Friday, 26 February 2010

Improvising: a kind of curry thing

I have made a few dishes from this book and found it quite accessible and easy to make things that not only taste good but aren't full of fat, like you find too often in restaurants and take-aways. The other night however, in the husband's absence, I decided I would improvise something because I couldn't be bothered to find a recipe to cook from. I just breezed into the kitchen, knowing that I had a drop of tomato passata to use up from a previous meal. I didn't intend to cook a curry or anything like that. I thought, indeed, that I would end up with some dull pasta dish, thrown together without thinking. I find cooking for myself a chore sometimes - I like to feed someone other than myself, and then the passion kicks in. However, whilst staring disconsolately into the fridge, I spotted some other things that needed using - ginger and fresh chillies. So I grabbed them and some other ingredients and started cooking with no plan in my head other than it would be a curried tomatoey thing to eat with rice.

This turned out surprisingly well. Proper Indian cooks would laugh their tits off at this, but it tasted rather good and was superb the next day eaten cold for lunch. This is what I made (serves 1 generously):

1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 large clove garlic
1/2 medium onion, chopped
ginger - I used about 1/2 inch sliced off a regular sized root, peeled
1 green chilli, slit down its length
50ml tomato passata (for a more authentic ingredient, use one or two medium fresh tomatoes, not too ripe, puréed)
Some random vegetables of your choice, I used 1/2 carrot and a small handful of green beans chopped into short lengths
frozen vege (soya) mince (this is entirely optional! I threw it in for some protein)
50g frozen spinach, or a very large handful fresh spinach
3 tbsp natural yoghurt
1/4 tsp garam masala
A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Chop the garlic and ginger finely and bash together in a pestle and mortar with a drop of water until it is a kind of paste. In a clean mortar, grind the fenugreek and cumin seeds into a coarse paste, add the ground coriander and turmeric. Prepare your vegetables and purée the tomato with the yoghurt (or if you are using passata mix them together). Set these aside. Chop the onion. In a deep non-stick pan, heat the mustard seeds in a little oil until they start to pop, then add the onion and cook until lightly golden. Put some rice on to cook. When the onion is golden, add the powdered spice mix and the ginger and garlic paste. Cook, stirring often, for a few minutes. Now add the tomato and yoghurt mix and a good slug of cold water. Throw in the slit green chilli. Cook over a moderate heat, stirring all the time, until the sauce (or masala) is reduced and starting to 'exude' its oil (you will see a faint trail of oil in the wake of the masala as you stir it). Now add a good 100ml water, the vege mince and the vegetables, but not the spinach. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes, making sure that the sauce doesn't dry out. If you're using frozen spinach, add it to the pan after about 5 minutes. If you are using fresh, add it a bit later just to wilt it into the sauce. When the vegetables are tender, add the garam masala, some salt to taste and adjust the water in the sauce (boil some off if your spinach was particularly watery or add a splash of water if it's looking dry. You want enough sauce to be able to soak into the rice). At the last moment add the chopped coriander, stir through and serve on top of the cooked rice. If there are leftovers, stir the sauce through the rice, chill, and eat it cold the next day with a dollop of natural yoghurt.

Some notes: I have not been able to prevent the yoghurt I use from splitting in any of the curries I have made so far. This is not attractive or desirable. I think it is too hot or too acidic and my yoghurt is too low-fat or something. Any suggestions welcome.

The vege mince was not my first choice - I was looking for some Quorn pieces or something like that, not mince! It was OK, though. You can use meat in the dish, in which case add it after the masala is ready, and brown it a little before adding the tomatoes and water etc. Cook for longer before finishing the dish and make sure the meat is properly cooked.

Profuse apologies to anyone who is offended by my pidgin Indian cooking. I was only trying! :-)

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Improvising: yakisoba

This is the yakisoba we ate in Japan, with red pickled ginger on the side. It was divine, if a bit greasy. I tried to make my own yesterday.

So it turns out that it is bloody hard to find out what goes into yakisoba apart from the obvious things - most recipes state that you should use shop-bought 'yakisoba sauce' in this or that brand, but the contents of which remain mysterious. Upon looking up home-made recipes for this sauce, I turned up a load of very different opinions and was all confused and annoyed. There are some funny recipes out there - this one annoyed me in particular, even though it didn't seem bad. So I ignored most of them, took what I had in the kitchen and improvised.

This is my very inauthentic and imperfect version of yakisoba sauce (enough for 2 servings):
1tbsp soy sauce
2tbsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp rice vinegar
1 scant tsp light soft brown sugar
1 tsp tomato ketchup

Mix them together in a small bowl until the sugar has dissolved. When you taste it neat, it nearly blows your head off, but it's fine in the noodles. It was very good, but not great. It didn't have the depth I wanted, and even with all those sauces, it wasn't quite salty enough (at least not enough to taste quite right. I think I would up the soy sauce content, knock back the worcestershire sauce, add a tiny bit of ginger, and add a tbsp or two of mirin and/or sake if I had either. Maybe this would be sacrilegious, but to add colour and depth some dark soy sauce might have been a welcome addition. I'll work on it. I was obsessing over it last night after dinner to the husband's bemusement. When something isn't quite right but I know I can make it better, I can get a bit funny about things!

As for the rest of this dish, there are plenty of recipes out there. I used soba noodles (they MUST be soba, not anything else!), onion, carrot, pointed cabbage, garlic. These are essential. I also added beansprouts and a little turnip because I felt like it :-) The turnip was great. Meat (thinly sliced pork or chicken) might have been a good addition, but wasn't essential. Sorry there are no pictures, they weren't great. Next time, eh?

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The last of Japan

I kind of got distracted there... I had a few last things to write up about Japan. On our last day there, we travelled from Himeji to Kyoto where we stayed for a few hours before heading back to Tokyo. Kyoto was beautiful - with many more old buildings than Tokyo, there seemed to be a greater sense of history and tradition. I thought it was wonderful, with the surprise of a beautiful temple or row of old houses around every corner.

What did we eat? First up when we were struck by a pang of sudden pre-lunch hunger, there were three sticks of mitarashi dango which are little rice dumplings (dango) in a sauce. The sauce was both sweet and salty (soy sauce!), god help us, but quite nice nevertheless.

For lunch we ate a Kyoto speciality, nishin soba, which is a soba noodle soup topped with a piece of semi-dried herring which is again both salty and sweet and reminded me of lots of other oriental preserved fish snacks I've consumed before. It was delicious and light. The cooking in Kyoto is said to be more delicate and subtle than in Tokyo and I think this dish demonstrated the difference.

See those yellow and green things on the side dish there? They were horrible. I say that so infrequently about food, but my LORD, these were just too weirdy for me. I couldn't tell if they were dessert or what. One was mango flavoured, the other lime. In a weird sticky paste that was also savoury and salty and ricey with bits stuck on it and just plain yuck. I shudder to remember them. The husband didn't think they were too bad. I would run screaming if someone made me eat them again. OK, I exaggerate, I would eat them if they were the only thing left in the world, but that's it. That's it.

Back in Tokyo that evening, we ventured down to the famous yakitori bars that nestle beneath the railway arches near Tokyo Station. These are the places where trendy young Japanese come for a bite to eat and a drink after work. We found the noisiest, busiest place and went inside. It was raucous, cramped, and utterly delightful. The food was some of the best we had in Japan - a selection of yakitori including something like gizzards and some cartilage, a good tomato salad and the most beautiful yakisoba I've ever eaten. It was simple but wonderful. We are going to attempt to cook a home version of yakisoba tonight. I'll tell you how I get on.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Jerusalem artichoke soup (with a digression on celeriac)

Leg two of the jerusalem artichoke journey - I made soup. It's a classic - it's how I ate these vegetables the first time and I wanted to see whether I could make something as good as what I had. This soup should be earthy, creamy, nutty and infused with that unmistakeable aroma that only these little tubers have. It is the perfect winter soup - tasting much richer than it actually is and pressing all sorts of comfort food buttons. But I don't like my soups too rich, so I don't add cream and only use a little butter.

Butter is essential - even a little bit adds a depth and moreishness that oil can't bring to the dish. The other night we ate a celeriac and potato mash with some lamb - no cream, no seasoning, just two medium potatoes, a small head of celeriac about the size of my fist. Peel and boil the potatoes for 15-20 minutes depending on your potato type; in a separate pan boil the celeriac, peeled and cut into chunks, for a good ten minutes until tender enough to mash. Mix the potatoes and celeriac together and add a large knob of butter (we used about 10g - or was it less? - for two people) before mashing. This would go wonderfully with some game or a good sausage too.

Here is the soup recipe, with some guidance from Nigel Slater.

Serves 4
a knob of butter
light olive oil
1 medium onion
1 medium leek
500g jerusalem artichokes (unpeeled weight)
2 bay leaves
about 1 litre light stock or water
a small bunch of parsley to serve

(changes I made: I use much less butter and add a little oil instead. Nigel Slater uses 40g butter. He uses two large leeks and no onion in this recipe. I used what I had in the house!)

Melt the butter with the oil in a pan over a moderate heat. Wash, trim and slice the leeks finely and chop the onion finely, then sweat them in the oil and butter for about 20 minutes over a low-moderate heat until very soft. Be careful not to let them brown, just soften them without colouring. Peel the artichokes, dropping the peeled ones into a bowl of cold water to which the juice of half a lemon has been added. This stops them from discolouring whilst you peel the rest. Once they are done and the leek and onion is soft, chop the artichokes into chunks and add to the pan. cook for a few minutes before covering with your stock (I used Marigold bouillon powder at half the recommended concentration) and adding the two bay leaves. Bring to the boil, then let it bubble over a medium heat with the lid slightly ajar for about 25 minutes. After this time, let the soup cool a little before blending it in batches in a blender or food processor. If necessary, reheat to serve and add lots of chopped parsley just before serving.

Some people would add cream to the soup just after it has been blended. I think it's completely unnecessary because the soup is naturally so rich and moreish. This was simply beautiful and didn't cause too many gut troubles afterwards (some people say that peeling them helps with this).

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year (OK, OK, a few days late, I know. Forgive me). Since we had a guest (my wonderful brother in law) on Sunday night, we decided to initiate him to the delights of the Chinese dumpling. I have said this before, and I'll say it again - I will write up a recipe one day. I'm just lax and because I improvise, they turn out differently every time. You might be better acquainted with the Japanese version, gyoza, which for some reason have made it into trendier eateries whereas the Chinese type remain largely the preserve of little backstreet places and of course the home.

Normally, and for the sake of our health, we just boil them and eat them with a dip made with vinegar and raw garlic (I like to make a Thai style sweet-hot-sour-salty dip too). The next day, though, because I made heaps and there were leftovers, I fried them for lunch (picture above - don't mind the weird shape of some of them). I cannot describe to you how great that was. Probably the best lunch I've had in months.

Monday, 15 February 2010

torta di limone e mandorle

I don't bake. I'm no good at it. That's what I've been telling myself for the last ten years. I think I was scarred by the screaming torture of school home economics classes where I made hideous Greek syrup cake, flat, dry sponges, godawful biscuits. Things have changed. I can now bake (or at least I can with the help of the husband).

For said husband's birthday there was chocolate cake from his family, but we also made an Italian lemon and almond cake from Twelve by Tessa Kiros (again!). It was beautifully moist and light, and the tartness of the lemons balanced wonderfully with the sweetness. We largely stuck to the recipe, only reducing the sugar to suit our taste. This is a great everyday kind of cake which could be dressed up with fruit and some mascarpone cream to make a simple dessert.

Lemon and almond cake, adapted from a recipe by Tessa Kiros.

125g butter, slightly softened
110g caster sugar (Tessa uses 125g but we don't like things too sweet. You may prefer to use the full amount of sugar as the lemon juice is quite tart)
3 eggs, separated
125g finely ground almonds
60g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
juice and grated zest of of two small lemons
icing sugar to serve

Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and flour a 20cm springform cake tin (we only had a loose-based tin so I greased and lined it with greaseproof paper instead). Beat the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl until fluffy. Separate the eggs, then add the yolks one by one, beating the mixture well in between additions. Sift the flour and baking powder into the mix, add the almonds and beat in well. Add the lemon juice and zest, and again beat in well. In a separate, clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks then quickly and gently fold them into the cake mix. Don't worry too much if there are streaks. It's more important not to overwork it. Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and place in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Let it cool in the tin for a while before taking it out. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

More pork!

We are having a porky week here. I don't really know why. We don't normally eat a lot of pork. Nevertheless, at the supermarket last weekend we were dithering near the meat counter and I spotted some pork shin or, as they called it, pork 'ossobuco' which is a name usually used for braised Milanese veal shin. Now I had seen a recipe for ossobuco in gremolata in Twelve, the Tuscan cookbook by Tessa Kiros so I thought I'd have a go at that.

Sorry, no photo. I was too greedy. There is a good picture here.

Part of the appeal of this dish is apparently the bone marrow that you can suck out of the bone shank. I used to love bone marrow, poked out with a chopstick from the bits of bone my parents used to flavour congee or soups with. It has been many years since I've eaten bone marrow. It has a very particular taste that I can't describe and a texture that some people might find offputting. I will eat, and like, nearly anything so this is just great. Sadly our pork bones didn't bear much edible marrow, but I managed to tease a little out of mine. I am such a carnivore sometimes, it's sick. Sorry if you're vegetarian or squeamish.

Here is my version of the recipe, with thanks.

Serves 2
2 thick slices of pork ossobuco (Mine were about an inch thick, but maybe a larger quantity of thinner slices would work better because I had to keep turning the meat in the casserole dish so it wouldn't dry out)
white flour for dusting
1 medium carrot
1 medium onion
1 stick celery
125ml red wine
salt and pepper
zest of 1/2 lemon
one small clove of garlic (or 1/2 a regular clove)
a small bunch of parsley

Pre-heat the oven to 150°C. In a food processor, pulse the carrot, celery and onion until finely chopped. You can do this by hand if you haven't got a food processor. Heat a little oil in a sauté pan and cook the vegetables over a medium heat until softened.

Dust the pork all over with flour. In an ovenproof casserole dish, heat some more oil over a high heat, then add the pork and brown on all sides. Season with salt and black pepper. When the meat is brown, add the red wine and reduce until almost all of the wine has evaporated. Then add the sautéed vegetables and enough water to generously cover the vegetables.

Put a tight lid or aluminium foil over the dish and place in the oven. As I said above, my bits of shin were poking out of the top of the sauce so I turned them over every half hour or so. Top up the water if it is looking like it will dry out. You want it to have plenty of sauce. Cook in the oven for 2 1/2 hours, checking regularly. Check and adjust the seasoning during cooking. Remove the lid for the last half hour, but watch the sauce and make sure it doesn't dry out.

Towards the end of cooking, make your gremolata. Finely chop the garlic, chop the parsley and mix with the grated zest of half a lemon. Set aside.

Once the cooking time is over, serve the slices of meat with the sauce spooned over and liberally sprinkled with the gremolata. We ate ours with potatoes and kale. It is more usually served with a Milanese (saffron) risotto but I didn't know that at the time.

It was perfect, especially with the gremolata, and just the thing for a very cold and snowy day.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

last week

I made my first pie since 2001. I know, that's a long long time ago and I have no proper excuse for it. It's not that I haven't EATEN pie. I've eaten a lot of pie, but when it comes to choosing something to cook, I find it very hard to overcome my fear of pastry. But this was good. I forget how the taste of a pie can make me ignore the fat content. And since this was a top-crust-only chicken and mushroom pie, made in our lovely enamel dish from Labour and Wait, I can forgive myself. The recipe? I made it up and forget how I did it. It involved chicken, mushrooms, flour for dusting, fresh thyme, garlic, onions, some weak home-made vegetable stock and some luck - it turned out great.

I made oat cookies with cranberries and white chocolate. Ditto about the taste and fat content. They looked more like a cross between a cake and a cookie but that's probably a good thing.

God, these photos are ugly! sorry.

Monday, 8 February 2010

jerusalem artichokes

Taking a break from the Japanese food...

I have only eaten Jerusalem artichokes once before in my life: in a beautiful soup at some gastropub in London, around Christmas 2006 (yes, I have a scarily good food-memory). About an hour after I ate the soup, my troubles started. I know, it happens to everyone. The vegetable is famed for its flatulent qualities and I should have been prepared, but I have to admit it put me off eating them again until yesterday.

At the farmer's market in our little town, they have been selling a wonderful selection of local veg - celeriac, cavolo nero, beetroot, all sorts. And on Saturday they had a box of perfectly pale, smooth-skinned jerusalem artichokes, with the mud still clinging on to them. Like I have said before, I don't like not liking things. I feel like all food is worthy of a second chance even if it bothered me in the first instance*. These artichokes called out to me, nay pleaded me to try them, so we bought a few and put them in our Sunday lunch. Needless to say, the aftermath was, uh, windy. Was it worth it? Oh my lord, yes.

We made, from Tender Vol.1 by Nigel Slater (a great book especially if you like growing your own veg), 'a casserole of artichokes and pork for deepest winter'.

The smell of the dish was incredibly seductive - earthy, vital, sweet and aromatic. It was almost misleading - there was little hint of the lemons in its scent, so the bright zip of acid was a wonderful and uplifting surprise in the mouth. It reminded me of something Chinese, but I couldn't place it. Perhaps it was the fennel, combined with pork and that indescribable artichoke aroma. Seriously, now I would eat these despite any amount of wind they gave me. If I inflated and floated off into the sky, I would still eat them. I am a convert.

Here is a transcript of the recipe, adapted for 2 servings. Thanks, Nigel!

Jerusalem artichoke and sausage casserole
2 large good quality pork sausages (or use two regular sized per person)
olive oil
2 medium onions cut into wedges
1 clove garlic sliced
125g mushrooms halved or cut into chunky pieces
250g Jerusalem artichokes, skins on, well scrubbed
half a tsp fennel seeds
light stock or water to cover (about 250ml)
a small handful of parsley, chopped
half a large lemon, cut into wedges

In a deep casserole dish, brown the sausages well in a little oil. Set aside. In the same pan (adding more oil if necessary), soften the onions for about 20 minutes over a moderate heat until they are tender and can be crushed with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic and mushrooms, then halve your artichokes lengthways before putting them into the pan (don't cut them before, or the cut sides will discolour). Let the artichokes brown a little bit, then add the fennel seeds and return the sausages to the pan. Tuck the wedges of lemon around the dish. Cover with stock or water and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 30 minutes uncovered. At the end, if there is too much liquid, turn up the heat and boil some off. Stir in the parsley. Serve with kale, tenderstem broccoli or anything that's very green.

Honestly, it's SO worth it.

*OK, I can do without cheese and pineapple together, emmental (does anyone else smell that ammonia whiff?), milk as a drink... they've had their chance. I can't be bothered with them any more.

Friday, 5 February 2010

then it got better

After the pizza low, things got better. We sampled odd Japanese pasta salads and salmon onigiri at breakfast alongside the usual bread and jam provided by our hotel in Himeji. It was odd but good.

I ate a lot of noodles for the rest of our time in Japan. I live for noodles - they are one of my soul foods - in soup, stir-fried whatever. I need them like other people need potatoes, bread, chocolate or caffeine. First lunch in Himeji I went to a place called Menme where the head chef hand-makes his udon noodles fresh every day. You can watch him making them in the corner of the open kitchen whilst you eat. The udon were amazing - just the right kind of soft, just the right side of chewy. I had kamaage udon, which is a big pot of plain noodles that you dip into a soy and dashi sauce with spring onions and ginger before you eat. Plain but tasty, and you can control how much salt you eat this way. In the photo you can just see the udon in their frothy water.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

The List of Shame

I'm afraid the next couple of days in Japan were a gastronomic embarrassment. It was the salt, the evil sodium chloride that was to blame. Here is my list of shame:

dinner - ridiculously salty ramen noodles - nearly killed us.
breakfast - pastries and tea in the ubiquitous Doutor.
lunch - mediocre pizza and salad in Tokyo train station.
dinner - (we were both exhausted from jetlag and dehydrated) I raided the amusingly-named 'Natural Lawson' for buns with indescribable (but good) fillings, three tiny sandwich halves and fruit.
breakfast - pastries and tea again.
lunch - from Daimaru's wonderful food hall we shared a salmon bento box and half a fruit cream sandwich (that's two slices of bread with, you guessed it, fruit and cream inside - amazing!) whilst travelling on the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Himeji.
5pm HIGHLIGHT: perfect green tea ice-cream.
dinner - slightly depressing vegetable curry and rice.

I know. It was bad, it was a waste, but that's all we could manage. It was utterly depressing to have to avoid certain things - both very salty and fried things were off the menu because our mouths were sore. Things got better from here, including a solo foray into the Bon Marché supermarket where they sell wonderful things like dandelion flowers and fish heads, not to mention the most amazing looking deli lunch selection.

They had a whole load of delicious looking things - bits of meat on skewers, aubergine stew, noodles and warm rice. I could have eaten it all right there if I weren't on my way to lunch with the husband!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


Lunch on the same day as the sushi was in a brightly decorated okonomiyaki and monjayaki place, hidden behind an art gallery in Harajuku, a great shopping area in Tokyo. These dishes are both types of pancakes containing vegetables and meat that are brought to you raw in a bowl and you cook them yourselves on a hotplate in the centre of your table. The okonomiyaki is a heavier pancake made with eggs, and is more common than the runny monjayaki that you eat directly off the hotplate with a little spatula, burning your mouth as you go along. Of course the husband and I had absolutely no idea what these things were when we walked into this restaurant, but they had a vague English instruction sheet and we unsubtly watched all the other young people around us to see how they were doing it. It was definitely not the height of Japanese cuisine, but it's always great fun to play with your food. I would put a picture up, only the one that we took was woefully out of focus. The picture is from this cafe - every wall was hand-decorated by different artists and it was really quite impressive.

Monday, 1 February 2010

the things we ate...

I don't like not being able to eat things. I don't like to think that there is anything (apart from, say, domestic animals and primates) that I won't eat. But in Japan I hit a wall. A salty wall. I just couldn't do it - my lips and skin were like sandpaper, I wasn't sleeping right and I was thirsty all the time. After only two days of being there we had to scale down our Japanese food consumption and revert to Western breakfasts in a coffee shop and limit our choices to the less salt-laden items on menus. Dammit, we even ate pizza for lunch once. I know, I am purple with shame.

But that aside, we had a fantastic time eating our way through just one week in Japan. Even though we had salt troubles, we had them under control by the time we left and I think I could have kept on going. There were so many things we didn't get round to tasting and I was quite sad to leave.

Where to start? At the beginning, I guess. First meal, Sunday in Tokyo: lunch - minced chicken and shiitake mushroom kamameshi in some back alley in Ginza. It was a big pot of rice topped with stuff. It was tasty and good, and reminded me of Chinese steamed rice dishes. Dinner on Sunday - in some random restaurant in Nihombashi we ate a beautiful, if saltily dressed, salad, then fried tofu in miso soup followed by a chicken teriyaki dish with rice.

The highlight of the week, however, was on Monday. One of the top items on our list of things to do was to visit the Tokyo wholesale fish market at dawn to watch the auctioneering of the tuna, to see a myriad of fish and seafood for sale in this loud, bustling and frankly terrifying (watch out for the little trucks!) place, and most of all to sample the best and freshest sushi breakfast you can get. Anywhere.

So at 6am on Tuesday, full of jetlag, we were fully awake and eager to go. We squeezed in to witness the tuna auctions, and spent a long time wandering the hundreds of fish stalls, dodging trucks, being hurried along by impatient traders and wondering where on earth these famed sushi bars were to be found. Eventually we worked out that they were in a block just next to the main market warehouse. Each bar is tiny and only a handful do sushi. We didn't really know which one was the best, but we took the plunge anyway and joined a queue. Queues of locals are good. They usually mean the food is worth waiting for.

When we were eventually seated, elbow to elbow along a bar facing the sushi chefs, we simply went for the set menu. The chef at our end, who had mesmerisingly long eyebrows and a friendly, paternal smile, started to load the boards in front of us with food. I got the feeling that he likes to test people to see how far they will go, what weird sea creatures they are willing to put down their gullets. It was magnificent, bewildering, utterly gorgeous. I don't know the half of what we ate. There were tuna and salmon egg maki, raw prawn and raw squid nigiri, an assortment of unnamed fish nigiri, a little fried morsel of spicy shell-on prawn, raw octopus, eel, and a pile of wobbly, moreish roe (herring?) balanced precariously on top of rice. It was heaven. I love food which gives you little shivers of 'what on earth is this?' pleasure. It was like that, even though I've eaten my fair share of sushi before. I ate too much soy sauce even though I had told myself not to. It's not cheap at about £20 a head in the bar we went to but my LORD it was worth it.

More next time!