ginger pressed salad

stillife

I’ve recently been gently chastised by my husband Aaron for buying too many cookbooks, from which I cook… nothing. Yes. It’s not the purchasing that he’s opposed to (lucky for me), it’s more that I get terribly excited, pore over them for days, speak of large banquets including recipes from pages 14, 36, 79 and 124 and then… nothing becomes of it. Another one bites the (literal) dust.

It’s a bad habit. One that I’ve continually failed to break. 2013 was supposed to be the year when I cooked through Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty (2010) from cover to cover, but come 2015? I’ve, uh, made about three recipes. And plenty of hummus (Aaron can vouch for that).

Oh, and I now put pomegranate molasses on everything. That was definitely Ottolenghi-inspired. See, it was a worthwhile investment…plate

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I’ve been thinking long and hard about my ‘habit’ over the past few days (in case you required more evidence that I overthink). I genuinely get excited about trying new, beautiful recipes from cookbooks, but then when dinner time arrives? I’m too hungry. There’s not enough time. I’ve run out of garlic. Or I flip through a cookbook and realize that my chosen recipe requires overnight marination, darn it.

So I ‘wing it’, in colloquial terms. For creativity and convenience. Or I’ll enter ‘pumpkin’ into Google and read blog posts ’til I feel somewhat inspired… and then I’ll cook something entirely from the mashed-up ideas in my head. I’ve admitted plenty of times that I’m an instinctual cook who finds it difficult to follow a recipe, so… why the cookbooks?

Aaron’s frustration makes perfect sense.

lokisniffchopbowl As far as I can explain, I constantly get drawn to the beauty of cookbooks. They’re inspiring, both in a creative and intellectual sense. I can read them for hours, soaking in cooking methods, personal anecdotes, ideas and rich imagery. I suppose they’re as much a consumable narrative to me as they are an instructional manual (does anyone else feel the same?).

In reflection, that in itself isn’t a bad thing. But when our bookshelves are already heaving with visual diaries, novels and plenty of cookery books (most of which, let’s face it, are rather large) it seems prudent to refrain from future purchases until I’ve at least cooked a few things from each volume.

bottle

Anyway, with gentle encouragement from my husband, I’ve made a decision to spend the rest of this year cooking through my existing book collection before investing in the next volume(s) on my ‘hit list’ (those being Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More, Jamie Oliver’s Everyday Super Food,  Ella Woodward’s Deliciously Ellaohhhh dear).

My starting point will be a whole lot of goodness from my newest purchase, Amy Chaplin’s At Home in the Wholefood Kitchen with some equally vegetable-heavy (see my recent post on my food philosophy here) deliciousness from The Green Kitchen, Green Kitchen Travels (both by David Frenkel and Luise Vindahl) and A Change of Appetite (by Diana Henry, gifted to me by my beautiful friend Trixie – who also happens to be the author of Almonds are Mercurial).

I’m also hoping to add in a few meals from Tessa Kiros’ Apples for Jam, one of my favourite food-based narratives (that also happens to contain a recipe for the stickiest of jammy cookies).

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I’ll share a few of the recipes on here, possibly with a few adaptations thrown in (as per the recipe below, I just can’t help myself) whilst also continuing to work on my own vegan and vegetarian wholefood recipes. In fact, I might just have a coconut nectar, buckwheat flour banana loaf in the oven right now…

Watch this space.

And thanks, Amy, for this beautiful pressed pickle. It’s becoming a fast favourite.

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Ginger Pressed Salad

Adapted from At Home in the Wholefood Kitchen by the amazing Amy Chaplin

Notes: if you have a mandolin (or a minion) you will save yourself a lot of prep time. I cut everything by hand as I find repetitive slicing to be strangely therapeutic. If you’re preparing this salad in advance, store it without the black sesame seed garnish as the colour bleeds. Leftover salad can be stored in a jar in the fridge for up to one week (it will soften as the pickling process continues).

  • 1 celery heart (about 5 sticks/2 cups chopped)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 small Lebanese (thin skinned) cucumber, thinly sliced (if you can’t find a small Lebanese one, use a large one but remove the peel)
  • 8 radishes, topped and tailed, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) brown rice vinegar
  • 1 small thumb-sized knob of fresh young ginger, finely grated
  • chilli flakes, optional
  • toasted black and white sesame, to garnish
  • shelled edamame beans, to garnish
  • optional: thinly sliced spring onions to garnish

Place all of the ingredients (except the garnishes) into a medium bowl and toss well to combine.

seasonedGently push down on the vegetables with your hands to help soften them and release their juices. Place a small plate on top of the salad and a weight on top of the plate (I used some cans of beans, however anything heavy would work). Set aside for 1 hour or longer to ‘press’ and pickle.

Remove the weight, drain off the liquid and season to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl (gently squeeze to release any more liquid if the salad is still very ‘wet’). Sprinkle with black sesame seeds, spring onion and edamame beans if desired.

Serve as an accompaniment to a bento set, with sushi or as a tasty accompanying pickle for barbecued meat.
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maki sushi (巻き寿司) with salted edamame and sashimi

sideplate

It’s been a beautiful, sun-drenched Monday here in Perth, 35 degrees C (95 degrees f) with clear skies and a light breeze. As I sit in the living room, dappled light filters gently through the window. It’s making rhythmic patterns on the floor as my fingers click incessantly against black plastic keys. Completely beautiful, in a domestic kind of way.

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As sweet air drifts through the open door, I find my thoughts drifting also; mainly towards nourished roots, freshly turned soil and home-grown carrots. I blame Pam, the beautifully creative woman who blogs over at Brooklyn Farm Girl (if you’re yet to become acquainted, click here). Ever since she shared a post about her massive, rooftop-grown soy bean (edamame) harvest, I’ve been dreaming about urban gardens, high-rise planting and lush crops of dark-veined greens. But beneath the idealism, well… I’ve mostly been dreaming about fresh edamame.

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It may be difficult to believe, but I’m yet to sample a fresh edamame bean. One month of searching hasn’t helped; the bright green, furry pods remain an illusive figment of my culinary dreams. Last Friday, I caved and purchased a bag of frozen edamame that had traveled to Perth from Japan. That’s a lot of air miles.

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But yet, when I popped the first bright green, edamame jewels from their ice-frosted pod, my heart danced a merry beat. Despite being in complete violation of my fresh-picked locavore policy, I loved every bite.

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Aaron and I ate homemade maki sushi (rolled sushi in nori) and sashimi with our precious salted edamame. It’s hardly worth providing a recipe as the edamame were eaten straight from their pods with thinly sliced salmon and red snapper tail, sesame chicken sushi, salmon sushi, pickled cucumbers, enoki mushrooms and ginger, soy and wasabe.

However, in the event that you’d like to replicate our (admittedly, slightly Westernised) meal, I’ve included a few ingredients and token instructions below (alongside some links that explain the process much better than I ever could).

rice sashimibetter

P.S If you live in Perth and know a market that stocks fresh edamame beans, let me know (or even better, if you grow them, please be my private supplier. I’ll pay you in marmalade).

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Maki Sushi (巻き寿司)

Maki sushi or Nori maki is any variety of sushi rolled as a cylindrical piece with the help of a bamboo mat, or makisu. It’s generally sold wrapped in nori (seaweed) and cut into rounds of six or eight.

This recipe makes three rolls of eight slices, or 24 pieces.

  • 1 1/4 cup of short-grain sushi rice (I used Nishiki)
  • 2 tbsp Japanese rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp fine-grain salt
  • 3 sheets of nori (dried seaweed)

Place rice into a medium saucepan, then add 1 1/2 cups (375ml) water. Mix well, then bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the water is fully absorbed (your rice should be fluffy and expanded).

In a small bowl, mix the rice vinegar, sugar and salt together. Blend the mixture into the rice with a flat spoon. Keep warm, covered with a clean damp tea towel, until ready to use.

fish

For salmon rolls:

Cut your ingredients whilst the rice is cooking for quick assembly.

  • 150-200g fresh sashimi-quality salmon, cut into long, thin strips
  • 1/2 fresh avocado, cut into similarly long, thin strips
  • cucumber batons (I cut them into 0.5 x 0.5cm strips)
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • Kewpie Japanese mayonnaise

Place one nori sheet into the centre of a bamboo sushi mat, shiny side down. With a damp spoon, spread a thin (about 1cm thick when pressed together) layer of rice over 2/3 of the nori sheet, leaving a 0.5cm border. Spread with a thin layer of Kewpie mayonnaise and toasted sesame seeds.

Arrange 1/3 of the cucumber, avocado and salmon into a horizontal line in the centre of the rice. Lift the end of the mat carefully, then roll forwards, pressing the filling towards you with your fingers. Seal with a little bit of water if the end of the nori doesn’t stick.

Refrigerate your roll for 30 (or preferably 60) minutes so that it will firm up before slicing. Cut rounds from the centre of the roll to the edge with a sharp, wet knife. Serve immediately, with bowls of soy sauce, pickled ginger, wasabe and/or other accompaniments as desired.

seeds

For sesame chicken rolls:

Start this recipe 1 hour before making your sushi rice.

  • 150g fresh chicken thigh meat, sliced into strips
  • 1-inch knob of peeled, finely grated ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp sake (Japanese rice wine)
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • Japanese sesame salad dressing (bought or see recipe here)
  • 1/2 fresh avocado, cut into long, thin strips
  • small handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves
  • peanut oil, for frying

Place the sliced chicken into a bowl with a good drizzle of sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, sake, dried chilli, garlic and ginger. Grind over some sea salt and pepper, then mix well. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for 1 hour (or preferably, overnight).

sauce

Heat 2 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil in a medium wok or heavy-based frying pan over high heat. When smoking, drain your chicken from the marinade and toss it into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towels, sprinkling with toasted sesame seeds.

After cooking your sushi rice: place one nori sheet into the centre of a bamboo sushi mat, shiny side down. With a damp spoon, spread a thin (about 1cm thick when pressed together) layer of rice over 2/3 of the nori sheet, leaving a 0.5cm border. Spread with a thin layer of Japanese sesame dressing.

Arrange 1/3 of the coriander, avocado and chicken into a horizontal line in the centre of the rice. Lift the end of the mat carefully, then roll forwards, pressing the filling towards you with your fingers. Seal with a little bit of water if the end of the nori doesn’t stick.

Refrigerate your roll for 30 (or preferably 60) minutes so that it will firm up before slicing. Cut rounds from the centre of the roll to the edge with a sharp, wet knife. Serve immediately, with bowls of soy sauce, pickled ginger, wasabe and/or other accompaniments as desired.

Rolling guide:

rollingsushistart makingsushi rolling1 rolling2

Links:

sashimi2 shells

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