Archive | February, 2012

Last (diet) Supper – Seared Tuna on Red Coleslaw Salad

29 Feb

The end is nigh! February is over, and with it – the dreaded diet season. P has been amazing in his resolve, and tonight we had our final weight-loss dinner.

Seared Tuna on Red Coleslaw Salad

This is my recipe – drawing inspiration form a few sources, mainly Iku Wholefood’s Red Coleslaw. The meal is dressed up however by additional salad greens and some seared tuna – definitely not on Iku’s menu!


  • 1/2 head red cabbage, sliced
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 2 small beetroot, roots peeled and finely sliced, leaves trimmed, washed and chopped coarsely.
  • handful of parsley
  • 300 gram piece of fresh tuna


  • 1/8 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon umeboshi vinegar
  • 3 tsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed (or other) salad oil

Despite the image, the red cabbage didn’t actually come from the garden. I bought it.

Start by slicing the cabbage finely, then grating the carrot.

Peel the beetroot and finely slice, reserving the tops as salad greens. Wash these and set aside.

Combine the cabbage, carrot and beetroot together in a bowl and sprinkle liberally with salt. leave to rest for 1/2 and hour to soften slightly.

Rinse the salad mix in a colander to completely wash out the salt. This was only there to soften the crunchy components slightly and improve texture. Spin in a salad spinner to remove all the residual water.

Combine the dressing ingredients and whisk until sugar dissolves. You may need to heat it slightly. Pour dressing over the cabbage mix and refrigerate until needed, letting it marinade in the dressing and absorb flavours. Don’t be tempted to add salt without tasting – umeboshi vinegar is really salty.

Wash the parsley thoroughly and remove the stems. Set aside with the beetroot leaves.

Slice the tuna into strips 2cm wide. Heat a pan over high heat with a small amount of oil and sear the tuna strips all over, just to colour them well. You don’t want to cook them through.

Remove and place on a plate to rest briefly, then slice into 2cm cubes. They should be pink on the cross-section.

Assemble the salad by combining the fresh salad greens with the cabbage mix, then top with the seared tuna. You can then drissle some of the excess dressing from the coleslaw bowl over the top.

I used parsley because it is what I had on hand. I think next time I would substitute for something with less pungency – perhaps spinach.

Now by now I’m sure everyone wants to hear less about rabbit food and more about gardening, so I’ll try to leave cooking to Tuesday night Vego posts for a while. I’m hoping the Autumn will be a wonderful growing season in Sydney and that we can leave our woeful wet Summer to our memories, where I’m sure it will be exaggerated beyond reality.

Tuesday Night Vego – Linda’s Bean Burgers with Liz’s Bread and Butter Cucumbers

28 Feb

I used to write well. The humanities were my strength in high school, then after years of technical writing I realised that I could no longer string a sentence of prose together. I started blogging because I needed writing practice – I put little thought into who would  be reading. It didn’t take me long to discover though that blogging is all about community. About building relationships and sharing ideas. I have learned more about gardening over the last year than I imagined was possible, and it’s all thanks to the posts of others and the comments made on my rookie efforts. I am so grateful.

Joining in on things like Linda’s Tuesday Night Vego challenge has also helped me be more disciplined and committed to my family’s healthy eating. Tonight I used Linda’s second recipe in the Vego challenge – her Bean Burgers.

I made some wholegrain burger buns quickly this evening. One benefit of making sandwich bread daily is that you get very practiced at it, and it’s easy to whip up some dinner rolls within  a couple of hours because you don’t have to slave over a recipe. All up it probably only takes 10 minutes of actual intervention – the rest is rising and kneading time (which I do in machine).

I was a bit short of salad ingredients (all my lettuce has bolted) so I bulked up the burgers with Liz’s Bread and Butter cucumbers. These are the best pickles I have ever tasted – do yourself a favour and make some immediately before the cucumber season is over.

Head over to Linda’s Blog to see other simple and delicious vegetarian meal ideas.

Konnyaku – the ultimate diet food

27 Feb

They say there’s no such thing as a free lunch. The same goes for dieting – in order to reduce kiloujoules, you generally need to sacrifice on portion size, flavour or texture. But I’d like to let you in on a secret.

One of my favourite foods has close to zero calories, a fabulous texture and is super-filling. If there’s a better food for weight loss, I haven’t found it.

Konnyaku is a starch made from the konjac root, and is used widely throughout Asia. It takes many forms depending on region, but the type I like best is when it is formed into white knot-shaped noodles, known as ita-konnyaku or shirataki noodles.

These knot-shaped noodles have little flavour on their own, but act as a sponge – soaking up the flavour of whatever they are cooked in. They also have a completely unique texture – gelatin-like and rubbery with a stronger resistance to the bite than pasta. It’s quite like calamari actually. Some people find it distasteful, but I’ve loved them since the first time I tried them, and my family do too.

My favourite way to prepare konnyaku is in Oden. This is a Japanese hot-pot dish that was first served to me by my friend Yukari, and I also ate it a few times in Tokyo as a convenience food with my friend Yukako. Like many Japanese dishes there are wide regional variations, and the version I cooked tonight is more like a Southern-Japanese version, from where Yukari was born.

Japanese Oden Hotpot with Shirataki Noodles

Serves 6

  • 4 Cups Instant Oden Soup Stock (or make from recipe below)
  • 2 Chicken thigh fillets, trimmed of fat and cut into strips
  • 1/4 of large Daikon radish (or 1/2 a small one)
  • 2 Carrots
  • 6 boiled eggs
  • 2 Potatoes
  • 2 packages of shirataki noodles (ita-konnyaku)
  • 4-8 Fish cakes, fried tofu or a mixture

Oden Soup Stock (Can use instant instead)

  • 4 Cups Dashi stock (made by soaking konbu and bonito flakes)
  • 4-5 tbsp Soy sauce
  •  2 tbsp of sake, Japanese rice wine
  •  1 tsp Sugar

This recipe might not be much to look at, but it is exceedingly delicious and family-friendly. I think my 2 year old fuss-pot could eat his body-weight in the stuff (and attempted to tonight). We had to drag him away from the table while he was still begging for more. I genuinely think we would have eaten until he made himself sick.

Start by boiling the eggs. These need to be hard-boiled, then peeled and added to a large stock pot or pressure cooker.

Next peel the daikon radish and cut into large pieces (3-5cm). Boil in water for 20 minutes to remove initial bitterness, then add to the pot.

Drain and rinse the konnyaku. Boil in water for 5 minutes to remove unpleasant flavour from the water it is packaged in. Add to the pot.

Peel the carrots and potatoes, chopping into large pieces, similar to the daikon. Add to the pot.

Open the fish cakes and tofu. If either are a fried variety (avoid if you are trying to lose weight), then rinse under hot water to remove excess oil. Add to the pot.

Trim the chicken thigh of as much fat as you can, slice and add to the pot.

Prepare the Oden Stock. I used instant Oden soup mix, but if you don’t read Japanese or can’t find a specialist Japanese grocery, this might be difficult to buy. Instant dashi plus the ingredients above will do just as well. Pour into the pot.

I also added another teaspoon of sugar to the instant stock because I like it particularly sweet.

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, covering the pot and and cook for 1-2 hours.  If you have a pressure cooker, this helps immeasurably. It will take only 15 minutes.

I was running out of time tonight, so I used my Mum’s pressure cooker that she loaned me for the first time (without instructions!) Not sure of its vintage, but seeing as it is burnt orange I suspect the 70’s. It worked like a charm! There is going to be a lot more pressure cooking happening around here, particularly going into winter!


I have varied the recipe above to use more konnyaku and less fried tofu / fish cakes than is traditional. This makes the dish more filling for the same number of calories/kilojoules.

Shirataki noodles sold in Australia now are mostly Chinese in origin. Many Japanese people therefore prefer to use blocks of konnyaku instead, and cut slashes in the sides of the pieces to allow better flavour penetration.

Oden tastes best if it is given a chance to cool, but it never lasts that long around here. The kids were tucking into it even while it was still scorching hot. Using the above recipe there is still plenty left over for lunch the next day (when it will taste fantastic)

This is a hot-pot style dish, so you can easily substitute ingredients, particularly the vegetables if you have something different available. Do try to find some daikon though, because it is exceptionally delicious in Oden. It wouldn’t be the same without it.

Harvest Monday – 27th February 2012

27 Feb

Quite a bounty this week. If the garden produced this much year-round then I think I could could be self-sufficient.

2.5 kilograms of edamame soybeans

The kids love these boiled and salted (japanese style) as a snack. I blanched and froze them yesterday. This is only the first of my 2 crops, so I hate to think how many I’ll have in the freezer by the end of Autumn!

Our first 4 eggs!

The girls started to lay this week. The first egg was a whopping 56 grams (1.98 ounces) and the second even bigger – 60 grams (2.11 ounces). The third and forth were much smaller (40 grams, 1.41 ounces) so I suspect that we have 2 layers on our hands, and they have both reached the point of lay this week.

2 cups parsley and 2/3 cup chives

Used in a dish here

1/2 cup coriander

Used in various dishes, including Cajun chicken and chunky salsa

Sprig of Oregano

In the same dish as the coriander

800g Green Dwarf Beans

I just can’t believe how much these bushes are producing. I’m almost to 3 kilograms picked now and they are still going. I’ve now planted a follow-up crop, because I just can’t be without them.

2.2 kilograms Lebanese Eggplant

I’ve learned a lot about cooking eggplant this year, but my favourite recipe has been the baba ganoush. My friend Karen took 500g of these home with her on Wednesday, and I’ll be making more babaganoush for freezing this week.

8 kilograms of tomatoes

Unfortunately only 3 kilograms were viable. The other 5 were thrown to the chickens, stung by fruit fly. So disappointing. I’ve bought more exclusion bags to better protect the remaining crop.

3 Carrots

Used in dinner tonight, which I’ll post on shortly.

2 Figs

My fig tree is only a baby. It set three fruit this year, just enough for a taste.

100 grams Mulberries

The autumn crop is in full swing on our small dwarf tree. The kids eat these as fast as they ripen, but I estimate that they’ve eaten about 100 grams.

That’s it for this week’s harvest. Head over to Daphne’s Dandelions to see other great harvests from around the world. I’ll post again shortly with tonight’s weight-loss recipe.

Processing edamame (soybeans) for freezing

26 Feb

My husband is all mopey. We’re in the last week of his diet and he’s starving hungry. Only 1 kilo to go now and three more days to achieve it. It’ll be touch and go, but the heavy lifting (hehe) is done know. 1 kilo either way isn’t going to hurt.

After church this morning I sent P back to bed. He was far too grumpy to put up with any longer, and I had to clean the revolting house. Several preserving tasks also sat there making me feel guilty.

Once I have produce picked there is the pressing need to deal with it – lest it goes bad and is wasted. I had bought 6 kilos of oranges and harvested the 2.5 kilos of edamame on Wednesday, so something really needed to be done with both.

First I cleaned the house. Shock horror.

Then I set to work making the cordial generally according to this recipe. Because I doubled the batch this time I was struggling to find enough jars to hold it. I decided to cut down the amount of water I added. This just made a stronger concentrate, and I’ll mix it up with more water when we drink it.

Processing Edamame

After dinner tonight I processed the soybeans. They had been sitting in the fridge since Wednesday, so I couldn’t leave them any longer. I set my large stockpot on the stove with heavily salted water and put on high.

While the water heated I washed the pods and prepared some large bowls of iced water. These were to refresh (cool rapidly) the edamame once they came off the boil.

Once the water reached a rolling boil I dumped half of the pods in, stirring quickly to make sure they cooked evenly. I continued to boil them for about 2 minutes, or until a few of the pods start to spilt open. Quickly I strained the pods out and dumped them into the iced water to cool them quickly.

I repeated the process with the second batch, re-using the same boiling water to conserve energy.

Once the edamame were refreshed I put them into the salad spinner in batches to remove excess water, then poured them straight into large zip-lock bags before putting them in the freezer.

When I want to serve the edamame, I can just throw a handful into boiling water for another minute to heat and cook slightly more before draining and (optionally) sprinkling with salt.

One of the easiest and most popular snacks ever for the kids.

Weight loss meal #8

Tonight P was longing for something substantial, even after last night’s lapse of willpower on my part.  Unfortunately I was missing a critical ingredient of the meal I planned (Chicken and Konnyaku hotpot), so I needed to throw something together quickly. We had:

Thai Red Prawn Curry

I don’t think I’ll publish the recipe for this (it was a little ad hoc) just the tips for cutting the kilojoules.

I started by frying some onions at fairly low heat in only a tiny bit of oil. I added some garlic, cooked a little longer, then added some prepared red curry paste, avoiding the pool of oil that you typically get in the jar. Once aromatic, I added 400ml of low fat coconut milk and 200 mls of water.

I then roughly diced some pumpkin and added that to the pan with a few tiny new potatoes (for the kids and me only). There is significantly more energy in potato than pumpkin.

I simmered this until the pumpkin was almost cooked , then added a handful of mushrooms (halved) and 400g of frozen green prawns. Fresh would have been infinitely better, but that’s all I had.

Once the prawns were cooked through I tasted for flavour, then added sufficient quantities of lime juice, fish sauce and palm sugar to taste. Because the kids are chilli wimps I couldn’t use enough curry paste, so I needed to enrich the flavour of the curry.  I used a bit of oyster sauce for this purpose.

Due to using low fat coconut milk the sauce was quite thin so I thickened with tapioca starch. I threw the green beans in just before serving over (small amounts of) white rice.

Despite all the weight-loss tricks (low fat meat, low-fat coconut, pumpkin instead of potato, lots of vegetables), portion size is still king when you are serving a meal like this. It is too tempting to load yourself up on a huge bowl of rice because you’ve made the curry fairly light.

My preference personally is to make the full-fat (delicious) version and have half as much, but you need to play to your audience, so to speak. P was hungry. Quantity was going to win. You just need to know what you are dealing with and work with it.

I’m hoping I’ll be back tomorrow with the cracker of a Japanese recipe I’ve been promising for days.

More trouble with fruit fly

25 Feb

My parents visited today. They are so full of knowledge (particulary on the subject of chickens), so I spent the day picking their brains. The kids absolutely adore them too, and run around like crazy things all day.

I was out in the front yard showing Dad my fruit fly problems and my promising (second) crop of apples when I spotted something horrifying.  A fruit fly on one of my little tiny baby apples! On closer inspection, 7 of my apples were already stung.

I was too distracted to take photos, but the apples range in size from those still in bloom through petal drop and to small fruit like you can see in the second photo here.

I said yesterday that I had purchased 10 exclusion bags. I had that wrong – I actually ordered 20. And with the prospect of losing my precious apple crop, some of my tomatoes lost out. I guess it’s all about priorities 🙂

Green tomatoes - 350g brandywine (front) and 400g Rouge de Marmande (back)

I made the call to harvest some of the larger tomatoes green in the hope that they will ripen indoors. I picked enough to free up sufficient bags to protect the (unstung) apples that had set, thinning the stung apples for the chooks. That’s one way of forcing me to thin the fruit!

All up I picked 2.4 kilos of viabile (green) tomatoes, along with another kilo or so of stung fruit that I hadn’t noticed yesterday. That’s 5 kilos in less than 24 hours that have gone to the chickens 😦

I guess I’m going to have to buy more exclusion bags in a hurry – I now have a plethora of unprotected tomatoes and potentially many more apples on the way. I seriously can’t believe that the fruit fly would be interested in fruit so green and so small!

Tonight (having guests) I started on dinner with the intention of serving P’s diet food. Unfortunately I kept on thinking of ways to improve the recipe by adding delicious stuff like crispy roast potatoes and avocado. The outcome was infinitely more delicious and significantly more  fattening than the original. The differences were so significant in the end that it is basically a completely different recipe. It was good. Proably the most delicious thing P has eaten in 2 months.

Beef and Crunchy Potato Salad with Hoisin and Sesame Dressing


  • 500g beef fillet
  • 1 large or 2 small cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced roughly
  • 1/2 Iceberg lettuce, cut into small wedges or other bite-sized pieces
  • 1 large avocado, cut into large cubes
Crunchy Potatoes
  • 700g floury potatoes, peeled cut into 2cm cubes
  • 3 tbsp oil of your choice  (I used beef lard)


  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • juice of 2 lime
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celcius.

Sear the beef in a pan until browned all over, then transfer to the oven to roast for 15-20 minutes (until internal temperature is 70 degrees). Set  aside to rest, covered in foil.

Increase oven temperature t0 240 degrees

While beef is in the oven, put potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold, salted water. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 more minutes. Drain.

While beef is resting, coat par-boiled potatoes in oil of your choice (I used reserved lard from making beef stock – quelle horreur!) then spriknle with salt and pepper. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and roast until crispy.

Make dressing by combining ingredients in a jug.

Once beef has rested for 20 minutes and the potatoes are close to ready, slice the beef thinly and combine fresh salad ingredients together. Coat beef with some of the dressing in a separate bowl, then use the rest of the dressing for the fresh salad ingredients.

Serve the salad on plates, topped with beef.

Sprinkle the hot crunchy potatoes over the top and serve.

Disclaimer: This is not diet food. It’s delicious food. I did reduce P’s portion size and significantly reduced his servings of avocado and potatoes, but you can see from the photo here how far he’s come. He’s looking skinny!

Protecting tomatoes from fruit fly

24 Feb

Never before have I had problems with fruit fly. So much so that I didn’t know what they actually looked like or how much of a menace they are. This year however I’m growing a larger variety of fruit, including large slicing tomatoes. I’m no longer so naive.

So for the past month I’ve been fighting a fierce war, which mostly involves a lot of stamping my feet and pouting.

I concluded that I can’t wait for the fruit to ripen on the plants – they get stung long before then. So I started to pick them green, just as they start to blush. That’s no longer working.

I tried harvesting them anyway with a view to cutting around infected flesh. But even the fruit with minor stings (even just on ripening) are well and truly gone by the time they are red enough to cut. These blighters ruin tomatoes – quickly.

I’ve learned my lesson – once the fruit is stung there’s no use keeping it on the plant.

So this evening I went out and discarded all fruit with stings. There was more than 4 kilograms, which would have been much more if I’d let it keep growing until ripe. A couple were extremely large Brandywines – maybe 400g each already. Heartbreaking.

The chooks are getting spoiled – they leave the green ones  on the coop floor until they start to ripen, by which time they are crawling with grubs. Bonus points! Funnily enough they’re not getting through the layer pellets very quickly – I think my eggs are simply tomatoes with added protein, rearranged.

But I did have a plan. I’ve done a lot of reading and concluded that baits and traps are helpful, but won’t prevent losses. What does seem to help however is exclusion.

So I bought these nifty bags. They are made of lightweight mesh, allow plenty of light and airflow, and can be reused for different crops over multiple seasons. Most importantly, they apparently stop the fruit fly.

I bought 10 of them as a start, and bagged whole trusses at a time. It would have been more efficient if I didn’t already have to throw out a significant portion of my crop, but I’m confident that the fruit I have bagged should be safe.

I’m going to see how they go and probably buy some more bags if they are successful. I’m going to need a whole bunch soon to protect my second crop of Anna apples – 14 fruit have set on my dwarf tree already, with many new flowers open now. Not bad for a follow-up crop. I think I will have to thin them, but we all know how good I am at that!

So who else struggles with fruit fly? Any other strategies I should know about? I’m I setting myself up for disappointment?

Tonight I planned Thin-sliced beef with sesame for dinner, but after getting home from work I really couldn’t be arsed. So instead, we had:

Can’t be arsed salad (that won’t stick to your arse)

  • Iceberg Lettuce
  • 1/2 an avocado, cubed.
  • 2 tomatoes, roughly diced
  • Handful of pitted kalamata olives
  • Small tin of Tuna in springwater
  • a few spoonfuls of baby capers
  • A handful of green beans
  • Japanese fat-free sesame salad dressing

Basically, I just grabbed whatever salad-type ingredients I had on hand and chucked them together.

I use this Japanese salad dressing constantly because I LOVE it, and it’s great for P’s diet because it has basically no fat and very low in calories. It’s just a mixture of vinegar, soy, rice wine, honey, and thickeners. There is quite a dose of flavour enhancers thrown in for good measure, but I’ve never been particularly afraid of MSG. In fact, I even add it to my cooking sometimes. I should be ashamed to admit that, shouldn’t I?

And we have an egg!

23 Feb

Came home from work this afternoon and sent P out with some scraps for the chickens. He came back with this:

We had one very excited little girl, and one excited Mummy here too I must say!

The chooks were 20 weeks old yesterday, so it’s on the early side for laying, but we do have 2 cross-breeds that can apparently lay from 18 weeks onwards. The thing that really surprised me was just how big the egg was – 56 grams, which is extremely large for a first egg.

I have a bit of a confession here – when I was in uni I collected eggs from cage hens as a weekend job. So I had a fairly firm idea of what to expect from first eggs – 40 grams or so, sporadic. 56 grams rivals a fully-developed hen. One of my girls is quite an egg-laying machine!

Now it will be interesting to see how regularly she lays from this point onwards. It will be difficult to tell if I have one regular layer or a few laying sporadically. Might have to stalk them over the weekend to see if I can catch one in the act.

P is now below 80 kilos, so less than 2 kilos to go. Tonight for dinner we had:

Cajun Chicken with Chunky Salsa

From Low Carb, Low Fat by Pamela Clark


  • 4 chicken breast fillet (halves)
  • 1 tsp cracked back pepper
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped finely
  • 2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tsp olive oil


  • 2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small red onion, diced roughly
  • 1 medium green capsicum, chopped roughly
  • 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lime juice

Put the chicken in a bowl with the other ingredients, mix well to coat and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Make the salsa by combining the ingredients in a bowl and tossing well.

Fry the chicken in a lightly-oiled frying pan until cooked through.


Pretty simple, huh?

At least pesticide only kills you slowly…

23 Feb

I was serving Little D his grapes earlier this week, when I found this!

A little desiccated from being in the fridge, but unmistakably a red-back spider in my bunch of (organic) crimson grapes.


I let my supplier know, and their response was “At least you know it wasn’t sprayed!”

That I do.

But a little spray mightn’t have gone astray. How about some “only kills poisonous creatures” stuff?

Now I’m sure I’ll get over it, but if I find any blue-ringed octopi in my seafood or taipans in my tomatoes then I might need to put my foot down.

(but not near the tomatoes).

Edamame (Japanese Soybean) Harvest

22 Feb

Today my friend Karen came round and we harvested the first crop of Edamame soybeans. I planted 2 crops in succession, and the leaves on the first lot had yellowed slightly, so I thought it was time.

The plants were very heavy bearing, but the pods were still not as fat and I hoped they would be. Still, I didn’t want to risk them getting old and tough, so out they came.

The stalks of the plants had gotten extremely thick – up to approximately 2cm or so? Much fatter than last year, and many more pods too. Perhaps that was a combination of full-sun position, an earlier planting and consistent rain throughout the season.

After I pulled out the plants the nodules on the roots were very obvious. Edamame being a legume, I hope they have fixed a lot of nitrogen into the soil.

I also saved some of the soil from around the root nodules to use as innoculant for the seeds next year. Hopefully this soil will contain lots of the beneficial bacteria that helps the soybeans germinate. I put the soil into a little ziplock bag and put it in the fridge.

My original seed packet that came from Green Harvest also came with inoculant, but as I used up the packet I used the last of the innoculant too.

We started working on stripping the plants of their pods, carefully setting aside the fattest of the three-seed pods for seed saving. We debated the merits of saving the best overall pods or the pods from the best of the plants, but I lost track and just saved the best pods in the end. I’ll set them aside to dry out. I’m very glad I had Karen’s help, because there were a lot of pods to strip!

In the end we had 2.5 kilograms of edamame pods. I didn’t bother harvesting the undeveloped pods or the few that were insect-damaged, so this was 2.5 kilos of usable edamame – all ready for blanching and freezing. I’m pretty pleased with that, I must say!

Tonight for dinner I mixed up the menu plan and stuck with the Japanese theme:

Chilled Soba Noodles, dipping sauce, simmered green beans and sweet soy pumpkin

All recipes adapted from Cooking Class Japanese: Step by Step to perfect results by The Australian Women’s Weekly

Serves 4 adults, easily.

Chilled Soba

  • 250g dried soba noodles
  • 3/4 cup dashi stock (I used instant dashi granules)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 green onion, finely sliced
  • wasabi to taste
  • 1/2 toasted seaweed (nori) sheet, sliced thinly

Cook soba noodles in boiling water, approx 4 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water, then drain again.

Heat stock, soy, mirin and sugar until sugar disolves. Cool the sauce.

Serve sauce, onion and wasabi on side dishes.

Chill noodles in ice water just before serving, then drain and serve, topping with seaweed strips.

Add wasabi and onions to the dipping sauce to taste, then dip the soba noodles into the sauce before eating.

Simmered Green Beans 

  • 350g green beans, trimmed and cut in half
  • 1 1/2 cups dashi stock (I used instant dashi granules)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • Bonito flakes (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until just tender.

Ideally, serve the beans decoratively (like in a pyramid shape) and sprinkle bonito flakes over the top. I just plonked them in a bowl and spooned more of the cooking liquid over the top. I aslo overcooked them a bit, but they were still yummy.

Sweet Soy Pumpkin

  • 500g pumpkin, unpeeled
  • 1 1/2 cups dashi stock (I used instant dashi granules)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

Cut the pumpkin into cubes, discarding seeds and cutting out chunks of skin randomly to make skin appear mottled and allow flavour to penetrate. This looks a lot better with a japanese pumpkin than my golden nuggets I had on hand.

Place pumpkin and other ingredients in a saucepan, bring to boil then reduce heat until pumpkin is tender. Serve on a plate with additional cooking liquid spooned over the top.

I realise now reading the recipe that I meesed it up and should have cooked the pumpkin initially skin side down in just the dashi, sugar and mirin, then only added the soy later. I think it worked just fine, and it was a lot easier to juggle the other elements this way.

After two very unpopular dinners over the past 2 nights, the kids really loved this one.


The weight-loss meal plan continues tomorrow with Cajun Chicken with Chunky Salsa.