Archive for the ‘America’ Category

Poke Bowl

Posted: August 1, 2019 in America, bowl food, Fish, Food Porn
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Ahi Tuna Poke Bowl

IMG_0862Just the other day, a facebook memory popped onto my timeline and catapulted me back to my Summer holiday in Hawaii, July 2018.  A simple bowl of poke (pronounced Poh-Keh) scantily covered in sriracha mayonnaise, resting on sticky sushi rice and decorated with an avocado fan. Before you ask, yes, a lot of my holiday photos tend to be about food.  

Hawaiian food history and culture in a bowl.  A simple bowl of marinated, raw yellow-fin tuna.

Hawaiian poke has become as much of a defining element of Hawaiian culture as the surf board and floral shirt.

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The history of this simple, national Hawaiian dish dates back to pre-colonial Polynesian times and was created by local fishermen.  Hawaiians fished as and when they were hungry, and the catch of the day made for the perfect meal – indigenous, sustainable and fresh.  They took what they caught that day and preserved leftovers by slicing the fish, tossing with sea salt and “ogo” fresh seaweed to create the first ‘catch of the day’ poke. Poke literally means “to slice or cut” in Hawaiian.  This rudimentary poke has evolved from reef fish to “ahi” yellow-fin tuna and a variety of seasonings to include, “pahole fern” and “kuki nut” ingredients native to the islands.  However, since first contact with Asian and Western cultures, spring onions, chillies, avocados and soy sauce have become common additions to poke.

Fish generally found in poke bowls are tuna, salmon and pacific marlin (a cousin of the swordfish).  Octopus “he’e” is another island favourite.  Substitute seafood for tofu to make it vegetarian.

Poke is everywhere in Hawaii, you can buy it at grocery stores and beach shacks.

Hawaiians usually serve poke as a starter in place of a salad but if you want to make it a more wholesome bowl, serve it over rice like the Japanese rice bowl Donburi. However, for lighter versions serve over leafy greens or a kale salad, or substitute rice for quinoa.  The possibilities are as limiting as your imagination and palate. 

The basic components of the marinade are soy sauce and sesame oil but you can get creative with the dressing.  Sriracha mayo, wasabi mayo, freshly grated ginger juice, chopped chillies in soy, Japanese yuzu and rice vinegar. 

IMPORTANT: If using raw fish AVOID lime juice in the marinade as this will ‘cook’ the fish ceviche-style. Squeeze lime juice over before serving to freshen the dish.

With the Blue-fin tuna open season due to commence on 5th August – why not land yourself some fresh tuna and try making a simple blue-fin tuna poke bowl as a healthy lunch or light dinner?  Or better still, invite friends round for a DIY Poke Bowl Party – super easy and quick to prepare for a large crowd.

To create a poke bowl, you will need to get hold of sashimi-grade tuna/salmon.  Don’t freak out, all this means is that the fresh fish has been frozen to kill off any parasites and then defrosted ready to eat safely.  If you are fortunate enough to get fresh tuna from a local fisherman that gives it to you still warm and pulsing make sure to freeze this overnight before using it the following day.

Gastrorob’s Poke BowlIMG_4102

Ingredients

200g Sashimi-grade tuna
2 Spring onions
1/4 cup Soy sauce
1/3 cup Vegetable oil
2 Tbsp Sesame oil
150g Sushi rice
1/2 Ripe avocado
1 Tbsp Sriracha sauce
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
Fresh ginger
1 Tbsp honey
Fresh Coriander
Limes 

Method:

1st: In a bowl, mix the soy sauce, vegetable oil, sesame oil, honey and grate in a thumb size piece of fresh ginger.  Chop the spring onions and add to the bowl.

2nd: Cut sashimi-grade tuna into bite-size chunks and add to the bowl.  Mix this gently and leave in the fridge for anything from 15mins to 1hour.

3rd: Use any rice you wish – I prefer using sushi rice which is slightly sweet and sticky once boiled and feels authentic but feel free to use any rice you have in your cupboard.

4th: Make the Sriracha mayonnaise by combining the sriracha sauce and mayonnaise and mixing well.  You may wish to slacken the mixture with some lime juice/water so that it’s easier to squeeze over the tuna.

5th: Plate up.  Serve the warm rice in a bowl and add the marinated tuna to the dish.  Place sliced/cubed avocado on the side and top with the green parts of spring onions and coriander.  If you have sesame seeds (white or black) these add great crunch to the dish. Chopsticks of fork – your choice.

Optional toppings are:

Screenshot 2019-08-01 at 00.06.10.pngAvocado: adding creaminess to the dish

Cucumber: for crunch

Edamame beans (steamed): for freshness and crunch

Mango: for sweetness and fruity punch

Radish: for crunch and pepperiness

Wasabi paste, pickled ginger, fresh ginger juice, chillies: for a spicy hit

Shredded nori seaweed: for greater umami and depth of flavour

Macadamia nuts (chopped): for crunch

If you love sushi as I do but can’t be bothered with the faff of rolling out maki rolls or don’t know where to even begin, take the plunge and dive into a poke bowl.

I’ve been meaning to try recreating a poke bowl since last Summer.  I am so happy with the results that I shall definitely be making this again.  I’m trying out different flavours and can’t wait to try Furikake Rice Seasoning that is being being brought to me direct from Japan! 

 

Sweet Potato Logo

I must admit, I came to the sweet potato party quite late in life. Considering I eat pretty much anything I don’t know why I’ve been so ambivalent towards the sweet potato / boniato.

Perhaps it’s the way I’ve always seen it prepared; baked jacket-potato style with its orange flesh collapsing in on itself and scooped straight out of its blistered skin. And what is it about the skin that takes on irregular shiny-caramel looking spots where the flesh is peeking through? And when mixed in with carrots and parsnips as part of the Sunday roast veggies drizzled in maple syrup, the sweet potato pretty much disintegrates into the buttery maple juices at the bottom of the pan.

I think I may have answered my own question!

At a party years ago, I remember there was a sweet potato and peanut butter filo parcel which all the veggies were enjoying but I couldn’t decide whether i liked it or wondered whether it should be dessert; all it needed was some vanilla ice cream and a dusting of icing sugar and I’d have been happy…I think.

But it was on a trip to LA that my love for the sweet potato was restored. After several food blow outs I fancied something light but not salad-light(!) and came across a plain chicken breast with fries dish on the menu, that as it arrived on the table I thought, wow these American potatoes are really orange! After the first bite I realised they were sweet potato fries, duh! However, they were sweet, salty and acidic all in one bite. My eyes lit up, they were coated in salt, and freshness of lime zest and juice screamed through.

Since sweet potatoes and boniatos (white fleshed Caribbean sweet potatoes) are currently in season what better way to celebrate them than to try and recreate these lime, salty, sweet potato fries which I have shamelessly decided to call, margarita sweet potato fries; the tequila is optional.

Note: cutting them thicker makes for lighter work but they take longer to cook.

Grill some chicken breasts and corn on the cob to make this a great mid-week family supper. But I warn you, the first time I made this I ate the entire tray of sweet potato fries and left everything else!

 

 

 

…sweet potato fries which I have shamelessly decided to call,
margarita sweet potato fries; the tequila is optional…

Margarita Sweet Potato Fries

1st: Preheat the oven to 210°C

2nd: Wash the sweet potatoes to remove any soil or grit they may still have and slice into fries or wedges should you wish. There is no need to peel them.

3rd: Drizzle with olive oil and season well with salt flakes, pepper and lime zest.

4th: Cook in the oven for anything from 25 to 40 mins depending on size. Try to turn them once and get good colour on them throughout the cooking process.

5th: Squeeze lime juice over them as they come out of the oven and sprinkle with fresh coriander.

These fries are great with chicken but make a tasty accompaniment to grilled pork loin and white fish; anything that will pair well with zesty lime juice.

Whether you eat them as a side dish or as the main I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

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I know this is probably an over-generalisation but in my travels in the USA (both in the past and more recently) I feel as if eateries in USA make a great deal of brunch as opposed to a normal breakfast – like a pumped-up breakfast; on steroids – You still get fresh OJ and a cup of coffee but you’ll also get fries with that!   Ask for plain toast and butter and some establishments would be offended that there was nothing in their extensive brunch menu that you wanted and they would struggle to provide this measly option for you as the toast would be considered a side to accompany your pancakes, Eggs Benedict or ommelette!

Some of the simpler breakfast options were a French patisserie and a cup of coffee to eat on the go, however, these occasions were few and far between.  Hence, on some days we were only able to have brunch and dinner as we were so full-up.

Eggs Benedict
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Eggs Benedict

One of my all-time favourite breakfast/brunch dishes is Eggs Benedict.  Poached eggs sitting on roast ham, resting snugly on English Muffins and covered with hollandaise sauce.  At least that’s the way they come in New York; which is magnificent.

On the West Coast, Eggs Benedict was an adulterated version of the classic and arrived on food platters to feed a family of four!  In LA, these were served with a side of oil drenched French fries and toast!

Hash House a Go Go; Las Vegas

Hash House a Go Go, advertises itself as “Twisted farm food” – saw its popularity rise after IMG_2355a Man V Food Challenge and is almost as much a tourist attraction as it is a 24hr cafe.  The menu choices and portion sizes are out of this world; if somewhat vulgar.  Drink combos such as their BLT Bloody Mary which arrives in a tall glass with a romaine lettuce leaf and a slice of bacon sticking out of the glass – I could do with one of those now – are just as obscene.

HHaGoGo’s extensive brunch menu of pancakes and waffles also has 4 different versions of Eggs Benedict.  I gave Andy’s Sage Fried Chicken Hash House Benedict a go – the very same one that Adam Richman ploughed through on Man V Food.  I was amazed that the waitress could carry the huge platter in her hand with such ease and set it down delicately in front of me (let’s not forget she was carrying two dishes to the table at the time).

I remember holding my head in both hands and whispering, “Dear Lord, what have I done?!”

Picture a platter, filled with mashed potatoes topped with wilted spinach, slices of tomato, more bacon and a mountain of scrambled eggs; sitting proudly on this, a huge sage fried chicken breast escalope skewered in place with a rosemary spear, all smothered in a chipotle cream sauce.  Oh I forgot to mention the English Muffin that was in there somewhere as well…

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…as you’ve probably gathered, on 19th July; food won.

Seafoodseafood risotto OLIVES

The other ubiquitous West Coast food staple is seafood, more specifically prawn and lobster.  In Vegas, most restaurants have a plethora of lobster/prawn inspired dishes on their menu – you could devour a plate of prawns whilst playing on the slots if you wanted.

Of all the meals I had in Vegas, the stand out dish was at Bellagio’s Olives by celebrity chef Todd English.  A stunning seafood risotto that arrived loaded with clams, razor clams, shrimp, fish, crab and lobster set in a saffron broth.  Delicately divine.

Los Angeles

San Francisco

I’ve never experienced a winter so cold as a San Francisco summer!  – Mark Twain.IMG_2789 (Edited)

And on cold, misty days by the sea – a bowl of heart warming soup hits the spot.  I know
that clam chowder is a New England culinary creation but serve it in a hollowed out Boudin sourdough bread and you’ve got something that is totally San Francisco.  Even though the locals don’t eat this, tourists queue up at all of Fisherman Wharf’s seafood establishments for a taste of their chowder.  Boudin’s Bakery being one of the most popular.

Another delicacy is crab – Dungeness Crab – served whole either steamed or roasted in garlic butter or in crab cakes, or served with garlic noodles.  I enjoyed my snow crab legs thoroughly as they poked out of a mountain of shrimp and whitefish in Bubba Gump’s “Boat Trash”.

Cycling from Fisherman’s Wharf, through the Marina district, over the Golden Gate Bridge and into the village of Sausalito, you work up a pretty good appetite and the Seafood Peddler’s Daily Special of Clam chowder (in a bowl) and pound of lobster served with ‘slaw and corn on the cob was exactly what I needed.  Clearly not conducive to cycling back.

Therefore, a ferry trip back to Fisherman’s Wharf is essential to help the food settle as well as breathing in the sea air to open up your appetite for the next onslaught of sea-crustacean delights.

Please note that the photos above are only some of the food memories I’ve experienced throughout the past two weeks, more often than not, either excitement or greed, or a little of both would take over my usual self-control and I’d forget to take the photo before ploughing through the dish.

It has now been a week since I got back from my hols in Las Vegas, LA and San Francisco and even though I enjoyed every mouthful of food I am glad to return my belly (and gout!) to a proper food regime with enforced portion control.