Posts Tagged ‘rice’

The Japanese GP – home made Sushi!

October 15, 2011

Last Sunday was the Japanese GP and there was never any doubt in my mind as to what I would make.  I love sushi, but have never really given it a go at home so this seemed like the perfect excuse to try.  Sushi seems to be quite popular over here as well, there are an awful lot of sushi bars around.  You can also buy the rice and nori sheets in the supermarket.  The one thing you can’t get though is rice vinegar, which is a little frustrating as sushi is vingared rice, the plain stuff just doesn’t cut it!

Before starting my sushi I took to the web looking for tips.  The one I found most useful was Ian & Sue Mitchell’s How to Make Sushi site.  It was their advice that I followed for the tricky part – cooking the rice!

I used a cup of rice (this made enough sushi for 2 with some spare) and washed the rice until the water ran clear.  I then placed the rice in a heavy pan with 1 and a half cups of cold water and brought everything to the boil.  Once the water was boiling the heat was turned down low, a lid put on the pan and everything was left for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes I turned the heat off  but didn’t take the lid off, leaving the pan for a further 10 nerve racking minutes.

Finally after this time as up I could look at the rice.  It was perfectly cooked.  The rice was soft and the grains separated easily.  It hadn’t caught to the bottom and it wasn’t too glutinous!  I was very relieved!

While the rice was cooking I had made my vinegar mixture.  For this quantity of rice I heated two tablespoons of white wine vinegar (instead of the proper rice vinegar) with two tablespoons of caster sugar and half a teaspoon of salt.  Once the sugar and salt has dissolved (and the room smelt of vinegar!) I turned off the heat and let the mix cool.

With the rice ready it went into a large plastic bowl along with the vinegar mix and I ‘fluffed’ and cooled the rice moving it around with a pair of chopsticks.  After about 5 minutes of fluffing and fanning the rice with some paper I then left it to cool by itself for an hour or so.With the rice cool I began to make my sushi.  I started off with some Nigiri.  This involved making some small sausages of rice which would then be topped with tuna or salmon.  On first picking up the rice I quickly discovered just how stick the vinegar/sugar mix had made it.  By wetting my hands first I was able to handle and shape the rice without the majority of it sticking to my palms.

I made 10 little sausages and then cut my toppings, 5 tuna and 5 salmon.  My fish was raw and so you have to be careful.  I’m quite lucky in that although I’m pretty far from the sea, salmon tartare is very popular in this region and so you can still get very fresh fish.  A Migros 15 minutes away from me has a very good fish counter where the quality is very high and so I felt confident enough in the fish I had to happily eat it uncooked.  I cut five slices each approximately 2 cm by 5cm from my salmon and my tuna and placed them on top of the rice along with a little wasabi.  I then cut some small strips of nori to secure the toppings to the rice.Next I had a go at  making maki rolls.  The amount of rice I had let me try two varieties and so I made some avocado and salmon ones and some tuna and fresh red and yellow pepper one.  To make the maki I placed a sheet of nori onto a bamboo place mat (you can get proper sushi mats, but my place mat worked just fine) and spread my rice over ¾ of a nori sheet.  I then placed my toppings along what would be the length of the roll and added some daubes of wasabi before proceeding to try and roll everything.  This is not as easy as it sounds and as when making a roulade or swiss roll, taking things slowly seemed the way forward.  I carefully rolled things trying to keep everything tucked in and tight and eventually I was left with a large green sausage of sushi.The next challenge was trying to cut the sushi.  I had a very sharp knife, but it obviously wasn’t sharp enough as it just pulled and torn the sushi.  In the end the best thing I found was a serrated bread knife.  This did flatten the circle slightly (something I could kind of fix one the sushi was in bits), but at least I was able to get bite size pieces.  From my two rolls of nori I made about 12 individual pieces (plus the ends which were just as tasty but not as pretty) and these went onto my plate with the nigiri.I finished things off by cutting some slices of salmon sashimi for my partner and I and then we were ready to tuck in.  I have to say I was pretty impressed.  For a first attempt everything looks pretty professional when it was all together on a plate.  When I tried the rice by itself I felt it was maybe a little sweet, but with the toppings/filings and the wasabi it was just right.  Aside from preparing the rice I was surprised how straight forward actually making the sushi was.  I had always thought that sushi must be quite difficult and, I’m not saying it was easy peasy, but I feel I could do this again once evening for tea rather than needing to set aside a whole afternoon to prepare everything.  All in all I was very pleased with how things went!

The race was a triumph for the two fastest men within it. The championship is really a two horse race, with Vettel needing one point in the rest of the season to clinch his second world title, while Jenson Button needs victories in every single race.

Button did his job but Vettel singly failed to read the script, driving the Red Bull home safely in third. Despite losing his momentary pole to Vettel who drove him off the track, Button came back using tire strategy and jumped the Red Bull in the pits stops. From there he was unstoppable, bring the car home with over two seconds in hand.

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The Malaysian Grand Prix – Nasi Lemak

April 10, 2011

So the second race of the year took place at the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia.  The race was at 9am British Time so it was another early start, although luckily not quite as early as Australia had been.  This time I thought I’d go for a breakfast dish as that was more appropriate, although a Malaysian breakfast is quite different to a British one.

There could be no more appropriate a choice of dish than Nasi Lemak which is considered to be the national dish of Malaysia.  Nasi Lemak translates as fatty rice and is sold in banana leaves for breakfast.  Despite much scouring of my local Asian stores I couldn’t find any banana leaves, although I did find the dried anchovies (ikan bilis) and shrimp paste (belacan) that I needed.

The rice can be served with a variety of accompaniments, but I decided to keep it simple and go for just two of the more traditional ones. These were sambal, a spicy sauce with the dried anchovies in it, and a sliced, hard-boiled egg

I started things off with the simplest task, boiling my eggs.  While these were on I made my spicy paste.  I toned this down slightly from the recipe I found online as I thought that 5 chillies were a little much for my tender taste buds.  Instead I went for 2 small dried piri piri chillies, 2 small shallots, a clove of garlic, half a teaspoon of shrimp paste, a small amount of salt and half a tablespoon of sugar.

I pounded the ingredients together in a pestle and mortar to make a very sticky grey paste.  The sauce appears a deep red in the pictures I have seen so I guess my reduction of the chilli quantity affected the colour quite significantly.

The ingredients for my Sembal paste

With the paste made I moved onto the rice.  I gently fried a teaspoon of ginger paste and a shallot in some peanut oil. Then I added a cup of rice and mixing everything together.  After this, I added a cup of coconut milk and a cup of water, put a lid on the pan and left it to simmer gently.

I then moved back to my sambal topping.  I started off by frying a handful of dried anchovies in more peanut oil until they were brown and crispy.  I then removed them from the pan and set them aside before adding my paste to the pan.  The aroma as the spices cooked was great and filled the room; it was very fragrant with a hint of chilli.  When the mix had cooked through for a few minutes I returned the anchovies to the pan.

Cooking the Paste

All the ingredients seemed quite disparate and didn’t really form into a sauce, so I added a squirt of tomato puree and a little water to bind everything together. This resulted in something much similar to the pictures I had seen.  With the sauce made, I quickly de-shelled the eggs and checked on the rice. This was just about done, so I served the whole meal up.

All Served up

The spicy paste was very hot, but there was only a small amount in comparison to the creamy rice, so the result was fairly mild. I hadn’t been sure about the combination of eggs and coconut rice, but I think it worked rather well. The dish was actually very nice as a breakfast option. It tasted like I’d imagine the inspiration to kedgeree to be like. I wasn’t overly keen on the crispy anchovies, they were a little unusual to me at that time in the morning. However, my partner really went for them, eating mine as well as his own.

The race itself: This could have been another boring race, with Vettel leading start to finish. However, everyone behind him managed to liven things up plenty. There was an awful lot of over-taking, not all down to the DRS snf some hair-raising moments with Alonso’s attempts at over-taking Hamilton. There was also Vitaly’s Petrov’s spectacular attempt to become the next Russian on the moon by launching himself over a drainage ditch. Who needs rain to make a race interesting?

Enjoying the last of summer: Paella

October 8, 2010

My mum was kind enough to bring me back a present of some saffron from her recent holiday, and so last night with the sun making what will probably be its final appearance for this year, I decided to embrace this ending of summer and make Paella.

This is a fairly simple dish which can be made with many different ingredients, it takes quite a while to cook, but is worth the wait.  I love the fresh flavours and the mix of meat and fish; it’s always really filling and is reasonably low fat as well if you stick to seafood!

My ingredients

First up I got all my ingredients together and prepared everything.  I decided to put chicken thigh, tiger prawns and squid in this dish.  I chopped the thigh into small pieces and coated with corn flour to tenderize (I have no idea why this works but it does!), cleaned the squid and cut it into rings and cooked my prawns before shelling them.  The rest of the ingredients consisted of about 2/3rds of a red pepper cut into 4/5cm thin strips, a onion thinly sliced, a clove of garlic which I diced, 40g of chorizo in chunks, about 50g of frozen peas, half a lemon, 100g of paella rice, 250ml of fish stock and a good pinch of my lovely saffron.

frying the onions and peppers then adding the chicken

I don’t own a proper paella pan, but I do have a lovely cast iron skillet, and when cooking for two this is a great substitute (for any more than two it gets a little crowded).  A paella should be cooked slowly and I started things off by gently frying my onions and peppers in about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil, and once these had softened a little but aren’t fully cooked (they have plenty of cooking left to do!), about 5 minutes or so, I added the chicken and the diced garlic.  After another 5 minutes went by and with the chicken starting to colour I added the chorizo and then the saffron and cooked some more allowing the colour to come out from both.

Adding the chorizo and then the saffron

Next up is the rice.  This went into the pan and was stirred and fried until the grain becomes translucent before pouring in the stock similar to how a risotto is made.  The main difference in cooking a risotto and paella is that you should stir a paella as infrequently as possible until the stock has been absorbed.

Adding the rice and frying until translucent before adding the stock

Once most of the stock has been absorbed the peas and the squid can be added.  A couple of minutes later I also added the zest and juice of half a lemon.

Adding the peas and squid, then the lemon

Finally, when pretty much all the liquid was gone I added the prawns and warmed them through before serving.

adding the pealed prawns

The final dish

This is the first time I had made Paella with saffron and the result was not as yellow as those I had made with turmeric.  It looked a lot of more natural being only slightly coloured and the flavour was great.  A lovely treat!