Friday, 10 July 2015

Just as I like it: Okonomiyaki and Bellingham the Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc

A cold I thought was the result of overly vigilant airplane airconditioning took a turn for worse and I ended  up with the worst bronchitis since, well, the last time. But nothing so bad that something good wouldn't come out of it, too: for once I just did... nothing. 

The blog's been quieter than a Russian human rights organization and based on my Instagram feed you'd think I'm dead,  if not worse. After a couple of weeks into my social media-free coma The Boy Next Door pointed how I should actually be ill more often (?) Apparently it turns me into a more mellow and lovable (yes, he did!) person. 

I'm finally officially on the mend and have even tempted myself to venture into the kitchen. It is strange how quickly I lost interest in cooking and so, for too long now, we've existed on pizza from the place next door. And when I say too long, I really mean it: we're probably on their Christmas card mailing list by now...

A couple of days ago I got my monthly delivery of organic eggs (I know - I can't believe it either...) and so I was officially out of excuses not to make okonomiyaki. I first got to know this Japanese street food classic through a friend of mine who used to live in Japan, but it was our recent trip to London where I really fell for it. 

Roughly translated okonomiyaki means "as you like it" which kind of communicates its nature as the sort of dumping ground for anything you might have lurking in the fridge, you know, just as you like it! I used pork belly, but you could use prawns or squid, too. 

In some recipes cabbage and spring onion are mixed into the batter, others (like mine) top the first layer of pancake mixture with the toppings and cover it all with another layer of batter. But hey, your call - just as you like it!

The final product is drizzled with okonomi sauce and mayo (or a half-and-half mixture of them). But in case your hunger for food is bigger than your hunger for authenticity, you could just as well use BBQ sauce, oyster sauce or Hoisin sauce - you know (no prizes for guessing what I'm about to say now) just as you like it!

Bonito shavings are available at Japanese shops, as is dashi (Japanese fish stock) powder, too. In case you don't happen to have either on hand, just use water instead and substitute bonito flakes with roasted and crumbled nori seaweed (for instructions, please see here)

Serves 2 (making either 2 smaller ones or 1 large one) 



2 eggs
2,5 dl dashi fish stock (or water)
4 dl all-purpose flour (use gluten-free if needed)
1 tsp salt (or nori salt, instructions here)
2 tsp ground bonito flakes

a couple of tbsp canola oil for frying


250 g cabbage, finely shredded
2 spring onions, chopped
100 g pork belly, in fine slices 

To serve:

spring onions
50 g pork belly, pan-roasted until crunchy
okonomi sauce

Okonomi sauce:

1,5 dl ketchup
1 dl Worchester sauce
1 dl sake
1 dl mirin
3 cm piece ginger, finely grated
2 cloves garlic
2 tbsp sugar

Measure the ingredients into a small pot and cook over gentle heat until the sauce thickens. 

Chop the pork belly needed for serving into thin strips and place on a cold frying pan. Turn on the heat(medium) and roast until crisp. Lift out and drain on kitchen towel. 

Combine the ingredients for the batter. Pre-heat a frying pan over medium heat and pour 1/4 of the batter (in case you're making 2 okonomiyakis) or 1/2 of the batter (in case making just one) onto the pan and spread out. Sprinkle bonito powder on it, top with cabbage and spring onions (leave some for serving) and pay the pork belly on top of them. Using a spatula squash them down a bit and cover with another layer of batter. Once the mixture has set, flip it over and fry on the other side as well.

Drizzle with okonomi sauce, mayo and scatter the crisp pork belly and remaining spring onion on top of okonomiyaki and serve.

In a somewhat unorthodox manner I used mayo spiked with wasabi. Damn I like it. It's not too pungeant, the wasabi just adds a nice kick that cuts through the richness of the mayo. Great for burgers, as a a salad dressing or as a dip!

And where there's a recipe, there's a wine pairing!

A great match for this recipe is this Chenin Blanc from Bellingham's The Bernard Series, from which I've already introduced you to Grenache Blanc-Viognier blend.

The wine is dry with bright acidity, yet with ripe fruitiness which makes this a great pairing for Asian dishes, even Japanese, which is often very subtle and not very spicy.

This would go great with smoked fish or grilled salmon, too. 12 months in French oak lends the wine toasty spiciness and adds to the complexity, so it would also nicely balance creamy, rich dishes, too. A very, very nice wine, indeed!




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