Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Washoku Masterclass with Valentine Warner

Washoku literally means 'food of Japan', covering all traditional Japanese cuisine, from sushi, sashimi to teppenyaki and yakitori. The focus is on fresh, seasonal ingredients (sometimes raw), sometimes rare but mostly accessible even in our western supermarkets. It's most definitely a user-friendly cuisine, using cross-over ingredients from our own gardens (well, the fresh vegetable aisle) and the freshest fish or meat you can get hold of. Fish in Japan holds a god-like status, so only the freshest and the best will do. Washoku by trained Japanese chefs is created with consideration for the environment, a simplicity which retains the nature of each component, and beautifully presented on a plate to celebrate it's natural beauty.

On a Washoku masterclass with TV cook, food writer, and now, Hepell Gin distiller, Valentine Warner, hosted by Panasonic in their test kitchen, we learnt just how simple it can be, and oh my, how delicious. Mr Warner spent some of his childhood in Japan (his dad was the British Ambassador there in the '70s) and returned many times to visit sake breweries and develop his own skills as a chef. Japanese chefs are super clean, sleek and graceful and their knife-skills are notoriously fast and meticulous.

Valentine demonstrated three recipes, using three kitchen gadgets by Panasonic, which we got to taste and then recreate. Firstly, Crab Chawan Mushi, or savoury fish custard, steamed in a cup. Sorry, did you say savoury fish custard? Well, yes... it did sound odd, but tasted absolutely wonderful - like a good quiche but without the pastry. Gently beaten eggs, with dashi slowly poured in, then sake and Kikkoman soy sauce. This is then poured over the crab in it's dish, and topped with shiitake mushrooms. With some cling film over the top, the bowl is then steamed (in Panasonic's Steam Combination Microwave, obviously) for about 15 minutes until there is a slight wobble. Then scattered with spring onions, toasted black sesame seeds and Furikake seaweed seasoning. See? Simple!

While the Chawan Mushi was steaming, we moved onto Mackerel Tataki. Mackerel is bang in season at the moment, and it's one of my favourite fish. Growing up in South West Kerry fresh mackerel was literally just off the boat in the summer months and little did I appreciate that luxury then. I loved it, just grilled. That's all. Fresh mackerel should be stiff, with a dark green back and iridescent shine.

For this recipe, Valentine used the Panasonic Slow Juicer to remove all the pith and juice from a lemon. The fresh fish was then chopped very thinly into small cubes, and gently mixed with toasted sesame seeds, ginger, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, Kikkoman soy sauce and reduced mirin. The tataki was then presented in a bowl and garnished with spring onion and thinly sliced nori. This recipe can also be made with fresh salmon or fresh sustainable tuna. A few of us had a go at making this and although it wasn't quite as aesthetic, it still tasted utterly sublime.

 Lastly, but obviously my favourite, a Summer Umeshi Cocktail. Deliciously refreshing, this drink is the perfect accompaniment to Japanese food. The sweet plum wine can be sourced in any Asian supermarket, and I've used it before as a dessert wine for a Thai meal. Really easy to make with aid of a Panasonic Blender to whizz up some ice cubes. See below for the recipe.


·       125ml Umeshu sweet plum wine 

·       1/2 tsp yuzu (Japanese orange) juice Available in Waitrose 

·       Ice cubes 

·       Soda water

·       Fresh mint


-          Whizz up some ice cubes in the Panasonic Blender

-          In a highball glass fill halfway up with crushed ice

-          Pour in half a teaspoon of yuzu juice 

-          Pour over the Umeshu plum wine and top to the rim with soda water 

-          Garnish with a big sprig of fresh mint pushed well down into the glass 

-          Push in a straw 

Of course, all recipes are just a guide. Some of Valentine Warner's tips for cooking include using the best and freshest ingredients, and then experimenting and especially tasting your food - this is key to cooking Washoku for a healthy and balanced meal. Buy daily and fresh, instead of stock piling fresh ingredients. And don't keep opened sesame oil or soy sauce for more than a few months as they will lose their flavour.

Huge thanks to the Panasonic team for hosting the masterclass, and to Popcorn PR for the invitation and the photos.

Product Info:

Panasonic Slow Juicer MJ-L500 | RRP £199.99 | Available to buy now.

Panasonic Steam Combination Microwave NN-CS894 | RRP £499.99 | Available to buy now.

Panasonic Food Blender MX-ZX1800 | RRP £399.99 | Available to buy from August 2016.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

10th Birthday Cake

My little girl's birthday cake this year was designed by Mimi herself. She chose a design based on the leopard skin cake I made a couple of years ago for my friend, square and diamond in shape, with pearls around the edges and a big bow on top.
At the bottom a Victoria sponge, filled with vanilla buttercream, and on top a chocolate sponge filled with the same plus melted chocolate. Both layers crumb coated in vanilla buttercream with a giant pink bow and love hearts dotted around, silver writing and moulded pearls around the edges. Pretty simple, and very effective.
Happy birthday my darling. Love you. xx 

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Barraka, Mediterranean Street Food, Liverpool Street - Review

Barraka is a newly opened Mediterranean takeaway nestled in Artillery Lane, between Liverpool Street Station and Spitalfields Market. Ideal for a quick lunch away from your desk, or to grab something before you head to the pub after, Barraka serve food fast and fresh. The staff are friendly and full of enthusiasm. If you are a first-time customer you will get a cheer and the gong will be banged in your honour. They believe in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere - get this right and all else will follow.

From the menu you can choose a baguette, a Laffa wrap or a salad. Then fill with a choice of Mediterranean chicken, Chicken Schnitzel, Halloumi, Steak, or Chorizo. Sauce options are Baraka sauce, Tahini, chimichurri or chilli. Believe me they are big portions! And they really are fresh and tasty. My chorizo wrap was a range of flavours from the soft sensual pork chorizo to the subtle heat of the chilli sauce. The Mediterranean chicken was steeped in the secret sauce, and it was sumptuous.

Mediterranean Chicken Salad

Chicken Schnitzel baguette

Wander down Artillery Lane and you may be lucky enough to be offered a taster outside. Judging from where I was sitting (at the window) the fast-moving queue, the number of passers-by tempted in, and the banter between the staff and the regular customers, shows Barraka is a 'blessing'.

In July you can get a 25% discount on the food at Barraka by voting for your favourite dish below. Go along for your very own gong! 

What gets your taste buds going? Vote for your favourite dish to reveal your perk from Barraka. Valid in July 2016 only

7 Artillery Lane, E1 7LP
Open: Mon-Fri 11am-9pm
Photos blatantly lifted from their website. Dead phone...

Friday, 1 July 2016

Tang London - Review

The best thing about living in London is that there is always something new, something unusual or something hidden away that can delight you and inspire you. Tang London is one of those. A newly opened noodle bar on Great Russell Street (just off Tottenham Court Road). The entrance is tucked away between the flashier VQ restaurant and the YMCA. Or, if like me, you can't read the street names for scaffolding, through the entrance of the St Giles's Hotel.


Head Chef Chen Ng, who was born in Singapore, and has worked her way through South East Asia, is the creative mind behind Tang. Commissioned by the patron of the hotel, she has recreated a noodle joint reminiscent of the traditional 'fast food' stall found all over the busy cities of SE Asia, and given it her own branding. High wooden benches, Chinese newsprint on the walls, framed images of food-related scenes from the sub-continent, colourful noodle bowls on shelves and as a focal point, an open kitchen where Chen herself cooks each dish to order.

The menu is concise, but covers everything. If you are familiar with ramen, then Chen's Tang Bowls are a lighter, less creamy version - bowls of comfort, incorporating specialist Chinese herbs and spices. For gluten-free and dairy-free diners, the two starters are coated in rice flour/cornflour batter and deep fried. Vegetarians too are catered for. Black bean tofu. Ever heard of it? Regular tofu, meh... this stuff is awesome. The texture is like fluffy clouds. Served with a white miso sauce, this dish alone is enough reason to visit. The other starter is chicken marinaded in soy milk (again, a shout-out for the lactose intolerant) and served with a homemade chilli sauce, or a lemon tofu dip.

Fried Chicken with hot sauce
Black bean tofu with white miso sauce

The Tang Bowls are then served in beautiful noodle bowls (try not to knock them off the shelf in your excitement!). A choice of prawn, chicken, mushroom or rice again caters for all tastes, and you can make any dish gluten-free by choosing glass or rice noodles, though wheat noodles are also on offer. Each protein comes with its own broth and an array of Asian vegetables and a 6 minute egg.

Chicken Tang with rice noodles

Prawn Tang with glass noodles

Lunch times are particularly busy and Tang is well suited to theatre goers in a hurry, with takeaway available too. Craft beers and house wine are carefully selected to complement the food. If you stumble upon this new hidden gem, do let me know in the comments below what you think.

And if you fancy a little something afterwards, perhaps a cocktail or four in Hudson's bar in the hotel next door... or maybe that's just me!

111 Great Russell Street
London WC1B 3NQ
Starters £4.50-5, Tang Bowls £10-12, Bottle of wine £22.
Open Tue-Sun 12-10pm
 Professional Images courtesy of Crisp Media.

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