HEALTHY HEARTY JAPAN-EASY
I guess you can call this the ultimate taster …. the precursor to our upcoming and exciting Valentine’s blog which celebrates our absolute love for all things Japanese.
I’m not going to bore you with a history lesson on Japanese food, but cut straight to the chopping board … centuries have proved that this is the ultimate in healthy fare. Japanese cuisine is not only some of the oldest in the world but you can bet your favourite bamboo chopsticks that it has a lot to do with why the Japanese age so well and live for as long as they do.
According to my best mate, Google, the average lifespan of Japanese women is 87.1 years around the sun whilst men make at least 81.1 years. Bring on the sushi!
On a slightly more serious note, celebrating Japanese cuisine is a perfect fit with our stated objective of investing in food education during 2022. We’re going all out to build awareness of what we consume and create good nutritional habits.
In my previous blog, I mentioned the quintessential importance of balance. The Japanese way of life is based on that universal truth. Hence, food that is simple but enhanced with natural flavour and home grown produce. This is certainly the path to next generation food evolution.
When you think of Japanese fare, you think of steamed rice or rice noodles, lean protein (usually fresh fish) and steamed veg which is eaten in small portions every day, giving your body time to digest and absorb all those important nutrients, vitamins and minerals.
We’re raising a toast to the Japanese commitment to educating their children about eating correctly. In fact, children are taught at a tender young age to eat healthily and to follow sustainable eating habits.
All that said, the good thing about Japanese cuisine putting down roots in the West is that it has given chefs like me an opportunity to not only enjoy it in its purest form but also to take important influences into my own dishes or even to help those who aren’t skilled sashimi masters to create healthy, enjoyable dishes that look exotic but actually use ingredients that are in our own pantries or on the shelves of the supermarket around the corner.
CUCUMBER STUFFED WITH TUNA AND FRESH GINGER
This dish requires not just fresh ingredients, but plenty of passion and precision as well as a special food instrument – an apple corer!
(Okay, especially in the run up to Valentine’s Day, no-one likes tuna breath, but don’t stress, I have the solution. All you need is a little lemon on your lips …)
FROM THE PANTRY
1/4 of a red pepper
4 tsp/ of chopped garlic
zest of a lemon
1 whole lemon for garnish
100 g of canola, egg free mayo
200 g of shredded tuna (I prefer John West and used the one that contains vegetable oil, not saltwater brine).
1 large cucumber
salt and pepper
50 grams of Japanese style pickled ginger
a few springs on fresh chives
In a mixing bowl, add your strained tuna, diced red pepper, garlic, lemon zest and mayo, mix it up, add your sliced chives as well as salt and a crack of pepper for seasoning.
Then slice your 18-20 cm cucumber into five even cuts, hollowing out the cucumber core of each with your apple corer.
Now it’s just down to plating. Place your selection of cucumber slices around your plate, fill each with your tuna mix and then garnish with some ginger and lemon wedges. If you can get hold of some pomegranate seeds, you can make this simple dish that little bit sexier.
Chef’s food note: After you’ve had this delicate snack, bite on a lemon rind and finish of with some ginger, thereby neutralising the enzymes in your mouth and losing the tuna tang. Then, you are ready to kiss your beloved without any trepidation!
PRAWN AND TUNA CUCUMBER TERRINE
If you’re looking for a dash more sophistication, here’s a way to add a little more magic.
You will need two king size deveined prawns, fit for royalty. Grill them on a skillet in some Kerry gold butter. You just need one dollop before you drizzle them with some grapeseed oil. Brown them on both sides, 2 minutes a side.
Now you are going to use that every same tuna mix outlined in my previous recipe. The trick is to mould it into your perfect terrine.
For the gelatin mixture, I prefer to use a natural binder, namely xanthan gum powder.
So, heat up a sauce pan and dissolve 2 Tbsp. of the powder in 100 ml hot water. Stir vigorously until this forms a soft paste. Set this aside to cool to room temperature and then stir the mix with your tuna. Spread this onto a flat cake tray at a height of 1 to 2 cm. Cover the terrine with Glad Wrap and let it set in the fridge for 2 hours.
When set, use a round cake cutter to shape and, yes you’ve made it …your own terrine.
On to your cucumber. Use a simple potato peeler and grate wafer thin slices.
To construct this unforgettable little treats, fold your grated slices of cucumber around the tuna and delicately place your prawns on top. Garnish with some caper berries, season and add some lemon wedges and some fresh fennel.
By now, you should be so close to that kiss, you can almost taste it … watch this space for further romantic Valentines inspiration ahead of the big day.