Heston Blumenthal’s Feast

I have just been watching Heston Blumenthal on television.

Is the man nuts?  Oh yes.
Is he a bit of a genius?  Oh yes.

Who else in their right mind thinks Willie Wonka is an inspiration for a dinner?
Tonight’s episode of Heston’s Feast was Heston’s Chocolate Factory Feast where he uses a 1960s Willie Wonka as his inspiration for creating a feast for his guests.

My personal favourite was the magic mushrooms with their magic removed but replaced with the heavier than air gas that transformed the diners’ voices.  That was classic.   Oh what I would give to be a guest at one of his feasts.  Just for being around that level of creativity.

If you haven’t watched it, I would suggest spending a bit of time and doing TVNZ On Demand.  This series has just been added to my must watch list !

Monday Munchies

This is my follow-up to the Oh Waily Snacks post from before Christmas.

As I said at the time, we are not in possession of the colourful and pretty muffin tins, so we made do with our old metal muffin tin.  It works pretty well and allows me to check that I am touching as many nutritional bases as possible.

Today I thought I would just use some of our smaller containers and a nice Christmas tray to put them all out on.  It’s only really for my enjoyment at the moment, since Miss Oh Waily is not interested in the aesthetics of her snack display, simply the contents.  Still, over time she may come to appreciate it and in the meantime it gives us something to talk about at snack time.

So today’s Monday Munchies are nuts, pretzels, dates and raisins, some cheese, a portable cheese spread and cracker combo, and a whole bunch of grapes.

Monday Munchies - 8 Feb

Oh, and a cup of water to wash it all down with.

What do you do for kiddie snacks?

A culinary step into Asia

I have always loved Japanese food ever since a friend introduced me to its delights more than a decade ago.
Once the new immigrant Asian population exploded here in the 1990s, both permanent residents and the student population, a large number of specialty food stores popped up in and around the city.  It became much easier to try your hand at rolling sushi rolls, of all types and tastes.  It didn’t take much to learn how to prepare the koshikari, add your favourite filling and roll up the nori.

Then a few years ago two things happened, a new Japanese eatery opened a five minute drive from home and a Japanese lunch bar opened up two minutes down the road from work.
Previous to that we would have to travel in to the centre of the city to find somewhere to eat an evening meal and to the nearest shopping centre to find a takeaway sushi lunchbar.

Our local Sake Bar became a regular haunt and first choice for a meal out, and introduced us to a whole new range of Japanese meals.  While the lunchbar brought the world of donburi to our lunchtimes, the sake bar expanded our range of favourites. No longer did we simply enjoy tempura, hoso-maki, futo-maki, hadaka-maki, nigiri-zushi and the occasional inari-zushi (one of my personal favourites).    We arrived in the world of the gyoza, takoyaki and okonomiyaki.  Not so good for the waistline as their sushi and sashimi cousins, but very yummy in moderation.

Due to the inability to just drop things and run off for an evening of yummy Japanese, at least until Master Oh is big enough to stay awake and enjoy the experience, I have been looking for a cookbook that might help me make something reminiscent of our favourite food.

This week I finally cracked it.  At our local library I picked up a wonderful book called Japanese Cooking at Home by Hideo Dekura.  So far we have made some very simple, plain meals – yaki-meshi and omu-raisu (otherwise known as fried rice and rice in omelette).  And the other day made our own gyoza.
Yesterday I learned just how easy it is to make banno-dashi, or as Hideo calls it “super dashi” which is a mix of kombu dashi and shiitake dashi.   Six dried shiitake mushrooms and a strip of kombu later and I have enough stock to last a couple of weeks.  I was slightly surprised by just how easy it is and just how authentic it tastes. No more dashi in a packet (with MSG as first ingredient) when for half an hour of effort you get a great tasting stock and no additives.

Last night’s dinner was okonomiyaki and yaki-soba.  Both got my thumbs up.  Mr O preferred the okonomiyaki, and wasn’t so keen on the yaki-soba.  In fairness I didn’t get soba noodles so we used somen, and that probably made a difference to the end result.
Today it will be agedashi tofu and something as yet undecided, but probably involving rice.  😉

I highly recommend the book Japanese Cooking at Home by Hideo Dekura, if you like Japanese food and would like to try making some simple dishes at home.  It isn’t haute cuisine, but it is a good base to begin from, and you can adapt many of the recipes to your taste and seasonal availability of vegetables.

Happy eating everyone.

For locals looking for good sources of Asian ingredients, if you live vaguely in central to south central Auckland, you can’t go past Tai Ping on Dominion Road (behind the Caltex station) and Hong Lee at Three Kings.  Tai Ping has some of the best priced veges I have come across and Hong Lee some of the best priced meat.  I don’t buy veges or meat in the supermarket anymore – they are usually not within cooey on price.  To give you an idea, it has been a long time since I purchased apples for more than $1.99 a kilo – often for $0.99, and chicken breast for more than $12 a kilo.  And both have a good range of most Asian cuisine extras – rice, spices, preserved veges and meats – from Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai traditions.

Oh Waily Snacks

I snuck this nifty idea from On A Whimm‘s blog.

We don’t have lovely silicon muffin tins in this household, so we had to make do with our rather old and has seen better days metal tray.  Still, I like the idea of a “ready-made” version of a bento box.

Now if only I could get Miss Oh to eat more than the ‘Mitey sandwich, the crackers and the cheese.  That would make me truly happy.  Still the strawberries seem to be a hit for now.  Apples and pears are a bit harder to crack though.

Muffin snacks
Muffin Tray Bento