Monthly Archives: January 2011

dinner with friends – H & E (& the recipe for the すき焼き “sukiyaki” broth)

we had 2 guests over at our place on one sunday evening. i didn’t want to put too much effort in preparation for the dinner, as i had a big sunday brunch with my girlfriends earlier that day.

for such occasion, すき焼き (“sukiyaki”) can be a perfect solution. sukiyaki is like a fondu, but we use soy sauce base broth instead of cheese. in theory, you let your guests cook their own food, but it is fun and very interactive.

for preparation, all you have to do is to make sukiyaki broth (割り下), cut the vegetables & other ingredients and buy good beef slices. in japan, sukiyaki is regarded as a luxurious meal and is suitable for treating your guests.

cooking our own food in the same pot seems to create a certain level of intimacy. it must have something to do with a team work spirit – someone puts the meat in, another puts the vegetables, and another makes sure that the food is not overcooked… and everyone has to keep a good balance of how much you or other people eat from the pot.

this time, the guests were my husband’s friends from the same graduate school. all of them studied architecture (and both guests have a PhD) and have a lot (i mean it, a whole lot) to say about it. the conversation continued on and on as they cooked and ate from the pot, more eloquent, more philosophical, more technical and more challenging…

here is the recipe for the sukiyaki broth for your intimate dinner (for 4 people):

soy sauce – 200cc
mirin sauce – 200cc
sugar – 70 – 80g (adjust as you like)
water – 120cc
sake – 3 table spoons
昆布(dried kelp) – 1 slice (approx. 3cmx5cm)

pour all the liquids in a deep pot, bring the mix to boil, and turn off the heat. put the kelp in and let it cool down.

use this broth when cooking the beef slices & other ingredients (japanese leek, japanese shungiku leaves (春菊), shiitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, tofu, etc.

use fresh raw eggs as dipping sauce (very yummy!).

お汁粉 “oshiruko”, sweet red bean soup

in japan, we eat a lot of sweets made of “あずき”, red beans.

in my opinion, お汁粉 (“oshiruko”), sweet red bean soup, is one of the most well-known, easy to prepare, comfort desserts for us japanese. also it is healthy and tasty.

during the past new year holiday, i had a chance to learn how to prepare it from my mom.


250g red beans
200 – 240g sugar (depending on the amount of soup)
a lot of water
a pinch of salt

first, quickly rinse the beans in cold water.

put the beans in a deep pot, pour water in (3 times more than the beans) and bring it to boil.

once the water is boiled, drain the water and put the beans back into the pot. again pour water in (this time 3 – 4 times more than the beans) and bring it to boil again.

once the water is boiled, lower the heat and keep boiling the beans until the beans are soft (this takes about 30 – 40 minutes). if the amount of water reduces to the surface of the beans, add more water in so that the beans are always covered in water.

after 30 minutes or so, it will look like this (the colour of the soup comes out of the beans)

tip – while the beans are cooked, make sure to skim off the white foam coming up on the surface. this white foam is the cause of bitterness, and we don’t want it for the oshiruko.

once the beans become soft (until their core becomes soft), add the sugar in, stir and melt the sugar, and then put a pinch of salt to enhance the sweetness. adjust the amount of sugar to your preference.

tip 2 – make sure to put the sugar in only after the beans are soft – after adding the sugar, the texture of the beans stays the same no matter how long you cook the beans.

serve it hot (or cold if you like it), with a piece of toasted お餅 (“omochi”), rice cake.

special thanks to my mom for sharing this recipe. wherever i will move in the future, i will make sure to make this dessert in a cold winter day, to remind myself of my origin, my home, and my childhood.

peugeot pepper mill

through my experience, i have learnt to invest in good kitchen utensils for good food.

one of my smart purchases is a pepper mill from the french brand, peugeot.

“paris” series, adjustable, 30cm, natural

in fact, it took me a few failures to get to this pepper mill. i once bought a mill with stainless steel body, but its screw part always got too loose, and there were my finger prints all over afterwards. another one with plastic body was worse, as the pepper corns used to get stuck before coming out from the bottom part which made me very mad (cooking can be quite intense)…

for a long time, for some odd reason, i avoided the peugeot. i used to think its shape was too ordinary and its brand image reminded me of something masculine instead of homely (not sure if this peugeot is the same as the car peugeot…). but once i started using it, these stereotypes got blown away immediately. the shape must have been cleverly designed to fit to your hands, and its strong grinding feature must have been a result of careful research & development. and the wooden body gave our cold stainless steel kitchen a great sense of organic comfort.

to make it even more special, the model i bought has an adjuster for the grinding size.

if you are looking for a pepper mill, i definitely recommend this one.

food for thought – sword fish & lemon risotto, beacon style

sword fish – i love this fish. it is tasty, its flesh very firm and almost meaty, which texture can be soft at the same time depending on how you cook it. i found the 2 large filets of sword fish in our neighborhood supermarket the other day, which reminded me of the dish, sword fish & lemon risotto, from a very special restaurant for my life called “beacon” in tokyo.

beacon is the restaurant where we had a small wedding lunch 2 and a half years ago. although we had a proper wedding in the netherlands (my husband’s home country), we wanted to do something in japan as well for my relatives who would not be able to travel all the way to europe. we chose beacon not only because of their delicious, dynamic food focusing on the taste of its natural ingredients, but also for their stylish, yet subtle and understated style in their interior design.

we didn’t go for the traditional japanese cuisine for the wedding lunch. we just wanted to do it at a place where we felt most comfortable and fitted in. in my view, beacon offers internationally arranged cuisine, which takes good elements from different dishes from all over the world. the type of cuisine at beacon appears to be influenced by italian, french, australian, american, mexican and of course japanese amongst others. their style represents an example of urban living in an international environment – maybe a little bit like us, being a unified mix of diverse social backgrounds, which is hard to be categorized into a specific group.

if you get tired of eating only japanese food in tokyo and want to have a nice western style brunch or dinner with good grilled seafood/meat, beacon is a perfect place to go (see link: beacon).

sword fish & lemon risotto – beacon style

ingredients (2 people)

for sword fish:
2 filets of sword fish
salt & pepper
olive oil

right before grilling the fish, sprinkle salt & pepper, and rub the olive oil around the filets. heat a grill skillet, and place the filets when the skillet is hot enough. turn over the filets after a minute or 2, and then further grill the filets for another couple of minutes. lower the heat and pour a table spoon of water, put the lid on the skillet and smother the filets for 5 minutes or so.

for risotto:

1/2 onion, chopped
3 – 4 table spoons of olive oil
1 cup of rice
1/2 cup of white wine
800 ml – 1 liter of chicken broth (heated)
1 table spoon of lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
3 table spoons of parmiggiano leggiano
1 table spoon of unsalted butter
salt & pepper
pinch of lemon zest

in a large pan fry the onion with olive oil in low heat for 10 – 15 minutes until the onion is nice & soggy. make sure that the onion do not get burnt.

put the rice into the pan, mix it quickly and pour the wine in. mix it gently until the wine is almost absorbed. then pour 1 ladle of broth and mix it gently with rice. once the broth is almost absorbed, pour another ladle of broth, and continue doing this until the rice is cooked (20 minutes or so i think, although i never properly timed it before).

once the rice is almost done, pour the lemon juice and put salt & pepper to taste, and mix it gently.

turn off the heat and put parmiggiano & butter, mixed it gently again and put the lid on. wait for a couple of minutes.

sprinkle lemon zest over the risotto before serving. it not only gives nice colour to the dish but also offers a kick to the taste.

also serve it with ruccola salad or marinated broccoli.

easy beef stroganoff

to tell the truth, i’ve never had a proper, real “russian” beef stroganoff. i’ve had this dish a few times in western style restaurants in japan, or at a friend’s place, or at my husband’s parents’ place in holland. this means i am not sure if this dish precisely replicates the true beef stroganoff from russia, but it tasted good to me, hence the post.

ingredients (for 2 people)

200g beef slices
1 large onion (sliced)
1 generous table-spoonful unsalted butter
1 pack of mushrooms (sliced)
2 table spoon of flour
1/2 cup of white wine
1 table spoon of white wine vinegar (or lemon juice)
1/4 cup of milk
some brown sugar (just a sprinkle)
1 – 2 table spoon of sour cream
salt & pepper to taste

in a large frying pan, put the butter and sliced onion. slowly cook the onion in low heat for 10 – 15 minutes. once the onion starts to sweat and becomes nice & soggy, add sliced mushrooms. stir it for another 3 minutes or so, and then add the flour, stir again for another 3 minutes.

in a separate pan fry the beef (with tiny pit of butter) until it’s brown, pour the wine, and let it cook for 2 minutes or so.

add the beef to the large pan, with all the juice as well, and add vinegar (or lemon juice), and the milk. let it cook for another 5 minutes or so, and put salt & pepper to taste, and if the taste is too sour, sprinkle the brown sugar over it.

serve it with brown rice (sprinkle dried parsley over the rice for nice presentation!)

七草がゆ (7 herb porridge)

in japan, we celebrate new years day just like christmas in the west. families get together, eat the new year’s feast called “おせち (osechi)”, preserved type of food such as beans, egg cakes, fish cakes, vegetable pickles, etc. which are prepared a few days in advance and nicely decorated in layered boxes. we also eat this soup called “お雑煮 (ozouni)”, which in the area where i’m from is usually bonito fish based soup with chicken, raddish and carrots, always served with “お餅 (omochi)”, sticky rice cake.

this year we were in japan over the new year’s period, so we had my parents over at our place and had the new year’s feast with them. to my dismay however, due to all the preparation & excitement for the new year’s day, i totally forgot to take photos of this great feast – dah!!!

so here i present what we eat 7 days after the new year’s day (so 7th of january), which is called “七草がゆ (rice porridge with 7 different kinds of herbs)”.

traditionally we eat this porridge to let your stomach rest after the continuous big feasts over the new year’s holiday. it’s completely vegetarian (vegan actually) with natural ingredients and the taste so soft for your stomach (just used salt to taste). it is good for digestion as well.

after a bowl, the taste gets a bit blunt, so we can put some topping over it, and this time i had raddish pickles with yuzu citrus, bonito fish flakes with soy sauce, and some mitsuba (trefoil) leaves.

ingredients (for 2 – 3 people)

1 cup of rice
7 japanese herbs – chopped (3/4 cup or so)
(which can be replaced with raddish, raddish leaves, turnip, turnip leaves, italian parsley, etc.)
4+ cups of water
salt to taste

in a big deep pot (preferably earthen pot), pour the rice and rinse it a few times with cold water. after draining, put 4 cups of water in the pot, put the lid on, and bring it to boil in medium heat. when the water starts to boil, lower the heat to the tiny heat and let it cook for 30 minutes or so until the water is almost absorbed into the rice. remember to gently stir the rice from time to time so that the rice would not stick into the bottom of the pot.

while the rice is being cooked, boil the water in another pot, sprinkle a pinch of salt and quickly boil the chopped herbs (a minute is enough).

add the chopped herb to the rice when the rice is almost ready. cook them jointly for 5 minutes or so, add 2 – 3 pinches of salt to taste.