I’m a pork cutlet bowl fatale

I made katsudon this week! 😀 It’s essentially chicken donburi, but with a breaded pork cutlet instead of chicken.

I substituted the leek for a handful of frozen peas in order to dial down the portion size a bit — this actually turned out very well 🙂 I also miscalculated the frying of the pork a little, using too little oil and too hot a pan. This did leave the pork with a slightly carbonised layer, but the meat was properly cooked and the burnt bits didn’t affect the overall flavour of the dish very much.

I chose this dish in particular because I’ve had something of a craving for it ever since I discovered my current favourite anime, Yuri!!! On Ice — katsudon being the trademark favourite food of the main character Yuuri Katsuki. A full-length gush about how brilliant this anime is would be approximately novella-length at minimum and be full of spoilers, so I’ll just direct interested readers to the relevant Crunchyroll page and urge you to give it a look 🙂 Beautiful animation, choreography, music, character development, excellent handling of mental health issues like anxiety and depression, an excellently done and very healthy romantic relationship and a strong running theme of love and courage in all their forms — the sort of gem that comes along once a decade, if that.

If the title seems familiar, it’s probably because you were watching the Olympic figure skating — Miu Suzuki and Ryuichi Kihara skated to Yuuri’s free skate music (also called ‘Yuri on Ice’) for their pairs skating short program, and the fandom profoundly rejoiced 🙂 It’s very significant for a sports anime to be so strongly embraced by that sport’s real-life practitioners.

Can you hear/my heart beat?/Tired of feeling/never enough,/I close my eyes/and tell myself/that my dreams will come true…

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A bowl of chicken-y goodness

This week’s recipe was chicken donburi, a Japanese dish involving chicken, rice, egg, veg and other good things! I chose this partly to celebrate the opening of a new Asian food shop near me, and partly as a dress rehearsal for making katsudon next week (a very similar dish which uses pork instead of chicken).

I did this recipe at 1/4 quantities, to make just one portion, as I was a bit uncertain about the reheatability of the finished product. I also used instant miso soup paste (made up to 375ml liquid) as I didn’t have the time or ingredients for a proper dashi stock — the paste in question contained kombu extract and bonito (yer basic dashi ingredients) anyway, so it seemed a perfectly acceptable substitute. I also used some Bristol cream sherry as a mirin substitute (more cost-effective considering that I hardly ever use mirin in my cooking at the mo).

The end result was very tasty, with lots of savouriness and depth of flavour. The texture of the eggs was similar to what I encountered when I made menemen — there’s a similarly spongy texture from cooking the eggs in liquid — but I found it a lot more palatable here. I’m not sure why, but I suspect it has to do with the surrounding flavours in each case.

Even made at 1/4 quantities, this recipe made a large and very filling portion — given my general diet habits and activity levels, next time I make this I’ll go 1/4 or 1/2 quantities, divide the meat-and-broth component into portions to freeze for later and cook up a fresh serving of rice when preparing each saved portion. I might also omit the leek or replace it with peas — I’m not that fond of leeks, to be honest, and I’m not certain it added anything to the recipe.

Overall, though, I’d say chicken donburi is well worth a try!

A piece of Amatrice

Another large manuscript came in yesterday, hence the delayed post.

An Amatrice-style sauce — spicy, tomato-y and with plenty of bacon — was my scheduled experiment for this week. I cooked half a head of garlic with the bacon, because I like the stuff and it needed using up; it certainly didn’t hurt the flavour at all!

Technically, I should have used the ‘traditional’ tomato sauce, with sautéed onion and so on, but owing to time and resource constraints I simply used a small tin of chopped tomatoes instead, and let the sauce simmer and reduce while I cooked the pasta (fusilli tricolore — yum!).

It worked out very well indeed! The grated pecorino romano that I stirred into the pasta before adding the sauce really helped up the umami and other flavours, and the sauce itself was the ideal consistency — not too runny or too thick. I was a little worried about that, I will admit, because I added the rinsings of a jar of home-made chutney to the sauce as well, which made things quite liquid initially. Everything was all right, though 🙂

In view of the fact that a new Asian food shop has opened in my area recently (so many different snacks! So many types of mochi!), I’ll be cracking open my Asian Adventures cookbook and trying out a few of those recipes — should be fun!

Old favourite

Just did pasta e piselli con la pancetta this week, at least partly because I had a largish bag of frozen peas sitting in my freezer and taunting me…

I usually use tinned marrowfat processed peas for pasta-and-peas recipes, as a timesaver and because I like the texture, but the frozen peas turned out pretty well. I added them to the bacon, onion and garlic as soon as the recipe allowed and cooked the mixture with the saucepan lid on for the maximum time given in the instructions. The peas were cooked to perfection!

The only other tweak I made was using double quantities of bacon (while everything else was half quantities). It certainly didn’t hurt ^^

I still have some peas left over after this, but I’m planning to try making katsudon in a few weeks, so they’re earmarked for that 🙂

Nibbling upon ‘nduja

(Apologies for late post — very large manuscript in yesterday. Awkward to wrangle, but yay for paid work!)

I’ve been following the Hairy Bikers’ latest TV series, Mediterranean Adventure, and it’s pretty darn interesting. The topic of today’s post is a thing they looked at in the first episode — ‘nduja, spicy spreadable sausage from Calabria in Italy.

As I recall the bit where the Bikers watched a traditional ‘nduja maker at their work, this delicious stuff is made with very fatty pork (more fat than meat), vast amounts of fiery peperoncino and salt to preserve — kneaded together, extruded into pig gut, smoked and hung for a few months to mature. I got pretty curious about what this stuff was like (I’m a sucker for charcuterie and similar things), so I decided to get myself some.

I was originally eyeballing a 180g jar of ‘nduja paste (direct from Amazon), but then I happened upon this listing — cheaper than the jar, more than twice as much ‘nduja per item and coming directly from a seller based in Calabria. I leapt at the opportunity 🙂 (It arrived less than 48 hours after I placed the order, which is absolutely brilliant!)

The ‘nduja itself was pretty darn good — a very bright, clear, powerful spicy hit that fades after a few seconds to a pleasant, smoky warmth, with a background of richness from the pork fat. I found the spicy flavour to be almost overwhelming on my first try, but repeated nibbles have helped me adjust. It goes very well on generous chunks of buttery, toasted wholemeal bread, and a little experimentation has revealed that, stirred into sautéing onions, ‘nduja also goes very well in pasta sauces — especially the tomato-y ones, which have the right sort of sharp-savouriness to complement the spice and cut through the intense richness of the pork fat.

I’ll definitely be getting this again!

There shall be prawns for tea

With pasta in a creamy tomato sauce!

I had a bash at ‘Penette alla Ines’ this week (the recipe only seems to appear in the Robert-Budwig-illustrated edition of The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces). Pretty straightforward, really, although I didn’t have the time or energy to make the required quantity of tomato sauce the day before — I fudged things by sautéing up all the necessary onions and garlic at once, throwing in the wine, tomatoes and prawns and letting thins simmer for a bit. I also had to add the cream, parsley and pepper after stirring the tomato sauce into the pasta, so as not to make the tomato pan overflow.

It turned out pretty darn well, though 😀 Very tasty, although the cream and tomato notes were somewhat stronger than the prawns — probably because I used cheap frozen ones…

Not-so-blue(fin) tuna

I don’t really believe in Blue Monday and that sort of thing, but it has been a pretty gloomy and wet sort of a day…

Things were rather brightened, though, by the success of my latest pasta experiment — an uncooked tuna sauce which was very quick to prepare. Tinned tuna in oil (skipjack, no mater what the post title says), parsley, basil, lemon zest, walnut pieces (pounded up finely in a pestle and mortar), a splash of Worcestershire sauce and enough olive oil to help everything be distributed evenly over the pasta without clumping or falling off.

I refrained from draining the tuna (since it was in oil anyway), didn’t run the sauce through a food processor (ekk… I prefer a bit of texture) and used the juice of the lemon as well as the zest, so as to avoid wastage. This is kind of in line with the principles of ‘cucina povera’ (lit: ‘poor kitchen’) discussed in the first episode of Hairy Bikers’ Mediterranean Adventure, which focused on the southern parts of Italy, which are traditionally much poorer than the north of the country.

One thing that really caught my attention from that episode was the bit about ‘nduja, a fiery spreadable sausage from Calabria (chiefly Spilinga and surrounding areas) — especially the part where the Bikers assisted an expert ‘nduja maker in creating a batch from scratch! I am a bit of a sucker for this sort of thing, so I’ve been nosing around the web for a decent supplier. It should be a very interesting addition to cheese sandwiches or a tomato sauce!

Chocolate and peanut butter Baklava

Cooking Without Limits

GAB_5568_mix_res

With Chocolate baklava in my mind, I changed a little bit the recipe and I made a new dessert.  I add peanut butter and I made another great easy dessert. You can make it with your kids for Christmas or any other time.

To get it very crispy I used olive oil only to brush the dessert at the end.

Ingredients:

  • Phyllo dough
  • Nutella
  • Peanut butter

Directions:

Preheat oven to 220°C. Take 4 sheets of phyllo dough and put it on a baking sheet in a baking tray. Put a big layer of Nutella on top of the phyllo dough and on top of them add another 4 sheets. Add a layer of peanut butter on top.

Roll everything slowly not to break it and then put it in the oven. Bake it for 20 – 30 minutes. Check it from time to time so it doesn’t burn.

This extra…

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Quiet week

It’s been pretty quiet here — just easing into 2018, really

I made farfalle con le fave al prosciutto (pasta with ham and broad beans) yesterday — had to leave out the one stick of celery, but otherwise I stuck pretty much exactly to the Diane Seed recipe (second result). It turned out deliciously, as recipes from The Top One Hundred Pasta Sauces are wont to do 🙂

I’ve been reading La Belle Sauvage recently — it’s pretty good! Pullman retains his magical touch and worldbuilding skill from the His Dark Materials trilogy, and builds on it subtly and skilfully. The plot and pacing are just right, moving fast enough to keep the reader enthralled without leaving them in the dust (Hah! Pun not necessarily intended). The canoe whose name gives the book its title is almost a character in its own right, and you *will* come to care about its fate as much as that of Malcolm, Alice and baby Lyra — a testament to the skill of the author. There are some lovely little continuity nods and calls-forward to the HDM trilogy, some obvious (such as appearances by Mrs Coulter, Lord Asriel and so on) and some less so — for example, astute readers might remember a Dame Hannah Relf from two brief scenes in Northern Lights and Amber Spyglass respectively. She puts in multiple plot-significant appearances here as a young Scholar, and is one of my favourite characters 🙂 I’m not sure how much more I can say without delivering spoilers, but rest assured, if you liked His Dark Materials you will definitely like La Belle Sauvage (and hopefully the rest of the Book of Dust trilogy).

Happy new year!

Here’s to 2018! Skaal! [a Nordic toast meaning roughly ‘Good health!’]

The lack of post last week was due to a very restful soporific state induced by vast quantities of delicious food — roast chicken with bacon, stuffing, sprouts and roast spuds (and I made a veggie-soss-and-roast-veg risotto for my mum — I used this recipe as my jumping-off point, omitting the wine and preparatory sausage-browning (which wasn’t necessary as mum’s preferred brand of veggie sausages cooks so quickly) and using a good strong cheddar instead of parmesan at the end — it was extremely well received!).

Since then I’ve been snacking away on various types of pate, cheese and festive nibbles from my usual supermarkets — yum yum!

I’ve also been experimenting with pasta dishes containing asparagus, and I’ve come to the conclusion that they should all include sautéed onion and garlic, and perhaps a bit of stock, even if the recipe as written doesn’t call for them — I’ve found that the flavour can be a bit pallid otherwise.