I’m really excited to share my Japanese inspired Barmbrack. Barmbrack is a traditional Irish fruit cake that is the centre of Halloween here in Ireland. The name comes from the Irish words “báirín breac” which translate as “speckled bread”. The recipe is full of flavour with mixed spices and dried fruit. The Japanese “kaki” fruit adds a lovely moisture to the cake also. Traditionally the dried fruit is soaked in tea overnight however in busy households like mine I need to be able to make the cake at the last minute so I’ve removed that step.
Traditionally a ring is placed inside the cake which signifies a wedding in the near future. As a child I remember the excitement around the table to see who would find the ring in their slice of cake!
225g self-raising flour
150g brown sugar
150g kaki (peeled and grated)
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of bread soda
Kaki (peeled and sliced), to decorate top
Ring, optional if you want to add a little Irish mystic!
- Preheat the oven to 170˚C/327°/Gas Mark 3
- Place all ingredients (apart from the kaki slices for decorating) in a large bowl and mix well together.
- Grease a loaf tin and pour the mixture into it.
- Optional, if you want to add a little Irish mystic wrap a ring in greaseproof paper and add to the middle of the batter.
- Place the kaki slices on top to decorate.
- Put in the oven for up to 1 hour or until it’s baked. To check if it’s baked through insert a skewer or knife in the middle and if it comes out clean it’s ready.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before placing on a wire rack to cool. Once cooled wrap in grease proof paper and tin foil to keep fresh.
- Serve in slices with a fresh cup of tea or coffee.
Sheep are a big part of Irish culture and heritage. As a nation, we’re very proud of our lamb meat and it’s exported all over the world. I was brought up on a sheep farm, so needless to say I ate a lot of lamb during my childhood. So for these reasons I had to dedicate at least one recipe to lamb. I season the lamb meat with shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven spice) and serve it with a natural yoghurt dip, as we have fantastic yoghurt producers in Ireland who make excellent quality yoghurt.
Makes 8 skewers
1 medium onion, peeled and finely diced
500g good quality lamb, minced
bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon shichimi togarashi
salt and pepper to season
8 skewers, soaked in water for 20 minutes
Yoghurt and mint dip
5 tablespoons natural yoghurt
large bunch of mint leaves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons lime juice
zest of ½ a lime
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt and pepper to season
1 Heat the oil on a frying pan on a medium heat and add the diced onion. Slowly cook the onion, allowing it to sweat, and then fry until translucent (do not brown). Remove from the heat and let it cool.
2 In a large bowl mix together the minced lamb, parsley, shichimi togarashi and onion. Season with salt and pepper.
3 With dampened hands take a handful of meat and using a firm hand form a rectangular shape. Push a skewer through the meat.
4 Place under a grill on a high heat for 10 to 20 minutes (or until cooked to your liking). Place a cup of water on the base of the grill to stop the meat drying out.
5 Mix all the ingredients for the dip together in a bowl and serve on the side.
When making this recipe make sure to lightly sear the tuna as I truly believe tuna tastes better either raw or lightly seared. Once tuna is cooked it becomes tough and loses its flavour. This salad is particularly nice eaten while the tuna is warm, so don’t waste any time once it’s ready and try to eat it straight away.
Mixed sesame seeds to coat the tuna
Salt and pepper to season the tuna
100g fresh tuna steak/loin
A few handfuls of mixed salad leaves
1 ripened mango, peeled and cut into strips
For the dressing:
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
½ teaspoon sesame oil
1 Mix together the sesame seeds, salt and pepper on a flat plate.
2 Place the tuna on the plate and coat each side in sesame seeds.
3 Heat a little vegetable oil in a non-stick frying pan on a medium to high heat.
4 Place the tuna on the pan and sear each side lightly (less than 1 minute for each side).
5 Transfer to a chopping board and, using a sharp knife, thinly slice the tuna.
6 Place the mixed salad leaves on a serving dish along with the mango strips.
7 Carefully place the tuna slices on top.
8 Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a bowl and, just before serving, pour over the salad.
Gyoza originated in China and is a popular side dish in ramen shops and tapas-style restaurants called ‘izakaya’. It is served with a dipping sauce made of equal amounts of soy sauce and rice vinegar with a few drops of sesame chilli oil. You can make these dumplings using different fillings such as minced pork, prawns or vegetables only. I usually make a large batch and freeze them as they cook well from frozen. Remember to steam cook the dumplings for longer if you’re cooking them from frozen. Makes 25–30 gyoza (dumplings)
25–30 gyoza skins
bowl of water for sealing the dumplings
80ml cold water for steaming
sesame oil to season
For the filling
200g minced prawn/ chicken or add more vegetables
100g cabbage, finely diced 1 spring onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
3 shiitake mushrooms, finely chopped
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sake
1 teaspoon sesame oil salt and pepper to season
2 tablespoons potato starch
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
a few drops of la-yu (chilli-infused sesame oil) to taste
A: How to make the dumplings
– Mix all the ingredients for the gyoza filling in a bowl together and set aside.
– Place the gyoza skins, a clean water bowl, teaspoon and large serving dish on the counter top before you start making the dumplings.
– Place a gyoza skin on the palm of your hand, take a heaped teaspoon of the filling and place it in the centre of the gyoza skin.
– Moisten the edge of the upper half of the gyoza skin by dipping your finger in the bowl of water and sliding it along the edge.
– Fold the bottom half of the gyoza skin over the filling so that it meets the moistened upper half
– Start to pleat by folding the edges (make one pleat in the middle and two pleats at either side)
– Press firmly on all pleats to ensure that the ingredients are secure within the gyoza skin.
B: How to cook the dumplings
- Heat oil on a non-stick frying pan on medium to high heat.
- Place the gyoza on the pan and fry until the base of the gyoza is slightly golden.
- Pour cold water around the edges of the pan and cover with a lid. Leave cooking for 10 minutes or until almost all of the water has evaporated.
- Remove the lid and continue to fry until the water is fully absorbed.
- Finally, drizzle sesame oil over the gyoza and fry until the base of the gyoza is golden brown.
- Serve with the soy sauce and rice vinegar dipping sauce.
Seaweed is an important part of the Japanese diet, from sushi making to simple stocks and salads. Here is a list of the seaweeds that I regularly use for cooking and that you can find in my recipes.
Kombu (kelp) seaweed
It’s filled with umami (the fifth taste) and one of the main ingredients used to make Japanese cooking stock (dashi). It’s also used for salads and stews. Kelp seaweed can be found along the coast of Ireland.
Nori is best known outside of Japan for wrapping sushi rolls and onigiri (Japanese rice balls). Nori can be bought as roasted seaweed sheets or milled (aonori). This type of seaweed is relatively easy to find in most supermarkets. Once opened, nori sheets need to be stored in an airtight container or they will lose their crispy texture. Ao-nori (milled nori) is often sprinkled over dishes such as okonomiyaki and yakisoba just before serving.
Wakame can be bought as small dried pieces. It is added to miso soup and salads. Be careful how much dried wakame you add to a dish as these tiny pieces of seaweed expand once they are in water.
This is a reddish-brown seaweed that you can easily find along the coast of Ireland. It is packed with vitamins and minerals. It can be used in cooking and baking.
The first thing to learn before you start cooking Japanese food at home is how to wash and cook Japanese rice properly. Click here to see my post on washing and cooking Japanese rice.
To understand the importance of rice in the Japanese diet you only need to look at the word ‘gohan’, which means both meal and rice. A typical Japanese home-cooked meal always includes a bowl of rice accompanied by soup and several other communal dishes, including vegetables, fish and meat, to give a nutritionally balanced meal.
I lived in a rural village called Nishiyama on the western coast of Japan for two years. It was surrounded by endless rice fields and mountains. There I got to truly experience the importance of rice in Japanese society. I remember one neighbour who warmly welcomed me to Nishiyama village with gifts of his own harvested rice and seasonal vegetables. I became good friends with him and his wife, and learned so much from them about Japanese food and culture. One day they brought me along to their rice field to watch their son plant rice seeds. After witnessing the hard work involved in planting, cultivating and harvesting rice, I gained a deeper appreciation for this sacred grain.
At home I prefer to serve rice in small Japanese-style bowls rather than on plates, as it’s easier to control portion sizes this way. The concept of communal eating and the use of chopsticks during eating also help control the amount of food eaten during a Japanese meal, without people having to make a conscious effort to do so.