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September 25, 2016 / mintcustard

Making simple sushi for lunch and a panda onigiri just for fun.

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Home made sushi and panda onigiri.

Taking a packed lunch to work everyday has many benefits. It’s cheap, it’s customised exactly to your tastes and in my case means I have to take a break to eat it. The downside is that every evening (or morning if I’m not organised) I have to ring the changes.

One way I have managed this is by making my own sushi. It might not be as beautiful as those you can buy but it doesn’t fall apart. Made with fillings that I enjoy, eaten with chopsticks and drizzled with a little soy sauce, sushi is my ideal lunch.

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Lunch box filled with sushi.

You could go to a class to learn how to make sushi or you can learn very easily by watching videos on YouTube.

It took me a little while to get the rice right. Sushi rice needs to be washed, washed and washed again until the water runs clear. I didn’t do this as thoroughly as I should have to begin with and this was my downfall. I use a rice cooker but the same applies if steamed in a pan. Once cooked the sushi rice needs to be dressed. The amount of dressing below is for the rice that is made from one cup of uncooked sushi rice.

Sushi su

4 dsp rice wine vinegar

2 dsp sugar

1 dsp mirin

  • Mix the three ingredients together and warm in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved. Stir gently into the warm rice and stir once to combine.

One cup of uncooked sushi rice is sufficient to cover two whole sheets of nori, making two sets of sushi rolls. Favourite fillings here are salmon, tuna, avocado, cucumber, peppers and sesame seeds. Wasabi is as addictive as chilli so you must add a little, or in my case, a lot. Covering your sushi mat with a tight wrap of cling film prevent the sesame seeds from getting trapped in the bamboo slats.

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Panda onigiri kit. Rice ball press and nori shape cutter.

Once I had mastered sushi rolls then my googling and trawling of YouTube led me to make nigiri (small blocks of rice with fish or vegetables on top) and rather splendidly onigiri. The only person I have to please with my bento box is me but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have a little fun. You can buy sets to make shaped rice balls and with the cutters supplied you can add features to make pandas, cats and even Hello Kitty characters. Well, it has to be done.

Add to your lunch box a small pot of soy sauce, some pickled ginger and pair of chopsticks and sushi is a brilliant addition to your lunch box repertoire.

September 24, 2016 / mintcustard

Hand made ramen with three broths.

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Soy sauce based ramen soup.

Japanese tastes and flavours have been cropping up in my kitchen on a regular basis recently.I have been making my own sushi as well as using matcha as an additional flavour in my baking. How wonderful then to be asked to join a ramen class at the Sozai Cookery school in Aldgate. 

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Miso based ramen soup, with minced pork.

I have to confess I have eaten only two forms of ramen. One from a large chain restaurant and the other in a pot that gets covered in boiling water (!) I’ll hand back my food blogger accreditation as I get my coat……

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Char sui pork resting before being sliced and slid onto our ramen.

During my evening at Sozai I was introduced to soy based ramen soup served with char shu pork and ramen eggs, miso based soup with minced pork and a dressing for cold ramen noodles too. Added to this a recipe for chicken stock soup and the chance to make hand made ramen noodles too. Not only did I come away from the event with recipes, my stomach was full too as we ate the ramens and sauces we had made for supper too. I need to thank Akemi Yokoyama for both her patience and her constant explanations, anecdotes and asides. She is a fantastic teacher and made the time fly.

Using pressure cookers to speed up the cooking process fascinated and terrified me in equal measure. This cooking method did allow us to see the cooking of the char shu pork from beginning to end. A wonderful byproduct of char shu pork are the ramen eggs. Infused with the soy and pork flavours but still runny in the middle they were the reason all the cameras and phones came out at once to record the moment they were cut in half. Given that there was a room of food bloggers there, that must tell you how fabulous the moment was.

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Despite the fact that ramen are rarely made at home, they were surprisingly simple. Baking is chemistry and so it seems is noodle making. With the correct amounts of flour, water and bicarbonate of soda, a little cornflour and a pasta machine you CAN make ramen simply and easily. I certainly will be making them again – soon.

Sourcing good quality authentic products can sometimes make cooking world foods tricky but Yutaka provided Sozai Cookery school, myself and my fellow bloggers with great ingredients for our ramen lesson and some to take away with us. I use Yutaka rice when making sushi at home myself so was immensely pleased to find out that they have so many other products  for me to use too.

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Yutaka products we used in our ramen lesson.

I was invited to participate in this event via the Ladies in Blogging group. I was not asked to write a positive blog post. I was not paid to attend and all photographs and words are my own.

September 10, 2016 / mintcustard

Sesame and soy dipping sauce.

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Sesame and soy dipping sauce and salad dressing.

Whenever I treat myself to Yo Sushi or Wagamama, one of my favourite dishes is a salad. Don’t worry I always add a dish of chilli squid to accompany it. The dressing has a tang of sesame that is so creamy and compliments the vegetables so well. I decided to have a try at making my own version, but it morphed into a dipping sauce as I had a big plate of vegetables cut up, ready to munch on as I cooked. If you want to make it into a salad dressing a splash or two of water to thin down the sauce would work well.

Sesame and soy dipping sauce.

Ingredients.

1 dsp tahini

1 dsp roasted and ground sesame seeds

4 tsp soy sauce

2 tsp mirin

2 tsp rice wine vinegar

1 tsp sugar

How to …..

  • In a dry pan heat the sesame seeds until they turn a light golden brown. Watch them like a hawk, they will burn if you take your eyes off them at all.
  • Using a mortar and pestle crush the sesame seeds.
  • In a bowl combine all the ingredients together well. Tahini will take a while to mix in but give it a moment and it will.
  • Chop vegetables and dip.
  • As I said if you want this to be used as a dressing for a salad then thin it out with a little water.

You could heat this up a little with some chilli. You could use flakes or fresh chopped chilli.

September 3, 2016 / mintcustard

Spiced pork meatballs in peanut satay sauce.

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Spiced pork meatballs and peanut satay sauce.

As I dished this up yesterday the teen said, “so basically this is spaghetti and meatballs but with noodles and satay sauce”. She is right, it is. These pork meatballs are pimped with Asian flavours and drenched in peanut satay sauce. Served with egg noodles this makes a simple and quick weekday meal that rings the changes a little.

Spiced pork meatballs in peanut satay sauce. Makes approx 15 meatballs

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Ingredients.

500g lean pork mince

1 tsp lime zest

1 tsp freshly grated ginger

1 glove garlic grated

1 red chilli finely chopped (seeds in or out, you choose)

1 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 jar satay sauce.

How to ….

  • Preheat the oven to 200 c
  • Place all the ingredient into a large bowl and use your hands to mix all the ingredients together.
  • Take a large gratin dish and rub with a little oil.
  • Take a golf ball sized amount of mixture and roll into a ball. Place into the gratin dish. Repeat until all the mixture has been used up.
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Pork meatballs after baking for 15 minutes.

  • Bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
  • Pour over the satay sauce and place back in the oven for another 5 minutes.
  • Serve with egg noodles, steamed pak choi and a sprinkle of fresh coriander or a wedge of lime.

 

August 31, 2016 / mintcustard

Strawberry and cream Viennese whirls.

It’s Biscuit Week on Bake Off and Viennese whirls make an appearance I’m led to believe. So here is my latest twist on a much loved classic. My piping is rubbish but you can see that  the two colours swirl together beautifully and the freeze dried strawberries look like little jewels in the dough. No soggy bottoms here either. Light, crisp and worthy of a Hollywood handshake I’d hope.

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Strawberry and cream Viennese whirl.

Strawberry and cream Viennese whirls.

125 g very soft butter

25 g icing sugar

115 g plain flour

25 g cornflour

7g pack freeze dried strawberries

piping bag

large star tip

How to …..

  • Preheat the oven to 190c or Gas 5
  • Line a baking tray with baking parchment.
  • Beat together the butter, vanilla and the icing sugar. Use a mixer or a beater as using a spoon will take forever.
  • Sift in the flours and beat into the creamed mixture.
  • Beat in the strawberry pieces.
  • Place the tip into your piping bag and spoon in the mixture. I stand the bag in a pint glass to help steady the bag as I fill it. If you want you can add a dash of pink colouring to half the mixture. This will create a pretty swirled pattern.
  • Pipe whirls of the mixture filling. This amount of mixture makes 9 good sized biscuits.
  • Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. I seriously suggest you sit by the oven door as these can burn very easily as they are so friable.
August 31, 2016 / mintcustard

Lattice sausage rolls, a frugal way to use up a spare sausage and some pastry.

Lattice topped sausage rolls.

Lattice topped sausage rolls.

Really this isn’t a recipe, simply a reminder that an extra meal can often be rustled up from ingredients you may have thrown away or eaten as a “cooks perk”.

Having made a lattice topped blackberry and apple pie on Sunday I had a little of the lattice pastry left over. Being me I’d wrapped it in cling film and popped it into the fridge for use another time. As it had been cut to make a lattice those opportunities may be few and far between and I could have frozen the dough too.

The following day whilst roasting a chicken with all the trimmings. You know stuffing, bacon and sausages and a lemon too. I could have put all the sausages around the chicken, they would have been eaten but I kept back three to make into sausage rolls with the lattice pastry.

The sausages were skinned and a mix of chilli flakes and herbs mixed in to half the mix, before reforming into a sausage shape and covering with the lattice. The second half was mixed with a dollop of red onion relish and again wrapped in lattice puff pastry.

They were given a quick egg wash and baked at 200c for 15 minutes on a tray lined with baking parchment.

A scrap of pastry and a few of sausages, with the addition of some salad leaves made lunch for two on Tuesday!

August 29, 2016 / mintcustard

Chocolate and vanilla pinwheel biscuits. #GBBO biscuit week

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Chocolate and vanilla pinwheel biscuits. Just right to munch on whilst watching #GBBO biscuit week.

Bake off is back. Yay! Even if you don’t like the programme, you have to admit that watching other people bake can often inspire you to bake yourself.

Cake week was responsible for me thinking about baking a Pimms drizzle cake (although the humidity and temperature in London stopped me from putting on the oven!)

As the temperatures and humidity dropped and the thought of biscuit week on the horizon, of course my mind turned to biscuits. I’ve made so many variations of sugar cookies in the past and many of you know all about my cookie cutter obsession. This time I decided to make some simple pinwheel biscuits, in a classic flavour combination of chocolate and vanilla. Another time I may make chocolate and coffee, or perhaps orange and cardamom, really the possibilities are endless.

Ingredients makes enough dough for 25 biscuits.

150g cold butter

250g  plain flour

pinch salt

100g icing sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla powder or 1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg yolk

2 tbsp milk

15g cocoa powder

How to …..

  • In a large bowl rub the flour and cold butter with a pinch of salt. Work until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  • Stir in the icing sugar and vanilla using a round ended knife.
  • In a small bowl fork together the egg yolk and milk. Use the round ended knife to combine this into the dry mixture. Work with the knife and hands until the dough just comes together.
  • Take half the mixture, form into a disk, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • With the second half still in the bowl add the cocoa powder and knead to combine. Again form a disk, wrap in cling film and refrigerate.
  • After 30 minutes roll out both disks to a similar sized rectangle. Place one on top of the other and roll along the long side tightly to create a pinwheel sausage.
  • Preheat the oven to 180c
  • Place in the fridge for 10 minutes to chill again.Slice into 1 cm slices, place on baking parchment and bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
  • This mixture makes about 25 biscuits. I slice 12 and place the remaining dough into the freezer for another day.
August 27, 2016 / mintcustard

My first Vlog – and it isn’t a recipe! Go on. Do it. I dare you!

I have a face for radio. Check out the vlog and you will see I’m not kidding. Nor do I have the skills or quite frankly the desire to wander around public places, holding a camera and talking to myself. At 5 minutes notice last year, whilst helping to run the AV side of a Rotary conference, I was asked to fill a gap in the programme as a speaker was running late. OK I said, I can do that.

I was nervous, I was unsure and I had no idea really what I was going to say. This is the stream of consciousness that emerged. Think it went well. What do you think?

August 26, 2016 / mintcustard

Barbecuing with Branston, no it really isn’t just for sandwiches!

 

Tex-Mex chicken tacos - Branston pickle in the marinade.

Tex-Mex chicken tacos – Branston pickle in the marinade.

 

Say Branston to most people brought up in the UK and their first thoughts may well include cheese and pickle sandwiches or a dollop on the side of a Ploughman’s lunch. Give me either of those and I’d be extraordinarily happy. A trip to The London Barbecue School on Monday, however, showed me there was more to that jar of dark brown chunky deliciousness than simply a way to pimp a cheese toastie.

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Following a day wandering around London buying bits and pieces for the Student to take to University we were both ready to find out more.

The London Barbecue School is set under the arches of Peckham Rye station. On a warm sultry evening, when the lights began to twinkle, it was quite magical. The food made with Branston was delicious and surprising too.

We began by making the Tex-Mex chicken tacos. Using the small chunk Branston pickle as an ingredient, it dawned on the student and I that this chicken tacos recipe was a simple, inexpensive and tasty way for Freshers to feed themselves. Most will have a jar of pickle lurking somewhere and what better way to ensure none gets left in the jar. We also thought you could make the meat filling and then use little gem leaves as a wrap. So your 5 a day doesn’t have to rely on you having a kebab on the way back to Halls!

Next up we cooked steaks and brushed them with the glaze take from this Beer braised brisket recipe. Served with the smoky chipotle and tomato relish it went down a storm. The coleslaw recipe here  is just amazing too.

Finally, we cooked the Sticky pork chops, the recipe calls for baking in the oven, but as we had super duper barbecues that could act as both an oven or a grill we were able to continue cooking over charcoal. Branston sweet chilli relish was used to add heat and sweetness to the marinade. Again, a real lesson for the Student. Marinades add flavour and can tenderise meats before cooking, making those less expensive cuts of meat so tender and delicious.

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What happens when you really fancy cooking a burger and your friend drops the V word. Vegetarian….. The grilled Portabella mushroom burger may well be an answer. With all the usual accompaniments to a burger, including the Branston caramelised red onion relish, this recipe keeps everyone happy.

I was asked to attend the Branston BBQ event at the London Barbecue School. I was not paid to attend nor was I asked to write a positive review. The photographs are either my own or by Kaye at Fordtography.co.uk I’m sure you can tell which are which!

August 25, 2016 / mintcustard

Stocking a Freshers food cupboard – a list of essentials.

The A Level results are in, you are busy buying all the student essentials your little one (!) needs to keep themselves warm, clean and fed whilst away. If you haven’t started this yet then I have a blog post that might help here, What do you take to Uni?

After all that excitement, reality sets in when you and they cotton onto the fact that kebabs, discounted Domino’s pizza and vodka don’t make for a balanced diet and some cooking will have to happen at some time. All students need some help so that they don’t subsist on microwave meals either, that takes some discussion – my tips are here. How to stop your student from starving.

The key to making food varied and tasty is a well stocked pantry. This is a little unrealistic for students but give them a hand by putting together a box of basics that no student cook should be without.

Student pantry list

Salt and pepper (in a mill – not that dust!)

Dried herbs – useful to add to basic pizza bases, into omelettes, on top of spag bol

Chilli flakes – turns mince into chilli, adds heat to cheese on toast

Stock cubes -add flavour to rice, meals, as a soup base.

Tinned tomatoes – adds flavour to chilli, spag bol or simply on toast at 3am

Baked beans – with an egg, in a baked potato, on toast , straight out of the tin – I’m not judging.

Tinned pulses and beans, bulk out a meal with meat, no need to soak, look in the world food aisles as they are usually much cheaper there.

Tinned tuna – as with beans but you can make a pasta bake too.

Rice, long grain (and risotto)- make sure they know how much to cook at one time. Use a portion measure, make your own.

Pasta – shapes and spaghetti – ditto make a measure to get the potions right. Egg noodles to add to stir fries.

Plain flour – for pancakes and white sauces – there are recipes for these to come on Mintcustard.

Oats – for porridge, for flapjacks or for coating chicken for a change.

Sugar

Mustard – on your burger or in your sauce for cauliflower cheese

Ketchup – do I need to explain this?

Pesto – on pasta, in a soup, on top of a basics pizza base

Soy sauce

Spices you are familiar with as a family – the taste of home.

Tea and coffee

Squash

This is NOT an exhaustive list. If you need to add HP sauce, sea salt flakes or jars of tahini as essentials then be my guest. Let me know what you would take as an essential.