Vegetables Facts and Tips (1): Potatoes


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potatoes

This is the first of a series of articles on vegetables, which I hope will help my vegan and vegetarian (I’m not!) friends.
Incidentally、 nothing, pictures included, is copyrighted in my food blogs, so please feel free to use anything!

POTATOES

danshaku-potato
“Danshaku”

Potatoes were first introduced to Japan in 1910 by Baron Kawata from Great Britain/Ireland giving the name of “Danshaku/Baron” to the most commonly used potato in Japan, especially in croquettes and salads.

The biggest potato exporters to Japan are China and India, although more and more grown locally.
The varieties found in supermarkets are:

kitaakari-potato
“Kita Akari” used for mashed potatoes and croquettes,

mayqueen-potato
“May Queen” used in stews,

toyoshiro-potato
“Toyoshishiro” used for fried potatoes,

redandespotato
“Red Andes” used for croquettes and Pot au feu,

incanomezame-potato
“Inca No Mezame” used for stews.

Potatoes are available all year round, but are at their peak from February to May when new potatoes can be eaten whole!

FACT CARD:

-Season: All year round
-Main elements: carbohydrates (high energy), Vitamin C1, B1 (thanks to a large amount of natural starch in potatoes, the vitamin C will resist heating!), Potassium
-Preservation: Wrap potatoes inside newspaper and keep them in a dark, well-ventilated place away from the sunlight.

TIPS:

-Choose specimens well-rounded and with healthy skin. Avoid specimens with buds or of greenish colour (risks of diarrhea). Cut out all “dark spots”!
-To avoid a change of colour, wash potatoes in water after peeling or cutting.
-If you want to keep your potatoes for a while after boiling them, plunge them in (change it as many times as necessary) cold water until completely cooled down. They will not break or crumble when used later.
-After boiling cut potatoes, throw away water and keep heating them until they have lost a great part of their moisture. They will attain a crispy enough nature without resorting to deep-frying!

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Avocado and Crab Gratin/Gratin d’Avocat et de Crabe


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avo-crab-6

Today is the second of January, and as I generally cook on holidays, I proposed the following to the Missus:

avo-crab-8

As my other half loves gratinsin any form, it was not difficult to convince her!
I’m not going to burden you with numbers, so here is the recipe, which I tried to keep simple and calorie-light!

avo-crab-1

I used bout a quarter of a yellow (yes, you heard it!) cauliflower grown locally in Asabata, Shizuoka City, cut it small enough pieces and cooked them the Missus’ way, that is, I put them in a non-stick frypan with half a centimetre of water and cocered it with a glass lid. I switched on the fire to medium and waited the water to boil. As soon as it started boiling I turned the fire to minimum, cooked the cauliflower for one minute, switched off and let it covered for one more minute. I then drained completely and held it under running cold water for a few seconds to cool down, then put them aside in a strainer.

avo-crab-21

I used a medium-sized avocado, cut it into two halves, took off the large seed by stabbing it with the “talon” of a kitchen knife and twisting it out.

avo-crab-3

I peeled the avocado and brushed both halves with lemon juice.
Next I used the equivalent of a small tin of crab meat, added some lemon juice and some sweet wine wine to it. I mixed the lot and quickly pressed the juices out. I filled both halves of the avocado with some crab meat. I kept the juices for the bechamel sauce.
I chopped a good quantity of Italian parsley and put it aside.

avo-crab-4

I buttered the inside of two glass oven dishes, put the avocado halves in the middle upside down, arranged the cauliflower around it and garnished the top of the avocado halves with the remaining crab.

avo-crab-5

I prepared the bechamel (white) sauce by making a roux with 50 g. of butter, two large spoons of flour, then added the crab juices, 200cc (one cup) of milk, 80 cc of sour cream. When the bechamel had “caught”, I added salt, pepper, theme, nutmeg and four spices and dropped in the chopped Italian parsley.
I spread the bechamel sauce allover the dishes and let it cool completely. This way the bechamel sauce will not “run out” inside the oven. I sprinkled the lot with cheese and baked it the oven at 180 degrees for about 25 minutes (or until it attains the colour needed).

avo-crab-7

We ate it with a salad just out of the oven.
I chose a fairly firm avocado on purpose for better effect when cutting it out with my spoon, but it’s up to your taste.
I’m sure anyone can improvise and improve on that!

Japanese Crustacean Species 3: Squilla/Shako


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shako1.jpg

The Squilla or “Shako” (蝦蛄in Japanese) is a delicacy that appears on the sushi bar counters from April to Summer, although different varieties can be found in Hokkaido markets (Otaru City in particular) almost all year round.
You will discover it under names such as “shaku” and “Gazaebi”.
They are actually caught in almost all Japanese seas, but the best are supposed to originate from Hokkaido.

shako2

Like any crustaceans, they can be eaten in many ways.
The Japanese favour the small kind with a violet back. I had the pportunity to buy some very large specimen in Otaru, and eat them just boiled andserved with rice vinegar mixed with a little Japanese mustard, or in salad.
They almost disappeared from Tokyo Bay in the 1960’s but reappeared in the 1970’s. Most fishermen in the Kanto area will place them in boxes themselves to sell them directly at fish markets. The market value can vary wildly, but look for the genuine harbour markets and buy them yourself.

shako3

Naturally, they are most popular as nigiri sushi. Customers jokingly ask for “garage” (in English) as “shako” also means (different kanji, of course) “garage”!