Grilled Plaice with Spring Onion and Ginger Sauce

Plaice has a soft, mild taste flesh and is quick to cook. No wonder it’s one of the most popular and widely available fish in the UK. You can find plaice as a whole fish, or filleted pieces in the shop. Plaice fillets don’t have bones nor skins, so you can start cooking straightaway without any preparation. You also can find plaice fillets in the frozen food section.

Plaice is often used for fish and chips here, but I oven-baked fillets and served with ginger flavoured soy sauce and lots of spring onion on top. It’s simple and easy recipe but the result is fantastic. Plaice is much more succulent and softer when oven-baked than grilled. Serve with a bowl of rice or rice wine to enjoy its Japanese flavour.

You can use any kind of fish fillet, such sea bream, sea bass, salmon or mackerel, instead of plaice.

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Cooking Level: Easy

Ingredients for two

2 Place Fillets

2 tbs Olive Oil

Salt

40g Spring Onion or Salad Onion

For the sauce

1 ½ tbs Soy Sauce

10g Ginger (grated)

2 tbs Vegetable Oil

Direction

  1. Preheat an oven to 200°C
  2. Sprinkle little salt over the fillets. Pour the olive oil over them and spread evenly with your hand. Bake for 15 minutes. Once cooked, place them on the serving plates.
  3. While baking the fillets, cut the spring onion into 5 cm long, and then slice thinly lengthwise. Place them in a bowl of water for 5 -10 minutes. Pat dry with kitchen paper.
  4. Mix the ingredients for the sauce and the sliced spring onion in a small bowl. Pour the sauce over the fillets. Serve immediately.

Key: Baking time can vary depending on the oven used. Check time to time to prevent overcooking the fish. If you use a different kind of fish, adjust baking time depending on the thickness of the fillet. Fish cooks fast and dries out by overcooking. Use ‘200°C for 15 minutes’ as a guideline. They become fully opaque and feel firmer when they’re done.

Topic: Not only for Fridays!

NHS in the UK recommend eating fish twice a week, as they are high in protein and low in saturated fat. What’s more, oily fish contains omega-3 fatty acid, which is good for your brain and heart.

A study in 2014 in the US found a link between fish consumption and volumes of brain parts which deal with memory and cognition. It also revealed that people who eat fish regularly are more likely to have a higher education.

In the UK and other Christian countries, fish is traditionally eaten on Fridays. So, it’s good idea to add one more fish day in your weekly diet. Unfortunately, fish and chips are not as effective as baked or boiled fish, because, not only it’s much higher in calories, fatty acids are destroyed by the high heat of frying.

In contrast, in Japan, a survey conducted in October in 2017 found that 58.8% of Japanese adults eat fish more than twice a week. The survey also revealed that 65.1% of the people who eat fish more than twice a week consider themselves as healthy, compared to 50.2% of the people who eat fish less than once a week.

Here, I declare, “Fish is not only for Friday!” If you want to know more fish recipes, click the ‘Seafood’ tag on the right column of the page. Why not try my TERIYAKI SALMON RECIPE? If you are not used to cooking fish, you can start with THIS RECIPE which uses a tin of mackerel.

I found this fantastic sardines recipe below on Jen Reviews. The dish reminds me my holiday in Portugal. I’ll definitely try this recipe when I get fresh sardines. The website has more healthy recipes. Well recommended!

Grilled Piri Piri Sardines on Crusty Bread

References:

https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pages/fish-shellfish.aspx

http://www.upmc.com/media/NewsReleases/2014/Pages/pitt-study-fish-boots-brain-health.aspx

https://www.maruha-nichiro.co.jp/corporate/news_center/research/pdf/20171003_totonohi_cyousa.pdf (Japanese)

 

Chicken Breast Salad with Spring Onion

Chicken breast contains high levels of protein and is low in calories and fat, so it’s inarguably the healthiest meat to eat. However, it can become a bit dry when overcooked. In this recipe, I’ll show you how to cook succulent breast fillet. What’s more, it’s probably the easiest way to cook it: you don’t need any technique, only a kitchen timer. You can use the cooked breast fillet, not only for salad, but also many other dishes including sandwiches and pasta dishes. The cooking time for this recipe is 50 minutes, but 30 minutes of it is waiting time! Learn how to cook breast fillet from this recipe. It’s so handy to know and you’ll definitely use it again.

Cooking Time: 50 minutes

Cooking Level: Easy

Ingredients for 2

1 Chicken Brest Fillet

75g Cucumber

For the Dressing (mix well beforehand)

1 tbs Sugar

1 tbs Vinegar

1 tbs Soy Sauce

1 tbs Sesame Oil

1 tbs Sesame Seed (toasted) *optional

Nori Sheets (cut into strips or teared into small pieces) *optional

Direction

  1. Pour water in a pan, just enough to cover the chicken fillet. Bring to a boil.
  2. Add the chicken fillet in the pan. Once the water boils again, lower the heat and place a lid. Boil for 10 minutes over low heat and leave to cool down in the pan with the lid on for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Cut the cucumber into thin strips. When the chicken fillet cools down enough to be handled, tear it along the fibres and place on the cucumber. Drizzle the dressing.
  4. Place the sesame seeds and nori if you like.

Key: You can find how to make toasted sesame seed in THIS RECIPE. Please refer at ‘Preparation 3’ section.

Topic 1: Are you a breast person, or thigh person?

The breast fillet is the most popular part of chicken in the West. However, do you know that the succulent thigh is the most popular part of the chicken in Japan? It’s much more expensive than breast too.

It’s one of those interesting things about how food culture differs in each country. I’d like to know if you have any interesting differences in food culture in your country. Please let me know in the comments below.

Topic 2: Combat fatigue with chicken breast

A group of Japanese scientists studied the secret of stamina in migratory birds: the reason why they can fly long distances for long durations. They found a substance called ‘Imidazole dipeptides’ which have strong anti-fatigue and anti-oxidative effects, in their breast muscles. Most creatures have this substance in their most used therefore fatigued areas of their body, for instance, the root of the caudal fin of a bonito fish and the brain of a human. Although we all know chickens can’t fly, its breast is rich in Imidazole dipeptides, interestingly.

Research carried out in 2009 in Japan showed the continuous intake of Imidazole dipeptides for over 8 weeks showed signs of reduced fatigue. Dr Keiichi Shimizu, who led the research, said that eating 100g chicken breast per day for at least 2 weeks will make a difference. Let me know if it works for you!

References:

https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jcam/6/3/6_3_123/_article

https://yomidr.yomiuri.co.jp/article/20150906-OYTEW57436/ (Japanese)

The Ultimately Tasty Celery with Garlic Sauce

I personally think this is the most delicious way to eat celery on Earth. Yes, the best in the world!

Celery tastes good and is inexpensive, so I usually get one when I go grocery shopping. However, celery is usually a main dish outcast and I haven’t had a celery dish which made me surprised about how tasty celery is from the bottom of my heart.

So, I decided to cast Mr. Celery as the main role on the dining table stage. Supporting role will go to Miss. Garlic. Enjoy the joint performance of the two talented ingredients yourself!

celery 1

Ingredients for 2

3 Celery storks

1 packet of bonito flakes

2 cloves of garlic (thinly sliced)

3 tbs Sesame Oil

2 tbs Soy Sauce

1 tbs Vinegar

Directions

  1. Slice the celery storks with angle and spread them on a serving plate.
  2. Sprinkle the bonito flakes, the soy sauce and the vinegar evenly.
  3. Heat the sesame oil in a small pot and add the thinly sliced garlic. Fry them over low heat until they release their fragrance. Be careful not to burn them.
  4. When the garlic slices are lightly browned, pour the sesame oil and garlic slices over the celery. Mix well.

Key

  1. This celery dish can be eaten soon after cooked, however it’s best to eat after 2 hours as the celery absorbs all the flavour.
  2. Use toasted sesame seeds instead of Bonito Flakes for a vegetarian and vegan friendly dish.

Topic: Something Smells Like Celery…

Japanese scientist Kikue Kubota and her fellow researchers studied what the subtle, yet distinct smell of celery is. The subject came up because they wondered why celery makes every soup taste better, despite the fact that these soups don’t have the taste of celery. After extensive experiments, they published a study entitled ‘Potent odorants characterize the aroma quality of leaves and stalks in raw and boiled celery’. The study explains that a compound called phthalides is what gives celery its unique smell, and guarantees an improved flavour. Oddly enough, the compound itself smells like celery, but doesn’t have a taste at all.

What’s more, a recent study showed phthalides can relax the muscles around our arteries, therefore, together with the diuretic effect of celery, it can lower blood pressure. Another compound behind the smell of celery called Apiin is said to have a calming effect.

Celery is full of antioxidants and eating celery has so many health benefits: lowering cholesterol, fatigue recovery, fighting cancer, and lots more. What are you waiting for? Let’s cook this recipe and eat lots of celery!

References:

https://www.sciencenewsforstudents.org/article/essence-celery

http://www.wakasanohimitsu.jp/seibun/celery/ (Japanese)

Butter and Soy Sauce Flavoured Cod

Cod is unarguably everyone’s favourite fish, because of its delicate taste and soft texture. It’s also adaptable to varieties of cooking methods and flavourings.

We all know fish dishes are good for us, though ways of cook them tends to become monotonous. This recipe uses a sauce made from butter and soy sauce, which gives an interesting Japanese-ish twist to crispy pan-fried cod. I serve with sautéed leek, which adds sweetness to the dish.

The flavour of the soy sauce, the richness of butter, and the sweetness of the leek make the difference to ordinary pan-fried cod.

You could also try my other Japanese influenced flavour, miso and butter sauce for fish recipe here. This sauce is also fantastic with cod.

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Cooking Level: Easy

Ingredients for 4

4 Cod Fillet (approximately 90g per a fillet)

Salt and Pepper

Plain Flour

2 tbs Vegetable Oil

1 Leek

1 tbs Butter

1 tbs Soy Sauce

½ Lemon

Directions

  1. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the both sides of the cod fillets. Dust with the plain flour. Slice the leak thinly and diagonally.leek slices
  2. Heat the oil in a frying-pan. Place the cod fillets and cook for 3 minutes over medium heat. Turn them over and continue cooking another 3 minutes. Place in serving plates.cod fillets
  3. Add the butter in the frying-pan. Add the sliced leek and stir fry until soften. Add the soy sauce and pour the sauce and leak over the cod fillets. Serve with lemon wedges.

Key

  1. Adjust cooking time for cod depending on the thickness of the fillet. For instance, if your fillet is thinner than the cod in the picture, reduce the cooking time.
  2. If your fillets don’t brown, quickly pan-fry them over a high heat until browned at the end of cooking.
  3. Serve the cod with rice or mashed potato as a main. It’s also nice on salad leaves to serve as a starter.

 

Topic 1: Butter and Soy Sauce Flavour

Butter and soy sauce flavour is one of the most popular flavourings in Japan. We even have butter and say sauce flavoured snacks, including crisps and popcorn. Everyone loves the charred aroma of the soy sauce and rich butter taste.

Butter and soy sauce are great with light and delicate ingredients, such as white fish and chicken breast, as they accentuate their tastes. Adding soy sauce to butter sautéed vegetables is equally tasty.

 

Topic 2: Cod

Cod is an excellent source of protein and, as it’s much lower in calories and saturated fat, a healthier substitution for meat. It’s also rich in health beneficial properties, such as omega-3 fatty acid, vitamin D, and vitamin B12.

Unfortunately, cod is currently classified as ‘at risk’ due to overfishing in the UK, Canada and most other Atlantic countries. You can use haddock, hake, coley, or pollock instead of cod.

In Japan, cod is called tara and its Kanji character is ‘鱈‘. It’s a Japanese-made Kanji, and the left side signifies fish, and the right side signifies snow. The character was created because of its snow-white meat. Cod is said to taste nicer during winter because they keep more fat against coldness. Salted cod roe is called tarako, literally meaning ‘cod’s children’, and is one of the most widely available side dishes in Japan. Shirako, meaning ‘white children’, is milt of male cod and prized as a seasonal delicacy by many Japanese. I must warn you that shirako is not for everyone, but only for those people who are adventurous enough with food.

 

References

http://wwf.panda.org/what_we_do/endangered_species/cod/

https://www.sustainweb.org/sustainablefishcity/top_ten_swaps/#cod

http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=133

 

Asazuke: Japanese Style Lightly Pickled Cabbage

We have so many varieties of pickled vegetable in Japan with diverse ingredients, techniques, and localities. The main difference from the western pickles is that Japanese pickles is mainly salty and not overly sour.

Asazuke is the quickest and simplest type of pickle, and it’s super easy to make at home. It’ll require only 15 minutes to cook, and will be ready to eat in 3 hours after leaving it in the fridge. Enjoy its freshness and crunchiness like salad. A hint of garlic and ginger gives an interesting twist to this recipe.

Eat asazuke cabbage like a salad, and the great thing is it’s oil free, therefore much lower in calories than a salad dish.

This recipe requires no special ingredient. So, there is no excuse not to try asazuke yourself!

NB: The featured picture shows the asazuke left in the fridge for 3 hours.

Cooking Time: 15 minute

Cooking Level: Very Easy

Ingredients

DSC_0175

100g Sweetheart or pointed cabbage

½ or 1 tsp Salt

10g Ginger

2 small cloves of Garlic (or 1 large clove)

Chili Pepper Flakes *optional

Directions

  1. Remove the hard part of the cabbage leaves and chop roughly. Peel the skin of the ginger and chop roughly. Crush the garlic with a knife, making sure the blade is facing away from your hand. Remove the skin. If you are not sure how to crush garlic, Have a look at this website.
  2. Put the chopped cabbage, salt, ginger and garlic in a food bag and close tightly. Rub the contents with hands. Place the bag in a fridge for at least 3 hours.DSC_0177
  3. Squeeze excess liquid out of the cabbage. Arrange on a serving plate. Sprinkle chili pepper flakes if you like.

Key

  1. Leaves of pointed or sweetheart cabbage come off easily. Remove the required amount only, and save the rest for next times.
  2. Make sure you squeeze all excess water before serving.
  3. I use the least amount of salt for this recipe for you to eat a lot of asazuke like salad.
  4. Alternatively, you can leave it longer in the fridge, up to overnight. Its texture becomes softer and its flavour develops.

 

Topic 1: Japanese pickles

Basic Japanese pickles are to pickle cut vegetables with salt, vinegar, sake lees, or anything else. By pickling, vegetables can be preserved for longer, as well as it enhances their flavour.

Pickles are one of the most important side dishes in Japanese food culture. It’s said that people has been making pickles since ancient periods. A written record regarding pickles appeared in the 8th century. During the Edo period, common Japanese people’s eating style was called ‘ichi shiru issai’, literally means one soup and one side dish. The soup is miso soup and the side dish means pickles in this context. This simple eating style is reappraised as a healthy eating style in recent Japan.

Since pickles are necessary on our daily table; there are so many types of pickles all over Japan, and some of them are prized as local delicacies.

Reference:

 

Topic 2: Salt

Do you think salt is just salt? Well, there are roughly three types of salt; sea salt, rock salt, and lake salt. They are produced from different sources with different methods, and actually taste different. Recently, people in Japan have taken a keen interest in salt. They try, not only different types of salt, but also flavoured salt including salt and black sesame seeds, salt and dashi stock, and salt and maccha. Why not try an interesting combination of salt yourself?

 

Kinpira Stir Fried Carrot

Do you know that one small carrot supplies nearly three times of your daily recommended amount of vitamin A? What’s more, carrots are more beneficial when they are cooked briefly with oil. So, this is the perfect recipe to enjoy the benefits of carrots! This is a vegetarian and vegan friendly recipe with full of nutrition.

Kinpira is a traditional Japanese cooking style of stir frying and simmering to enjoy the flavours and crunch of root vegetables. Add plenty of sesame seeds, which is another superfood.

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Cooking Level: Easy

Ingredients for 2 side dishes

Preparation for Kinpira Carrot

280g Carrot

1 tbs Vegetable Oil

1 tbs Sugar

1 tbs Soy Sauce

2 tbs Rice Wine or Water

2 tbs Sesame Seeds (toasted)

Directions

  1. Peel the skin of the carrot and cut into strips.
  2. How to cut carrot for Kinpira
  3. Heat the oil in a frying-pan. Stir fry the carrot over high heat until soft. Add the rice wine (or water) and mix.
  4. Add the sugar and mix. Add the soy sauce and mix to coat. Add the sesame seeds and mix to coat. Place on serving plates.

Key

  1. Prepare all the ingredients before you start cooking, so you can cook the dish in good speed to preserve the flavour, crunch, and most importantly, the beta-carotene of carrots.
  2. You can find the directions for toasted sesame seeds on this post in the preparation section 3. Pre-toasted sesame seeds can be find in any oriental grocery stores. It’s fragrant and handy to use. You also can find them online.

Topic 1: Carrot, the most underrated superfood

Carrot is so underrated and an inexpensive superfood. They are one of the richest sources of beta-carotene, which turns into vitamin A in our body. In fact, the name beta-carotene derived from the Latin word ‘carota’ which means carrot in English.

In general, vitamins escape while cooking. However, since beta-carotene is more resistant when cooked and fat-soluble, cooking carrots with oil actually helps us to absorb beta-carotene.

Vitamin A gives a lot of benefits to our body, such as maintaining healthy skin, enhancing our immune system, and much more.

References

Topic 2: What is Kinpira ?

Kinpira is a traditional Japanese cooking style and one of the most prevailing side dishes in Japan. You’ll definitely find one in a pre-packed obento lunch box in a shop. Root vegetables including burdock, carrot and lotus root are stir fried with a salty, sweet sauce, which is the best way to enjoy their unique flavour and crunch. Burdock and lotus root are rarely found in the UK, though you can find them in oriental grocery stores. Burdock contains lots of dietary fibres, as well as calcium, potassium. Lotus roots are also a great source of dietary fibres, as well as vitamin B6, copper and iron. Try cooking kinpira if you manage to find them.

The name kinpira is derived from a son of unarguably the most popular hero in Japanese folktale, Kintaro. Sakata Kinpira, the son of Sakata Kintoki, also known as Kintaro, was, like his father, tough and strong. The dish was named after him because of its crunch and nutritious benefits.

pork tsukune meatball

Pork Tsukune Meatballs with Miso Flavoured Sauce

At yakitori eateries, tsukune, minced chicken meatballs on skewers, is one of the popular choices. Here I created a tsukune style meatball recipe with pork mince, as it’s easier to find pork mince in the UK.

For the sauce, I used miso, a traditional Japanese seasoning made from fermented soy beans, which goes really well with pork. You can find a jar of miso at major supermarkets and grocery chains nowadays. This sauce gives an umami packed flavour to the tsukune meatballs.

Why not skewer cooked tsukune meatballs in Japanese yakitori style for your party? They are still delicious even when they have cooled down, which makes fancy finger food at parties as well as a great side dish for a bento box.

obento with pork tsukune

tsukune meatballs in an obento lunch box

 Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Cooking Level: Average

 

Ingredients for 18 to 19 meatballs

500g Pork Mince (or Chicken Mince if you prefer)

60g Spring Onion or Salad Onion (Finely chopped)

2 tbs Breadcrumb

1 Egg

½ tsp salt

1 tsp Black Pepper (coarsely grounded)

2 tbs Vegetable Oil

Sesame Seeds (toasted) *Optional

For Miso Flavoured Sauce (Mix well beforehand)

2 tsp Sugar

1 ½ tbs Miso (Any kinds of miso will do)

10 g Ginger (Grated)

2 tbs Rice Wine

2 tbs Water

Directions

  1. Place the pork mince, finely chopped spring onion, breadcrumb, egg, salt, coarsely grounded black pepper. Mix by hand until the mixture becomes sticky.pork meatball
  2. Form about 30g of the mixture into a meatball. You should be able to make 18 to 19 of them from the mixture.
  3. Heat the vegetable oil in a frying-pan and cook the meatballs over medium heat. Turn them to get evenly browned surfaces. Add the water and the rice wine and cover the frying-pan with tin foil and cook further 10 minutes over medium low heat.pork meatball
  4. Once the meatballs are cooked through, add the miso flavoured sauce. Toss to coat.yakitori pork tsukune meatballs
  5. Arrange meatballs on a serving plate. Thread onto skewers if you like. Sprinkle sesame seeds.

Key

  1. It’s important to mix the mixture for the tsukune meatballs by hand very well until it feels sticky and becomes slightly pale in colour.
  2. There are several types of miso on shelves, but you can use any type for this recipe.
  3. Check whether the tsukune meatballs are cooked by poking one of them with a skewer. When the juice runs clear, it’s cooked.
  4. Toasted sesame seeds are called iri goma, and a popular garnish in Japan. Sesame seeds taste and smell better when toasted, and gives an extra richness and flavour to dishes. You can use them for a variety of Japanese dishes as a garnish.

Topic: What’s Tsukune?

The word tsukune derives from an old Japanese word ‘tsukune-ru’, which means ‘to knead’.  Now you know why it’s important to mix the mixture very well. Tsukune is made from minced meat and usually shaped into a ball or a baton. Chicken mince is most used for tsukune, however pork mince tsukune is equally popular.

Tsukune is loved by all age groups because it’s soft and juicy, therefore easy to eat from children to the elderly. It’s also versatile to cook, as you can mix other ingredients including herbs and spices, or even soft bones to enjoy a crunch.

Tsukune is often served in izakaya where people can enjoy a variety of food each in a small quantity with drinks, just like Spanish tapas. Each izakaya has their own tsukune dish using different parts of the meat and original recipes. You’ll be asked if you want to eat tsukune with tare or shio in izakaya. Tare is a sweet and savoury sauce similar to teriyaki sauce, and shio means simply just salt. You might think seasoning with only salt is boring, but actually some tsukune recipes taste better with just salt. Furthermore, in recent Japan, many salt products from various areas are available. For instance, a salt shop in Tokyo sells 400 varieties of salt from Japan and overseas, and a profession called salt meisters are on the rise.