Monday, 4 January 2010

Osechi tier 2

(1) Date-maki (sweet rolled omlette with fish paste)

Symbolizes fashion sense
Time/Effort: * Cost: * Flavour: ***

This is super easy, delicious and quite dramatic in the jubako. Unlike regular sweet rolled omlettes, this one contains the fluffy, white fish cake hanpen. This makes for a lusciously spongy omlette. Date-maki mats are not readily available, even in Japanese department stores. I managed to acquire one at the Kappa-bashi cooking supplies town in Tokyo, but only after the fact. A regular sushi rolling mat will do fine, even if it does not produce the customary zig-zag pattern.

4 eggs
1 hanpen (a cake of pounded white-fleshed fish) (approx. 110 g)

32 g cane sugar or other brown sugar [Saffron: I used tensaito (beet sugar)]
1 tbsp mirin
1/4 tsp Japanese soy sauce [S: Do not substitute Chinese soy; it is much saltier]

1/2 tsp vegetable oil

Date-maki mat or sushi rolling mat
2 elastic bands

1 Break hanpen up and place in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Add eggs, cane sugar, mirin and Japanese soy sauce and process or blend for 30 sec.

2 Heat oil in a medium frying pan. Pour in the hanpen-egg mixture and cover with a lid. Cook on a medium flame for 1 min, then reduce the heat to low and cook a further 15-20 min, or until the omlette is cooked through when pierced with a skewer and the top is dry. Turn off the heat, cover and leave to steam for a further 3 min.

3 Remove omlette from the pan onto a chopping board. Form into a "rectangle" by cutting off a 1.5 cm strip of omlette from the left and right sides and the edge furthest from you. Keep the uncut side closest to you. You will now have three long semi-ovals of cutout omlette. Cut the left and right semi-ovals in half across the middle.

4 Place the date-maki or sushi rolling mat on your work surface with the narrow side closest to you. Cover with cling film. Now place your omlette on top, with the uncut side closest to you. Keeping close to this edge, place the omlette cutouts on top of the omlette "rectangle" so that they form a neat rectangle at the "bottom" of your roll.

5 Firmly roll the omlette from bottom to top, keeping the wrap out of the way as you go. You should end up with a tight egg roll. Fold the ends of the wrap in at the sides. Secure the egg in the mat with a rubber band at each end, and leave to cool. If making ahead, refrigerate until ready to serve. To serve, remove rubber bands, mat and wrap, and slice omlette roll into eighths.

(2) Chicken matsukaze-yaki (Wind-in-the-Pines chicken loaf)

Time/Effort: * Cost: * Flavour: ***

This is another relatively easy Osechi fix. I upped the ginger a little from the original recipe. It is subtle, but certainly there. Use as little as 1/2 tsp, to suit your taste. You will need either a nagashi-bako, a two-part tin used in Japanese sweet-making, or a 15 cm x 15 cm square cake tin. I priced the correct-sized nagashi-bako at a local department store at 3,400 yen, and decided that was too much for something that will only get used once in two years. Kappa-bashi had the same item for under 2,000. I used the cake tin instead. I think I will scale the recipe up by 10% next time, to get thicker shapes at the end. If white poppy seeds and nori flakes are hard to come by, regular and black sesame seeds can be substituted. Sprinkle prior to baking. Matsuba-gushi (seen in the photos here) are used on happy occasions, such as weddings, as they symbolize two as an inseparable one. Unfortunately, they are a little hard to come by. I used regular dango skewers instead.

200 g chicken mince

4 tsp sugar (= 1 tbsp + 1 tsp or 1 Australian tbsp)
16 g white miso paste
2 tsp cooking sake
1 tsp Japanese soy sauce
1.5 tsp ginger juice squeezed from grated fresh ginger

40 g beaten egg (slightly less than 1 egg)
8 tsp panko breadcrumbs (= 2 tbsp + 2 tsp or 2 Australian tbsp)

1 tsp white poppy seeds
1 tsp nori flakes

15 cm x 12 cm nagashi-bako or similar sized square cake tin, with or without removable bottom
30 cm x 30 cm square of baking paper
8 matsuba-gushi bamboo skewers or other small skewers, about 5 cm in length

1 Create a liner for the nagashi-bako or cake tin by placing it at the center of the baking paper. Make 4 cuts in the paper from the edge of the baking paper to the left hand corner of each side of the tin. Make folds along the base line, line the tin neatly and set aside.

2 Preheat oven to 220 degrees C if using gas, 230 degrees C if using electric. Meanwhile, thoroughly mix the chicken mince, sugar, miso paste, sake, Japanese soy sauce and ginger juice in a bowl, using your hand like a whisk. Add the weighed egg and panko breadcrumbs and briefly mix again. Pour into the prepared nagashi-bako or cake tin and flatten the surface. Remove the air by gently tapping the nagashi-bako or cake tin against a flat surface a few times. Sprinkle one half of the chicken mixture all over with the poppy seeds.

3 Bake for 15 min, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cover with aluminium foil and return to the oven with the heat off to steam for a further 5 min. Remove the chicken loaf from the tin and cut in half along the poppy seed line. Sprinkle the plain half all over with the nori flakes. Cut each half into 4 long "fan" shapes by cutting across the width of the halves on the diagonal. Push a matsuba-gushi or other small skewer into the short side of each triangle to make fans. This is the shape of a hagoita, or battledore, used in Japanese New Year "badminton".

(3) Kikka kabu (chrysanthemum flower-shaped pickled turnips)

The chrysanthemum is the symbol of Japan's Imperial Family
Time/Effort: *** Cost: * Flavour: *

You really do want something crisp and tangy to go with all the soft and sweet in the Osechi lineup. These white turnips fit the bill nicely, but are a bit too fiddly for my liking. It took me over 20 min to slice just four of these! And then I went and forgot to soak them in the brine that would soften them up so the "petals" could be opened! I think I'll go for something more colourful and less breakdown-inducing next time. Something like this, maybe...

4 small kabu (white turnips)

500 ml water
1 tbsp salt

For the sweet vinegar:
1-2 tbsp yuzu (citron) juice

1 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp dashi stock
8 dried red pepper rings

1 Cut roots and tops off kabu and peel. Place kabu on work top with the top side up. Cut horizontal and vertical lines 1-2 mm apart into each kabu to a depth of about 2/3 the height of the kabu. Take care not to cut all the way through. A disposable chopstick placed on either side of the kabu will help prevent your knife from going too far. Repeat with other 3 kabu. Cut an x into the bottom of each kabu, taking care not to cut into the cuts on the top side.

2 Mix the salt into the water and soak kabu, cut side down, in this solution for about 30 min. Remove kabu from salt-water bath and pat dry.

3 Mix yuzu (citron) juice, sugar, dashi stock, vinegar, salt and red pepper rings in a zip-topped plastic bag. Add kabu, kneed lightly and leave to pickle for at least 2 hours, turning from time to time.

4 To serve, gently squeeze pickling juice from kabu. Open up the chrysanthemum "petals" and top with 2 red pepper rings.

These three recipes are adapted from those I learned at ABC Cooking Studio last December.

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