wrappers (or they may be called Dumpling Wrapper. These can be purchased at most of Asian stores.)

1 Tablespoon of Oil for frying each batch of gyoza

100ml of Hoy Water for frying each batch of gyoza

Filling

130g kangaroo Mince

250g Cabbage leaves (about 3-4 leaves) – finely chopped

100g Bean Sprouts

3 Dried Shiitake Mushrooms -soak them in water for about 10 minutes to reconstitute, then chopped them finely.

Seasonings

1 Teaspoon of Soy Sauce

1 Teaspoon of Sesame Oil

½ Teaspoon of Garam Masala

2 cloves of Garlic – grated

1.5 cm cube of Ginger – grated

Dipping Sauce

1 Tablespoon of Soy Sauce

1 Tablespoon of White Vinegar

1 small amount of grounded Chili (optional)

 

Method:

  1. Place kangaroo mince and seasonings in a large bowl. Mix them by hand until the mixture become sticky.
  2. Add cabbage, bean sprouts and shiitake mushrooms to the meat mixture. Combine them all together. You can break the bean sprouts while you are combining them (so that you do not need to chop them up!). This has to be done quickly to avoid water coming out from the vegetables.
  3. Now wrap the filling with gyoza wrappers. Place a gyoza wrapper on your palm and pit 1 teaspoonful of the filling in the centre of the wrapper. Apply a small amount of water on top half of the edge of the wrapper with your finger. This works as glue. Fold the wrapper in half over the filling. Using the thumb and index finger of your other hand, start folding the wrapper from right to left while making pleats. Repeat this process to make 50 gyoza.
  4. Now we pan-fry the gyoza. Heat a small amount of oil (not included in the ingredients’ list above) in a flat bottomed frying pan on high (I use a 26cm frying-pan). Once the pan gets really hot, turn the heat down to medium. Place the gyoza in a single layer in the frying pan and pan-fry them for a minute. You can probably place about 25 gyoza in the 26cm frying pan.
  5. Gently add hot water to the frying pan and put a lid on it immediately. Keep cooking them for 3 minutes or until most of water evaporates.
  6. Remove the lid. Make sure there is no liquid left in the pan. If nay, cook them over high heat without the lid until the remaining water evaporates. Pour oil into the pan (not over the gyoza) and pan fry the gyoza for 2-3 minutes or until the bottom of the gyoza becomes golden and crispy.
  7. Transfer the gyoza to a serving plate. For dipping sauce, combine all of the ingredients. Serve gyoza while they are hot with the dipping sauce.

How to make Japanese Stock : Dashi – Kelp and Bonito Stock (Awase Dashi)

Dashi is Japanese stock. It is a foundation of flavour in Japanese cuisine – it is called Umami. While most of common stock (such as beef, chicken and vegie stock etc…) takes long time to cook, Dashi can be done in a short time. Well…, I have to admit that I often I often use Dashi powder as it is very easy to use…, however, I also have to say that Dashi made from scratch is DELICIOUS. It’s worth it to make it by yourself.

There are a few kinds of Dashi, and I will introduce how to make Awase-Dashi here today. Awase-Dashi is made from Dried Kelp and Bonito Flake. It is very versatile and great for most of Japanese dishes.

As I said, it does not take long to make, but please just make sure to soak fried kelp in water over night or at least 3 hours prior to start heating (I normally soak it before going to work in the morning, so that it is ready to cook when I come home). You can also make a big batch of the stock and store it in the fridge (for a week) or in the freezer (for a month).

Ingredients:

1000ml Water

10g Dried Kelp

20g Dried Bonito Flake (Katsuobushi)

Method:

  1. Gently wipe kelp with a wet cloth or kitchen paper. Place water and the kelp in a large pot. Leave it for over night or at least 3 hours. This is to allow the flavour of the kelp to get into the water.
  2. Heat up the pot on medium heat. Just before the water starts to boil, remove the kelp.
  3. Add dried bonito flake (katsuobushi) to the pot and cook it for 3 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the bonito sink to the bottom. This will take about  10 minutes.
  4. Strain the stock and squeeze the remained bonito to release extra umami from it.

 

Light & Fluffy Yogurt Pancakes

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A perfect Sunday breakfast. Yogurt makes pancakes light and fluffy. I made this recipe when I really felt like pancakes but there was no milk in the fridge. If you do not always have milk in your fridge like us but are still crabbing pancakes, try this recipe.

Ingredients (4 small pancakes):

4 Tablespoons of Plain Yogurt (normal, light or greek – it is your choice)

5 Tablespoons of Water

1 Egg

1.5 Tablespoons of Sugar

½ Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract

50g Almond Meal – shifted

50g Self-rising Flour – shifted

 

Method:

  1. In a bowl, whisk yogurt, water, egg, sugar and vanilla extract well, until the mixture becomes smooth.
  2. Add almond meal and self-rising flour to the bowl and combine them until the batter becomes smooth.
  3. Place a small amount of oil in a frying pan (not included in the ingredients’ list above). Heat the frying pan to medium/high heat. Pour ¼ of the batter into the frying pan. Cook it for 2-3 minutes or until the surface becomes bubbly and the edge becomes dry. Flip the pancake over and cook it for another 2-3 minutes. Once it is cooked, transfer the pancake to a plate and repeat the same process with the remaining batter.
  4. Plate them up and serve them warm with your choice of toppings (I chose simple ones – good butter and honey)

 

Ginger Rice

I made this recipe when main dish was grilled king fish. I wanted to serve something refreshing with it; something to cut through the oiliness.

A small amount of ginger gives a light aroma to rice and a hint of spiciness refreshes your mouth. It is a good combination with oily fish. Try it while ginger is in season.

Servings: 4 people

Ingredients:

2 cup of Rice – Japanese Rice, Sushi Rice or Short Grain Rice (please use Rice Cooker’s cup)

7g of Ginger – peeled and grated

5g of Dried Kelp – wipe the surface with a wet clean cloth

1 Tablespoon of Cooking Sake

1 Tablespoon of Light Soy Sauce

1 Spring Onion – finely chopped

2.5g Bonito Flake

 

Method:

  1. Put rice in a rice cooker’s removable bowl and rinse the rice. Rest the washed rice in the bowl for about 20 minutes (if your rice cooker includes this time into the cooking time, it is not necessary to do so).
  2. Add cooking sake and soy sauce to the rice. Add water up to the line of 2 as marked inside the removable bowl (not included in the ingredients list above). Add ginger to the rice. Place dried kelp on it.
  3. Set the rice cooker and cook it as per the rice cooker’s instructions.
  4. Once the rice cooker has completed cooking, let it sit for about 30 minutes (if your rice cooker includes this time into the cooking time, it is not necessary to do so). Remove the dried kelp. Add spring onion and bonito flakes, and fold them into the rice. Serve it while it is hot.

The Easiest Ever Cake – Apple Cinnamon Almond Cake with Lemon Syrup

This is another very easy cake recipe. No technique is required. All you have to do is keep adding the ingredients in a bowl. Apple and almond meal give the cake moderate natural sweetness, and brown sugar contributes to its richness. The flavour of lemon syrup adds a little bit of sourness to the cake.

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Ingredients for 15 cm round cake tin:

2 Eggs

70g Dark Brown Sugar

60ml Milk

40g Unsalted Butter – melted

20ml Olive Oil

1 Teaspoon of Cinnamon powder

80g Almond Meal – shifted

80g Self-Rising Flour – shifted

1 Apple (any kind of apple you like) – peeled, core removed and sliced into thin wedges

Lemon Syrup

2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice

2 Tablespoons of Water

4 Tablespoons of icing Sugar (or White Sugar is also fine)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180◦C. Line a cake tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. In a large bowl, beat eggs and dark brown sugar until the sugar is dissolved completely. Add milk, melted butter, olive oil and cinnamon power to the bowl. Combine them well.
  3. Add almond meal and self-rising flour into the mixture. Combine them gently until hey disappear. Do not mix as gluten will come out and he cake will be dense*.
  4. Pour the batter into the tin and smooth the top. Arrange the sliced apple on top of the batter, pressing them into the batter very gently. Bake it for about 40 minutes (depending on your oven) or until a wooden skewer inserted into the centre of cake comes out clean.
  5. Meanwhile, make lemon syrup. Put lemon juice, water and icing sugar in a small saucepan. Heat it gently until the sugar is completely dissolved. Put aside.
  6. Once the cake is cooked, take it out from the oven. Make small holes in the surface using a wooden skewer and pour the lemon syrup over the cake. Leave it to soak in the tin until it has cooled down. It can be eaten straight away, but it is nice next day as well when all of the flavour is settle and absorbed.

Note* How to combine dry ingredients into wet ingredients gently.

I use a wire whisk. Scrape and scoop the mixture of ingredients with the whisk, and lift up and drop it. Repeat this until the dry ingredients disappear into the mixture. It helps you to work quicker when you turn the mixing bowl in the opposite direction of the whisk scrapping the mixture.