First up is traditional Japanese nitsuke, or octopus slow-stewed in a liquor of sake, mirin and dashi. Big chunks of octopus can grow decidedly horny, and so this need a good few hours of simmering. If you add big chunks of daikon radish, these soak up the delicious stewed juices:
With plenty of octopus left over, even after gifts of octopus to my colleagues at work and entertaining a gaggle of the memsahib’s friends who came to eat takoyaki and takomeshi (see previous post), I thought I would try something new. Octopus (although probably a slightly different variety) is a local specialty of Liguria, and one way the natives eat it is stewed with tomatoes, olives and garlic: a perfect match! I soon knocked this together with a minimum of fuss and was very good on pasta, on rice or even by itself:
Last but not least, there was always Captain Yutaka’s special ikura, something I seemed to eat standing in the kitchen whilst drinking Yebisu as my stews were in progress. Visually they are not particularly spectacular, but they certainly taste good.
Had another great day out on the Yutaka-maru, this time fishing for the local seasonal specialty octopus.
Offshore Ibaraki, octopus-fishing on the Yutaka-maru.
This time on the Kanagawa shore of the Bay. The weather was good; so good in fact that despite two applications of sunscreen my nose and forehead ended up lobster-red, quite a feat for late November fishing. This did not stop me enjoying a few ice-cold Yebisu beers throughout the day though.
I released about a dozen smaller fish, but there was still plenty in the bag for the neighbours, and a colleague at work who had placed a slightly oblique request for some of the fillets. Somewhat embarrassingly, I also won a prize for my catch. My haze rod continues to give good service, though I think I shall make another one, slightly longer this time. I’ve a whiting rod project in the making also so it will be no great effort to add to it, and I think I will attempt another batch of tanago rods.
Many thanks to Mr. O. as always!
Last Sunday saw my annual haze fishing charter out on the Bay on a golden, sunny winter’s day. Not a breath of wind (until after lunch) and so warm under my thermal waterproofs I took my hat and coat off and had to put sunscreen on my nose and ever-expanding forehead.
The fishing was very easy, pleasant and the fish gave plenty of sport taking the bait, although this year the fish seemed much smaller than usual. The smaller haze I tended to release if hooked well, and only keep the bigger-sized fish. My homemade bamboo haze rod is still giving good service but its tip needs to be re-straightened over a fire after two seasons of use.
Come lunchtime and Captain Yukio as ever outdid himself in the galley, labouring over a giant pot of boiling sesame oil and serving up the most amazing tenpura comprised of whiting, cuttlefish, kuruma prawns, vegetables and things, all served by the deckhand hot-and-hot as soon as they came out the oil. A great many number of cold beers, kanchuhai and other drinks helped them down, as well as pickles, rice, misoshiru and littleneck clams lovingly skewered onto bamboo sticks and roasted and basted with a sweet soy sauce marinade.
Unfortunately the wind suddenly began to blow from the south very strong after about midday, although I don’t think anyone begrudged not fishing after the giant tenpura meal and we packed up and headed home. The trip was only slightly marred by a spot of engine trouble soon after weighing anchor, but a quick radio call and an obliging fellow sport angling boat came alongside and a man with a magical box of tools went below and sorted everything, saving us an ignomious paddle twenty yards to the shore (aside from those who can’t swim, who of course would be lost). On reaching home, some of us more hardy anglers headed off to a local izakaya to further refresh ourselves, and one of my fishing buddies gave a detailed account of a particularly well documented ghost. Thank you to all my fellow anglers, and to the captain, for another great day out.
This was my most recent batch of English bangers. I used a ready-made mix from Sausagemaking.org which has the advantage of being a complete mix with rusk (one thing I can’t buy here in Japan, to my knowledge) and a 2kg batch fits just right in one piece of pig casing from my regular supplier at Rakuten.
Among the myriad of things I have learnt so far from the Ruhlman & Polcyn books is that fresh pork sausages need only be cooked to an internal temperature of 65ºC. I measure this with a Tanita meat thermometer (it can measure up to 280-odd degrees; very useful for cooking tenpura as well as sausages and roasts, and is completely waterproof so can be washed under the tap). In the past I had most definitely been overcooking my sausages, though this may not be a bad thing with store-bought sausages. When homemade sausages are cooked “properly” in this fashion almost no liquid oozes out of them, and the meat is cooked in its own juices inside the casing actually very gently.
My camera ran out of battery power after photographing my first catch, but my very obliging and generous host Mr. I. took a couple of photos for me on the day.
My homemade bamboo tanago rod is still giving good service, although I need to work more on my hook grinding! Afterwards we indulged in a local specialty, unagi eel, of course with a few sundries beforehand such as homemade pickles, grilled eel livers, tamago-yaki and suchlike.
The pickles I suspect were salted rather heavily, to make sure customers order plenty of drinks; something we did without encouragement. Later in the meal after numerous beers and hot sake, the grilled unagi arrived. Most good restaurants will keep their eels live in a tub and only butcher and fillet them once the customer orders it, requiring a wait of half an hour or more (in this part of Japan the fillets are steamed before grilling). The unagi gourmand of course will spend this time profitably, consuming a variety of alcoholic drinks.
The unagi was received at table with much applause, yet curiously at the moment this photo was taken the deck took an immense lurch to port, even more curious as we were on dry land. It was quite delicious, regardless.