#Cornography Day 90 (THE END): Baked Salmon with Miso-Roasted Vegetables and Hyugarashi Corn Salsa

Well guys, this is it. The challenge is over. I’ve won the bet, and soon I’ll have a brand new used PlayStation 3 to show for it.

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I had hoped to go out on a bang – cook something really special, maybe even a multi-course corn feast. But alas, my schedule has been a bit hectic lately, and having only arrived back in town from Germany this afternoon at 3:00, a big, complicated dinner just wasn’t going to happen. In fact, I didn’t even cook. Laura did. Or at least she mostly did. I made the corn part. Laura dressed cauliflower, broccoli, onions, and mushrooms with a light miso-and-oil mixture. They were then roasted at 200ºC for about 40 minutes. Meanwhile, she baked some salmon and I made a corn salsa: corn, Hyugarashi, and a little splash of fish sauce. It was a delight. The salsa was hot and tangy, a perfect foil to the oily fish and the sweet, rich vegetables.

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In retrospect, this challenge was (mostly) a lot of fun. If there’s one important lesson to be learned from the whole thing, it’s that when you really focus on something, and look at it from all possible angles, that one thing can actually open up virtually limitless possibilities. I’ve done a lot with corn over the past three months. But really, I barely scratched the surface. To be honest, there are still canned corn dishes I actually want to try that I didn’t get around to making. The weirdest thing is, I’m not even really sick of it.

I also hope I’ve inspired some of you to revisit our old friend canned corn. It’s surprisingly good, and incredibly versatile. Even Laura has come around to it – maybe she’s acquired the taste, or maybe she’s just come to appreciate how many ways it can be made delicious. Today I’ve come up with a list of my top ten #cornography dishes, and I have to say, it wasn’t easy! There were many more hits than misses. But here they are:

Thanks to everyone for supporting me along the way, and for your concern about my digestive system (it’s fine).

Now then. I’m off to play some outdated video games! Adios, amigos.

#Cornography Day 89: Crab Bisque with Corn

On this, the penultimate day (!) of Cornography, I find myself in Hannover, Germany. I’ve been sourcing ingredients for a demo next week, at the launch of one of the coolest projects I’ve ever been involved with. What it is, I cannot divulge. But all will be revealed next Tuesday.

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I can divulge that it involves crab bisque. I ran through the recipe today, which includes butter, shallots, garlic, cherry tomatoes, vermouth, cream, tarragon, truffle oil, and white and dark crabmeat. When it was finished, I added some corn. Corn and crab is always a good combo; this was no exception. Not an improvement, I must say, on the original recipe,  but certainly a lovely and luxurious way to get my corn in.

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Now then. Roll on day 90…

Nanban: Calendar of Events

Photo of ingredients from Nanban by the great Paul Winch-Furness.

Photo of ingredients from Nanban by the great Paul Winch-Furness.

This is shaping up to be quite a busy and exciting month with activity surrounding the publication of my cookbook, Nanban: Japanese Soul Food! If you haven’t already, you can pre-order it here or here. And you can also come and get one or just say hi at any of these awesome events!

10-11 April: BBC Good Food Show Spring
Harrogate

I’ll be there on Friday and Saturday signing books and doing interviews and stuff. The Good Food Shows are great fun anyway, so you should definitely swing by if you’re in the area!

14 April: Hannover Messe
Hannover

Since autumn of last year, I’ve been working on some super-secret sci-fi stuff. I had to sign an NDA so I can’t talk about it, but we are launching it at Hannover Messe next week! And it is AWESOME. Probably the coolest project I’ve ever worked on. But I don’t want to oversell it. If you’re in Germany, just come see for yourself. I’ll be at stand E84 in hall 17 on the 14th.

16 April: Talk and Tasting at Stanfords
Covent Garden

Publication day! To celebrate, I’m hosting a talk and tasting (including the exquisite Nanhattan cocktail) at the great travel bookshop Stanfords. Tickets are only £3! Why wouldn’t you come?!

17-19 and 24-26 April: United Ramen × Nanban Pop-up
Islington

I’ll be working alongside United Ramen’s head chef Girish Gopalakrishnan at their site in Islington, serving a special selection of dishes from the cookbook alongside UR’s standard offerings. The menu will include Nanban classics like yaki-curry, chanpon, kake-ae, and of course, shochu!

21 and 28 April: United Ramen × Nanban Tasting Menus
Islington

In addition to the Nanban a la carte menus served on the weekends, on each following Tuesday, Girish and I will be serving special tasting menus of brand new collaborative dishes, bringing together the flavors of Nanban and United Ramen. Hatchō miso duck ramen, curry goat tsukemen, ume-katsuo cucumber salad, and Okinawan sugar and kinako mochi ice cream sundaes are all involved. These events will be ticketed and are limited to just 36 seats each day, so snap ’em up!

23 April: Talk and Tasting at Topping and Co.
Bath

The lovely folks at Topping and Co. in Bath are hosting an intimate event where I talk and cook, and you listen and EAT!

30 April: JNTO Yaki-Curry Competition Closes

The Japan National Tourism Organization is offering a chance for you to win a copy of my book. For FREE! All you have to do is make yaki-curry (recipe in link above), snap a photo of it, and share it with me and the JNTO on social media. We’ll choose the best-looking dish as a winner. And even if you lose, you still get delicious yaki-curry.

7 May: Beer and Japanese Soul Food Masterclass at Divertimenti
Kensington

Beer and Japanese soul food: this is me, in a masterclass. Participants will learn to cook three southern Japanese dishes, and then enjoy them with lovely craft beers selected by yours truly. If I weren’t hosting, I would totally sign up for this.

That’s it for now, but there will be more to come in the summertime as well. Check back here or follow me on Twitter for updates!

#Cornography Day 88: Beefed Corn Hash

You’ve heard of corned beef hash, but have you heard of beefed corn hash? I guess you have now.

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I cut a thick slice of the leftover roast sirloin from Sunday, and trimmed off the band of fat along the top. I cut the fat into small chunks and put them in a hot pan to render. I then added sliced onions, Seasoned Salt, and LOTS of black pepper, and let the onions brown. I added corn and let that brown as well. Meanwhile, I poached an egg. To finish the hash I added some beef juice from the container it was in along with a little Tabasco and miso mustard. Lastly, I stirred in strips of the lean meat from the sirloin, off the heat, so they didn’t overcook. I put everything in a bowl and topped it with a little aonori and katsuobushi. It was rich and sweet and strong, like a bowl of filthy cheeseburger. The meat was tender and juicy and full of flavor. It was extremely fortifying and delicious.

Japanese Soul Food: Key Ingredients

Clockwise from left: soy sauce, rice vinegar, shochu, mirin, dashi powder, miso, and yuzu-koshō. Photo by Paul Winch-Furness.

Clockwise from left: soy sauce, rice vinegar, shochu, mirin, dashi powder, miso, and yuzu-koshō. Photo by Paul Winch-Furness.

In Nanban, I spend a few pages detailing some of the most important ingredients for Japanese home cooking. I begin with five essential items: soy sauce, mirin, rice vinegar, miso, and dashi powder. With these five ingredients in your cupboard, you will be able to create a huge range of Japanese dishes, sauces, and seasonings by combining them in different ways, and almost all of them are now widely available at big supermarkets.

I would highly recommend buying a good-quality Japanese brand of soy sauce; Kikkoman is common, and though it is more expensive, its flavor is superior; balanced, fresh, and aromatic. For mirin and rice vinegar, usually own-brand supermarket varieties are absolutely fine, but if you have a choice, I would recommend Takara Hon Mirin and Clearspring Brown Rice Vinegar. With miso, there are so many varieties and flavors out there, I’d suggest you buy a few to try, and choose whichever you like best. I like Hikari Awase Miso as a go-to, all-purpose miso; it is very well balanced between the light, sweet freshness of white miso and the rich, fruity, malty flavor of red miso. It works well in just about everything, including desserts. Dashi powder is probably the only ingredient you’ll have trouble finding at a big supermarket, but any Asian grocer should have it, and it really is fundamental. I prefer Shimaya, but this is also often a matter of buying a few kinds and figuring out which you like best.

(By the way, it is far, far more common for home cooks in Japan to use dashi powder instead of fresh, homemade dashi, since it is so convenient, cheap, and generally quite tasty. But if you’d prefer to make dashi from scratch – and everyone should try it at least once – you will need kombu and katsuobushi instead.)

Yuzu-koshō

Yuzu-koshō in situ. The label reads: ‘The aroma of home! Miyazaki: the land of yuzu.’ Photo by Paul Winch-Furness.

On top of these ingredients, I also recommend two more if you’d like to inflect your Japanese cooking with a distinctly southern accent: yuzu-koshō and shochu. Yuzu-koshō is a highly aromatic condiment made by pounding fresh yuzu peel together with hot chillies and salt. After a period of ageing, the resulting paste has a delightfully resinous, herbal aroma and a powerful tangy-pungent-salty flavor. Just a quarter of a teaspoon or so is all you need to lift a bowl of porky ramen. It also tastes great with chocolate. Kyushu is known generally for its delicious citrus fruits and its chilli-spiked dishes like karashi mentaiko and motsunabe, and specifically for its yuzu-koshō, so buy a jar and experiment with it to get an idea of what sets southern Japanese food apart.

Shochu, the spirit of Kyushu, is sometimes used in cooking, but really you should just buy a bottle to have with the meal. It is stronger than sake, distilled rather than just fermented, and can be made using a variety of methods and a virtually limitless range of ingredients. In Kyushu, the most popular shochu is distilled from sweet potatoes, which give the finished product a sort of nutty and sometimes smoky flavor. The aroma of any given shochu is also strongly influenced by what kind of mold (kōji) is used to kick off its fermentation. For example, ‘white’ mold tends to be cleaner, fresher, and more floral; ‘black’ mold is often richer and earthier, reminiscent of fermenting fruit. There are two good entry-level shochu I’d recommend, depending on your taste for booze. If you like the light, clean flavors of vodka or premium sake, go for Unkai, a smooth, bright, floral buckwheat shochu that works very well in cocktails. If you’re more of a single malt whisky fan, try Kuro Kirishima, a black mold sweet potato shochu with a strong, funky, slightly peaty, overripe melon flavor. They will both be good for cooking, either in place of mirin or in recipes that call for it specifically, like tonkotsu, a sweet miso-and-shochu pork rib stew from Kagoshima.

Japan Centre still has the best range in the country for any of these ingredients, and they’ll deliver basically anywhere. But have a close look at your nearest big supermarket or your local Asian food shop. You might be surprised at what you can find.

#Cornography Day 87: Thai Orchard’s Gaeng Pa with Corn

Our order from Thai Orchard on Friday night included gaeng pa, a light, brothy curry with a variety of vegetables. It wasn’t really punchy enough, but enjoyable all the same. The chunks of aubergine in particular were delicious, having absorbed masses of flavor from the lemongrass and galangal in the broth. Today I reheated the leftovers along with some corn, and little extra lime juice and a tiny pinch of Haimi. I topped it with a poached egg and some freshly ground sanshō. It was hot and sour and extremely filling thanks to all the veg, which still had plenty of texture.

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#Cornography Day 86: Corn and Beef Quesadillas

Yesterday we went to Laura’s parents’ house for an Easter roast. Laura and her mom don’t like lamb so we had a lovely beef sirloin instead. Emiko rubbed it with garlic and olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper, and then cooked it for just 45 minutes so it was still gorgeously pink and juicy in the middle.

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We were given the leftovers to take home. I had an odd craving for something in a tortilla. At first I thought I’d make beef and corn salsa wraps, but that seemed weird and boring. So I decided on quesadillas instead. I mixed corn with peppers with diced onion and Hyugarashi and sliced the leftover beef into small, thin strips. I piled everything onto a tortilla in a dry frying pan and topped it with mozzarella cheese. I grilled it until the cheese had liquefied and pressed another tortilla on top. I fried it gently for about 3 minutes until the bottom tortilla had browned nicely, then turned it over. I must say, my quesadilla flipping skills need a bit of work. I got corn everywhere. Anyway, the end product was lovely. I had it with a little creme fraiche mixed with a dollop of Nagarita.

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