Friday, 3 April 2015

Cooking with some of our home grown produce

I might be the main gardener and DIYer in the family but I am very spoilt as my husband is definitely the main cook!  Not only does he cook nearly every night, he also likes to make rather elaborate meals, like our Bento Box meals.  So he's written a guest post for the blog to show one of his most recent creations - 

Now that we’ve got some veggies growing in the garden, it’s time for the best part, eating them! One of the first trips away we took together was to Japan, a country with a tradition of great food. One of our favourite meals is a Bento Box, which is great for entertaining. Our Bento Boxes were given to us by the in-laws, and they bought them here

I tend not to experiment with Bento Boxes, rather I cook four dishes that I have previously done individually. That way you know that each of the four dishes will be good in their own right, and you have a better idea of how to time each dish. I nearly always have a salad, so that it can be made and set aside, and a rice or a noodle dish. For this meal, I also made chicken and chive rolls in soy and maple syrup, and fried prawn balls with sweet and sour dipping sauce. I combine this with garlic steak rice and a crab and mango salad.

Garden produce - lovely chilli, herbs, capsicum

 So to start, here are some of the ingredients for the salad that we grew in the garden, including thai basil, a capsicum, 5 chillies and coriander. Julienne (slice long and thin) the chillies and capsicum, then coarsely chop the basil and coriander.

Supermarket ingredients - hopefully soon we will have limes growing too

These are the ingredients that I bought from the supermarket. I julienned 4 kaffir lime leaves and the mango, then coarsely chop the seafood extender (you can use fresh crab meat if you want to be fancy, tofu for a vegetarian salad). Put it all in together, squeeze out the juice of the lime and put it in the fridge for later. I then put the rice onto cook, and when it’s ready, I rinse it in cold water in the colander and leave it there for later. I got this recipe from the Australia Masterchef series 3 cookbook
(editor note - he has tweaked the salad recipe a little, but click on the link for the general recipe)

Mango and seafood salad ready to eat - yum!

The next dish to start on is the chicken and chive rolls. This recipe comes from a book that’s very special to me. It was written by the Aunt of my PhD student, who gave it to me as a present for supervising her before she went to Japan. It had just been translated into English, which is a little bit helpful.  Find it here

Ingredients for the chicken and chive rolls - another ingredient which will soon be available from the garden
So, to start with you need some chicken thighs and chives. I sliced the thighs and opened them out, then rolled them around the chives, securing them using toothpicks. I then set these aside in a bowl and mix equal volumes of cornflour and water for later.

Next, the prawn balls. This recipe is from a book we bought on another holiday, when we went to China. It’s not Japanese, but it tastes great so what the heck. Just take 2 slices of bacon, ½ a kilo of green prawns and six water chestnuts and cut them into pieces as fine as possible. Mix them with a teaspoon of sugar, ½ a teaspoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of cornstarch, then cover the bowl and put them into the fridge until later.

Ingredients for the prawn balls
 Then, I return to the garlic steak rice, this recipe is also in the Simply Japanese book. Slice four cloves of garlic and place in a large frying pan with olive oil on high until fragrant. Take out the garlic, then cook a New York cut steak for 3 minutes onto each side. Remove and slice thinly. When ready, usually after the chicken and chive rolls are cooked, put the steak, garlic and rice back into the frying pan with a lug of butter and soy sauce to taste.

Now, going back to the chicken and chive rolls, I deep fry in the electric wok. The temperature is to be 180oC, I re-mix the cornstarch and water, dip the chicken and chive rolls into them and then into the deep fryer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, I put 2 tablespoons sake, 2 ½ tablespoons of soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup into a frypan on low heat. When they’re cooked, I transfer them into the sauce and coat them as much as I can, before removing the toothpicks and slicing them thickly.

Prawn ball mix
When they’re done, I take out the prawn mixture and roll about 2-3 tablespoons of the mixture into a ball and then roll them over breadcrumbs to coat. I turn the temperature in the wok to 190OC and fry the prawn balls for 3 minutes each, usually I need to do two batches. While they’re cooking, I put all the ingredients for the garlic steak rice into the pan on moderate to high heat. I get the salad out and start filling the Bento Box with the salad, then the chicken and chive rolls, then the garlic steak and finally the prawn balls. Turned out not too bad.

The final product - four delicious dishes which were polished off pretty quickly!

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