Coconut Pistachio Chicken and Rice

coconut pistachio chicken
I think this is another of those dishes that doesn’t look very beautiful, but tastes delicious… Originally from here, this dish takes only about 35 minutes to put together, and has great flavor. For those living in Japan, there are a few ingredients you may have to hunt down (coconut milk, green peas, and pistachios — check import stores and local supermarkets), but I think it’s worth it!

Ingredients (serves 4)
2 chicken breasts, cut into 5cm / 2-inch pieces
salt and pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
1 onion, minced
1-1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
1-1/2 cups uncooked rice*
3 cloves garlic, minced
660mL (2-3/4 cups) chicken/vegetable broth
1 can (400mL / 14oz) coconut milk
1 cup green peas
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped

*Rice: I used short-grain Japanese rice and it turned out fine

Instructions
Sprinkle the chicken pieces lightly with salt and pepper, and coat them in the flour. Using a large frying pan, saute in the oil for a few minutes on each side until light brown. (They don’t need to be cooked through at this point.) Remove chicken to a plate.

In the same pan, add the minced onion, garam masala, and salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the onions soften. Stir frequently to make sure the spices don’t burn.

Add the rice, minced garlic, chicken or veggie broth, and coconut milk, and stir. Cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally, or the rice will stick to the bottom.

Add the chicken back into the rice, cover again, and cook for 10 more minutes. Continue to stir once in a while.

Finally, add the peas (you can add them frozen directly into the pan) and pistachios. Stir to combine (and warm the peas, if they’re frozen), and serve!

Spaghetti and Meatballs

spaghetti and meatballsEven though I love to try new recipes as often as possible, sometimes I really just want to eat something homey and familiar, like spaghetti and meatballs. It does take a little time, but it’s worth it for the delicious flavor, and a lot of the time is just simmering, so you can do other stuff while you wait for it to cook.

Ingredients
Meatballs
280g (about 10 oz) ground beef/pork mix
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tbsp milk
1 egg
1/4 cup minced onion
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried parsley (or 1 tbsp fresh)
1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper

Sauce (or use your favorite home-made or store-bought sauce!)
400g (14 oz) canned tomato
1/2 onion, minced
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Spaghetti for serving, cooked according to box instructions
Parmesan cheese for serving, if desired

Instructions

Mix all meatball ingredients well. Form into 1-tbsp balls and roll between your hands to make a neat round shape.

Brown the meatballs in batches in a frying pan and remove to a plate. (They can be frozen at this point.)

Mix all sauce ingredients together in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. (One trick I use is that if the canned tomatoes are too chunky, use a potato masher or fork to smash them a little.)

Add meatballs to sauce and simmer for 45 minutes.

Serve over cooked spaghetti.

Runza

runzaRunza are made from a slightly sweet, rich bread dough and a filling of beef, onion and cabbage. Although the ingredients are simple, the results are delicious. This recipe does require some time since the bread dough has to rise. However, you can certainly make the filling while the dough is rising. Another reason these are great is because they can be refrigerated or frozen and reheat extremely well.

Ingredients (serves 4)
Dough:
4-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 tbsp yeast
1 tsp salt
180mL (3/4 cup) milk
120mL (1/2 cup) water
100g (1/2 cup) shortening
2 eggs

Filling:
450g (1 lb) ground beef or beef/pork mixture
2 onions, chopped
4 cups thinly sliced cabbage
pinch of salt, pepper, and nutmeg

Instructions

Mix 1-3/4 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Combine the shortening, milk, and water, and microwave or heat on the stove until shortening melts. Let cool slightly and add to the flour. Add eggs and mix well. Add remaining flour (2-3/4 cups) and mix until smooth. Let rise 1 hour.

Meanwhile, saute meat, onions, and cabbage until meat is cooked through. Season with a pinch each of salt, pepper, and ground nutmeg to taste.

Divide dough into 12 equal balls, and roll into squares of about 6 inches (15cm) on a floured surface. Place about 1/3 cup of the meat mixture in the middle of the dough, and fold one corner over to the opposite corner, making a triangle. Use a fork to seal the edges of the dough very well.

Bake at 180C / 350 F for 20 minutes.

Winter Bean Soup

Picture to come!

This soup is not an exact recipe, but it’s something I make variations of all the time in the winter. As you might know, Japanese homes don’t have central heating, so winter can feel especially chilly. Like most people, we use our “aircon” (in Japan, they function both as AC in the summer and heaters in the winter) and space heaters to heat only the room we are in. But we also try to keep the heat low and wear sweaters. During the day I sometimes make this soup for lunch as another way to keep warm.

Japan Notes: Dry beans are one of the few things I have really not been able to find in Japan. Of course, there are plenty of soybeans and azuki beans, and I have seen dried chickpeas (garbanzo beans) in import stores, but canned black or kidney beans are quite hard to find, and I have never seen dried beans. We get ours from family members in the U.S.

Ingredients

dried mixed beans
water
red pepper flakes
onion
garlic
vegetable bouillon
salt and pepper to taste, other toppings if desired

Instructions

Follow the instructions on your beans for how to cook them. Some require soaking. Mine just require simmering for 2 hours, so I usually put them on the stove in the morning and then let them cook while I do housework or study. After the beans are fully cooked, add thinly sliced onion and minced garlic, and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes if you want some spice. Also add some veggie bouillon. I use my homemade vegetable bouillon.

Let simmer for another 10-15 minutes, or until onion and garlic are cooked. Taste it and add salt if necessary.

At this point you are basically finished, so you can eat it just like it is, or add some toppings. I usually like to drizzle about 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil in my soup bowl, then add some Parmesan cheese and black pepper. There are also other variations you can do: for example, you can add a little milk for a creamy version. If I have leftover baguette or stale bread, I cut it into cubes and put them in my bowl, then pour the soup over them. You could also add some other veggies if you wanted. I think leafy greens would be good, like spinach.

White Bean Chili

white chiliThis chili is great in the winter. In Japan, beans can be hard to find, but you can buy them at import stores, or online. This recipe is adapted from here.

Ingredients
450g (1 lb) chicken breast
1 onion
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp oil
2 cans white beans (or 4 cups cooked white beans)
400mL (14oz) chicken or vegetable stock
2 cans green chiles (In Japan, these are not easily available. Instead you can use fresh peppers, such as togarashi, or a small amount of dry pepper flakes.)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup sour cream (this amount can definitely be reduced)
1/2 cup heavy cream

Instructions

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onion and chicken until the chicken loses its pink color.

Add the garlic powder, beans, stock, chiles, salt, cumin, oregano, pepper, and cayenne. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Add sour cream and cream, and reheat just until simmering.

Serve with tortilla chips, shredded cheese, avocado, tomato slices, etc.

Lasagna


I was never a fan of lasagna with lots of ricotta cheese in it. This version uses a white sauce instead, and has a really nice smooth taste. Original recipe from here. It does take a little work and time, but the sauces can be made ahead of time, which makes this dish quick to assemble and bake.

Ingredients
Meat sauce:
100g (1/4 lb) beef (or beef/pork mixture)
1/2 onion, diced
1 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp oregano
400g (14oz) canned diced tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

White sauce:
1 tsp olive oil
480mL (2 cups) milk
1/4 cup flour
salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste

Other:
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
200g (1/2 lb) shredded mozzarella (in Japan, “mix cheese” is fine)
lasagna noodles (enough to fill your baking dish)

Instructions

First, make the meat sauce. Brown the meat in a skillet and remove. In the same skillet, saute onion and garlic until softened, then add sugar, basil, oregano, canned tomato, and tomato paste. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring, then turn off the heat and let cool slightly. Finally, blend the sauce in a food processor or blender until smooth. Mix the browned meat back into the sauce, taste, and add salt and pepper to taste.

Next, make the white sauce. Heat olive oil and 360 mL (1-1/2 cups) milk in a saucepan. Whisk the remaining 120 mL (1/2 cup) milk with the flour in a small bowl until free of lumps, and add to the heated milk. Whisk or stir constantly over low heat until the sauce thickens. Add a pinch of nutmeg, plus salt and pepper to taste.

At this point, you can store the sauces in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the lasagna for dinner.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 180C/350F.

Prepare your lasagna noodles (check the package for instructions on how long to cook them, or use non-boil noodles).

Start by spooning a small amount of the tomato sauce into your pan and spreading it into a thin layer.

Add one layer of lasagna noodles to the pan. Spread 1/3 of the tomato sauce over the noodles, followed by 1/3 of the white sauce, 1/3 of the parmesan cheese, and 1/3 of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat in that order until you have three layers, ending with cheese on top.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Coconut Cashew Curry

IMG_7439I’m always trying out new recipes for curry. This is my latest one, and we really enjoyed it. It ended up being very flavorful and a good, inexpensive, filling dinner that included plenty of leftovers for the next day’s lunch. I sometimes leave out the chicken or replace it with tofu, in which case this recipe is vegan.

Ingredients
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped tomato (canned diced tomato is fine)
3/4 cup cashews, divided
2 cups (480 mL) vegetable broth (chicken would be OK too)
2 to 2-1/2 cups vegetables of your choice, sliced or chopped into bite-size pieces
2 chicken breasts (optional – leave out or replace with cubes of 木綿/firm tofu)
1 can coconut milk
1/2 tsp each cumin, coriander, cardamom, turmeric, fennel, and kaffir lime powder**
1/4 tsp each cayenne pepper, allspice, cinnamon, and black pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp cornstarch (optional; see recipe)
Rice for serving

* Vegetables: really, you can use whatever you like here. I always use what I have on hand or what is on sale or in season at the moment. Some of my favorites are asparagus, green beans, zucchini, carrots, and… daikon, which is great in curry and has a similar taste and texture to potato when cooked.

** Kaffir lime powder is a seasoning I found here in Japan but have never seen elsewhere, so i don’t know how common it is. You can leave it out, or add a little extra lemon or lime juice if you like instead.

Instructions

Heat the vegetable oil in a 2 or 3 quart saucepan. Saute the sliced onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes until the onion is translucent, then add the tomato. Cook for about 5 more minutes, stirring frequently, until the tomato has broken down and most of the juice is gone.

Meanwhile, toast the cashews in the oven or in a dry pan over medium heat on the stove.

Let cool for a few minutes, then scrape the mixture into a food processor or blender. Add 1/2 cup toasted cashews and some of the vegetable broth (depending on how much your appliance can hold) so the mixture will blend. Process until smooth.

Return to the pot with the remaining vegetable broth and heat to a simmer. Add any vegetables that need time to cook (for example, daikon, carrot). Simmer for about 10 minutes.

Add the sliced chicken and coconut milk and stir. Simmer for about 10 more minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Add the spices and lemon juice and mix well. If the curry is not thick enough, you can add the cornstarch, mixed with a tablespoon of water, and cook for two to three minutes until thickened.

Taste and add salt if necessary (it depends how salty your broth is).

Serve over white or brown rice, with the remaining 1/4 cup toasted cashews sprinkled on top!