Although it’s not only tuna and avocado on toast… It’s a much fancier version with red onion, capers, dill and Yuzu. An A-list lunch and simple, yet the simplest are often the most enjoyable. Lemon juice would work too only since I had some Yuzu it was definitely worth adding. This was a lunch I was thinking about all morning and such an easy combination of flavours, all I needed to pick up was some fresh lettuce and an avocado. Capers are great to keep in your fridge, adding great flavour and no need to add extra salt. They also have a bunch of health benefits including being good for your skin, protecting DNA and apparently great for prostate health so good for men to incorporate in their diets. Short and sweet little entry today.. it is Friday after all.

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Such a wonderfully simple dish is hummus and great to have in the fridge for when you want a healthy snack. I made some pita last week and wanted  something I could throw together a quick lunch with. This was perfect. I cheated and used a tin of chickpeas which gave good results but if you have the time and the dried beans, do soak, boil them up and use them. Dried beans taste better, have less salt and preservatives and are cheaper so much better to use. Tinned on the other hand are great when you are short of time or just can’t wait as was the case with me. Rinsing the beans before use can help get rid of some of the salt. Roasting peppers is a real treat for some reason, I love the smell as you wait for them to blacken and actually even enjoying peeling them. In a blender with some lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, dill and homemade Tahini gave good results. Roasting sesame seeds until the nutty aroma is released and then grinding to a paste with some olive oil gives real depth to the hummus and is worth making. I think it’s OK to take shortcuts sometimes with one or two ingredients, just as long as there are some bold natural flavours also used.

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A much anticipated post here and with these cold winter nights Nabe is just what is needed for most of them. You can get such variety for Nabe soups. For those of you who don’t know what a Nabe is, it’s basically a hotpot. Vegetables and meat or fish simmered in a soup in a clay Nabe pot. Very easy to prepare and beautifully social with the little gas burner often in the middle of a family or group of friends, cooking, eating together and staying warm. The clay pot keeps the dish warm and usually rice or Udon noodles are added at the end. There are so many different kinds of soup bases you can have in your Nabe pot, from kimichi, sesame, tofu, soy milk, soy sauce, miso to name a few. From an earlier post for homemade nabe meatballs, I had promised to try a yuzu soup base and I’m pleased to say it turned out well. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit, somewhere between a lemon and grapefruit and if you don’t have any near where you are I think a combination of other citrus fruits would work equally well.

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A guest post this week from an extremely gifted cook.. my mum! A most wonderful recipe it is too and easy with minimum preparation ensuring a perfectly moist cake to finish with. Moist with the slightly crunchy top that is just heaven when you bite into it that is. And I had three slices yesterday! It was just too easy, what with the cake just out of the oven, lovely and warm, melting my ice-cream – and it tastes incredibly light. I will be running some of it off later as am sure it isn’t but surely some balance with the yoghurt? I do LOVE chocolate cake and having enjoyed a most wonderful Chocolate Gateau a friend made effortlessly over Christmas without even measuring, this is a perfect recipe to try anytime which will completely guarantee success. Help with the measuring is given and once the butter, sugar and eggs are mixed well, it’s a very simple case of alternately folding in the dry ingredients and yoghurt and putting in the oven for 30-40 mins while it rises. The picture above is the one my mum made, dusted with white chocolate and a little beauty I think!

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Nothing beats a weekend afternoon like a roast. Simple prep involved, patient wait while the bird cooks away with occasional tending to and the dinner itself. Incredibly easy to make provided you have an oven and a few herbs and great to try with different varieties and combinations to mix it up. Even though I didn’t grow up with roasts traditionally on Sunday I have thoroughly embraced the British roast culture in other ways. Friends making them, serving them in restaurants, have both taught me perfection to timing and hot plates is the secret. Everything ready at the same time and relaxed in the approach. Slow roasting gives the most wonderful flavour and  I just love the wait as the smell takes over the kitchen in anticipation of a perfectly cooked chicken. Next time you’re out food shopping, pick up a bird, a whole bulb of garlic(or half in my case since it was only a little chicken), lemon, some fresh rosemary, thyme and you’ll have the perfect roast. Accompanied with roast vegetables and some blanched broccoli to provide a little crunch this is a well-balanced treat.

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A healthy curry here, perfect with some fresh chappatis, pita or as a side dish. Potatoes have a bit of a bad reputation with the popularity of low-carb diets and some people I know have totally eliminated them from their kitchens. I like potatoes. It’s not the potato that’s bad for you but more the way it is prepared. Keeping the skin on ensures you get the most from the vitamins, fiber and minerals and baking, steaming, light frying in olive oil are good ways to make sure you don’t take all the goodness out of them. There are also perfect on a budget and as a firm believer of eating well I don’t feel you need to always buy the most expensive ingredients to eat tasty food. This simple curry is very easy to prepare and all you need is potatoes, spinach and whole cumin and a small cinnamon stick. Spinach really needs very little adding as it has such a lovely flavour by itself. I like it just barely cooked as the colour is vibrant and the slightly acidic taste balances well with the tender potatoes.

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Stir-fried Japanese noodles here.. Yaki means to fry and with Udon a thick wheat Japanese noodle this dish is a great way to use up any vegetables you have and takes about ten minutes to make. An all round winner when you’re hungry and have that moment of ‘what shall I eat today’. Perfect cooking for one and you can always make extra for a lunch box the next day too so don’t be shy with adding vegetables and making it colour-tastic. Flavour in this dish comes from the vegetables themselves, some simple dark sesame oil, soy sauce, rice vinegar, pepper and ginger. Katsuboshi thrown over the top add a great extra flavour, otherwise they taste perfectly fine without.

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Yes! Another birthday treat for one of my best friends.. this time a homemade focaccia B.L.T. birthday extravagnaza for Rachel. The bread is such a simple one to make and can be left overnight to rise making it even easier. This special treat paying homage to Rachel was made with Rosemary and had Happy Birthday spelt on on top in sun-dried tomatos and olives. Focaccia is great as a side dish and I like making it to use in sandwiches. The best thing is how easy it is to make, requiring few ingredients and effort, sprinkled with a a topping of choice before it is baked in the oven. Freshly chopped Rosemary or some dry herbs kneaded into the dough and a simple brushing of olive oil and some sea salt thrown over are tasty enough. Olives, sun-dried tomatos, finely chopped garlic and Parmasan are great to play around with too and this recipe is very versatile so do try kneading in ingredients in for more flavour in the focaccia as well sprinkling on top. They work well frozen too so if you have a nice afternoon baking and have any extra you can freeze in little batches for a little snack next time you’re peckish.

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Happy New year! Hope you all had a lovely break if you managed to get one and are now starting 2011 on a positive note. I was thinking about making a little something for New Year’s Eve and Dhokla seemed to be the perfect treat. Dhokla/Dhokra are a Gujarati snack made from fermented Chickpea flour, yoghurt, a few spices in and steamed for about 15 minutes. I have the best memories of eating them on a weekend afternoon. Mountains of coriander thrown over, soft and spongy and so easy to munch on. Served with fresh coriander, grated coconut, fresh green chillis, mustard seeds and sesame seeds they taste best when freshly made. Although possible to make the gram flour mix yourself, a very good alternative for people who don’t have any of the ingredients is to use a GITs packet. These ready mixes make dhokra unbelieveably easy to make and are easy to buy from most Indian groceries or online here in Japan. Don’t be put off by the name. Unlike trying to ferment and make the batter yourself which can have mixed results,  GITs make perfect Dhokla everytime. All you need is 2 tablespoons of oil, some water a very gentle stir, and cooked in a hot steamer. The way to serve them is to first cut the dhokla and sprinkle with grated coconut and freshly chopped coriander. Heat oil, and let the mustard seeds pop with the sesame seeds and fresh green chillis and pour this over the dhokla. I made a coriander chutney which mixed with yoghurt made a refreshing dip and the recipe for a Tamarind chutney will be up soon which is also a winner.

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There is nothing quite like a birthday cake to make it feel like it’s your birthday and with one of my best friend’s birthdays today, the big 3 0, and his love of Dorito’s I thought I would make a Dorito’s cake. I had been planning it for a good few days and thinking about it for a good few weeks. The dilemma was did I go for a full savoury re-fried beans, layered with guacamole, sour cream, in between corn bread with spicy salsa and Dorito’s crumbling OR did I go for a proper birthday cake but decorated in Doritos and tasting good? I decided to go for the latter after much deliberation and playing around with ideas as I found an easy sour cream frosting recipe and thought I wanted the cake to taste and look like a birthday cake. I have had a pretty bad experience of making a birthday cake a few years ago where I got a little excited by some green food coloring and it didn’t rise properly, weighed a ridiculous amount and tasted shocking. I rarely make something I can’t eat but that was one of those occasions! This time I decided to keep it au naturele with a simple white layered cake, base, a lemon and sour cream frosting, which I thought would compliment the cheese Doritos and some pretty sparkles for extra birthday effect. With some candles, a dark room, coupled with a little surprise it was going to be a special night. The idea was to look like a Dorito so I baked it in a square oven dish and sliced it in half diagonally. Each half in half through the middle, I made 4 layers. The layers were made the day before and frozen overnight. It looked a bit like a sandwich as I was layering up the next day but hopefully with all the embellishment that followed it resembled something more like a Dorito.

…. and the verdict after the party…

A few surprises at the combination at first but the cake was Oishi = tastes very good and looked like a Dorito! The Dorito’s were still standing while the candles were blown out so well done frosting for holding them up and the cake went down well. All that was left at the end of the night was a pile of candles, some Dorito’s crumbs, a small piece of frosting and a  very happy birthday boy, so success!

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