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The BloggerAid Cookbook

Mochi (Mint Green Tea with Strawberry & Nutella)

For our June challenge, the 4 Velveteers (Aparna, Alessio, Asha & I) picked Mint and a seasonal fruit or vegetable (we settled on that because all 4 of us reside in different parts of the world so seasonal fruits/vegetables differs from continent to continent). For me, mint doesn't pose a lot of problem now as I have learnt to use it in some dishes ever since I live in France. Now if I was still living in Singapore, that would be a different story for mint is not very much used (or none at all) in Chinese cooking or dessert. At the start of this month challenge, I had in mind different ideas about what to do with mint and fruits or vegetable but in the end, somehow I got swayed to making Ichigo daifuku, a Japanese dessert. Ichigo what? I hear you. Don't worry, full explanation below. Don't ask me how that came about for I still have no idea. It just popped up in my head one day and refused to go away until I made this dessert. Ok, now let me introduce this infamous Japanese dessert, mochi.

Mochi is a Japanese dessert made of glutinous rice pounded into paste and molded into shape. Traditionally, it is made and eaten during Japanese New Year but these days it can be eaten all year-round. This dessert is very popular in Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Hongkong, Thailand etc. There are many different types of mochi sold, for example:

  • Daifukumochi or Daifuku (means "great luck"), is a small round mochi stuffed with sweet filling, like anko (sweet red bean paste). It exists in many varieties but the most common is white, pale green or pale pink colored mochi. It is also covered in a fine layer of cornflour to keep them from sticking to each other.
  • Ichigo daifuku is a variation of daifuku containing strawberry and sweet filling (usually sweet red bean paste). In my case, I gave it a little twist by adding green tea (matcha) and mint flavour to the mochi envelopping it with a strawberry dipped in chocolate (Nutella more precisely). Below is an adapted recipe from Little Corner of Mine who adapted the recipe from LeeLee.
Mochi (Mint Green Tea with Strawberry & Nutella)
Ingredients
  • 1 cup (160 g) glutinous rice flour
  • 1/2 tsp green tea powder (for baking)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 180 ml hot water
  • a few mint leaves
  • a packet of strawberries
  • glorious, precious Nutella
  • Cornstarch for dusting (microwave cornstarch for 2 mins, let it cool completely before using - optional)
Directions
  1. Soak the mint leaves in the hot water for 5 - 10 minutes. Take out the leaves and let the water cool to room temperature.
  2. Combine flour, green tea powder and sugar together in a big bowl. Then add in the water and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Cover with a microwavable film wrap and microwave for 1 minute 30 seconds. Remove and stir well. Return to microwave for another 30 seconds. Stir-well and check if it is cooked (done). If not, put it back for another 30 seconds, be careful not to burn it.
  4. Flour a big plate with some cornstarch. Dip your spoon with a bit of cornflour, then scoop a ball of mochi and drop it on the plate. Cover it with some cornflour.
  5. Flatten it with your palms and spread it out into a big circle. If it sticks to your hands, flour your hands with a little cornflour.
  6. Put a drop of nutella in the middle of the mochi, top it with a small strawberry. Wrap the filling inside like a dumpling and shape into a ball. Continue to do the same with the rest of the mochi.
  7. Now it is ready to serve with tea or fresh beverages.
Mochi (Mint Green Tea with Strawberry & Nutella)Mochi (Mint Green Tea with Strawberry & Nutella)
The Verdict

This is a surprising dessert for most westerners as the mochi is soft and chewy, a far cry from cakes found around Europe and North America. The combination of strawberry and Nutella is actually pretty nice with a minty green tea taste. I also made some with just Nutella filling. Little One loves both version. This mochi is so soft and melt in your mouth that it's quite addictive - I kept eating them while making my Ichigo daifuku.

Notes

The original recipe said to microwave the mixture for 2 minutes at 800 watts but mine was cooked by 2 minutes. It could be that my microwave oven is higher than 800 watts (I thought). So I would suggest to try it at 1 minute 30 seconds first and proceed another 30 seconds until it is cooked.

I don't know if it is true or not but it is said that the green tea for baking is more fragrant and green in colour than the drinking matcha type. I didn't have any of the baking type in my pantry and I just used the normal matcha I have on hand. And I didn't use spoon, just pinch a bit off and roll it into a ball. It's a bit sticky so make sure your coat your fingers/hands with some cornflour.

As for the filling, you can put any filling you wish - it can be ice cream, ground peanuts, jams, fruits, palm sugar, sweet shredded coconut etc. If you want just plain mochi flavour, just omit mint and matcha (green tea).

Mochi (Mint Green Tea with Strawberry & Nutella)Mochi (Mint Green Tea with Strawberry & Nutella)

The 4 Velveteers

The 4 Velveteers (as we called ourselves) host a monthly event that explores food/cuisine and share our recipes, experiences and verdicts on our blogs. Every month will be a surprise - we never know what we'll make next. So if you're interested in joining the Velveteers, please feel free to drop by our food blogs and leave a comment and we will get back to you.

Do check out what the other Velveteers have come up with:

* Aparna created Apple Tomato & Grilled Paneer Salad
* Asha created Potato Frittata with Garlic Scape and Mint
* Alessio created Flat Chinese peach salad with cherries, mint and a sesame butterscotch sauce

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Nigiri Sushi

This is part 4 (the last challenge) of Daring Cooks' November Challenge hosted by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen.

Now I'm making Nigiri sushi - the type of sushi most often made in sushi bars. Nigirizushi (hand-formed sushi) is made of an oblong mound of sushi rice which is pressed between the palms of the hands, usually smeared with a bit of wasabi on top and with a topping drap over it. Typical nigiri sushi toppings are salmon, red tuna or seafood. Certain toppings are bound to the rice with a thin strip of nori like tamago (sweet egg), crab meat, etc.

Gunkanmaki(warship roll) is a special type of nigirizushi: an oval, hand-formed clump of sushi rice like nigirizushi but with a strip of "nori" wrapped around it to form a vessel that is filled with some soft, loose or fine-chopped toppings like roe, natto, oysters, sea urchin, corn with mayonnaise, and quail eggs. It is customary to make nigiri sushi in pairs, so make two of each variety.

Nigiri Sushi

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice
Serve : 14 to 16 pieces of sushi

Ingredients
  • 2 cups prepared sushi rice
  • 8 pairs of assorted toppings (fish, prawns, cucumber, avocado, ham, etc)
  • 1 tablespoon Wasabi or any other paste to adhere to topping
  • Thin strips of nori or vegetables (for tying topping on)
Directions
  1. Please wash your hands before handling sushi rice to avoid any risk of contamination.
  2. Moisten hands with vinegared water to prevent rice from sticking to hands.
  3. To form nigiri sushi, scoop a small amount (about 2 tbs) of rice with your index and middle finger of your right hand and place it in your cupped left palm. Place your right index and middle finger on top of rice and press lightly to form the shape.
  4. Use the fingers and thumb of your right hand to form it into a long, narrow mound (about 2« x 1» wide) in your cupped palm.
  5. Press enough to make the rice hold firmly together. Place the nigiri on a damp cutting board flat side down. Don't put the sushi too close to each other or else they'll stick to each other. Cover the sushi with plastic wrap if you are not using it immediately. They'll keep at room temperature (not the refrigerator) for several hours.
  6. Smear a bit of wasabi on top of the rice and place the topping piece on it. Depending on type of topping used, you may need to press the topping down lightly with your fingers and adjust the shape of the rice accordingly to form a nigiri sushi. If you are using loose toppings like fish roe, place a strip of nori (higher than the rice) around the nigiri to form a 'battleship' sushi. Fill your toppings into the cavity that the nori forms.
  7. Garnish as desired and use strips of nori (or vegetable) to tie the topping to the nigiri if needed.
Nigiri Sushi
The Verdict

Now that I know the right way to make the nigiri form, making it is as easy as 1-2-3. I love making my own nigiri sushi for my family and friends.

Please be careful when spreading a bit of wasabi, be sure to use only a tiny bit. I made the mistake of thinking I have smeared only a small amount when in fact it set Pierre's nostril spitting fire.

Nigiri Sushi
Notes

When using raw fish or raw meat, always ask your fishmonger or butcher for advice and tell them that you are going to eat it raw. If in doubt, don't use. You can purchase flash-frozen sashimi grade fish which is guaranteed to be free of all parasites. Sashimi grade fish should have a clean cool smell, if it smells fishy it is a sign that the fish is old and cannot be used. Consumption of raw fish is not advisable for pregnant women and young children.

For the toppings, try tuna, red sea bream (red snapper), yellowtail or salmon. Use cooked shrimp or crab, other type of cooked meat can also be used. You can use any vegetable you wish like asparagus, carrot, avocado, cucumber, shiitake mushroom, tofu, thin sliced egg omelette, etc. To hold them in place, tie it with a thin (1/4» or 6mm) strip of nori wrapped around the whole sushi.

Cooked sushi rice can be placed in plastic bags and frozen for 3 months, microwave when needed.

Conserve the leftover nori (seaweed sheets) in a tightly sealed plastic bag and use it within a few months. It can also be stored in the freezer. Nori will deteriorate if left out of its sealed package. If you can't find nori in your area, you can substitute it with thin cooked egg omelette cut to same size as a nori sheet (7 inches by 8 inches or 17.5cm x 20cm).

Here are some informative resources :

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Spiral Sushi

This is part 3 of Daring Cooks' November Challenge hosted by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen.

Now onward to making a Spiral Sushi Roll - similar to makizushi but with 2 sheets of nori joined together at the end edge, and filled with 6 different types of fillings.

Spiral Sushi Roll

Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice
Yield: One Roll, cut into 8 pieces

Ingredients
  • 2½ cups prepared sushi rice
  • 2 sheets of toasted nori, each sized 7»x8» (17.5cmx20cm)
  • Six assorted fillings, each filling should be the size of a pencil and compliment each other
  • Vinegared Water (½ cup water combined with a dash of rice vinegar)
Directions
  1. Join 2 sheets of nori by moistening the adjacent edges and overlapping them about ½ inch (12mm).
  2. Place this double sheet shiny side down on a bamboo mat, part of the nori will extend beyond the mat.
  3. Moisten fingers in the bowl of vinegared water and place 2½ cups of rice on the nori. Gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly, leaving ¼ inch (6mm) nori showing on the both ends of the sheet. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori. The rice should appear loosely packed and be evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
  4. Using your fingers, form six grooves (in the same direction that you will be rolling the mat) at even intervals across the bed of rice. Make the first groove about 2 inches (50 mm) from the edge of the nori sheet. Form the grooves by gently pushing the rice away, leave a loose layer of rice in the bottom of the grooves. Level the areas between the grooves where you have pushed the rice.
  5. Place your fillings in the grooves. Fill the grooves a little higher than the surrounding rice bed.
  6. Roll the sushi up from the edge closest to you, this will form a spiral pattern of nori, rice and fillings inside the roll.
  7. Slice into 8 pieces with a very sharp wet knife, wiping the blade with a damp cloth after each cut.
  8. Place the pieces on a platter and garnish.
The Verdict

The spiral roll is truly beautiful and it reminds me of a colourful snail shell. I love the taste of different ingredients in it that compliments each other in every bite. It's remarkably easy to do. The only complaint I had from Pierre is that the roll is too big and couldn't fit into his mouth in a single bite. (and since he has such a big mouth that is certainly a valid objection;-) )

Spiral Sushi
Notes

Make each groove about a finger-width wide (they will hold about 1-2 tablespoons of filling). Use fillings that compliment each other and are highly coloured. Use parboiled vegetables cut into strips, seafood, left over eel, smoked fish or chicken, whole cooked beans, edible flowers etc....

Always dampen your knife with a moist lint-free towel before every cut as this prevents the sushi rice from sticking to your knife.

When using raw fish or raw meat, always ask your fishmonger or butcher for advice and tell them that you are going to eat it raw. If in doubt, don't use. You can purchase flash-frozen sashimi grade fish which is guaranteed to be free of all parasites. Sashimi grade fish should have a clean cool smell, if it smells fishy it is a sign that the fish is old and cannot be used. Consumption of raw fish is not advisable for pregnant women and young children.

If you don't have the bamboo mat, cut out a thin magazine to size and wrapped in plastic wrap or a few layers of parchment paper to a square of about 25 cm (10 inches).

Cooked sushi rice can be placed in plastic bags and frozen for 3 months, microwave when needed.

Conserve the leftover nori (seaweed sheets) in a tightly sealed plastic bag and use it within a few months. It can also be stored in the freezer. Nori will deteriorate if left out of its sealed package. If you can't find nori in your area, you can substitute it with thin cooked egg omelette cut to same size as a nori sheet. (17.5 cm x 20 cm or 7 inches by 8 inches).

9 comments on this post.

Dragon Rolls (Caterpillar Rolls)

This is part 2 of Daring Cooks' November Challenge hosts by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen.

Today I'm going to make a lady Dragon Roll dressed in fresh slices of salmon. It is a westernised version of Uramaki called 'Dragon roll (often also referred as Caterpillar roll), rice on the outside and the nori (seaweed sheet) on the inside. The filling in the centre surrounded is by nori which is usually a thick slice of grilled eel and cucumber, then a layer of rice on the outside wrapped with thinly sliced avocado. Why is it called Dragon Roll? Simply because the green layers of the avocado resembles the scales of a dragon!

Dragon Rolls (Caterpillar Rolls)

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 1¾ hours to make the sushi rice
Yield: 2 inside-out (uramaki) sushi rolls

Ingredients
  • 2 cups prepared sushi rice
  • 1 sheet dried seaweed sheets
  • ½ Japanese cucumber or normal cucumber
  • Fresh salmon (sliced thinly if possible)
  • 1 avocado (sliced)
  • Vinegared Water (½ cup water combined with a dash of rice vinegar)
  • 2 tbsp fish roe (optional)
Directions
  1. Peel, remove core and cut cucumber into strips ¼" (6mm) x 7" (175mm) long, then salt, rinse & pat dry the strips.
  2. Slice across against grain, thin pieces of fresh salmon and set aside.
  3. Halve, pit and peel the avocado. Cut the avocado halves into thin slices.
  4. Re-toast the nori sheet over a gas stove on low flame for 5 to 10 seconds.
  5. Place a sheet of nori shiny side down on bamboo mat, lengthwise, on the edge the bamboo mat.
  6. Moisten lightly your hands in the bowl of vinegared water.
  7. Place one cup of rice on the nori and gently rake your fingertips across grains to spread rice evenly. Do not mash or squash the rice onto the nori, the rice should appear loosely packed and evenly distributed over the entire sheet, you should be able to see the nori sheet in a few places.
  8. Place a plastic sheet over it. Place a bamboo mat on top of it. Turn the rice-covered nori over (so the bare nori is now on top) and place on the edge of the mat closest to you. Remove the other bamboo mat.
  9. Arrange 1 cucumber strip across the length of the nori, not quite centred on it but a little closer to you. Place some avocado sticks next to it and spread some fish roe next to the avocado sticks.
  10. Lift the edge of the mat closest to you with both hands, keeping your fingertips over the fillings, and roll the mat and its contents until the edge of the mat touches straight down on the nori, enclosing the fillings completely. Lift up the edge of the mat you're holding, and continue rolling the inside-out roll away from you until it's sealed. Tug at the mat to tighten the seal. If the rice doesn't quite close the roll add more rice in the gap and re-roll using the mat to completely cover the inside-out roll.
  11. Arrange the salmon slices on top to cover the entire roll. Lay the plastic wrap mat over it and squeeze very gently to shape the roll.
  12. Leave the plastic wrap over the roll. Slice the roll into 6-8 equal, bite-sized pieces, wiping your knife with a damp towel before each slice. Discard the plastic wrap. Repeat the above to make one more roll.
  13. Arrange the cut pieces on a serving plate with the sauces so the finished dish appears as a dragon breathing fire and flames (or a caterpillar with many legs).
Dragon RollDragon RollDragon Roll
The Verdict

Nothing beats making your own rolls. It's both a lot of fun to prepare them (you can invite friends and family to participate) and they just taste so good!

The above is just one of the combination you can do. Feel free to replace salmon with avocado, smoked salmon, ham or whatever you fancy. Do the same with the fillings. Let your imagination and creativity do the work.:-)

Notes

When using raw fish or raw meat, always ask your fishmonger or butcher for advice and tell them that you are going to eat it raw. If in doubt, don't use. You can purchase flash-frozen sashimi grade fish which is guaranteed to be free of all parasites. Sashimi grade fish should have a clean cool smell, if it smells fishy it is a sign that the fish is old and cannot be used. Consumption of raw fish is not advisable for pregnant women and young children.

Don't make the most common mistake of putting too much filling in your roll. Golden rule is less is more when it comes to making sushi as it is easier to roll an under-filled roll than an over-filled roll.

Always dampen your knife with a moist lint-free towel before every cut as this prevents the sushi rice from sticking to your knife.

If you don't have a bamboo mat, cut out a thin magazine to size and wrapped in plastic wrap or a few layers of parchment paper cut to a square of about 25 cm. (10 inches)

Conserve the leftover nori (seaweed sheets) in a tightly sealed plastic bag and use it within a few months. It can also be stored in the freezer. Nori will deteriorate if left out of its sealed package. If you can't find nori in your area, you can substitute it with thin cooked egg omelette cut to same size as a nori sheet. (7 inches by 8 inches or 17.5cm x 20cm)

Dragon Roll
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How to make Sushi Rice

After months of hesitating to join Daring Cooks, I decided to take the plunge. I'm excited but at the same time scared - what if I can't meet up the challenges?

For my first Daring Cooks Challenge (the November 2009 one is brought to you by Audax of Audax Artifex and Rose of The Bite Me Kitchen), we are asked to make sushi from scratch. Lucky me, I love sushi!

After a bit of researches, I found that the traditional form of sushi is fermented fish and rice, preserved with salt. The fermentation of fished and rice produce vinegar which breaks the fish down into amino acids. This results in 1 of 5 basic tastes (along with sweet, salty, etc.) called umami in Japanese (a.k.a. glutamates). Narezushi, the oldest form of sushi in Japan, still resembles closely to this process and it has evolved into Oshizushi, and finally Edomae Nigirizushi to which the world knows today as Sushi

Although sushi in various forms has been around for fourteen centuries, the modern version was invented in Japan by Hanaya Yohei (1799-1858) at the end of Edo period in Edo. An early form of fast food where a 'hand-formed' sliced fresh fish and vinegared rice ball could be eaten with one's hand on roadside or in a theatre. This sushi was known as Edomae zushi because it used freshly caught fish in the Edo-mae (Edo Bay or Tokyo Bay). Nowadays, sushi is made with various seafood, meats and vegetables, raw and cooked.

There are 4 parts in this challenge and I will show you how to make each of this in separate posts for easy reference:

  1. Making proper sushi rice with home-made sushi vinegar
  2. Dragon Sushi Roll - a covered inside-out rice roll with a tasty surprise filling
  3. Spiral Sushi - a nori-coated rice roll which reveals a decorative pattern when cut
  4. Nigiri Sushi - hand-shaped rice rolls with toppings

It's really fun making your own sushi. I challenge you to do make some! But first, let's learn how to make Sushi Rice, the process is somewhat long but not as complex as it looks.

Sushi rice

Total Preparation time: 1¾ hours

  • Rinsing & draining rice: 35 minutes
  • Soaking rice: 30 minutes
  • Cooking and steaming time: 25 minutes
  • Finishing the rice: 15 minutes
Ingredients
  • 2½ cups short grain (round rice) or Japanese rice
  • 2½ cups water
  • 3 inch square dashi konbu (or kombu - dried kelp seaweed) wipe with a damp cloth to remove white powder & cut a few slits in the sides of the kelp to help release its flavours - OPTIONAL
  • 2½ tsp sake (Japanese rice wine - don't use cooking sake) - OPTIONAL

Sushi vinegar dressing

  • 5 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 5 tsp sugar
  • 1¼ tsp salt
Directions
  1. Swirl rice gently in a bowl of water, drain, repeat 3-4 times until water is nearly clear. Don't crush the rice in your hands or against the side of the bowl as dry rice is very brittle.
  2. Gently place rice into a strainer and drain well for 30 minutes.
  3. Place the rice in a heavy medium pot with a tight fitting lid (if you have a loose fitting lid use a piece of aluminum foil to make the seal tight).
  4. Add 2½ cups of water and the dashi konbu (if you are using. This is optional.).
  5. Set the rice aside to soak for 30 minutes, during this time prepare the sushi rice dressing.
  6. After 30 minutes of soaking add sake (if using, again optional) to the rice.
  7. Bring the rice to the boil. Then reduce heat to the lowest setting and simmer, covered for 12-15 minutes. Do not remove the lid during this process.
  8. Turn off heat. Let stand with the lid on, 10-15 minutes. Do not peek inside the pot or remove the lid. During this time the rice is steaming which completes the cooking process.

Preparing the Rice Vinegar Dressing

  1. Combine the rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small pot.
  2. Heat on low setting. Stir until the mixture is clear and the sugar and salt have dissolved.
  3. Set aside at room temperature to cool until the rice is cooked.

Turning out the rice

  1. Lightly moisten a flat thin wooden spatula or spoon and a large shallow flat-bottomed ceramic, plastic or glass dish. Do not use metallic objects as vinegar reacts to it and will produce sour and bitter sushi rice.
  2. Remove the dashi konbu (kelp) from the cooked rice (if you added it).
  3. Use the spatula to gently loosen the rice and tip the rice pot over the dish, gently letting the rice fall in one central heap. This is to avoid damaging the rice grains.
  4. Slowly evenly pour the cooled sushi vinegar over the hot rice by dripping it on the spatula.
  5. Using the spatula, gently spread the rice into a thin, even layer using a 45° cutting motion to break up any lumps and to separate the rice. Don't stir or mash rice.
  6. After the rice is spread out, start turning it over gently, in small portions, using a cutting action, allowing steam to escape, for about a minute.
  7. Continue turning over the rice, but now start fanning (using a piece of stiff cardboard or fan) the rice vigorously as you do so. Don't flip the rice into the air. Continue to gently slice, lift and turn the rice occasionally, for 10 minutes. Cooling the rice using a fan gives good flavour, texture and a high-gloss sheen to the rice. The vinegar dressing will be absorbed by the hot rice.
  8. Stop fanning when there's no more visible steam, and all the vinegar dressing has been adsorbed and the rice is shiny.
  9. Your sushi rice is ready to be used.
The Verdict

The rice turned out perfect and deliciously good. It's worth making your own sushi vingear as you will taste a big difference. (I did not add sake or dashi konbu to my rice)

Sushi is easy and cheap to make at home. Best of all, you do not need to use any special equipment to make this and it is fun to make together with family and friends.

Sushi Rice
Notes

To maximize your time in preparing sushi, prepare your rice vinegar dressing, sushi fillings and toppings while rice is draining and soaking.

If you cannot get sushi Rice, replace it with short (round or pearl) or medium grain rice. Do not use Arborio, long-grain, or parboiled white rice.

For rice vinegar, make sure there is no salt or sugar added in it. You can substitute it with apple cider vinegar, and if you don't have apple cider vinegar, use mild white wine vinegar or mild red wine vinegar. Do not use normal white vinegar - it's too harsh.

Dashi konbu - or ( dashi kombu) - dried kelp, it looks like broad, leathery, wrinkly greenish ribbon often coated with a white powder. The darker green the leaves, the better the quality of kelp. Dashi konbu adds a refreshing light ocean taste to sushi rice.

Keeping the rice moist

Cover with a damp, lint free cloth to prevent the rice from drying out while preparing your sushi meal. Do not store sushi rice in the refrigerator. Leave it on the counter covered at room temperature. Sushi rice is best used when it is at room temperature. Cooked sushi rice can be placed in plastic bags and frozen for 3 months, microwave when needed.

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