Montag, 31. Oktober 2011

Nukadoko - starting a rice bran pickling bed

After reading a lot (e.g. visit Hiroyukis blog ) about this japanese pickling method, I decided to just give it a try. Nukadoko (ぬか床 = bran bed) is based on bacteria driven pickling as sauerkraut or traditional pickled cucumbers. But instead of using plain vegetables and salt it also involves a fermentation process based on grain - think  rye sourdough. The grain in use is rice bran. After the bran bed starts the correct fermentation process different vegetables can be pickled without much ado.

It may be easy to buy preprocessed rice bran at rice stores in japan - for small money. But here the situation is totally different: No rice stores. It took me quite some time (several weeks) to get hold on rice bran appropriate for human consumption and not been sold at pharmacies in little units for high prices. You could buy rice bran in huge units for small money just ordering it at farm stores: declared as horse food. But all horse products have additives as vitamines, calcium and so on. Maybe good for glossy horse fur and firm bones for high jumps, but I was in need of something for a pickling bed without fancy food chemistry involved. At least I found a mill selling rice bran of organic grown rice in 1 kg bags. Made of rice only and nothing else.
I ordered 3 bags for one pickling bed. 2 kg to start, 1 kg for feeding the bed from time to time.
I followed several suggestions concerning the kick off so I took:

2 kg rice bran
400 g salt (I used plain salt without any additives)
2 l water
1 slice french white bread soaked and mashed in water
2 cabbage leaves

Additives for flavour development
1 piece kombu
2 big slices of finger ginger
2 starfish chillies halved (ginger and chillie may diminsh bad bacterias)

I decided on bread because I made  some experiences with fermentation processes without any seeding/starters: It took much time, the development of good bacterias didn't kick in therefore it often turned bad. So I am going to give it a quick start. First I was thinking about adding one tablespoon dried sour dough starter but I decided against it. This was my idea knowing a little about physiology and food chemistry but I didn't find any recommendations.
Before mixing the bed I had to toast the rice bran. Sources recommend to heat the rice bran up to 70 C to kill bad bacteria but not much higher. I used a very big and deep pan and roasted 500 g batches over medium heat while turning the bran carefully all the time with the help of a wooden spatule. Beware: this is a very annoying business.  (Since the son left our home I am missing a slave for this kind of tasks. He was always very useful for a little bit of pocket money).
At least the bran browned nicely in a deeper shade of light brown. I messured the temperature of the bran once in a while. The roasted bran went into a big wooden bowl to cool down. Afterwards I transferred the bran into the storage container: a food proof plastic bucket (10 l) with a lid. I think this size is very convinient for the propper turning and mixing of the pickling bed (you have to do this twice a day) and to take under vegetables of different sizes.
Meanwhile I boiled 2 l water and let it cool down until lukewarm. I desolved the salt in the water and added it to the bran. After incorporating the water, the bed reminds me of soft clay for pottery. Sorces recommend: Moisture and texture should remind of miso - I guess this is it. Than I added the mashed bread, ginger and chillie and mixed it in. I placed the cabbage leaves and kombu in different layers into the pickling bed and finished with a layer of moist bran, which I pushed and patted until firm and flat to make sure there was no air left in the bed.
View of the bucket
I put on the lid rather loosely and placed the bucket in an open storage unit in one kitchen corner near the radiator. The room temperature is always around 20 C and this should be good enough. During hot summer times I would have placed the bucket in my basement.
I hope this will work out - somehow. The next days will show the results. I may start pickling vegetables soon or give it a new try changing the ingredients.

Sonntag, 30. Oktober 2011

Mushroom rice with gingko nuts and lotus root

Today I found two young Coprinus comatus in my garden but I did not pick them because I want some more the next year. I hope they enjoy my garden and become a huge family.
But I used other mushrooms (brown button mushrooms and dried mushrooms out of my storage) for this dish:

sorry - doesn't look so good (brown rice and brown mushrooms)

150 g japanese short grain rice
150 g brown sweet rice
about 10  dried morels (2 tablespoons)
10  dried porcini slices
200 g brown button mushrooms
8 thicker slices lotus root (halved), bought sliced and frozen
8 ginkgo nuts, bought frozen
1 1/2 tablespoon  dark soy sauce
1 1/2 tablespoon mirin
1 1/2 tablespoon sake
salt to taste
1/4 sheet of nori

How to:

Soak dried mushrooms in 1 /2 cup of water. Soak washed brown sweet rice (genmai) in a double amount of water for 1 1/2 hour. Afterwards strain the rice.
Meanwhile place frozen gingko nuts and lotus root slices on a plate to get room temperature.
Wash white rice in a strainer using running water until water seems to be clear. Mix both types of rice and let drain for 30 minutes.
Prepare the button mushrooms (remove stems, quarter).
Strain dried mushrooms, but keep the soaking liquid. Filter soaking liquid to remove sand and dirt particles.  Add enough water to the soaking liquid to recieve 350 ml.

Add water (with soaking liquid),  rice, mushrooms (soaked and fresh), lotus root slices, gingko nuts, sake, pinch of salt, soy sauce, mirin to a heavy pot, toss and bring to boil. Cover and let cook about 15 minutes on low heat - try the brown rice - if way too firm give it a little more cooking time and maybe a little more water. Let pot rest 10 more minutes covered with a  folded linnen cloth on top of the lid.
Toss rice gently and adjust seasoning with salt and soy sauce.

Serve with shredded nori. For shredded nori, roast 1/4 sheet in the toaster and cut it in very fine stripes.

Besides we had a little beef  (grilled teriyaki  style on a cast iron plate) with miso dipping sauce, pickled ginger stripes, quick pickled cucumbers and roman lettuce salad with mustard-soy sauce dressing too but we ate it up quickly.

Dienstag, 25. Oktober 2011

Tofu with sesame coating and vegetable stew

During weekdays I try to cook more healthy food (not every day is meat all you can eat). One of my favorite is vegetable stew with tofu. I got such nice and fresh bok choy today, so stew was it.

Vegetable stew with tofu wedges
1 small sweet potatoe, cut in 3 mm slices (halved)
1 red bell pepper, cut in bite size pieces
1/4 broccoli, cut in bite size pieces
6 baby bok choy, halved lengthwise
6 small round green egg plants (golf ball sized), quartered, sprinkled with salt and set aside for 30 minutes
1 green onion, cut in big slices
8 button mushrooms, halved or as they are, depends on size
1 red jalapeno chilli, cut in fine slices
1 knob ginger, grinded
1 garlic glove, minced
200 g tofu
100 g sesame seeds
1 egg
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon arrow root starch
oil for frying
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 teaspoon extra (more for adjusting seasoning)
1 teaspoon dark roasted sesame oil
1/2 cup water
salt to taste

Cut tofu brick in thick slices, layer slices between sheets of kitchen paper towel to soak off the liquid.
Heat a little oil in a big non stick pan and stir fry: Sweet potatoe (orange variety), bell pepper and rinsed and squeezed egg plants. After 4 minutes add broccoli, water, soy sauce and mirin, garlic and ginger, chillli, mushrooms.  Cover with a lid and steam for a few minutes - egg plants should be nearly done. Add bok choy and onion. Steam one more minute and let sit with lid on. Baby bok shoy don't need much cooking because it is so small, young and tender. Meanwhile toss tofu slices in sieved corn starch - there should be a small starch coating from each and every side. Beat egg with 1 teaspoon soy sauce. Toss tofu slices in egg and afterwards dipp and turn the tofu in sesame seeds. Heat oil in a pan and fry tofu in 2 batches until sesame seeds are golden. Layer tofu on kitchen paper towel to get rid off some frying oil. Sprinkle with a little salt.
Vegetables should be done. Remove vegetables from cooking liquid. Stir  arrow root starch with a little  cold water until desolved, reheat cooking liquid and stir arrow root into until sauce thickens slightly. Adjust seasoning with soy sauce, salt, chilli, sesame oil.
Return vegetables to sauce and toss. Serve with rice and tofu slices (maybe cut in wedges).

Sonntag, 23. Oktober 2011


After eating out for a few days, we don't have that much appetite. This calls for ramen only.
For ramen you need a nice broth. I choosed pork broth made from cooking spare ribs for bbq preparation. Usually I freeze this kind of broth. It is a simple broth without any spices or salt.
Based on spare rib broth I made the soup:


1.5 - 2  l pork broth from cooking bony pork parts
1 piece pork loin, maybe 10 cm
1/2 cup dashi
1/4  cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sake
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 big knob ginger, peeled and sliced
1 piece kombu
1 carrot, julienned
1 handful soy beans sprouts, blanched
6 small round red radishes, cut in rounds
5 button mushrooms, cut in slices
8 cloud ear mushrooms, soaked in water (best over night ).
2 eggs
8 small pieces broccoli
2 green onions, sliced

First I mixed, dashi, soy sauce, sake, ginger and sugar and brought it to boil. I porched the loin piece for 10 minutes in this liquid by low heat and closed lid until nearly done: slightly pink inside.
Afterwards I let the loin rest in a sheet of tin foil.
I added the sieved loin cooking liquid to the pork broth together with a piece of kombu and cooked it just a few minutes together with the cloud ear mushrooms. I  took the kombu from the broth, checked the seasoning concerning soy sauce, salt and added the broccoli, radish, bean sprouts, mushrooms and carrots but not the green onions. I covered the pot with a lid and let it rest without cooking.
Meanwhile I cooked the ramen noodles and eggs (5 min).
I put some noodles in soup cups, added broth and vegetables, 2-3 slices loin, 1/2 egg and sprinkled a little green onion slices. Additional there was some hot spicy pork belly too and korean chilli paste for a more "hot" soup sensation.

Samstag, 22. Oktober 2011

Chinese caramelized spicy pork belly

I found a really interesting recipe for pork belly. I like hot and spicy chinese dishes and this is a good sample. Some of this pork belly will end in a ramen soup.

This recipe is quite tricky concerning carmelizing processes!
400 - 500 g pork belly
2 tablespoons canola oil or another oil for the wok
2 tablespoons sugar
50 ml sake (or chinese sweet cooking wine)
25 ml soy sauce
3 dried red chillies
1 teaspoon sechzuan pepper corns
3 small star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 big knob ginger peeled and sliced

salt, sugar, soy sauce for adjusting the seasoning

How to:
Cook deboned belly ( about 400 g) in boiling water about 5 minutes. Let pork cool down on a plate. Cut pork in 2.5 cm cubes.
Heat wok:
Heat oil and sugar in a wok until sugar starts to change colour. Put in the pork cubes and stir fry them very quickly but only for a very short time or sugar will roast too much so just toss a little, deglaze with soy sauce, sake, add spices after a few seconds add enough water to nearly cover the pork (stir well). Cover wok with lid and let simmer about 40 minutes.
Scoop pork pieces, cinnamon stick and star anise out of the broth. Set heat on high and reduce the broth until nearly gone and the remaining liquid (sugar and fat and little broth) start to bubble more thickly and caramelize further more. Add the pork again and wok on high heat until the pork is covered with the syrup and looking appetizing. Add a little water (sips only) to make the syrup a little bit more liquid again. Remove from heat. Adjust seasoning with sugar, soy sauce and salt to taste.

Montag, 17. Oktober 2011

Potatoe-mushroom-soup with crunchy marrons

Today I made a thick and filling vegetable soup without any glamour, some kind of weekday only and cold weather soup: A simple one pot dish. If there is someone out there, who is not trying to diet, this person may add such nasty ingredients as cream or bacon cubes, but not me. I have to take care about my calory intake (sometimes) because next weekend there will be a lot of family gatherings and one serious "eat out with friends" and this is by the way a "how many pigs may we eat today" dinner. We have this dinner with pork loving friends every few months and afterwards I need one week to recover. Afriend found a very traditional countryside inn, which serves only a few dishes (all pork) but what they are serving is cooked in mere perfection. The cook/innkeeper and his wife are a very old aged couple. We are a little bit concerned about what will happen in a few years. So we will happily eat up until than.

just a bowl of soup with a slightly weird colour due to the dried mushrooms

6 medium sized, floury potatoes, peeled, cut in small pieces
1 big carrot, cubed
1/4 celery, cubed
1 small leek, sliced
1 bunch parsley,  stems removed, chopped
2 sprigs lovage
1 laurel leave
1 handful dried mushrooms (porcini, birch boletes - something my mother collected and dried), chopped roughly, soaked in vegetable broth
8 brown button mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon sweet balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chinese mushroom sauce
1 1/2-2 l vegetable broth
black pepper, grounded fresh
1 pinch nutmeg, grounded  fresh
1 pinch sweet hot paprika powder

Crunchy marrons:
6 big marrons, cooked nearly done and broken in pieces
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon oil

How to:
Cook potatoes, carrots, soaked mushrooms, celery, leek and a herb bundle made from lovage, laurel leave and parsley stems, covered with vegetable broth until the vegetables are soft.
Remove herb bundle. Puree the soup until smooth. Add more broth if it thickens too much. Heat it up again, add sliced button mushrooms and adjust seasoning with black pepper, salt,  balsamic vinegar,  mushroom sauce and paprika. Set aside covered by a lid.
Heat oil in a pan and roast the marrons until nicely roasted. Add sugar and let caramelize a little. Remove from pan.
Ladle soup in bowls, add chopped parsley and top with marron pieces. Even when there is not much fat and meat in this soup, it is very filling.
I cooked quite a lot marrons, because I am still trying to make perfectly beautiful marrons glacé. For this soup I used slightly damaged marrons (broken in halves or bits during peeling). The pretty ones went into their first syrup bath.

Sonntag, 16. Oktober 2011

Just pizza with mushrooms and more

Husband longed for pizza and I simply made one. Pizza is bad for the hips but always very yummy. One of the best junk food ever invented. Next week I am going on diet - maybe.

pizza dough rolls - outside crunchy, inside fluffy
I prepared pizza dough using about 450 g flour, salt, 3/4 parcel instant yeast, 1 pinch sugar, 250 ml lukewarm water, olive oil - the usual thing. My kitchen machine did most of the job. Beating time was about 10 minutes. I let the dough rise for 2 hours.
Afterwards I shaped one pizza dough layer by using both fists (spinning  it round and round and stretch it meanwhile). I placed the dough in a round pizza tin and cut off the excessive thick rimmings and let the dough rise 20 minutes. The remaining dough from the cuttings  I shaped into 8 little pizza breads (small rolls made of pizza dough).

For the pizza topping I used:
3 tablespoons tomatoe chunks
2 tablespoons tomatoe paste
1 pinch sugar
5 slices italian sausage: thinnly cut salame tipo felino
6 brown button mushrooms, sliced in thicker slices
1/2 small red bell pepper, sliced in thin slices
1 jalapeno, sliced finely
1 white onion, sliced finely
1 garlic glove, sliced finely
10 olives
3 anchovis cut lenghtwise and halved
1 mozarella di buffolo, sliced
some parmigiano-reggiano, freshly shaved
2 pinches oregano (wild oregano from crete) rubbed between the palms of the hands
black pepper
small pinch smoked red chilli powder
olive oil
only a little salt
First I mixed tomatoe chunks and -paste with a pinch sugar and spread the mixture very thinnly on the dough. Afterwards I arranged all the other toppings (I used a mandoline for most of the vegetables). Sprinkled everything with herbs and spices and at last topping the cheese slices and -shavings. I sprinkled a little olive oil over the pizza and it went into the preheated oven at 220 C for 15 minutes or so - done when dough seems to be crunchy and cheese golden.
I glazed the dough rolls with olive oil and sprinkled them with a roughly grinded oriental spice mixture (coriander, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, anisette, sesame, gloves) and sesame seeds.  I baked them at 200 C for maybe 10-15 minutes (did not use a watch) until golden.

Very nice eaten still warm with just a little butter or dipped in oil. More than pizza I love this small rolls. So most of the pizza went into husband.

Samstag, 15. Oktober 2011

Red mullets going nanban zuke

We went shopping and husband bought some ingredients for the quince vodka he his going to make tomorrow (vanilla pods, cinnamon sticks, ginger).  As we crossed the fishmonger we could not resist and bought some fish for this evening. This is meant to be a summer dish in Japan but we eat cold and marinated fish all around the year so it is perfectly fine with us. Even when temperatures are unusually low and husband has to bring in some wood for the fireplace!

red mullet burried under vegetables and sauce

8 small red mullet fillets
flour for dusting
oil for frying

70 ml soy sauce
70 ml balsamic vinegar
70 ml mirin
70 ml sake
140 ml water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 small mild chilli, minced without seeds
1 teaspoon arrow root flour

3 white onions
1 carrot

How to:
Slice onion wedges  in very thin slices, cut carrot into julienne.
Dust fillets with flour and some salt. Heat oil in a wok and fry the small fillets in batches until crisp. Fry only a short time because they are so small and quickly overdone. Transfer to a dish.
Frying red mullets in my wok

Heat soy sauce with vinegar, water, sake, mirin, chilli and sugar until boiling, stir arrow root flour with a little water until smooth and whisk into the boiling sauce until sauce becomes glossy. In a container place a first layer of fish, cover with 1/2 of the onions and carrots, cover with a second layer of fish and second part of vegetables, pure the boiling sauce over. Let sit a few hours or serve the other day. This recipes reminds me very much on german Brathering but it tastes rather exotic. Red mullets have a strong flavour which blends very good with soy sauce and vinegar.
We had a little baguette and butter with the fish.

Chocoholic okara-chocolate-plum-cake

I still had some okara left, so I used it up today. Chocolate was it.  I made a very dark and very chocoholic chocolate cake:
chocolate cake

250 g dry okara (pressed soy bean leftovers from tofu making)
250 ml flour (all purpose)
200 g dried but soft damaszene plums, chopped
150 g brown sugar
125 g dark chocolate
125 ml canola oil
125 ml skimmed milk
1 egg
1 1/2 tablespoons cacao powder
3/4 parcel baking powder (8 g)
2 tablespoons wiskey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon icing sugar

Roast okara in a dry pan about 5 minutes, let cool a little. Melt chocolate. Mix okara with sugar, chocolate and oil than add everything else in your kitchen machine and let run a minute. Fill in a round and greased baking pan (24 cm diameter, silicon).
Bake 30 min on 175 C. Make a tooth pick probe: if the tooth pick comes out clean after sticking it into the middle of the cake, the cake is ready. Let cool on a rack. Dust cake with icing sugar.
The cake is very soft and tender, juicy but not sticky and not too sweet.

Freitag, 14. Oktober 2011

First frost

Tonight we have to face the first freezing temperatures maybe below 0 C. No problem at all but there are lots of plants in my garden which will not survive such nights. I had to take some in.
This nice plant has to live inhouse during the winter:

It is a Aji Brazilian Starfish (Capsicum baccatum var. pendulum L.). Isn't it a beautiflul chilli pepper? This is the first ripe starfish chilli of this year. There are lots of greens and orange-red fruits dangling from the branches. Starfish is hot but not too hot (scoville heat 5,000 - 30,000 ) with a fruity flavour. The shape of the fruits reminds of starfish. I hope it will survive the winter. I fostered several habanero plants for 2 up to 3 years. No need to throw the plants  away at summers end. They are perennial and like a cool, sunny and rather dry climate during wintertimes. In the house I simply place them under the skylights in the unheated attic. Sometimes I spray them with a little water to keep away spider mites.

For more information about the sizes of my chillies, I put some in relation to a 5 cent coin:
Yellow: Habanero, red: starfish, green: young and small jalapeno (we already ate the big ones)
Looking at the starfish from this angle it reminds me more of a common limpet than a starfish

Dienstag, 11. Oktober 2011

Pork-okara-tofu ragout with spinach and leek

I made a batch tofu out of 200 g soy beans. So I got okara and a small bar firm tofu too.
I often use to cook quick dishes (after 10 hours work I don't want to prepare any kind of ***cuisine), this is  todays "I am hungry and I want to eat right now" really fast to cook dish:

I took ( for about 4 persons):
200 g ground meat (pork)
1 small brick tofu
1 cup okara
1 cup dashi
1 leek, cleaned, upper dark green leave parts trimmed
1 garlic glove, sliced
1 knob ginger, grated
4 tablespoons soy sauce (or to taste)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 sip mirin
chili flakes
black pepper
maybe* 500 g frozen spinach leaves (blanched and pressed into balls before freezing, revived in the microwave)
Bonito shavings

First I washed the rice and set it on the heat.
Than I roasted the ground meat  in a non stick pan into crumbles and added okara - I didn't  use any fat, but you may. After 5 minutes roasting on mild heat I added sliced garlic, ginger, soy sauce, mirin, sugar and vinegar. I stir fried it a little and added the leek in slices, after 1 minute the dashi. I cooked it on medium heat about 5 minutes - depends on the size of the meat crumbles.
Meanwhile I put the spinach in the microwave. *) They sell it in a plastic bag containing small spinach units. You can take as many spinach balls as in need from this container. For 1 rice bowl I took 2 spinach balls. I stirred the spinach into the ragout and adjusted the seasoning with soy sauce and salt and black pepper.
I will freeze the left over ragout without spinach and just cook the spinach in the microwave whenever we will have some more ragout.
Serve on rice topped with a little bonito shavings.

Sonntag, 9. Oktober 2011

Medieval pork-beef-stew with black walnuts and quince

This recipe is based on very old recipes from medieval times especially concerning the spices and herbs in use. The only modern ingredient is a tablespoon tomatoe paste and I used celery stalk (forgot to buy celery root)
stew with quince wedges - why does stew always look ugly on pictures?
4-5 servings:
500 g beef chunks (hip part) not too lean
500 g pork  chunks (bacon part )
2 tablespoons bacon cubes
2 medium carrots
1 small parsnip
1 celery stalk
10 small onions
1 herb bundle (sprigs: 1 rosemary, 4  thyme , 1 sweet majoram,  2 summer savory, 1 lovage and 1 sage leave, 2 laurel leaves)
1 small bottle (333 ml) dark and strong beer
Spices - ground together in an electric grinder:
1 teaspoon black pepper corns,
1 teaspoon caraway seeds,
5 allspice corns,
 2 gloves, 
8 juniper berries,
1 small pinch dried and grounded bitter orange peel
6 black pickled walnuts in thick slices
olive oil
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon tomatoe paste (made from dried tomatoes) can be skipped
8 big button mushrooms, older ones with open caps
1 tablespoon dark honey

Cut the vegetables in halves and in bigger slices, peel onions and cut into halves. In a heavy pot heat olive oil.  Roast the vegetables until they show some roast marks. Scoop them out of the pot and set aside. Add 1 batch of meat chunks and roast, scrape the bottom of the pot occassionally. Add a little oil whenever the pot gets too dry and sticky. Remove the meat, set aside and roast another batch (4 batches). While roasting the last batch, add bacon, spices and flour, roast until nicely coloured than add tomatoe paste. Make sure to stir and scrape the bottom of the pot or it will set and burn. Roast only a little. Add all meat chunks, vegetables and the beer. Stir good  and scrape the bottom of the pot to set free all roasted bits and pieces.  Add the herb bundle,
herbs fresh from my garden, attached with a string

mushrooms and salt and close lid. Turn heat to small and let simmer over very  low heat about 2 hours.
Remove herb bundle, adjust seasoning with salt and add sliced walnuts. 

homemade pickled walnuts
I made this walnuts during summer - end of july. They need a few month to mature. But now they are very tasty.

If the roasting processes where done perfectly the stew has a nice brown colour. Due to the beer the sauce is faintly bitter, you cut this bitterness with one tablespoon honey added as last ingredient.

Roasted quince:
In medieval times the quince was well known and much in use. The tangy sweet and aromatic taste matches perfectly with the hearty stew:
1-2 quinces (depending on the size)
2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon oil
Wash qinces, wipe of the "fur" and cut in wedges, remove the seeds/core. Heat just a little oil in a non stick pan and roast the wedges until nicely brown roast marks appear, spoon over a little honey, toss and close the lid. Simmer on lower heat until the wedges are soft but not too soft.
Serve: You may eat the stew with bread (baguette is good, but it is more interesting with a rye -wheat bread) It is also nice with some german hand made noodles: Spaetzle

Some say spaetzle were known since the roman empire (2000+ years ago), in fact there are pictures from medieval times showing people eating spaetzle. I think they match well with any kind of stew and roasts and here we go:

For spaetzle (for 4 persons) you need:
200 g flour (instant wheat flour, or all purpose flour),
3 eggs,
a small wooden board, a knife or cake spatule.

Beat eggs and flour together with only a little water (half an egg shell full of water for each egg) and a pinch of salt until the batter becomes smooth. Let sit about 30 minutes, beat again by hand about 10 minutes, better use a strong kitchen machine (3 minutes).
Heat a pot with a lot of salted water.
Wet the board with hot water, give a few spoons of batter onto the board, smear the batter to cover the board in a very thin layer and quickly scrape small strings of batter into the medium boiling water with the help of a wet knife or cake spatule. Wet the board, wet the knife/spatule again and use more batter. When the the strings apear on the surface and you have used up all of the batter on the board just scoop them out and layer them on an oiled baking sheet. The thinner and longer the strings the better the cook...

Spaetzle made for the stew

Because the "how to" is hard to describe just watch this video:
This kind of noodles are tradionally made in southern germany (Schwaben). The woman in this video comes from this area (idiom/accent!!! - my husband did not get one word...) and she is great!
Make the next batch
My share

You may accompany the dish with simmered vegetables as carrots, parsnips.

Left over spaetzle are great layered with grated cheese and roasted onions in a baking dish and baked in the oven until the surface is nicely browned (think mac 'n' cheese) It is a good reason to make some more...

Samstag, 8. Oktober 2011

Lean vegetable soup

It is stormy, cold and rainy, just the usual wet autumn weather. One of my cats developed a very thick winter coat, must have happened just over night. First he was a slender and gracious tiger and now there is a big hairy and fluffy ball who always likes to eat just a little snack more. Mr. Cat is a very good winter or summer forecast and he never failed. This winter will be hard and long...
This is the right time to digg in soups. My fridge told me already what to use:
1 red bell pepper, bigger stripes, cut in pieces
1 carrot, peeled, halved, sliced
2 stalks cellery, slices
1 sweet potaoe, peeled, cut in small cubes
2 turnips, peeled, halved and sliced
4 big cabbage leaves, in bigger stripes, cut in pieces
1 onion, peeled, quartered and sliced
1 knob ginger, grinded
1 small red chili, sliced
2 tablespoons lean bacon cubes
and there were a few last cherry tomatoes and a few brown button mushrooms in the kitchen and some (handful) edible chrysanthem leaves.

For seasoning:
1 package instant dashi
2 tablespoon soy sauce
2 big dried shiitake (powdered in an electric grinder)
a few drops worcester sauce
miso paste

I cut the vegetables in rounds, slices and cubes according their firmness.
First I roasted the bacon with carrots and cellery stalks in a dry pot - no need for additional fat, just stirring will do (me and my husband decided to cut off some of the fat intake). I added the onion and 1 minute later the quartered tomatoes and all the other vegetables but not the chrysanthem leaves. Than I added 1.5 liter of water and  a package instant dashi and powdered shiitake, chili and ginger.  I cooked the soup about 10-15 minutes: First brought to boil than simmered with a lid on, than I added the chrynthem leaves and turned of the heat after teting the cellery slices and carrots (soft enough but not mashy). I adjusted the seasoning with soy sauce and worcester sauce and let it sit a little for the flavours to develop. After 10 minutes the soup was done.
If you like miso, it is nice with just 1/2 teaspoon for each small soup cup. But it is also tasty without miso. Miso may cover the good vegetable and mushroom flavour a little too much.
soup with miso

Besides this is him, the weather oracle, having his lunch:

Mittwoch, 5. Oktober 2011

Cabbage rolls - but not the german version

Each and everyone loves cabbage rolls. In germany the rolls are huge beasts: try to eat two along with potatoes and sauce and you are stuffed. Grandma-cooking, comfy-food.
But we also like the lighter and much more smaller versions. I had a little ground meat (pork) left, which had to be used up quickly and a small young chinese cabbage a little bit larger than my hand (1 1/2 hands).
I decided to make asian style cabbage rolls, steamed and not the german roasted and afterwards simmered in broth version.
"bonsai" cabbage roll and chillisauce

This goes quite easy and smoothly, most of the preparation is cutting only!
200 g pork ground meat
2 smaller green onions, trimmed and chopped finely
6 big outer cabbage leaves, boiled in water or microwaved until just soft, chopped finely, excess water squeezed out
good pinch salt
1 tablespoon soysauce
a few drops roasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon panko flakes
1 knob ginger, minced
1 garlic glove,minced
1 pinch chinese 5-spice (only a little, the flavour is very dominant)
black pepper, gernerous amount, freshly grounded
1 small egg
1 heaped teaspoon starch
For rolls: More cabbage leaves, intact and flawless, boiled in water until the "middle rib" can be bend easy, instantly cooled down in cold water

For filling: Kneat all ingredients together.  Place 1 cabbage leave, patted dry by paper towel,  and add 1 tablespoon meat/cabbage filling at the top end of the leave. Flap sides of the cabbage leave to the middle over  the meat filling and roll up. Now you know why the middle rib has to be elastic and bend easy. If you don't find young chinese cabbage, only the bigger ones, cut off the thicker parts of the middle rib (triangle shaped cutting) and work with the smaller rib part and leave only. Place the roll , leave end down, on parchment paper in a steamer. Make more rolls until you run out of filling. Place the rolls (think sardines in a can) in the steamer. Close lid and steam the rolls over water about 20 minutes - test with a finger - if roll feels firm it is done. If you may use bamboo steamers you have to fill the rolls in 2-3 baskets. I used a big stainless steal steamer pot. Besides, I made really small rolls (2 bites and gone), bigger rolls may take more steaming time.
Afterwards enjoy the rolls warm or left over rolls cold with a little dipping sauce as sweet chillisauce.

Oh I was waiting for the iPhone 5. My smart phone camera is really bad. But the "s" is not what I was waiting for. I am so disappointed. Sorry, no better pictures for a much longer time.

Montag, 3. Oktober 2011

Wagashi: Chestnut Manju - kuri manju

This year I visited a wagashi tutorial and since this time I've been eager to make some more.
I made strawberry daifuku quite often this summer, but now it is autumn and there are fresh chestnuts available. I decided to test a new recipe on chestnut manju.
I have made manjus before from shiroan - white bean paste as outer dough for covering and koshian (fine sieved red bean paste without husks) as stuffing shaped as momo (peach) or usagi (rabbit). But I am not that big fan of shiroan covering. The manjus get wet really quickly and therefore have to be eaten the same day.
I found some interesting pictures of wagashi in the internet and there was some called kuri manju made from cookie dough (hurray!!!) as covering and tsubuan-chestnut stuffing.
So I did some more research and found one recipe at which I adapted because they used some store bought products as tsubuan and chestnuts in syrup.
Ingredients for Kuri Manju:
190 g flour
70 g brown sugar
1 egg yolk
100 g soft butter
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon chestnut syrup
1 1/2 cup tsubuan  (about 100 g dried azuki beans, 100 g sugar)
12 chestnuts in syrup (fresh chestnuts, water and 1 cup sugar)
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon mirin

I made my own tsubuan (red bean paste with soft beans) and I cooked chestnuts in syrup. I don't know where to buy these but the recipes always call for these.
First I peeled the chestnuts with a sharp knife (only the dark brown outer skin) and cooked the chestnuts for 3 minutes in boiling water.
I turned of the heat and peeled the inner skin off from one chestnut after the other (keep unpeeled chestnuts in hot water). This is a job for people with heatproof fingers.
peeled chestnuts
I cooked a syrup from 1 1/4 cup water and 1 cup sugar. I added the chestnuts and let them simmer 10 minutes. After a few hours I added a little water and reheated them again until boiling. The other day I added 1/4 cup water and sugar and cooked them again until boiling and syrup became thick. This has to be done 2 days until chestnuts turn somewhat glossy translucent. Quite tricky: some chestnuts were fine, some crumbled, some remained a little too firm. I think it is easier to buy a can.

chestnuts in syrup

 I soaked a cup of washed azuki beans in water over night. I rinsed the beans in water and heated them up in the double amount of water until the water was boiling. I rinsed them again and started the boiling with fresh water again. I did this 3 times. The reason? There are some bitter tasting elements in the bean husk which will influence the taste of the bean paste. Some like it, I don't.
Afterwards I cooked the beans on lower heat covered with a lid about 1 hour. Cooking time depends on the beans. The beans are ready when they can be squeezed and mashed between two fingers. I saved 1/2 cup beans and cooked the others 10 minutes longer.
I pushed the longer cooked beans through a fine mashed sieve (some put them in a blender  and make a paste from beans with pureed bean husks, but I don't like the taste of this paste) and dried the paste in a linnen cloth by squeezing out excess cooking liquid. Now I got 1/2 cup soft beans and 3/4  cup fine koshian (bean paste without husks).
I gave both back into the pot along with a 2/3 cup sugar. I cooked the paste until the sugar has been disolved - starting to caramalize a bit, and the paste became glossy. You have to stir the paste with a wooden spatule quite often, while scraping the bottom of the pot or it will stick and burn, but it is important to roast it a little for the better taste.
I stored the paste in a plastic container and let it cool in the fridge.
Preheat oven to 200C.
Kneat flour, baking powder, sugar and butter and egg yolk together until smooth. Built a log, wrap with cling film and let rest for 30 minutes.
Baking manjus:
First I made tsubuan balls, than I flattened the balls and wrapped one chestnut in each.
I divided the dough log in 8 pieces and rolled one piece with a rolling pin between cling film layers into a large oval. I set one tsubu an ball (filled with chestnut) on one halve of the oval and covered it with the other.
With the help of the cling film I shaped the whole thing into a chestnut with flat base.

I cut off the exess dough and made sure the dough covering was closed around the bean paste.  I did this as long as I had tsubuan and dough, kneading together excess dough for two more manju coverings. I set up the baking pan with duration baking foil, and placed the manjus. I mixed mirin, egg yolk and one teaspoon chestnut syrup and brushed the manjus. I baked the manjus about 18 minutes.
I tried to colour it proper

And that is how it looks inside (the chestnut had a hidden inner peel)
Manju cut in halves

Sonntag, 2. Oktober 2011

Glazed spare ribs

If you ask BBQ? Husband always asks back: spare ribs? It is his favorite.
Last chance this year - the so called omega constellation will change soon (isn't it a nice name for fine and warm weather?) . Spare ribs are only available during summertimes due to the local butchers BBQ-season arrangements.
The butcher in our small village already changed his programme to autumn and winter, nothing but pickled porkfeed, sunday roasts and such. And  nothing you would like to eat on a  hot sunny day so we drove into the city. Lucky we got some spare ribs (afterwards there were only 2 more left). It was a rare "sunday open innercity day" so the shops at the centre were opened from 1 pm to 6 pm. Usually in germany shops are closed on sunday. The city was really crowded with people (same idiots as us, got nothing better to do as to go shopping on a sunday). So we decided to look quickly for the meat and snacks and returned home as soon as possible. There was an interesting spice contest - all different kinds of food and one should tell the spices used and win a prize, somewhere in the middle. We did'nt manage to get through - way too many people on the street.

At home I precooked the ribs in a broth made from dashi with a huge knob of ginger (sliced), a little garlic (crashed), 1/2 carrot and 1 leek, salt and soy sauce until they were tender. This took nearly 45+ minutes. I am going to freeze the broth. It will act as base for a nice ramen soup when the weather turns cold.

The ribs dried for a few minutes in a sieve and than I brushed them with a mixture of:
1 tablespoon chilisauce, 2 tablespoons plumsauce and  2 tablespoon soy sauce

This mixture contains a lot of sugar so the ribs cannot be placed directly over the charcoal, they would burn in seconds. So the ribs were placed next to charcoal at the charcoal free half of the grill and the grill was closed with the dome lid. After 10 minutes we turned the ribs over, after another 10 minutes they were ready to be eaten.  Meanwhile I grilled some pork steaks with a dry rub made from cajun seasoning and herbs (thyme, rosemary) over the charcoal and 2 minute steaks (beaf) brined in ginger, soy sauce, vinegar and sugar later on.
I also made some side dishes: a carrot-cabbage-cellery salad with yoghurt dressing and portobello mushroom heads filled with minced mushroom stems, grated cheese, minced onion, couscous and herbs, combined with an beaten egg and baked in the oven.
This was our BBQ - some meat we will eat tomorrow. The ribs were really soft and tender and easy to eat by fingers:
glazed spare ribs

Samstag, 1. Oktober 2011

Never make fun of others - supersized fruits

Guess what I found in my garden today: supersized quinces. I swear, I never supplied any kind of organic or chemical fertilizer to my quince tree. Qinces don't like fertilizer at all, they get sick and you will find lots of brown freckles in the fruits. In fact, I just prune the tree once in a while and that's it.

566 gramms!!!
 I just baked a quince tarte tatin - all I needed were two of these fellows and I am glad having my big chef knife. I still cannot believe it. What happened to that tree?
This is the tarte in the oven

And this is the tarte as it is:
piece of tarte
All you need is pie dough, simply made by 3:2:1 flour:butter:sugar (in my case with a teaspoon vinegar, tablespoon cold water and a pinch of salt). Amount depends on the size of your pan.

I took:
200g flour
100g butter
50g sugar
2 supersized quinces, peeled, pipped and cut into slender wedges
1 pinch cinnamon

Kneat very cold butter (cut in small cubes) with flour, sugar, water and vinegar just until butter is flaked nicely into the flour. Don't overdo the dough. Let sit in fridge about 30 min, afterwards roll dough into a thin layer (best method: roll dough between two sheets of cling film).

For caramel:
100 g butter
5 tablespoons sugar (quinces are tart)

Heat butter in a pan (ovenproof!),  add sugar and let melt until turned amber, turn off heat. Quickly apply quince wedges, sprinkle with cinnamon and cover with a layer of pie dough. Cut it to fit as lid.
Bake up to 35 minutes at 180C - until pie crust is nicely browned. Unmold by flipping it over: Place the plate over the pan and turn it upside down. Be careful and use heat protection gloves. The ticky sugary liquid from butter, sugar and juice may be spilled and it will be hot as hell. Let cool and serve.