Mike and I recently had the privilege of rubbing shoulders with several TV chefs during the last few weeks. It was a fabulous opportunity to see these talented chefs at work first-hand and to try some of their favourite dishes.
Whilst we are great lovers of Greek and Italian foods, we were quite unfamiliar with Japanese dishes. When Panasonic invited us along to find out a little more about Washoku cooking with Valentine Warner, we were keen to give it a try.
Eddie is a huge sushi fan and last year taught several of his siblings how to make it as you can see in this video over on YouTube (I was surprised to see how much weight I’ve visibly lost since then too! Yay me!). That, however, was about our limit with experiencing Japanese food.
Having spent much of his early childhood raised in Japan, Valentine Warner developed a real love of the country’s cuisine: “I’m passionate about freshness, simplicity and sincerity; these recipes take inspiration from the art of Japanese Washoku cooking but have been specially designed to make sure that they provide a convenient and accessible way for people to experience fresh Japanese cooking which doesn’t need to be overly complicated. It’s exciting to see Japanese Influences moving on to the Western food scene. ”
Valentine demonstrated three recipes to us on the day that we too will share below. Crab Chawan Mushi is a savoury fish custard created as individual servings in ramekin dishes. It sounds odd but really does taste better than you might imagine it would! The second dish was a Mackerel Tataki, a very quick and simple dish using fresh, good quality mackerel. Finally, Valentine whipped up a Summer Umeshu – a refreshing, delicious cocktail that reminded me a little of a glass of Pimms minus the fruit.
What we were not prepared for though, was the cooking challenge that we were surprised with. Oh yes, we soon discovered that we would be tested on how much attention we had paid to Valentine’s demos as we would have to select one of the three dishes to make ourselves using Panasonic’s new range of equipment.
Well, we do love a challenge so, knowing nothing about what we were actually supposed to be doing, Mike and I got stuck into creating our dish.
Get that enthusiasm!
Each team worked under the watchful eye of Valentine and his assistant whose name I am ashamed to say that I have forgotten. I can be excused though, can’t I, because as you can see, the challenge was ON!
We opted to give the Crab Chawan Mushi a go as, well, how do you know you don’t like a warm fish custard until you try it, right? Joking aside, I actually found this dish extremely tasty despite initially feeling a little reluctant about it beforehand. Trust me, you’ll like it.
Mike and I took it in turn to work through the steps of each recipe.
We took our challenge seriously, chopping and mixing and all that jazz.
Competition is serious stuff.
And yeah, it was all worth it because WE WON THE CHALLENGE!
Well, us and YouTube sensation Kate in the Kitchen. But you know. We did too.
To be fair, all the dishes were fairly simple to make although you might find some of the ingredients a little challenging to get hold of.
Want to give them a try? Here are the recipes:
Crab Chawan Mushi
Serves 4 – you will need 4 medium sized ramekins
Valentine says: “Savoury fish custard might sound very odd indeed but I can assure you it is absolutely delicious. Just think of the filling of a good quiche but without the pastry. This is a very common place dish in Japan.”
• 4 dried shitake mushrooms, soaked
• 4 medium eggs
• 350ml Waitrose Dashi Stock or other powdered fish dashi diluted in the given amount of water
• 2 tsp cooking sake
• 2 tsp fresh Japanese soya sauce
• 150g white crab meat
• 2 Spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced into rounds
• Furikake Japanese sesame, sugar and seaweed seasoning optional. Can be replaced with toasted sesame
- Turn Panasonic Steam Combination Microwave steamer onto full steam
- Very gently beat the eggs, but avoid frothing up the eggs as this will lead to unwanted air bubbles in the chawan mushi
- Slowly pour in the stock making sure the eggs and stock are well combined
- Add the sake and soya sauce and stir in
- Take the white crab meat and gently press it in some kitchen roll, so as to rid it of any excess wetness
- In the bottom of the four ramekins divide up the crab meat
- Pour over the egg and dashi mix
- Take the 4 soaked shitake mushrooms and press in paper as you did the crab meat
- Slice in 4 and lay the mushrooms in the top of the chawan mushi mix
- Cover each ramekin with a little cling film and poke some holes in the top
- Steam for approximately 15 minutes or until set with a faint wobble in the top
- Test how set by poking with a chopstick
- Peel off cling film and set ramekins on plates with a teaspoon
- Scatter over a few finely chopped spring onions pieces followed by half a teaspoon of the sesame and seaweed seasoning (or toasted sesame seeds) sprinkled here and there
- Serve immediately
Please Note: “Japanese soya sauce tastes very different to Chinese and it’s important that you use the right variant in this dish.
Valentine says: “It is very important that the fish for this dish is very fresh. The mackerel should be stiff and their backs dark green with an iridescent shine. If possible, source from a trusted specialist fishmonger.
• 2 teaspoons black or regular sesame seeds
• 4 very fresh mackerel fillets, pin boned and skinned. Alternatively use 100g fresh tuna or salmon
• 1 thumb of fresh root ginger, peeled and very, very, very finely chopped
• 2 small teaspoon of fresh Dijon mustard – optional
• 3 teaspoons good Japanese soy sauce
• 1 teaspoon sesame oil
• Juice from 1 small lemon
• 2/3rds of a sheet of toasted Nori seaweed, cut in 4 strips and stacked then snipped in thin ribbons. Do last minute so they do not get damp
• 1 large spring onions, trimmed and very finely diced
• Remove all the peel and pith from the lemon and juice in the Panasonic Slow Juicer
• In a small frying pan, toast the sesame seeds until light golden brown, then tip them out and leave them to cool
• Finely chop your fish with a very sharp knife into small cubes the size. Place in a small mixing bowl
• Gently stir through the sesame seeds, ginger, Dijon mustard, lemon juice soya sauce
• Divide on four small plates
• Deposit a nice little pile of chopped spring onion on each
• Scatter over a small handful of the Nori seaweed
• Dive in immediately
Please note: Sesame oil once opened has a short shelf life. Make sure it is fresh. Salmon will also work with this recipe or very fresh sustainable tuna
Valentine says: “A delicious and refreshing Washoku inspired cocktail, the perfect accompaniment to Japanese food. Umeshu is a sweet plum wine easily ordered online or purchased in large oriental supermarkets.”
• 125ml Umeshu sweet plum wine
• 1/2 tsp yuzu (Japanese orange) juice Available in Waitrose
• Ice cubes
• Soda water
• Fresh mint
- Whizz up some ice cubes in the Panasonic Blender
- In a highball glass fill halfway up with crushed ice
- Pour in half a teaspoon of yuzu juice
- Pour over the Umeshu plum wine and top to the rim with soda water
- Garnish with a big sprig of fresh mint pushed well down into the glass
- Push in a straw
Here are a few more tips from Valentine Warner for experiencing fresh eating:
1) Buy smaller jars of essential cooking sauces such as soy, as they tend to have a relatively short shelf life, bigger bottles are a false economy as they rapidly lose their taste, flavour and freshness. This is especially important when used for dressing in dishes such as the tataki
2) Invest in time saving professional appliances that can help you incorporate fresh eating easily into your daily routine. Panasonic’s Slow Juicer and Steam Combination Microwave for example have been designed to provide fast and efficient preparation and cooking while maximising nutrient retention
3) Experiment with fresh experiences and recipes in the kitchen; diversity and inspiration are key to maintaining a healthy and balanced diet
4) Always use the best fresh ingredients that you can possibly get your hands on. This is particularly important with fish. Mackerel, for example, should be stiff and their backs dark green with an iridescent shine. Where possible, shop with a trusted specialist fishmonger.
5) Avoid bulk buying fruit and vegetables to ensure freshness and avoid food waste. Fresh spices can also be frozen.
As this event was organised in order to demonstrate Panasonic’s range of new kitchen products you’ll find reference to them in the recipes above. I thought the juicer was pretty impressive (given as our blender is really battling with the smoothie making at present), whilst Mike promptly came home and measured up to see if the Steam Combination Microwave would fit where our current microwave stands. Here is where you can find more information on each of them: