Beef yakitori snacks

  
I had a couple of people round for a catch up (over drinks of course).

I was trying to think of something quick and I easy I could feed them between martini drinking when I came across some beef mince on special offer at the supermarket.

I bought a kilogram and decided to make yakitori, a type of Japanese skewer kebab, inspired by izakaya/yakitori-bar type food.

I made the following recipe:

  

  • Soak several bamboo skewers in water overnight.
  • Peel and finely chop a thumb-sized piece of ginger and add it to a large bowl.
  • Finely chop 8 spring onions and add them to the bowl.
  • I added a splodge of garlic paste.
  • I then added 4 eggs and stirred them lightly with a fork to break them up.
  • I then added a tablespoon of plain flour and a teaspoon of cornflour.
  • Next, I tipped in the mince and mixed it all up with my hands.  This is both a hugely satisfying task but also horrifically messy.  Thoroughly wash your hands both before and after.

  

  • I made the mince mixture into little balls, around 3.5cm in diameter.

  

  • I then threaded them onto the bamboo skewers. I put three on each but this will depend on the size of your skewers.

  

I then mixed a glaze:

  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tsp mirin
  • 2 tsp runny honey
  • 1 tsp vinegar from the pickled ginger jar (balsamic or even ordinary vinegar would be fine as well I’m sure)
  • A dash or Worcestershire sauce
  • Stir in the ingredients in a bowl then microwave for 20 seconds.
  • I then put the grill on 200 degrees C and threw in the yakitori for about 8 minutes.

  

  • Remove the yakitori from the grill.
  • Use a pastry brush to coat the top layer with the glaze.
  • Gently turn the yakitori over so that the less-cooked side is facing upwards.
  • Coat the newly exposed sides and put back into the oven for about 8 more minutes or until thoroughly cooked.

I served them immediately with a simple dipping sauce (2 parts soy sauce 1 part rice vinegar).

You can sprinkle over some more chopped spring onions if you can be bothered. It adds a nice contrasting colour.

Otherwise best consumed when tipsy. It would go particularly nicely with a Pickled Ginger Martini.

    Advertisements

    Martinis y tapas

      
    Having spent an amazing weekend in Madrid I thought I would write about the drinking culture in the city and see what inspiration I could draw from a martini perspective.

      

    Los Madrileños know how to have fun – without feeling guilty, without getting stressed and without getting post-apocalyptically drunk. If you feel like having a drink or having something to eat then do so. If you feel like having a nap then do so. The time of day is irrelevant. You shouldn’t feel bad for doing what your body is telling you to do. Eating, drinking and sleeping when you please might sound unhealthy but these people certainly don’t look unhealthy!

      
    Another conclusion is that alcohol is much better when accompanied by food.

    Tapas or pinchos/pintxos (pronounced peen-chose) are small bites of food that accompany your drink. The adage “eating’s cheating” has few followers in Madrid and I am a faithful convert to the city’s attitude towards eating with booze. I always serve nibbles with my martinis but maybe we should be serving food with all alcohol. It’s not the most radical concept – it’s common practise in many countries (Sri Lanka for example).

    If you are unconvinced about eating with your drinks then perhaps I can persuade you with some examples of the sorts of things you could enjoy with your booze.

       

    Here is a mind-blowingly tasty assortment of morcilla (a spanish variation of black pudding) with apple, balsamic vinegar glaze and fried potato straws, accompanied with octopus and whole grain mustard ice cream. Yes. Mustard ice cream. Yes.

      
    However, if this is too fancy just order your drink (such as a caños of beer which isn’t as much as a full pint) with something as simple as a piece of bread with a topping. Drink, taste and relax. It’s not a race to finish your drink in order to buy the next round.

      

    Fried calamari is common. Ham, cheese and olives also feature highly.

      

    There are many expert voices on the subject of tapas so this amateur is not going to bluff you, but of the stories that surround its history I have a favourite. According to my friend, at a point in its history Spain was undergoing a drought and food production was low. The people resorted to drinking more alcohol to make up for their lost calories, but this led to widespread malaise and drunkenness. A troubled king, seeking a solution, ordered establishments to serve simple bread and toppings over the top of alcohol glasses (the word tapas comes from the Spanish verb tapar – to cover). When eaten this would soak up some of the alcohol, reduce drunkenness and help feed the population. A cultural trend was born. 

    Like martinis, there are several competing stories surrounding the historical origins of tapas. Without a time machine to verify which version is accurate the only thing you can do is believe in your favourite.

     Whatever the true origins of tapas there have been an infinite multitude of variations since its creation. Tapas now even extends to airline food, as demonstrated above.

    For me, the most important concept is that the sharing of tapas is very sociable.

      It can be fairly hands-on; you might be called upon to mash your own guacamole.

     
    It can also be very simple. Above is a delicious dish of peppers fried with salt. 
    So what can we take from this fine Spanish contribution to human culture to try and improve the martini experience?

    Snacks, bites and nibbles are a very important part of a martini so tapas can provide a wealth of inspiration for anyone looking to serve theirs with some added Latin panache.

    The main point, however, is about relaxing and sharing good flavours, drinks and conversation with friends, family, lovers etc.

      

    If you can get that right then everything else should fall into place – ojala.

     
    But as a word of warning, don’t drink so much you end up naked on the ground in Plaza de Colón in the middle of the day, although evidently if you do you won’t be the first…

    Paesan Restaurant, Farringdon, London, 4/5

    IMG_8794.JPG
    Cucina povera means ‘poor/poverty kitchen’, and this restaurant specialises in traditional Italian ‘peasant food’. If I was reviewing food and service this place would get full marks. So when I have to mark them down for very small (but crucial) martini points it makes me feel bad. I even added a subjective point to this rating – because they make their own in-house olive-infused gin. They had run out when I got there, which was obviously devastating, and I only found out about it following detailed gin enquiries via one of their lovely, helpful employees. This gin is not on the menu and it’s made by their in-house ‘witch’ (La Strega) – their words, not mine. Furthermore, the olive gin is kept in the fridge, so at least it would be nice and cool for a martini.

    All this restaurant needs to do for maximum points is keep the gin and martini glasses in the freezer. I would also recommend changing the music. It was a little too loud (does that make me sound old?) and wasn’t ideal for a martini, although the overall vibe was still a cool one, and of course the main stay of this place is food. My life might revolve around martinis but I concede that it is not the same for everyone else.

    Otherwise, I would recommend that you try this place as the food is lovely and the service was extremely attentive.

    Sometimes you get the impression that just about everyone who works in a restaurant is also friends with one another. There was a nice vibe in this place. The staff were smiley, helpful, knowledgeable as regards the menu and genuinely helpful. They even recommended good bars for us to go to in the area after normal closing hours – because that was where they went as colleagues after work. I take that as a good sign.

    IMG_8799.JPG
    To eat, I had truffle fries and spicy garlic mussels, which were delicious. We were also served really tasty antipasti at the beginning, It was the first time I had ever tried caperberries. They were tangy and crunchy and made a very good garnish for my martini. I may seek them out in future at Borough Market for when I serve martinis at home.
    IMG_8796.JPG
    And back to the martinis… Aside from the sad news that they had run out of olive gin, they served me a classic martini with dry vermouth. It was garnished with a Noccelara olive (my favourite) on a clear shard-like plastic toothpick (also used by Dukes Bar and the Savoy Hotel). I would describe the drink as a little bit too dry, although I sipped it very slowly, which ultimately was a good thing given the length of the night.

    I have said many times that I prefer a martini with a dash of sweet vermouth, and apparently I am in the minority, but I don’t mind being in the minority. I’ve had plenty of practise at this. However, from a bar/restaurant perspective, what is important is that the server should ask whether or not the customer would prefer the martini dry or sweet. Also, as I said before, the gin and the glasses should be kept in the freezer. And finally, I would recommend a squeeze of lemon peel into the glass – in addition to the tasty olive – or at least the option of it.

    Otherwise, I had a great night, with lovely food and wonderful company celebrating the birthday of a very close friend of mine from Sri Lanka. Bohuma istuti!