Japanese food on the AGA

“What’s in the box James?”  It’s a strange question to be asked when sitting down for lunch.  It was 2004 and I was at a work conference in Kyoto, Japan.  The box queried was a bento box, the first time I had ever eaten from one and I did not recognize any of the beautiful food items, but boy did they taste good.

japan

I’ve been very fortunate with the food I’ve been able to eat around the world.  I’ve eaten the famed Kobe beef in Kobe, Peking duck in Peking, a Berliner (the donut of JFK fame) in Berlin, and a tagine in Tangier.  Food travelling has been my career; I’ve been fortunate enough to see 40 countries (really want to see South America for a molé in Mexico and a chili in Chille).  This fascination of alliterative food collecting started in Japan, why I don’t know, but it’s grown into a sort of ‘compulsion’.  There I said it.  I have a ‘compulsion’. I feel better, I’m off to group, 12-step plan ahead and I’ve just passed step one.

12-step was todays cooking.  4 recipes, 3 process in each.  Simples.  And, it was.  Keiko runs a Japanese restaurant in London, and has a company called “Sushi School Pop Up”.  Basically she will travel to you as a ‘sushi school pop up’ and make sushi with you in your home, office, school or supper club.  Keiko is London’s authority on sushi, she explains to me how its an art to prepare, how its best to have all of the ingredients ready before assembly, how to ‘care’ for the rice (in the West we would say ‘mix’).  I comment on how Keiko holds a large shichimi knife and its different to how we in the West cook, the care and attention to detail she shows is far above any global western chef I have met, and I have met many of high acclaim and fame.  Keiko shows a still calmness with the food and an affinity with it.

Now sushi is raw I hear you say, why do we need to cook this on the AGA.  Well, it’s the rice and some of the seafood that needs cooking.  I go to cook the sushi rice using the standard AGA method of one cup of rice to 2 cups of water and Keiko tells be to put less liquid in as we have to ‘care’ for the rice after with extra liquid.  I cook perfect sushi rice as I knew the AGA would by bringing a pan containing 1 cup of rice and 1 ¾ cups of water to the boil on the Boiling Plate and put the lid on and place it into the Simmering Oven for 20 minutes.  When cooked I’m ready with my Valerie Singleton (for those of you born after 1988 it’s Blue Peter’s trick of “Here’s one I made earlier”) only to be told to use the cooked one, but I have to stand there with a Japanese fan waving it like a loon to cool the rice.  We cook the prawn by inserting a skewer along its backbone and boiling it (Keiko uses chopstick to take it out when I would use kitchen tongs), cut the smoked salmon, tuna and sear and chop the scallops.  All ready for sushi.  Keiko assembles beautifully to camera, a plate of stunning sushi; delicious, bright and fresh.

For the final dish Keiko takes a rectangular slab of pork and coats it in flour, egg and finally panko breadcrumbs.  As it’s deep-frying on the AGA Boiling Plate for 6 minutes (I guessed 5 and was obviously wrong) she tells me its 30 very thin layers of pork all piled on top of each other.  It’s beautifully juicy and sweet to eat, a millefeuille of pork if you must.

Cooking this beautiful food reminded me of my time in Japan, how delicate and healthy the food is, how fresh and fried foods marry together in harmony under a cherry blossom.

And then the surprise arrived.  Sushi in a Knickerbocker-glory glass.

Japanese food on the AGA.  All ready for a bento box.  So when asked the next time I’m in Japan, “what’s in my box” I will be able to answer with my 12-step plan.

Nigiri Sushi

Sushi rice
1 cup sushi rice
40ml Japanese rice wine vinegar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
Decoration
1 large uncooked prawn
fresh tuna

 

Method

Cook the Sushi rice by rinsing in water and then bring 1 cup of sushi rice to the boil with 1 ¾ cups water.  When boiling, place the lid on top and place into the Simmering Oven for 20 minutes.  Tip into a bowl and add the vinegar, sugar and salt and cool with a fan.

Place a long wooden skewer along the backbone of the prawn to straighten it and pop into a pan of boiling water on the Boiling Plate until cooked.  Immediately place into cold water to stop the cooking.  Leave for a few minutes before removing the skewer.  Peel and cut the head off at an angle.  Slice along the underside of the prawn at an angle to flatten.

Mold the sushi by hand to the desired shape.  It’s easier to use wet hands.

Place the prawn on top.

To make tuna sushi, do similar placing the uncooked tuna on top rather than the prawn.

 

Temari Sushi

Sushi rice
1 cup sushi rice
40ml Japanese rice wine vinegar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
Decoration
2 egg yolks
1 tsp sugar
smoked salmon squares about 7cm
fresh dill fines

 

Method

Cook the Sushi rice by rinsing in water and then bring 1 cup of sushi rice to the boil with 1 ¾ cups water.  When boiling, place the lid on top and place into the Simmering Oven for 20 minutes.  Tip into a bowl and add the vinegar, sugar and salt and cool with a fan.

Place the egg yolks into a pan on the Simmering Plate and cook gently until scrambled.  Allow to cool and pass through a sieve.  Mix the sugar through.

Form a small ball of rice using wet hands and set aside.  Place a little egg yolk onto some cling film, place the sushi ball on top and close the cling film round the ball tightly.  Open the cling film and place the sushi ball egg side up.  Decorate with some dill fines.

To make a smoked salmon sushi, do the same using the smoked salmon.

 

Gunkan Sushi

Sushi rice
1 cup sushi rice
40ml Japanese rice wine vinegar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
Decoration
1 fresh scallop, roe removed
Nori seaweed

 

Method

Cook the Sushi rice by rinsing in water and then bring 1 cup of sushi rice to the boil with 1 ¾ cups water.  When boiling, place the lid on top and place into the Simmering Oven for 20 minutes.  Tip into a bowl and add the vinegar, sugar and salt and cool with a fan.

Score the top and bottom of the scallop lightly with a sharp knife to make a place onto some AGA Bake-O-Glide on the Simmering Plate.  Cook for a few moments on each side to colour lightly.  Allow to cool.  Cut into small cubes.

Mold the sushi rice into oblongs (submarines) using wet hands.

Wrap the Nori around, leaving 2cm above the sushi.  Fill with the chopped scallop.

 

Katsu -Panko Pork

1 x ready prepared 30 layer pork block
1 tbsp plain flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
Panko breadcrumbs
Oil for deep frying

 

Method

Dip the egg in the plain flour, then the egg and finally the Panko breadcrumbs.

Heat the oil on the AGA Simmering Plate until it starts to warm.  Then move to the Boiling Plate.

Cook the pork for 6 minutes until dark golden brown.  Drain on kitchen paper.

Slice and serve.

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