1st October 2011
O Tempura O Mores!
Georgina and her friend Larry The Lobster

Finally - a long promised Sushi And Tempura evening with the Eldorardoes has arrived!

Sophie has been angling for another sushi evening (Angling. Sushi. Raw Fish. Geddit?) ever since our family lives went their separate ways.
Or theirs did. Mine's right here down the back of the couch where I left it.
Anyhoo, much as I love having the girlies over, like everything else it's been hard to find just the right time between my diary and theirs. But today is the day.

So the plan is that since Rachel is at work they'll get the bus over themselves and Rachel will come over later when she gets off.
Of course this rapidly descends into an organisational nightmare since the girlies can't remember from one day to the next where I live, or where they left the bit of paper with my address on it, how to phone people up to let them know they're on the way or how to get off the bus at my house before it sweeps them on to the glitzy wonders of Ocean Terminal's shopping centre.
They are soooo cute!

Fully cognisant (and frequently reminded) of Georgina's disliking for fish I also stocked up on pastrami, ham and nice blue cheese so that she would have some fishy-free alternatives to make sushi-type rolls from. (Despite her assurances that she would give the sushi a go she managed nothing more than a tiny lick at some pickled mackerel - perhaps not the best choice)

I stocked up good and early in the week on my vegetables, hams and cheeses and started trawling fishmongers and oriental supermarkets for the more exotic ingredients. Fresh fish, scallops, prawns not a problem: I have Clark Bros - a solid fishmonger near my office in Musselburgh, and Welch's just down the road in Newhaven.
Oh, and Georgina: that's pronounced clark brothers in the same way as Mario Bros is pronounced mario brothers not mario bross.
Them's the rules - it's just the way it is.
You don't pronounce Mrs murrs or Mr murr do you?
mario brothers.
We grownups just know these things - SO STOP ARGUING.

Mackerel Sea Urchins Sea Urchin

I was disappointed not to find anywhere in Edinburgh that could provide me with any kind of fish eggs other than sturgeon caviar or cheap lumpfish imitation caviar. I wanted to get some Salmon eggs (fat jewelled orange Ikura for topping a gunboat sushi), flying-fish roe (tiny crunchy red Tobiko for decorating inside-out sushi) or Capelin (Smelt) roe (orange Masago for the dynamite) but was completely stymied.
I tried all the decent fishmongers - including Eddy's Seafood Market the reputable Bruntsfield upstart, all the fancy delicatessens (Valvona And Crolla, Marks and Spencers, Harvey Nicks) and all the Oriental supermarkets including the enormous Matthew's Foods.
But no joy.
Nor could I find any dried Shiitake mushrooms.
C'mon Edinburgh. Get your Japanese shit together!

I was, however, astonished and delighted to randomly find Sea Urchins (uni) at Clark Bros, and since they were only eighty pence each (EIGHTY PENCE EACH!) I bought four of them anticipating that one of them would be bad, and that I'd completely screw up opening one of them; this being my first time.
I just love sea urchins. To my mind their flavour is the very essence of the sea.
Though you do have to get over your natural squeamishness at the state of their insides to fully enjoy them when you prepare your own.

In the morning I took advantage of the peace and quiet in my flat to gut, clean and fillet the fishies (sea bass and mackerel) make up a vast (as I thought - though it soon ran out!) bowl of sushi rice, and to pickle the mackerel fillets.
Just time for a quick cleanup before the madness begins...

Welch have just expanded into a new retail shop-front which is very clean and attractively designed, plus they have a lobster tank. So as soon as the Eldorado girlies arrived (late) on the number 10 bus we headed on down to the fishmonger where the girls had great fun choosing a lobster of our own, settling on a youngster we named Larry. (The fishmonger told us that the lady lobsters have a sort of feathery net curtain effect around their back ends - something to do with catching their eggs. But I have yet to find any confirmation of that)
We also picked up a final few fresh fishy goodies that the girlies fancied - a slab of tuna (slightly dark and moist to be honest - which is a shame because they had some beautiful looking tuna earlier in the week) and a handful of enormous prawns.

Larry the lobster Georgina seemed to form a particularly strong relationship with Larry the Lobster introducing him to our checkout lady at Asda and playing schoolyard games with him in the kitchen, so I was a little concerned how she would react to his slaughter.
We had a full and frank discussion about the best ways of dispatching Larry, in which I proposed putting him gently to sleep in the freezer for a couple of hours, but the girls all seemed happiest with the idea of just splitting his head open with a massive knife. Sadists.
They weren't so relaxed about it when it actually happened though - first there was the massive gush of clear liquid (I told them it was just seawater, but take it to have been lobster blood) which caused Sophie to run vomiting to the bathroom, and then there was all that embarrassing thrashing. Which went on. And on. And on. In fact the damn lobster just didn't seem to want to die, and continued twitching even after several minutes of swimming around in a giant pot of boiling water with his head split in two.
I since discovered from wikipedia that lobsters' brains operate from distributed ganglia, and that disabling only the frontal ganglia doesn't usually kill the lobster.
Now they tell me.
Unlike crabs, whose ganglia have more-or-less coalesced into two main units as their segments have fused together. You can usually kill a crab by laying him on his back and driving a spike through the hole at the tip of the triangular apron below his eyes, or by lifting the small flap at its bum and skewering him through the hole underneath. Don't think about what that hole is.

So - the things I have learned about killing lobsters?
  1. Chill the lobster for a while in the freezer, or overnight in the fridge and then just chuck him into a big pot of boiling water and slap the lid on. Don't look! You could, of course, just freeze him completely - but then you've got a frozen lobster to defrost.
  2. If you do decide to cut his head in half, hold him firmly belly-side down in a thick towel and use a big knife to cut down through the cross-shaped markings on the back of his head in one firm thrust. Then hold on tight.

Girlies Baking Once everyone had gotten over the trauma of Larry's demise, and he was happily bubbling away in the pot for the necessary 5-6 minutes per pound, The girlies got on with making their choice of the perfect dessert for an oriental dinner - Astoundingly Good Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Fortunately I also had some (novelty) Green Tea Ice Cream that I'd made earlier!

The cookies didn't turn out quite as well as the last time we made them, but then Rachel's oven is of a more professional standard than my own. I figure the cooking temperature is a bit critical. And possibly the mixture was a bit runnier than the last time.
But the ice cream was a definite hit.

Finally on to preparing the dinner: you know - all that stuff that gets a bit tedious for young girlies: slaving away in plain sight of seductive platefuls of luscious fresh hot chewy cookies that are strictly out of bounds (eventually I hid the plates).
I kept up the nagging though and we got quite a lot done, but some of the sushi ideas I'd had in mind ran out of steam: we didn't really get around to making the California Rolls, or organising the components for a do-it-yourself session.
Ah well, all the more leftovers for me!

So the meal plan: For the tempura I decided to attempt a blending of some of Heston Blumenthal's mad batter ideas and my own tempura batter experiments and not only so that I got to try out my latest gadget - a soda syphon.
OK, well mostly.
I added vodka to my batter number 7 and used Sapporo instead of soda water, filling up the soda syphon and refrigerating it about an hour before making the tempura.
To be honest I thought the result was a slight regression, and the batter came out a bit runny (you need to be able to pour the damn stuff into the syphon in the first place after all) and was probably not as crispy as it might have been after being made up for such a long time. But it did make a pretty good talking point, was a lot of fun when it ran out and farted batter everywhere, and was actually quite a handy way of dispensing the batter.
I look forward to trying it out for regular fish 'n' chip batter.

Duck Cake A flock of fondant ducklings Rachel, Chic and Nicky turned up in short order and the feeding commenced, with a round of sushi followed by an endless stream of tempura.
Except for Sophie, who after all my nagging felt too ill to eat with us and had to go for a little lie down in a darkened room. Poor old Sophie - the whole thing was her idea too. Fortunate indeed, then, that she was not too weak to pass the time watching YouTube videos and facebooking all her friends.
Nicky very kindly brought along a dessert of her own - knowing my fetish she baked me a ducky cake and a flock of fondant ducklings.
So that's: I think everyone went home satisfied.

Aidan As is becoming something of a habit now, I had another dinner party for Aidan, Flora and Jenny featuring another endless stream of tempura with the leftovers from this meal - remembering to include the clear fish soup - and still went on to make up a massive stockpot of leftover soup with the remains from that one.
As of two weeks later I'm still eating that soup, and I've got three more containers of it in the freezer!

Sushi Sushi Happy Customers

Leftover Oriental Soup
soup veg
So, you've had your Sushi evening, tempura'd as many of the remains as you could stomach and you're still left with a fridge of leftovers? What's a cook to do?
Simples - boil them all up in an oriental-style soup! Then by freezing the excess you can enjoy your sushi remains for weeks. Even months.

Makes Gallons. And Gallons.

Make up a potful of strong dashi (if you're using Honi-Dashi granules use about 1 tablespoon per 500ml water) and put in a few sheets of kombu. Feel free to add soy sauce or mirin. Simmer until you're happy with the flavour.
Gently sweat your Alliums - thickly sliced rings of shallots, chunks of onion, lightly crushed garlic cloves in a little oil. Add any dried herbs you fancy.
Peel and cut your root vegetables (yam, sweet potato, carrot, potatoes though I chose not to use my potatoes - not oriental enough!) and add them to the pot.
Now add the flavoured dashi - just add as much as you need to produce a fairly watery soup.
Over a gentle heat add the rest of your leftovers - peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces as appropriate - in order of their required cooking time:
  • thick coins of peeled fresh ginger
  • sprouts if you must
  • cauliflower stalks
  • cauliflower florets
  • broccoli stalks
  • broccoli florets
  • bell peppers
  • mooli if you fancy them crunchy
  • whole green chillies
  • cabbage, sliced probably - I didn't have any
  • mushrooms, quartered or sliced
  • courgettes
  • lettuce, sliced
  • cubed tofu
  • spring onions, sliced
  • chopped fresh herbs coriander is nice
Bring the soup back to simmering point, but don't boil. Squeeze in any lemons you have spare.
Serve with a dash of soy sauce or a blob of spicy yoghurt sauce, if you happen to have some.

I skipped my okra as I wasn't quite sure how that would work - I thought they might go all slimy. You could probably throw in any leftover fish you have lying around at the end too - as long as it isn't too oily.
Really quite delicious!
I added my mooli a bit later in the sequence which left them slightly crunchy. Otherwise you might add them with the other root vegetables, but hey - they're your leftovers!

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