Ebi furai is the Japanese for fried prawns and I enjoyed many a deep fried prawn while in Nagoya last year. It’s one of the specialties of that city and it’s quite a simple one to recreate at home (if you don’t mind the deep frying!).

Ebi Furai

Somehow the idea of it entered my head and I got to cooking ebi furai at home. And yes, it’s quite simple and there must be a million recipes for it online. Here’s mine – making it a million and one. I served mine by themselves with a bit of cabbage salad and rice and tonkatsu sauce (Bulldog) on the side.

Ebi Furai Dinner

Ebi Furai
serves 2.

King prawns or tiger prawns – enough for two (I used 9-10)
plain flour
salt
2 eggs, beaten
panko
oil for frying (I used sunflower)

Prepare your prawns. Peel them if they still have their shells on, leaving just the tail bit. Remove the vein in the back and then just run the knife along the length of the belly side of the prawn – just cut a shallow slit – you don’t want to go all the way through. Then, again still shallowly, just slice gently crosswise down the length of the prawn, again on the belly side. These cuts will make the prawns stay nice and straight (pretty!).

Crumbing Prawns

Get 3 bowls ready and in the first put the flour (salted), in the second the beaten eggs and in the third the panko. With each prawn: roll in flour, then in the eggs, then in flour again, eggs again, and finally panko. Prep all the prawns like this.

Deep Frying

Heat enough oil in a saucepan for deep frying (not too hot). Deep fry – it should take just a few minutes until the panko coating is golden. Drain well. Serve with rice, thinly shredded cabbage (crisped in ice water and then drained well) and tonkatsu sauce (or tartar sauce). It’s quite nice paired with a bit of Japanese potato salad too!

Can I also suggest frying sliced courgettes in the same way? I single dipped in the flour and egg and they turned out fantastically! It’s a good way to use up a glut if you have one.

Courgette Furai

I fell in love with Tunisian cuisine while we were in Marseille and we ate a lot of couscous there. I do believe couscous is the national dish of Tunisia but it’s also extremely popular in France – and for good reason, it’s quite affordable and very delicious. It was the first thing I wanted to recreate when I got home and a quick trip down Croydon’s Surrey Street Market gave me all the ingredients I required (you’ll see from the ingredient list below that all are easy to source).

Tunisian Lamb Couscous

I made the most basic of the couscous recipes – just with lamb (though I guess chicken or just vegetable are just as simple). And the recipe itself I cobbled together from a recipe in Saveur and another in a French cookbook – yeah, it’s been so absorbed in France that it features as a traditionally loved recipe in a very very French cookbook! Brilliant!

Tunisian Lamb Couscous

It turned out the recipe really was super easy and tasted just like the couscous we tried in Marseille. It’s very soothing (good for autumn or winter) – all that couscous soaking up the spicy broth – and it’s a good way to eat your vegetables. And it’s great for feeding a crowd – I know this because the two of us ate this for three meals in one week. So yeah, this feeds six.

Tunisian Lamb Couscous

Tunisian Lamb Couscous
Serves 6.

4-6 lamb chops
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion
2 courgettes
2 large carrots, peeled
1 turnip or daikon, peeled
Half a small white cabbage

A pinch of saffron
1 tbsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 1/2 tbsps tomato paste
2 bay leaves
A shake of ground cloves

1 tin chickpeas, drained
Salt and pepper
Couscous
Chopped parsley
Lemon
Harissa (I bought a tube)

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium high heat and brown the lamb chops on both sides. Cut all the vegetables into large chunks and add them all into the pot and stir it around a bit – they can go a little brown, that’s ok. Add water until everything’s covered and bring to a boil. Add the saffron, paprika, ginger, tomato paste, bay leaves and ground cloves and stir in. Let simmer until the lamb is tender and the vegetables are too – about 90 minutes to 2 hours. About an hour of the way in, add the chickpeas and continue simmering.

When you’re almost ready to serve, prepare your couscous, chop your parsley, cut your lemons into wedges for serving. Add salt and pepper to taste to the broth. Place couscous in a serving bowl and top with the lamb and some of the drained vegetables – scatter with a bit of chopped parsley. Serve bowls of the broth and more of the vegetables on the side. Serve with lemon wedges and harissa.

I’ve only recently discovered the Japanese recipe website Cookpad; it’s full of both traditional and modern recipes all provided by the Japanese public. Of course, I don’t read Japanese so I’m eternally grateful to the the translators who do translate the more popular recipes to English. On the Japanese site, the collection is currently at over 1.5 million recipes and at the time of writing, over 18,000 recipes have been translated – that’s still more than one could ever try to cook in a lifetime!

It was on Cookpad (and all the browsing through recipes I’ve done on the site) that I encountered this very simple way of presenting a Japanese nabe: sliced pork and sliced Chinese cabbage are placed upright in layers to great effect. The recipe I present below is a very simple one, with very few ingredients, and it feels quite light and healthy for a cold day (June, what is wrong with you?!). The presentation makes it feel that bit more special.

Pork and Chinese Cabbage Nabe

Pork and Cabbage Nabe
serves 2.

Half a large Chinese cabbage
A length of pork loin (how much depends on how hungry you are)
Soy sauce
Shaoxing rice wine
about 400-500ml chicken stock (I made it from a bouillon powder)
Salt and ground white pepper

Slice the pork loin crosswise as thinly as possible (this will be easier if it’s half frozen). Marinate it with a little soy sauce and a little rice wine. Slice the Chinese cabbage into wide strips crosswise. Layer the cabbage and pork together, alternating the layers, in a large clay pot (nabe) as in the photo. Pour over the chicken stock and season with salt and white pepper, if desired. A little soy sauce here wouldn’t hurt either. You’ll see that I also put in some mushrooms that I had lying about; some spring onions would be good too.

Place the lid on the nabe and place it over high heat. When it all starts steaming, reduce the heat and let it all simmer until everything is cooked. Serve with lots of white rice.

This was one very random concoction. You may be familiar with the Malaysian murtabak, a thin flaky flatbread folded over a mixture of meat and egg and onion. If I’m not mistaken, a few Malaysian restaurants do serve this here in London, one of them possibly being Roti King.

Anyway, I’d been reading online recently of a variant that’s becoming quite popular at the pasar malams (night markets) in the last few years – Murtabak Maggi. There’s no flatbread involved here – the meat, eggs and onions remain – instead, the carbs are provided by instant noodles (the ‘Maggi’ refers to the Maggi brand of instant noodles, known as ‘Maggi mee’). I, of course, became instantly obsessed by this and had to try this at home. The version I present below doesn’t have meat but if you’d like to add some, fry some minced meat beforehand and add to the mixture when cooled.

Murtabak Maggi

My thoughts?…. interesting. I can definitely see the appeal. I accidentally overcooked it a bit and it was a bit stiff but if I’d cooked it as an optimal tortilla (slightly soft in the centre), it would be better. I like the curry flavour. It’s not perhaps my favourite murtabak (that honour goes to the original made with the flaky flatbread) but I like that it’s quick to prepare with readily available pantry items!

Murtabak Maggi

Murtabak Maggi
Serves 1.

Take 1 packet of curry flavoured instant noodles and set aside the curry flavour packet. Boil the noodle block until al dente (Ha! Never thought I’d ever describe instant noodles as cooked to ‘al dente’). Drain the noodles and let cool. Slice one spring onion and add to the noodles. Other additions could be chopped onion, other chopped vegetables, cooked meat, etc. Add the curry flavour packet and crack in two eggs and mix everything together well.

Heat a frying pan, add a little oil and fry the mixture as you would a Spanish tortilla. It should be golden on both sides. Slice and serve with chilli sauce if desired.

Did you watch the BBC series Italy Unpacked where Giorgio Locatelli and Andrew Graham-Dixon travel together around Italy, looking at gorgeous Italian art and eating gorgeous Italian food (their first series together was Sicily Unpacked)? Yeah, two of my favourite activities, together at last. On one recent programme, they traveled to Livorno, on the coast of Tuscany, and there Locatelli cooked an incredible looking fish stew from that city. The video clip where Locatelli cooks this cacciucco can be seen here. You can see why I suddenly felt the need to make one of these fish stews the next day.

The story goes that you want at least five different types of fishes in this stew, one for each ‘C’ in the word ‘cacciucco'; Locatelli mentioned 17 in the programme but this seems a bit over the top for just two or four people! Use as many as you can get – it’ll still taste great with just two or three different types of seafood. After referring again to the video and then to online recipes, I came up with the recipe below. It’s super easy; it’s only a bit of a pain getting the variety of fish unless you have a great fishmonger nearby.

Cacciucco

Cephalopods are first cooked in a base of wine, tomato and fish broth and after their long stewing, the fishes then spend a grand total of five to ten minutes in their delicious bath to ensure that they’re not overcooked. The finished dish is full of flavour and would make a great dinner party dish as it’s quite the showstopper coming to the table. Do make sure to serve it with lots of bread to soak up the lovely broth.

Cacciucco
serves 4.

2 tbsps olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 large pinches of dried chilli flakes
3 tbsps tomato paste
about a glass of red wine

1 large squid, cleaned and cut into pieces
a handful of whole prawns
assorted other fishes – I used a chunk of monkfish, the tail end of some pollack, a couple of jacks (excellent) and a small red snapper

Fishes

For fish stock:
1 onion, cut in large chunks
1 carrot, cut in large chunks
1 bay leaf
parsley stems
fish trimmings
(or 1-2 cups fish stock)

For serving:
thick slices of a good white bread (a baguette will do)
a large clove of garlic
chopped fresh parsley (optional)

First, make your fish stock. I include a quick recipe for it here but if you’ve already got fish stock, by all means, please use it! In a pot, place your onion, bay leaf, parsley stems and fish trimmings (I used trimmings from the fish I was going to use in my cacciucco and the prawn heads). Pour over about 2-3 cups water and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Set aside.

In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and chilli flakes and continue stirring for another minute. Add the squid and saute for a minute or two. Add the tomato paste and fry until it darkens slightly. Pour in the wine and let it bubble way for a bit for the alcohol to dissipate. Pour in the fish stock (I used about 2 cups) and bring to boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan, and let simmer away for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes are up, it’s time to cook the fish! Place in the whole and larger meatier fishes first, let them have a little time in there, and add the rest of the fishes/prawns in stages. When everything is just cooked, turn off the heat.

Cacciucco Bubbling Away

Toast the bread and rub both sides with the garlic. Lay in a single layer in a serving dish. Carefully pile up the seafood onto the bread and spoon over the broth, making sure all that bread is soaked. Sprinkle with parsley if you have it.

Toasted Bread with Garlic

Serve with more of the broth on the side (dunking extra bread in it is so good).

Cacciucco

I spent a day at the Scandinavian Christmas fair late last month with Jeanne from Cooksister (the same as featured here last year and Jeanne wrote about our visit this year) and one of the many delicious things we tasted was a Norwegian fish ball soup, all hot and creamy and just the thing for the cold day. Once I got home, the memory of that soup stayed with me and I knew I had to recreate it!

Norwegian Fish Soup

It turns out fish soup is incredibly quick to put together and perfect for a cold winter’s night. As salmon was on offer at our supermarket, I only used that but you could mix and match with a number of fishes; prawns would be good too. It’s wonderfully creamy and filling and I only wonder why I’d not made it before. There are similar soups served in Sweden and Finland and I now hope to investigate the differences between them all.

Norwegian Fish Soup
serves 4.

2 large carrots
1 large leek
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cups fish stock (I used a bouillon cube)
1 large potato
500g salmon fillets
100-150ml double cream
fresh dill
salt and white pepper
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Peel and cut the carrots into chunks. Clean the leeks (slice them lengthwise), trim anything too tough and slice into 1cm half circles. Heat a pot over medium heat, add the olive oil and cook the carrots for a few minutes. Add the leeks and continue cooking until the leeks start to soften. Pour in the fish stock and bring to a boil. Peel the potato and cut into small chunks. Lower the heat, add the potato and let the whole thing simmer until the vegetables are soft.

Meanwhile, cut the salmon fillets into large chunks – not too small or they’ll just fall apart in the soup later. Add the salmon chunks into the soup when the vegetables are soft. Stir gently. When the fish is cooked through, pour in the double cream and continue to simmer it all together for a few minutes (don’t bring it to a boil). Salt and pepper the soup to taste and stir through the Worcestershire sauce. Finally, add as much dill as you wish and serve with lots of crusty bread and perhaps a salad on the side.

I’m not sure how I learned about the Japanese doria, a rice gratin that’s quite popular in Japan, but it may have been while browsing recipes on the English language site of Cookpad, one of the most popular recipe sharing sites in Japan. Rice gratins. In a way they’re not too dissimilar to the Hong Kong style baked rices but y’know, with cheese. Now why haven’t I got onto that bandwagon?

As is usual with these fleeting obsessions of mine, I had to have one and I started with a bit of research on existing recipes. They’re all a combination of rice with whatever ingredients stirred or fried in, a layer of bechamel (or some other sauce) and a layer of cheese. While most Japanese recipes online are for small individual portions in cute gratin dishes, I opted to make a giant doria for us to share (and there were leftovers too).

Closeup of the Doria

It all starts with a base of fried rice or rice with some toppings. From what I can gather, most of the recipes either use ketchup as a flavouring or even curry. For my fried rice, I opted to just add a bit of soy and some chicken stock base. I had chicken and vegetables in mine.

Fried Rice Base

A layer of bechamel then goes on top of that rice. Another option would be to use Japanese curry or tomato sauce.

Bechamel on Top

Then a layer of grated cheese (I used a mixture of cheddar and crappy mozzarella – I think parmesan is usually used but I had none at the time).

Cheese on Top and Ready for the Oven

The rice gratin had a spell in the oven and voila, I had a gloriously beautiful doria.

Out of the Oven

And oh yes, it was delicious.

Serving the Doria

While this time, I made everything from scratch for my doria, I can see how it could be created from leftovers – rice, sauces, cheeses, etc. Even random ingredients that need using up could be incorporated with the rice. I see many more dorias in my future.

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