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Gettin’ adventurous

Every now and again, probably when the moon is gibbous, but I haven’t checked, I get a bit of a fixation. This happens a lot in the kitchen.  Sometimes the fixation passes (see: homemade yoghurt) and sometimes it sticks and becomes part of my regular recipe cycles (see: homemade bread, Pongo, etc.).  It’s too soon to tell, but I could be on a serious Japanese food jag right about now.

A quiet week at work resulted in a lot of reading of Just Bento, a deliciously inspiring blog full of bento box ideas and recipes.  I love it. I have read most of it by now, and thus announced to my housemates that my next Thing is Japanese cooking. This was not greeted with the hushed applause I thought it deserved.  I went on to warn them that I was hoping to do some expermenting with hard-boiled eggs, and it may not be to their benefit to be too inquisitive about things in the fridge for a while.

I love making sushi, and the mood to make it sweeps over me every few months or so.  I’m inevitably the only person in the house who eats it, and this means I have ti have sushi for about eight meals in a row, as I try and use up the vast and varied batch I have made.  But I’m learning!  For a start, inarizushi — sushi rice moulded and stuffed into wee bags made of flavoured, fried tofu, called aburaage tofu — are both popular with the other eaters in my house and freezable (apparently: I haven’t tried defrosting them yet).  So I started there.

Behold my sacks!

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Aren’t they awesome?  I have to be honest, this picture doesn’t quite capture the full spectrum of emotional investment that took place.  A fatigued and emotional bethini, I got about a third of the way through preparing the rice and other fillings and found myself feeling anxious and overwhelmed, convinced I had set myself up for failure and why can’t I just stick to sourdough, etc. etc.  (Retrospectively, I recognise that this was largely due to being very hungry, since there was no particular culinary disaster to set off such a mood swing.)  But lo!  Success!  Most of these gorgeous, happily triumphant inarizushi are stuffed with regular sushi rice (i.e. japonica rice, cooked and then seasoned with salt, sugar and sushi vinegar) and white sesame seeds, and they are completely delicious.  A few are experimental: I tossed the sushi rice with some soy sauce and a mix of shredded carrot, nori and shiitake mushrooms that I had briefly sauteed in sesame oil; these are also delicious.  I have a suspicion I could stuff the tofu skins with soggy toast and it would still be delicious.  They are independetly delicious, and bestow deliciousness on all they touch.  Will be making again.

My Japanese cooking jag has not, happily, ended there.  That same evening, in an unphotographed event, I whipped up (how carefree and easy that phrase sounds) 70 dumplings, most of them gyoza style, but some shaped like small wontons, which I steamed for dinner.  These were incredibly delicious, and welcomed with voracious rapidity by my housemates — as a result, no pics. But that’s okay.  Freshly steamed dumplings tend to be both hard to photograph (looking a bit like albino brains) and short-lived. I made three batches: chicken, tofu and mixed mushroom (shiitake and oyster, to be specific).  I made up the fillings as I went, incorporating plenty of ginger and garlic, shallots, coriander, chilli and cashews, proportioned according to my whim, and then flavouring generously with soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil and salt.  When you’re sick of chopping and mixing, add some raw egg and cornflour to give the filling a nice dense cohesiveness.  Wrap; steam; eat.  There are hundreds (I bet) of recipes and tutorials online, well-photographed, video-recorded and commentated, and you can learn a lot more from them than you can from me.  Enjoy!

(Here’s another picture of my inarizushi, because they make me so happy.)

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