Thursday, October 29, 2009

New improved octopus balls, and sausages with lentils!

When you sit down and think about it…

No great improvements in the lot of mankind are possible until a great change takes place in the fundamental constitution of their modes of thought.”
John Stuart Mill
English economist & philosopher (1806 - 1873)

…which is why I took the bold move of altering my “modes of thought” for the production of takoyaki (octopus balls) and my rather yummy sausage with puy lentils dish.

I will leave you to debate whether this will lead to any improvements in “the lot of mankind” (I am too humble and modest to judge such things), but feast your eyes on these bad-boys and tell me they’re not tasty…

Toulouse Sausages with Puy Lentils


Stuck to a more French feel with the sausages this time going with some lovely smoked Toulouse sausages from the butchers and a monstrous glug of red wine, but also chucked in some finely chopped chestnut mushrooms and sweet romano peppers…


Takoyaki (octopus balls)

Last weeks balls were very tasty, but this weeks balls were balls that would be hard to beat!

Nothing much different in the recipe, perhaps the pan was now a bit more used to be using, or it could have been to do with the gas for the camping stove running out and having to make them on the stove rather than in the middle of table, but either way, tell me these are some of the tastiest balls you’ve ever seen…



Monday, October 26, 2009

Simple yet tasty…

Sometimes just throwing together some bits and pieces in the kitchen is all you need to.  At a loss as to what to make and without the ambition or desire to try and remedy this mindless state, grabbing a few things from the kitchen and fridge actually turned into a perfectly good lunch…

…of course there was some rice in the rice cooker, so that had to feature, but then I also remembered we have some yukari (dried red shiso/perilla leaves) which makes a great accompaniment to a simple bowl of rice with a lovely plum flavour…


…you can’t beat a bowl of miso soup with your rice, so out came the miso paste to which I added some shungiku (garland chrysanthemum) which is a beautiful leaf and full of flavour…


and my wife has recently been making pickles so it seemed rude not to have a plate of that as well. 


what a great combination…


…so nearly a perfect lunch, but I kinda fancied some meat as well and as luck would have we’ve got a big joint of cha siu pork in the fridge so I chopped off a few pieces, gave them a quick heat-up in a pan and used a sauce made from soy sauce and honey to give it a bit more vavavoom…


…simple and yet tasty, just what you want for a simple lunch without much thought.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cook Japan TV

Not only do we have some great products at Cook Japan so you can have fun in the kitchen and some lovely recipes on the blog, plus an expanding section on the shop, but we are now launching Cook Japan TV


…in addition to our own videos highlighting our appliances and recipes, we also have an ever growing content of some truly great food demonstrations and programmes.

You can watch a true takoyaki master at work, see demonstrations of all our appliances and we have also sourced some fabulous Japanese and Korean recipes – all of which make cooking great food incredibly simple and straightforward.

For sushi lovers, we also have the brilliant sushi episode of Ryori no Tetsujin (Iron Chef) - a superb cooking programme.

So have fun and we hope you enjoy Cook Japan TV – we are constantly adding more great content that we know you’ll love so “subscribe” to Cook Japan TV and stay up to date!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Takoyaki (octopus ball) experiment

If you’ve never had takoyaki they are delicious!  Yes, I know the idea of octopus balls may sound a little icky, but trust be on this one, they are wonderful.

Unfortunately, much as I love them I am not fit to make takoyaki within a millions miles of this artist…

…tell me you’re not impressed by that!

Anyway, a friend recently gave us an old takoyaki pan so we decided to give it a clean and give it a try…with my 7-year old standing in for the takoyaki master.  Unfortunately we had no beni shoga (pickled ginger) or katsuobushi (bonito flakes), but that wasn’t going to stop us once we were armed with our octopus and had made the batter…

…first task was oiling said paid and getting it up to the required temperature so we could pop in the batter, then add those cheeky little pieces of octopus…


…was you’ve got it hot enough and it looks as though the underside is cooked…


…the only think left to do was to flick them over (unfortunately not with the dexterity of the chap above), but still we did manage to keep the balls moving sufficiently that they ended up looking like this…


…which wasn’t bad for a first real effort from a 7-year old…so we popped them on the plate gave them a covering our sauce and crushed nori (in place of katsuobushi) and hey presto…


…luckily, we had enough batter and octopus for 4 batches, so everyone got more than enough!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Puy Lentil and Sausage Casserole (in the rice cooker)

Yes, I’ve cracked it!
If you read the blog on Paris you will have seen the lovely dish of lentils and sausage we had in a tiny little bistro tucked away in a corner of Le Marais – half way through that meal I thought it might be worth experimenting with this in the rice cooker when we got home…
…having bought some puy lentils and Lincolnshire sausages (for an English twist) the experiment worked a trip and the meal was lovely.
This is so simple and easy to cook in the trusty Cook Japan rice cooker…first brown the sausages on the “braise” function, put them to one side and lightly fry an onion and 2 cloves of garlic.  Then add the lentils, a pint of stock and a dash of Worcestershire sauce, put the sausages back on top and switch to the “Cook” function…
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Keep an eye on the level of liquid and add more water if it looks to be going to dry and after an hour or so you have a fabulous lentil and sausage casserole…
Serve with a little side salad and some wonderful rustic bread and you have a great meal to sit back and enjoy on a cold evening as the nights draw in…
For more information visit:

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lily Flowers and Steak Slow Cooked in a Rice Cooker

Yes, you read that correct the first time…lily flowers!
Dried lily flowers are a great accompaniment to a meal; they rehydrate when cooked and add a really nice flavour to your dish.  
Do you remember the delicious ox cheeks from last week?  Well the butcher had sold out, so opting for another cheap, but yummy cut of meat, the purchase of “chuck steak” was made. 
But, what is Chuck Steak I hear you ask?
Well, chuck steak is a rectangular cut of meat that contains part of the shoulder bones and contains a lot of connective tissue, including collagen. Collagen melts during the cooking of the meat, making the flavour intensely stronger, which is one of the reasons this is such a great meat for stewing, slow cooking, braising, or pot roasting.
As for the lily flowers…also known as “golden needles”, the dried lily flower is usually left to rehydrate in water for 20mintues or so before cooking and is a common ingredient in many Asian dishes. 
So…how to make Lily Flowers and Steak in a rice cooker…
First chopped onions and a bit of garlic go in the rice cooker on “braise” then in goes the chunks of chuck meat and when the braise function comes to and end (after a few minutes) add some water…
…give it a few minutes then in goes the standard Japanese base of soy sauce, dashi, mirin and cooking sake so you get some sauce when the whole thing has finished cooking…and some seasoning and the lily flowers.
Once the “braise” as run its course the rice cooker reverts to “keep warm”, leave the food on this function until its ready to eat – in our case it was a few hours before the kids ate dinner, and a couple more until I got home to polish off the rest….
All in all, a great cut of meat, lovely lily flowers on a bed of nice fluffy perfectly cooked rice.  A wonderful dish.
For more information visit:

Monster Porridge Batch in the Rice Cooker

What do you do with 2.5 litres of cold porridge?

Admittedly not the sort of question you usually find yourself having to answer on a Friday afternoon, but its something I need to ponder this weekend. 

I was asked to experiment with the Cook Japan rice cooker to see how much porridge it would make; as a result we sat down to breakfast this morning faced with 3-litres of porridge.  So if you ever want to know, there’s little trouble making 3-litres of porridge (7-cups of dried oats and a river of milk) as you can see…

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…give me a sprinkle of nutmeg and cinnamon and lashings of maple syrup and I’m a contented porridge eater, but 3-litres of it!!


So, the question to you is, “What do I do with 2.5 litres of cold porridge?”

I’ll keep you posted on what happens next, at the moment i’m planning a crazy porridge cake…
For more information visit:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sausage and Lentils (in the rice cooker)

If you’ve had chance to see my recent blog on our weekend in Paris, you may have noticed Saturday’s wonderful lunch which included sausages and lentils – a wonderfully simple dish that was incredibly tasty.
Half-way though the meal I couldn’t help but turn to my wife and declare, “I bet you could cook lentils in the rice cooker”, so as soon as we got home and with few groceries to choose from we dug out the lentils from the cupboard, along with some stock, a bit of spice and several chunks of dried sausage…
…the ultimate plan is to get it looking something like this…
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…and I will get there, especially after I hit the Brighton Sausage Company on Saturday for some good quality bangers and get the “right” sort of lentils.
Tonight was just a trial run to check the concept and see whether it would get filed away under “hair brained schemes” or whether it was an idea that might actually for all its craziness, actually work…
…and it does.
Green lentils (all the cupboards had to offer), water, stock, spice and sausage all got put in the Cook Japan rice cooker which we experimented with cooking on the “Porridge/Soup” option, it still needs a bit of fine-tuning, but by jolly it works…
…will keep you posted on how this develops, but lentils in the rice cooker is a definite option for all your lentil lovers out there.
For more information visit:

Long weekend in Paris (without a rice cooker)

Back to reality…after 3-nights in Paris its back to the grindstone of work tomorrow and the normality of life.  I’ve been to Paris several times over the years so its great to be able to just wander round the city taking in the atmosphere off the beaten track without trying to fit in the sights.

Staying in a nice little boutique hotel by Bastille the weekend was spent relaxing round Le Maris, the Latin Quarter and St.German where we also managed to find 5 fabulous restaurants and ate wonderful food – what more could you ask for?

Friday night, having arrived late afternoon and popping briefly into the Louvre, was spent in Pho 67, a truly wonderful Vietnamese restaurant on Rue Galande.  Not content with devouring 3 starters between us of Prawn Spring Rolls, Pork Dumplings and RAW GOAT salad…we then ploughed into 2 mains washed down with Saigon Beers…


…so after demolishing these three wonderful dishes it was onto a bowl of Beef Pho and, as the owner told us his mother’s special recipe for, Noodles with Coconut, Prawns and Pork…

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Having turned down a little side street and ambled through a little square we found a quaint little restaurant off the beaten track in Le Marais for lunch where the plat du jour options included starters of duck terrine and the ubiquitous escargot (snails)…

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…followed by delightful main courses of sausage with lentils and fish on a bed of finely sliced courgette and potato…


…just what was required to give me the fortitude to face an afternoon of shopping, before we found ourselves in a wonderful fish restaurant near St.Michel Metro for a super dinner.

I adore carpaccio so couldn’t resist the tuna and scallop option on the menu, while my wife opted for the fish soup – which was out of this world…

…we’d walked a long way that day, so even with our hearty lunch and these starters inside us there was nothing stopping us as we descended on a huge bowl of moules mariniere and a melody of raw fish french style – not what you’d expect back in Japan from a plate of sashimi, but without doubt 3 exquisite dishes of salmon, shrimp and … (a white fish that i’ve totally forgotten) oops!


…oh what culinary delights.


The last day of our shopping and eating escape to Paris started with us once again hitting Pho 67 for much of the same at lunch, plus a thin noodle dish (not unlike ramen) that contained shrimp, wonton, minced pork and chau sui…


…our last meal was then spent in a lovely romantic dimly lit restaurant where i’d have looked more of a fool than usual to have been clicking away with my camera, so you’ll just have to let your imaginations conjure up images of frogs legs with a salsa verde and duck ravioli with a foi gras sauce for starters, followed by red mullet in a hericot-blanc and whisky sauce, and venison for the main courses…

Back to running tomorrow – have to shed the 1.5kg extra I found somewhere in the course of these culinary adventures. But, oh was it worth it!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Chilli-con-Carne in the Rice Cooker

Still very cold, so after soup yesterday and with family round for dinner we figured a nice bowl of chilli would go down well with everyone.   Rather than messing about with pots, pans and keeping an eye of stuff as well the chilli was cooked in the rice cooker in the early afternoon with us safe in the knowledge we could just leave it to one side on “Keep Warm” to let the flavours build and develop until we were ready to eat…


So how was this enterprising dish made in our trusty Cook Japan rice cooker…
…first, using the “Braise” mode we cooked the onions and garlic…


…then in went the mince and some of left over ox cheeks we had from yesterday that didn’t make it into the soup…

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…with the meat nicely browned, in went some tomatoes, kidney beans, cheeky grating of chocolate, a glug of wine, salt and pepper, and some good old chillies and seasoning to give it that nice kick you want on a cold evening.


The rice cooker kicked into “keep warm” and it was left like this for about 5-hours until we were ready to eat dinner.  All that was left to do was make some rice in our other rice cooker (yes, we have 2 of these divine appliances), get out the bowls and chow down…


…with a couple of cold beers, what more could you want on a cold evening…


…and the best part is there’s a good healthy portion left for tomorrow when the flavours will be even richer – time set the rice cooker for a quick 10-15 minute cook cycle and then leave it on “keep warm” until ready to eat at lunch…