Monday, March 22, 2010

Chef Jules Talks About Japanese food

Hello Friends,
My interest in food is universal and includes many different ethnicities. Italian will always be number 1, but I also love Japanese, Thai, Chinese and French cuisine, and usually in that order.
I want to talk about Japanese food in this post. With a population of 4.7 million in New Zealand, Japanese people make up approximately 0.6% of that total. Koreans, virtually all from Southern Korea, out number Japanese, so it shouldn't come as any suprise that many "Japanese Restaurants" are owned by Koreans. Therefore authenticity cannot be guaranteed. I certainly have my favourites, in fact I often decide what I feel like on any given day, or night and go to the place that I know will deliver the best result. For example, it is usually one place for poached eggs, another for omelettes and yet another for Bagels, and that's just for breakfast! Talking of Japanese food, I break it down even further by going to one place for Sashimi and Sushi, another for tempura and another for Unagi or eel. It's the curse of being a chef. I am lucky enough to live within walking distance to a Japanese takeaway/cafe, situated off the main street in a courtyard. It's called  Wild Onion, a rather unlikely name for a Japanese place, is very casual and only opens during the day. It is a one man operation, run by a very stressed Japanese man, often seen hurrying towards the main street with his sandwich board, obviously running late. He is friendly enough, shows pride, attention to detail in his work and certainly makes the best Unagi Nigiri, ever! He assured me the eel was imported from Japan and is extremely tender. The rice is well cooked and sticky, his miso soup is also very good. He has 4 tables and one gets the impression that the owner prefers to have customers take the food away, for example, even when dining on the premises the food is served in a takeaway container and the miso soup comes in a cardboard cup. He also acts as the waiter, thereby inconveniencing and slowing his food preparation.
The eels are fresh water (Anguilla Japonica) and are pre-cooked and finished off when required. I have tried eel in many places and usually it is very tough, but not at my favourite.
Eel is commonly available in Japanese supermarkets, usually a Chinese product, boned, filleted, glaze-grilled and vacuum sealed, or frozen, known as Unagi-no-Kabayaki. Kabayaki refers to the sweet basting sauce which is similiar to Teriyaki sauce. This product is available from Tokyo Foods . Evidently, in Japan eel is cooked differently, the East being more tender as the eel is grilled, steamed and grilled again, as opposed to the West where it is simply grilled. I have also tried eel without the basting sauce, which is called Unagi
Shira-yaki, "shira" indicates the whiteness of the eel.
My other favourite Japanese dishes include, Edamame; which is young green soy beans, boiled in salted water and served in the pod. Great as a side dish to stimulate the appetite. Gyoza; dumplings filled with minced vegetables, ground meat and fried. Tempura; apparently introduced to Japan by the Portuguese in the 16th Century and is basically  fish, prawn or vegetables, coated in a very light batter and deep fryed. Soft shelled crab; deep fryed and served with a sweet chilly sauce. Sushi; a roll containing rice, and a variety of other ingredients wrapped in Nori (seaweed sheet) and sliced. Sashimi; thinly sliced raw fish, shellfish or crustacean.Yakitori; a variety of meats skewered and char-grilled. Nigiri; hand moulded rice, with a touch of wasabi paste and topped with a thin slice of raw fish or cooked eel and sometimes wrapped with a thin strip of seaweed. There are many more favourites, too numerous to mention and I haven't even talked about the Sake, hot and cold, of varing qualities!
Japanese food is all about freshness, quality ingredients, simplicity and presentation, which is why  I love it. In the photo we have Chef Jules favourite eel nigiri on the left and on the right there is a tuna sushi roll. As much as I love different cuisines I am still drawn to creating new Italian, food at boscoverde, epsom.

Ciao for now


Friday, March 12, 2010

Chef Jules Stuffed Pig's Trotter, Zampone Recipe

Hello Friends;
As promised I have the Zampone recipe for you. Basically Zampone Ripieno, or stuffed Pig's Trotter, is the foot and shin of a pig, boned and stuffed with a highly seasoned mixture of ground pork and herbs. I also like to add lamb sweetbreads to the stuffing, braise them in the oven for hours and serve the Zampone on a bed of lentils or Fagioli di Spagna, (butter beans). Zampone ripieno con lenticchie, is a favourite of Modena and is often served New Years Eve, when it is thought to bring good luck. You may also come across a Cotechino recipe, which is basically a sausage casing filled with ground pork, taken from the trotter, with herbs and spices added. When researching this recipe it became evident that most  Zampone recipes are assuming that you use a pre-prepared, commercially made product, I was shocked and incredulous. I believe that you should know how to do a recipe the traditional and correct way, before you take short cuts, so let's do it !
Zampone Recipe Ingredients (serves 8)                                              
8 pigs trotters
350g pork mince
200g lamb sweetbreads
30ml olive oil
30g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked in warm water, drained and chopped
1 small onion chopped
6 cloves of garlic chopped
parsley, thyme, sage, teaspoon chopped of each
1 heaped tablespoon of pinenuts, toasted and crushed
1 egg
1/2 cup of fresh breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
Method for Zampone Recipe
Bring a pot of salted water to the boil, add 1/2 lemon, parsley stalks and sweetbreads. Cook for 2 minutes and run under cold water, drain and roughly chop in a processor.  
In a frypan add the olive oil, onion, garlic and cook without colour.
In a bowl add all the above ingredients, excluding trotters, mix well, cover and refrigerate.
With a very sharp boning knife, take the trotters and make a cut, underside and carefully remove the bone without cutting through the top skin, (as in top photo), working your way to the toe,which you can leave in.
Fill with stuffing, making sure not to overfill, and tie with butchers string, as in above photo. Pre-heat your oven to 160 degrees celcius.
To cook and serve the Zampone
You will need;
1 litre of beef stock
1 cup of red wine
4 star anise
6 juniper berries
1 tablespoon of pickling spice
3 bayleaves
500g lenticchie di Castelluccio or Puy Lentils.

In a baking tray add the trotters and  enough beef stock to come 3/4's of the way up the sides. Add the rest of the ingredients, bring to the boil on the stove top, check for seasoning, cover and place in the oven. Cook for 3 hours and 30 minutes, turning over once during the cooking process.
Now prepare the lentils by washing a few times and place in a pot with salt and bring to the boil. Cook for 20 minutes, drain and add 300ml of the liquid from the cooked trotters and cook further till the lentils have absorbed the liquid and keep warm.
Remove the string from the stuffed pigs trotters, slice through 3 or 4 times up to nail and serve on a bed of the lentils. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of black truffle oil just before serving to greatly enhance the flavour.
Chef Jules Tips
Other recipes, suggest that you cook the Zampone first, de-bone, and then fill it.
It really is worth trying my Zampone recipe, it may take a little more time initially, but the end result is far better.
Boning the trotter is a job best done at a leisurely pace,i.e not rushed and preferably with a nice glass of wine to sip on throughout the process.
Tell your guests what the dish is, after they have eaten it.
I hope you enjoy my Zampone recipe, it's well worth the effort. For those who might turn there nose up at the thought, I suggest you disassociate yourself from them, lol.
Ciao for now.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Chef Jules Essential Pantry List

Hello Friends,

Back to culinary matters, I have compiled my essential pantry wish list, a list of things which you wouldn't necessarily think of buying, but items which will keep for a long time in the pantry and will make your culinary experience more interesting, and impressive for all. I use most of these ingredients, obtained from Sapori d'Italia, consistently in my recipes and every once in a while I will be updating, if I come across new and interesting products. You can access the list by clicking the Pantry Photo, above right.
I also have an amazing Zampone recipe for you in my next post, for those who are not sure what Zampone is, it's different, unusual, unique, amazing, wonderful with an incredible flavour and yet the thought of the ingredients revolts many people.
I look forward to sharing it with you.
Ciao for now.