Friday, 31 May 2013

Wagamama Week: Yasai Korroke

At last! A successful recipe - something I might try again! Shame the ingredients list will be the longest I have ever posted :) I have given up revising their quantities in the ingredients list, and just written the ones that I used. For once the original recipe didn't make enough food, and while I'm willing to try making too much, I'm not willing to go hungry for the sake of following the recipe!

Amai sauce:

  • 1tbsp malt vinegar
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 2 tsp tamarind paste

Salad dressing:

  • 1 tsp finely chopped shallot
  • 1/2" piece of fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
  • 1 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 50ml vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce

Vegetable cakes:

  • oil for deep-frying
  • 2 large potatoes
  • 1 medium sweet potato
  • 50g frozen peas
  • 75g tinned sweetcorn, drained
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 red chilli
  • 3-4 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • 75g fine breadcrumbs


  • half a bag of mixed salad
  • 1/2 red pepper
  • 10g dried wakame

Microwave the vinegar, sugar and soy sauce until the sugar has dissolved, then whisk in the rest of the amai sauce ingredients and set aside to cool. In a separate bowl, whisk together the salad dressing ingredients and set aside as well.

Peel and chop the potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Boil the potatoes for 12 minutes; add the sweet potatoes after 3-4 minutes so they are done at the same time. Drain very well, and cover with a teatowel to absorb the moisture. When reasonably dry, mash roughly with a fork, then stir in the peas and sweet corn and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, peel and finely chop the onion, and trim and deseed the chilli (or leave the seeds in, if you like the kick). Fry in a few tbsp of vegetable oil at a low heat, until soft and fragrant. Stir into the potato mixture. Using your hands, form the mixture into small cakes, and then dip into the flour, the egg, and then the breadcrumbs, and deep-fry at 180C for 4-5 minutes until crisp and golden. If the cakes are too fragile, chill them for an hour and then fry them slightly longer.

Meanwhile, finely-slice the red pepper and rehydrate the wakame. Toss with the salad leaves and dressing, then serve the cakes on top of the salad.

Ahh, this was a breath of fresh air. Crisp, delicate vegetable cakes that were surprisingly light and more complex than the sum of their parts. A salad dressing that looked thoroughly unappetising and unbalanced, but shined when combined with the crisp red pepper and earthy seaweed. I couldn't keep track of the quantities I adjusted this time: they suggested 50g of dried wakame go into the salad... that would be like one of the serving bowls entirely filled with wakame. And while this recipe nestles happily in the middle of the vegetarian main meal section, where the recipes seem balanced for 3-4 people despite being advertised for two, the original would only just have fed one. Strange book; it's like they went into the kitchens and tried to guess what quantities of raw ingredients went into each meal, rather than asking one of the chefs.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Wagamama Week: Marinated Vegetable Ramen

This was an interesting recipe, using a cooking method I'd never seen before: marinating the vegetables *after* they'd been cooked. I would write it out but... I'll skip straight to the verdict. It's a waste of time. Don't. If you're going to marinade things, marinade them before you cook them. ESPECIALLY if the marinade consists of raw garlic and chilli. These are ingredients that LIVE to be cooked. Once again the quantities were absurd: we had more than enough for lunch the next day, even though neither of us were keen on the idea. And the lovely fragrant ramen noodles, so yummy when cheekily tested for doneness straight from the pot, were completely buried under the raw marinade, which even overwhelmed a fairly tasty vegetable stock.
Even the photo was bad!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Wagamama Week: Pumpkin Curry

I am a big fan of pumpkin curry; the sweet, earthy, melting flesh works amazing well with warming spices, and somehow becomes even more flavoursome when cooked nearly to destruction, unlike, say, the potato. I have two pumpkin curries I commonly cook, along with 101 other pumpkin-related recipes. So I was certainly willing to road-test the Wagamama version, which they claim was a one-off special that became so popular, it was added to the main menu.

Ingredients (Quantities in brackets are my revised suggestions):

  • 100g brown rice
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1/2" piece of ginger root
  • 1/2" piece of galangal root
  • 2 lemongrass sticks
  • 300ml hot water
  • 1/4 tsp salt (1 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 tsp sugar (3 tsp)
  • 100g canned coconut milk (140g)
  • 1 small pumpkin (1/5th of a Japanese pumpkin - about 400g)
  • 2 courgettes (1)
  • 6 button mushrooms (12 or 0)
  • 4 baby sweetcorn
  • handful of sugarsnap peas
  • 4 x 1" cubes of tofu (don't bother)
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach (don't bother)
  • handful of chopped coriander
Set the brown rice cooking according to its packet instructions.

Peel and grate or finely dice the garlic, ginger, galangal and lemongrass, or whiz in a little blender until a fine paste (you'll probably have to double or triple the quantity to get enough friction for a blender to work). Fry in a good glug of vegetable oil over a moderate heat for 6-8 minutes, stirring until softened and fragrant but not coloured. Add the hot water, bring to the boil, then add the salt and sugar; simmer for 20 minutes until reduced by half (I had to cover mine, as it reduced much more quickly than that.)

Meanwhile, peel and deseed the pumpkin, and cut into bite-size chunks. Scoop the seeds out of the middle of the courgette and cut into bite-size chunks. Halve the mushrooms and sweet corn. Stir fry the vegetables for 2 minutes -- I let mine rest occasionally so they picked up a bit of colour. Stir the coconut milk into the reduced sauce and then pour over the vegetables, add the tofu if using, then simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender. Serve the curry with the drained rice, sprinkled with the chopped coriander.

Not bad. Nowhere near as good as either of the two curries I already know, but ok. The quantities they suggested were distressingly large for two people; I couldn't help but scale back the quantity of pumpkin (from a whole one to 1/5th of one!) and we still had enough left over for lunch the next day. The tofu didn't stand up to the treatment it was given; I definitely prefer mine fried to give it some bounce and crunch. I don't know what the spinach was for... looking pretty in their photo? And having all of those different vegetables in there made the curry lack focus; it was a bit too much of a jumble. I'd say either up the mushrooms, or take them out altogether. The sauce was extremely under-seasoned. I would add half a red chilli if you like a bit of spice, and the sugar and salt quantities given were insufficient by a factor of 2-3. I'm glad I used the full tin of coconut milk; their suggested quantity wasn't coconut-y enough. It also felt weird to eat a curry that had no spices in it.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Wagamama Week: Rice Noodle Soup

We used the leftover konbu and katsuobushi from making yesterday's dashi to make a second dashi stock for this recipe, which did indeed taste stronger and more interesting than the primary stock. Unfortunately, the subtle notes were buried under an avalanche of miso...

Ingredients (Quantities in brackets are my revised suggestions):
  • 150g rice noodles
  • 500g tofu block, cut into small steaks (400g)
  • 2 tbsp miso paste (1/4 tsp -- not a typo!)
  • 1/2 tsp shichimi (1 1/2 tsp)
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • handful of roughly-chopped choi sum
  • 2 spring onions, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 litre miso soup (600 ml)
  • small handful of coriander
Cook the rice noodles according to the packet instructions. Lightly blot the tofu steaks with kitchen paper. Combine the miso paste with the shichimi and spread over the tops, then fry on a hot griddle, miso-side up, for 6-8 minutes or until the tofu is hot and the base is crispy. Remove the steaks to a warm plate and fry the choi sum and spring onions on the griddle for a minute, until just wilted. Serve the noodles topped with choi sum topped with tofu, with miso soup ladled over.


The tofu stands up to the frying nicely, much better than yesterday's mushrooms. But:


Seriously, 2 tbsp of raw miso paste on your tofu is just too rich. I think you want just enough to stick the shichimi to the tops of the tofu... which on balance I prefer fried on both sides, for maximum crispiness. It's also important to serve this right away, since the crispy base immediately starts sogging underneath the stock, of which there is a ridiculous quantity in the original recipe.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Wagamama Week: Ginger Chilli Mushrooms

Years ago, I bought my friend a copy of The Wagamama Cookbook and posted it to him for his birthday. Unbeknownst to me, he had also posted me a copy, so they arrived at almost the same time :) I've occasionally used recipes from it, but early in my cooking career, I didn't have many of the exotic-seeming Japanese ingredients, so stuck to the simplest recipes. Opening my closet now, I find I have almost everything I need, so thought I'd get stuck in by trying the first seven vegetarian recipes in the book, one by one. Otherwise, I'd never have been able to pick - they all look so yummy!

I went through each one and wrote down what I needed - the only new storecupboard ingredient was konbu for making dashi, as the store I go to doesn't have dashi no moto, even though that's what Wagamama use ;) Writing down exactly what I needed made shopping strange - I don't think I've ever gone to the store looking to buy '4 carrots' instead of just 'carrots'. And it had the unfortunate side-effect of making me completely forget about lunch ingredients. On the plus side, I know I spent almost exactly $100, and in theory I will be out of food in exactly one week's time.

So to kick off the week, the brave SO started with one of the simpler recipes while I went to Zumba. It's nice when someone else suffers for your art ;)

Ingredients (Quantities in brackets are my revised suggestions):
  • 250g soba noodles (150g)
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 red chilli, trimmed, deseeded and finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp peeled and grated fresh ginger root
  • 4 (king) oyster mushrooms, cut into 1cm slices
  • 4 shiitake mushrooms, cut into 1cm slices
  • clump of enoki mushrooms, about the size of your first, broken up
  • handful of roughly chopped choi sum
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • generous handful of beansprouts
  • 600ml miso soup (500ml)
  • 4 spring onions, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 sprigs coriander
Cook the noodles in a large pan of boiling water for 2-3 minutes, then drain and divide between two bowls, dropping the beansprouts on top. In a large hot wok, fry the chilli and ginger in the vegetable oil for 15-20 seconds, then add the mushrooms, choi sum and spring onions. Season with salt and sugar, and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.

Spoon the stir fry over the beansprouts and noodles, and ladle over the hot miso soup. Scatter with coriander and serve.


This was a pretty nice combination. The mushrooms lent a sort-of earthiness which was balanced well by the warming ginger and chilli, and the umame miso soup. We did feel like there were too many noodles; we ended up saving about 1/3 of the whole meal for one person's lunch the next day. I think 150g would be a more sensible amount. The mushroom pack we bought had a king oyster mushroom in it, and that stood up to the stir frying considerably better than the oysters and enokis, which basically vanished. I would switch to just using king oyster and shiitake, or even chestnut mushrooms, or add the enokis and oysters only 1 minute before serving. Lastly, the flavours were balanced, but a bit samey. I'd serve this with a hot lemon tea, or a lemonade, to try to bring in some contrasting sourness, as it's missing that note entirely.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Buffalo Chicken, Blue Cheese Carrot Slaw and Corn Bread

When I was little, we used to have buffalo wings, but I was too young to really enjoy the spicy sauce. Now I've found out what I'm missing, and I will be making this again! I used this authentic recipe to coat a simply-grilled chicken breast, and served it with a couple of julienned carrots slathered in a blue cheese dressing, and some yummy cornbread (halving the sugar).

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Open Moussaka

We had some nasu dengaku earlier in the week, but weren't hungry enough to eat the entire massive aubergine. Tonight I had a strong craving for the flavours of moussaka, but didn't want to leave the oven on for an hour and a half during peak electricity cost, nor wait that long to eat dinner. So I tried out a somewhat crazy idea: making all the bits of a moussaka but skipping the fattiest parts and the long baking time. It actually worked really really well! The only thing that made it difficult was that grilling the topping at the end makes the plate too hot to handle!


...and it gets harder to take an attractive photo ;)
  • half a large aubergine
  • three potatoes
  • one medium onion
  • 300g lamb mince
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 glass of red wine
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • one tomato
  • a small handful of parsley
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 150ml milk
  • a bay leaf or two
  • 1/2 slice of bread
  • a small handful of grated cheddar

Slice the aubergine lengthwise into four, brush with oil and BBQ or grill for 4-5 minutes each side, until caramelised and tender. Scrub and cube the potatoes, then set boiling, and drain and mash when done.

Finely chop the onion and fry for five minutes, then crush in the garlic and add the lamb, and fry until the lamb goes brown, about 4 minutes. Finely chop the parsley and tomato and add, along with the wine, tomato puree, cinnamon and allspice. Stir and season, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until thickened and tasty.

Meanwhile, melt the butter, combine with the flour and gently whisk in the milk; drop in the bay leaves and microwave for 4-5 minutes, stirring every minute, until thickened. Blend the bread into breadcrumbs and combine with the grated cheese.

Assemble the moussaka by spreading a layer of mashed potato onto the bottom of the plate, then topping with the lamb mixture. Pour half of the white sauce onto the lamb mixture, add the cooked slices of aubergine, then top with the remaining white sauce. Sprinkle over the cheese and breadcrumbs. Grill for 1-2 minutes, until the breadcumbs are golden and the cheese has just melted.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Chick Pea, Chorizo and Orange Salad

I spent most of last week sleeping and reading, trying to shake off a nasty cold. As a result we hadn't worn down the food stores quite as much as usual, so this week I'm attempting to cook entirely using whatever I have left in the fridge from last week. OK - I definitely cheated here, as there was a HUGE bag of red peppers going cheaply at the grocers' when I popped into the park centre to buy milk, and I did have to top up the onion supply. Now that I've made this salad, I think it's actually worth going out to get the ingredients, as it was amazing! No internet link this time; I just had ingredients I needed to use and found the right flavours to link them together.

  • one tin of chick peas
  • one medium white onion
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • a handful of green beans
  • a small handful of raisins
  • a fat, spicy chorizo sausage
  • two roasted peppers, skinned
  • an orange
  • a small handful of mint
  • 1 heaped tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
Drain the tin of chick peas and tip into a salad bowl. Thinly slice the onion into slivers, and fry over a very low heat until golden, translucent and falling apart - about 12 minutes. Add the sugar and cook for a further minute, then tip out of the pan onto the chick peas. Meanwhile, top, tail and blanch the green beans and raisins, then drain and add to the salad bowl.

If the skin of the sausage is tough, skin it, then finely slice the sausage and fry in the onion pan for a couple of minutes, until crisping up and colouring. If you like, blot the excess fat with kitchen paper before adding to the salad bowl. Slice or tear the peppers into strips and add to the bowl. Using a sharp knife, cut the peel and pith from the orange, then segment into the bowl; squeeze out the core over the bowl to retain all of the lovely juices. Finely chop the mint and add to the bowl.

Whisk the remaining ingredients together to form a dressing, pour over the salad, toss well and serve immediately.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Beetroot Risotto

I'm going to be lazy and link my usual risotto recipe. This was exactly the same, but I boiled a few small beetroots for 40-50 minutes, until they were perfectly tender. Slipped out of their skins, cubed and stirred through right at the last minute, they made a beautiful addition to a risotto base, with a little feta and a generous squeeze of lemon juice.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Roast Pumpkin and Pear Soup

I've come down with a cold after working in Melbourne for a week, so need nice bland comfort food to cheer me up. Yesterday the SO made an excellent chicken soup, which I always crave demand the first day I have a cold. Today I needed more soup, and I was inspired by Really Not Wanting to Go Shopping, so Googled what we had in the fridge, and found this recipe. It sounds like a completely bonkers combination, but somehow, it works perfectly! I put the oven on, asked the SO to cut up a huge wedge of pumpkin, then slumped under a duvet while everything roasted. A little work with the blender and, bam,  comfort food.


  • 1/5 large pumpkin -- about 400g
  • a pear -- doesn't have to be ripe
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • chicken or vegetable stock
  • dukkah -- substitute with toasted, salted sesame or sunflower seeds if you can't get hold of it
  • sour cream

Preheat the oven to 220C. Peel and cut the pumpkin into 1-2" chunks. Halve and core the pear. Put the pumpkin and pear in a large roasting dish - preferably with the pear skin-side down with a little room around it, and the pumpkin in a nice big pile. Drizzle the pumpkin with a little vegetable oil and dust the cinnamon over the top of the pears. Roast for 35-40 minutes until the pumpkin is tender right through, and the pear is soft and caramelised. Blend the pumpkin with enough hot stock to make a soup of your desired consistency -- probably about 200ml. Serve the soup topped with dukkah, half a roasted pear, and a generous blob of sour cream.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Baked Greek-Style Beans (and some Dolma)

I had a strong craving for dolma after visiting a nice little Greek cafe for lunch while I was in Melbourne. I tried making my own, following a random recipe online. They had included the prep time, but cheekily didn't mention that they had their own 'dolma-making machine', where you simply lay the leaf out, put some stuffing in, and then push a lever to wrap it all up! It took nearly an hour to get good at doing it by hand, and I highly recommend you watch a Youtube video first :) They turned out ok, but the rice wasn't thoroughly cooked, so I will try again another time.

What was a success, was the massive tray of baked Greek beans. I was pretty lazy and used tins instead of boiling the beans from scratch, but it really didn't matter. They were gorgeous, a sweet and umame counterpoint to the lemony dolmas, and incredibly filling.


  • Two medium white onions or one large
  • Two tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic
  • a small tin or 4 tbsp tomato puree
  • Three tins of butter beans
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • a small handful of parsley

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Finely chop the onion and gently fry in olive oil until translucent - about 6-7 minutes. Crush in the garlic and fry for a further two minutes. Finely chop the parsley and add, along with all of the other ingredients; season well and stir to combine. Tip into a deep baking dish and bake for an hour; the sauce will thicken and the beans will absorb the flavours.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Lemon Drizzle Cake

It was my lovely husband's birthday at the weekend, and I booked a show at the Perth International Comedy Festival - The Pajama Men. As I clicked 'buy', I had a strong sense of deja vu. Checking my email inbox, I found we'd gone to see their show at almost exactly the same time last year. I guess I'm getting stuck in a rut -- but they were hilarious, all over again!

I asked the SO what he'd like for his birthday cake, and he didn't have a strong preference, so I went for something I'd been craving - LEMON CAKE. Mmmm, just typing it is making me salivate. I went for the lemoniest recipe I could find, and then added more lemon. Unlike their picture, my lemon drizzle ended up soaking into the cake, so I've changed the icing to make what you see on my own photo.


  • 225g unsalted butter softened
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • finely grated zest 2 lemons
  • 220g plain flour
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • juice 1½ lemons
  • 4 heaped tbsp icing sugar
Preheat the oven to 180C. Cream the butter and sugar together with a whisk and a strong arm, or a food processor. Break in the eggs one at a time and whisk to combine. Add the grated lemon zest and stir again. Sift the flour and baking powder onto the liquid mixture, and use a wooden spoon to fold in, being careful not to overmix and make the gluten strong. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a wooden skewer comes out clean.

Combine the lemon juice and icing sugar until you have a slightly thick but still drizzle-able topping, then drizzle it all over the cake.