More Izakaya dishes


As I’ve previously mentioned, I love Izakaya culture.

  
So here are some more izakaya-inspired dishes to accompany a martini.

  
This is very simple: grill sweet potato in oil with a sprinkling of salt until ready. I was drinking a martini when I made this so I can’t remember how long it was in the oven for. 20 minutes? Who knows. There’s a reason I blog about martinis and not food recipes. 

  

Salmon ceviche is Izakaya-esque and goes very well with a martini. Prepared in advance and it’s very easy to assemble during drink o’clock.

 

Comparable to ceviche is the Japanese dish shime saba (lightly pickled mackerel) here served with some very rustic but tasty ritz crackers and guacamole (I mashed an avocado with coriander/cilantro, salt, pepper, tomato purée, garlic and a squeeze of lemon juice). All of the above went very well with the martini. 
 
 Skewers are easy. Chop the ingredients (tofu and spring onions above), thread onto wooden skewers, brush with oil and maybe some salt, pepper or a sauce/glaze of your choice. Chuck them in the oven for a few minutes while you pour the martinis then whip them out when they’re ready.

  
As well as potentially making unusual garnishes, the hot skewers contrast nicely with an ice cold martini.

  

The tofu skewers involved a little extra batter to get them nice and crunchy on the outside, and goey on the middle – instructions here.

  
Thin spinach omelette (tamago), folded then sliced.


Grilled shiitake mushrooms make a nice umami nibble.


This is a whole meal. Salmon onigiri, grilled squash noodles, nori, sigeumchi-namul, salad, miso and err… Twiglets.


When I grilled the salmon to put in the onigiri, I grilled the skin separately with a light sprinkling of salt, cut it into squares and served it as a martini nibble as you see here.


Here is some shime saba (pickled mackerel) nigiri served in Yo!Sushi (a British-born Japanese conveyor belt sushi restaurant). If only they served martinis as well! Oh wait, I’m glad they don’t. I would never leave.


Here is some tuna chirashi-zushi I made at home with tamago, cucumber and pickles.


Flash fried scallops, then chilled in a garlic and ginger marinade, served with boiled and salted samphire. These went well with the martini. 


Tuna maki and crab futomaki rolls. Probably better to be eaten after a martini as an actual meal but they were an okay accompaniment nonetheless. I need to work on my makisu rolling skills…


And finally, the traditional izakaya dish, the croquette potato – korokke. Hot, crunchy and savoury, they go very well in an izakaya meal and with a martini.

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Martini Porn for World Gin Day

Happy World Gin Day everyone. To whet your appetites I’ve put together a selection of some martini images from the last few months. If you fancy making your own tonight, here is my guide.

Enjoy!

 
Lemon Drop Martini during a London Spring sunset. 

  

  
A classic martini, the most elegant of drinks.

 

Channeling Danish hygge at my aunty’s house.

  
A selection of classics with plenty of nibbles.

  
A classic with many olives. 

  
A lychee martini.

  
Classic martinis.

  

“No lace. No lace, Mrs. Bennet, I beg you!” – a classic Pride and Prejudice quote that had to go with this martini and doily at home.

  
As you may have noticed, martinis go well with candlelight.

  
A classic with Japanese peanut snacks.

  
A Gibson martini.

  
More candlelight, this time with a hot and dirty martini, complete with ice still attached to the glass from the freezer.


And finally, an optimistic classic on a London summer evening.

Have a good weekend and enjoy World Gin Day responsibly!

Use longer toothpicks to maximise your garnishes

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My brother commented that normal toothpicks were too short for my martini glasses. He is a very practical former Royal Marine and a keen perfectionist so I took his comments onboard and spent some time trying to think of an alternative.

The other day I found some slightly longer mini bamboo skewers in an Asian supermarket and thought they would do the trick.

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Here is a size comparison between a normal toothpick and my new, slightly longer mini skewers.

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You can fit a lot on them! Here is a combination of olives, pickled onions and a twist of lemon peel.

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And here’s a load of olives.

The longer skewer gives you lots more room to get creative with your garnishes. I strongly recommend them, especially if you’re feeling a bit inventive.

The Squid Ink and Octopus Martini

   
This one goes by many names…

  • The Octopus-tini
  • The Octopussy Martini
  • The Loch Ness Monstini
  • The Nautilus-tini
  • The Maritime Martini
  • The Tako-tini (tako no matini / タコのマティーニ)
  • And finally, the Spectre Martini

Add squid ink and octopus tentacle soaked in balsamic vinegar to make an unusual variation of a dirty martini and Le Jacques Coustini.

  

Get yourself some sea legs by drinking one or two of them. You will need:

  • Olives in brine
  • Squid ink
  • Balsamic vinegar (possibly sweet mirin as well if you fancy being fancy)
  • Boiled octopus tentacle (other seafood garnishes such as langoustine can be used as a substitute if desired). The octopus tentacle can be prepared from frozen as well as fresh.
  • Perhaps some seafood to serve as an accompaniment (optional – and see here for some ideas)
  • Vermouth
  • And finally, the hard stuff: gin/vodka (perhaps a brand with a maritime or seafood connection)

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First of all, I went to Borough Market, which pretty much supplies everything you need for a martini.

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I bought whelks and cockles as an unusual accompanying snack.

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I also bought some squid ink.

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When I got home I took some cooked octopus tentacles out of the freezer and soaked them in balsamic vinegar for several hours. There’s all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff in my freezer – here’s why.

You only need to soak the octopus for enough time for it to defrost but after 4 hours it will have absorbed a lot of flavour which is good. You could also soak it in a slightly japanese marinade combining balsamic vinegar and sweet mirin, of around 4 parts vinegar to 1 part mirin.

  
Remove the octopus pieces and pierce them with toothpicks (unless you want them to appear au naturale draped over the rim of your glass).

  

  • When drink o’clock arrives open the olives and pour some of the brine into a glass. Serve the olives to your guest(s). I use Fragata tinned olives stuffed with anchovies, because (a) the fish continues the maritime theme and (b) they taste amazeballs. The brine is also very good.
  • For each martini you intend to make transfer 4 teaspoons of the brine into a separate glass.
  • Into this glass squeeze about half a teaspoon of squid ink per martini and muddle it until it has broken into small globules. This is your brine and ink mixture to flavour and colour the martini. If I think back to chemistry class this might be called an emulsion but martinis have made me forget and I would have to defer to someone with superior knowledge.
  • In a chilled martini glass pour the brine and ink mixture (as above, 4 teaspoons of brine and half a teaspoon of ink per martini).
  • Add a dash of vermouth (or to taste) then stir.
  • Add 4-5 measures of gin or vodka then stir.
  • Rinse the vinegar off the octopus tentacle and balance it on the edge of the glass.
  • You can serve additional octopus tentacles with toothpicks as appetisers. 

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And there you go, it looks like some frightful creature crawling out from the deep of the black lagoon but I promise you it tastes nice. The brine and seafood will hopefully set off your appetite before a meal.

Given its appearance it might be a good drink to serve during Halloween, or if you’re having a James Bond theme party.

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Add more brine if you like your martini dirty.

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If you prefer your martini ‘clean’ you can simply make a classic martini and serve the octopus as a garnish.

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Voila. Fit for a Bond villain.

If you have any other potential name suggestions for this one let me know in the comments below.

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