Taro Jelly

I think I’m still compensating for the lack of food in the house the other day, because I’ve felt the need to whip up more sweets. I don’t generally make desserts unless it’s a special occasion. I think it was that strong craving for Two Bite Brownies that undid me. At any rate, I found some Taro Flavour Jelly Powder in the back of my pantry that I’d forgotten about, so I figured it was time to give it a try.

I’d picked this mix up at T&T some time ago with the intention of making it up for my girls. (Generally, I’m not a big fan of moulded jellies.) I do love taro root, though, especially in Japanese sweets, so I thought I should give it a try too.

I used my vintage Tupperware Jel-Ette Moulds, which make single servings. I wasn’t sure how much the package would yield, since the instructions in English weren’t very detailed. It turns out that you can get five 1/2 cup servings out of one package.

I was a little afraid that it wouldn’t set up right, but I followed the instructions to the letter, and it turned out perfectly! I love the colour and the smell. The flavour was okay, but I think that the texture might have been throwing me off since I’m just not a huge jelly fan. Thing 2 didn’t finish her dinner and hence didn’t get to try, but Thing 1 was excited that she got to taste. She said that it was so different from anything she’s used to that she’s not sure if she likes it or not, but she’s willing to try it again at a later date to figure it out. That’s a very well-considered opinion, if you ask me.

Pork Belly Onigiri

Boyed up by not having messed up dinner over the long weekend, I decided to try a recipe that has been on my to-do list ever since I saw it on Tasty Japan: Pork Belly Onigiri (English translation in the video comments). The simplest onigiri is just a palm-sized ball of sticky rice, shaped by hand or pressed in a mould, and served cold. Often, they have a filling (such as canned salmon or barbecue eel), and they are served with a sheet of nori (the same seaweed that wraps some kinds of sushi), which makes them easier to grasp. They’re one of the most ubiquitous snacks you can find in Japan. You can buy them at nice restaurants, but they’re also in the cooler of every corner store and even in vending machines.

These pork belly onigiri definitely take it up a notch when it comes to complexity. First of all, there’s a whole soft-boiled egg in the middle, which means that the rice balls are going to be a lot bigger than the standard kind. Also, they’re wrapped in pork belly (the same cut of meat as bacon, but not cured), fried, and then a sauce is added.

My pork belly onigiri were very tasty, even though I couldn’t find any shiso leaves at a store in my area, and hence had to omit that ingredient. However, all but one of my onigiri fell apart in the final stages of cooking. I think it was because the pork belly I had at home had been thick-sliced at the butcher shop. Really, what you want is something as thinly-sliced as cheap bacon, not the thick cuts that are better in tonkotsu ramen. It’s totally possible that I just might not have squeezed the balls firmly enough before frying them.

In addition, despite cooking the soft-boiled eggs for exactly the amount of time recommended, they ended up being hard-boiled instead of soft. Should I try this recipe again, I think I will deliberately undercook the eggs a bit so that when they cook a bit during the frying stage, they’ll end up perfect in the middle.

Each one of these onigiri was a meal in and of itself; my kids couldn’t finish theirs, and my husband and I were very full after eating ours. I think they might make a nice appetizer if they were made using quail eggs instead of chicken. Quail eggs being a pain in the butt to peel, let alone getting the timing right for soft-boiled, I don’t think I’ll be trying that myself any time soon. Overall, this was a fun meal to make and it was very tasty, even if my end result was far from perfect. I would definitely recommend giving it a go.

Victorian Curry

I really enjoy trying recipes that are not only new to me, but ones that are actually quite old. My collection of vintage cookbooks is slowly growing, one thrift store, garage sale, and used book sale at a time. But that’s not the only place that historic recipes can be found. YouTube is a great resource, and I love to have it playing in the background while I’m cooking, giving me ideas for my next meal. That’s how I came across the English Heritage channel, and How to Make Curry — The Victorian Way.

If you visit the actual video on YouTube, the written recipe can be found in the video description.

Now, of course this is English curry from the 1800’s, not authentic Indian dish at all. The ingredients are ones that were possibly to obtain locally or ones that were fairly easy to import; this was generally a dish served to the burgeoning middle class at the time, and the most expensive imports just didn’t make it that far down the social ladder. However, an English soldier or merchant who’d had a chance to try authentic Indian food — and liked it — would probably like something like this dish when they returned home.

I tried making Victorian-style curry for dinner last night, and I’m happy to say that it went pretty well. The recipe breaks down the components of their curry powder, but not the quantities of each spice, so I had to make an educated guess. I put in:

7g turmeric
5g ground ginger
3g white pepper
3g ground cardamom
5g ground coriander
2g cayenne pepper

This ended up being a pretty hot curry, at least to my kids’ tastes (my husband and I actually enjoyed the burn). I think next time I make it I might halve the amount of cayenne pepper, or even quarter it — which may lead to some difficulties in measurement because my scale isn’t sensitive enough to read weight under a gram. Perhaps I need another, more precise scale?

I was pleasantly surprised by the combination of ingredients in this recipe. As the video suggests, I included two chopped shallots and three diced cloves of garlic, since unlike Lord and Lady Braybrooke, I like both. I thought that the five (five!) onions would make it taste too much of onions, but it really didn’t. I couldn’t taste the cucumber at all, though I suspect that it played a part in thickening the sauce (and adding vegetables to a recipe rarely makes it less healthy). The apple was a nice, sweet touch. I did appreciate that this dish is dairy-free without having to make any changes. I’ve found that many curries, at least the ones made in North America and Europe, use cream or coconut milk to thicken the sauce. I have no idea whatsoever if this is also true of authentic Indian dishes, but I’ve never claimed to be an expert on such things. Not having to alter the dish in this respect was a nice change.

I’m hoping to make up some mince pies and gingerbread the Victorian way for the upcoming holiday season. I also have yet to try anything from my English 18th Century Cookery book, so that’s up there on my list. I’m also looking forward to trying a few of the recipes from my recently-acquired The Tudor Kitchens Cookery Book: Hampton Court Palace book, which I found at a local thrift store. This book has both original and modern interpretations of recipes originally from 1485 to 1603, so it should be a little bit easier to follow than those from 18th Century.

Loco Moco Redux

Yesterday I spent the day with my friends working on costumes; long crafting sessions are much much more fun with company. We took a pause around dinner time to feed the ravening hordes before we went out to hit a few shops for more supplies. For the second time ever, I whipped up some Loco Moco.

The first time I made Loco Moco using Guy Fieri’s recipe, I followed it to the letter. This time I altered it a bit to accommodate the tastes of the people I was feeding. First of all, I reduced the portion size. The recipe calls for two cups of cooked rice, two quarter-pound hamburgers, and two fried eggs per person, and I think that is just way too much food. Secondly, instead of forming hamburgers, I kept the ground beef loose, which I find much easier to eat on top of rice. Thirdly, because one of my guests does not like the texture of mushrooms (but has no problem with the flavour), I ran the gravy through the blender before serving. All in all, the changes I made affected the flavour a little, but I think they made it a more appropriately-sized and easy-to-eat meal for my family. I know that may not be true loco moco for the purists, but you can’t please everyone. At least this pleased my family and guests.