We were contacted by a fellow blogger (Daniel’s Food Diary) to consider being part of an initiative to encourage more people to cook for, and eat with, their families. I instantly agreed to take part, since I’m always extolling the benefits of home cooking, and how it’s actually much easier and quicker than some people expect.
Our regular readers may remember our Japan Diet - well, we’re still going strong, and while my repertoire is somewhat more limited these days based on what’s the easiest for me to make, I still make dinner twice a week (we get home at around 8.30 pm, after work and a half hour run). I thought I’d write about one of these typical meals, and show how, in about 15 minutes, you can get a half decent home-cooked meal ready for your family.
Some of the things I make, like pan-grilled salmon, require some minimal prep work on weekends, where I descale and pin-bone the salmon, before portioning and freezing it till mid-week. I’ve chosen this grilled tuna, zaru soba and tofu combination, since this really doesn’t require any prior effort at all.
Step 1: Marinade the tuna. I use frozen yellowfin tuna steaks from Fairprice Finest. By all means use sashimi-grade tuna if you wish, the results will be awesome I’m sure, but it’s hard for me to justify spending over $20 on fish for a weekday night dinner.
I just use some ginger sauce and soy sauce, and let the tuna marinade while the water is coming to a boil for the soba.
Step 2: Cook the soba. Soba’s good because it takes only about 5 minutes to cook, and after it’s done, all you have to do is rinse some of the starch off, and pop it in the fridge till you’re ready to eat, dunked in soba dipping sauce that you can get at any Japanese supermarket.
Step 3: Grill tuna. You can do this while the soba is cooking but sometimes I can’t multitask all that well, and don’t want to risk overcooking either the soba or the tuna. If you like your tuna rare in the middle, then these just need about 2 minutes per side (depending on the size of the pieces). And if you hate cleaning up oil splatters, cover the fish with some baking paper with a hole cut in the center for steam to escape.
When it’s done, just like steak, the tuna needs to rest for a few minutes before slicing. I made the side dish during that time.
Step 4: Make crab mayo tofu. I got the idea to serve cold tofu from my friend W, and I thought it was a brilliant one. You don’t even need to cook the tofu, just slice it from the pack. You can top it with bonito flakes and some soy sauce and mirin, or another option that A likes is crab mayo. Chop up some crab sticks, mix with Kewpie mayonnaise, some Maggi seasoning and black pepper. Top with chopped spring onions if you have them on hand and voila, a side dish in about 3 minutes.
Step 5: Call A to come to the table while assembling everything into bento box (since he always takes ages doing goodness knows what).
Step 6: Clean up the aftermath. A insisted that I include this part, since he does the washing up after. I still clean up the kitchen and my grill pan myself though, because I don’t trust him with either. I’ve discovered method cleaning products, which make cleaning the hob much easier, and my Oxo grill pan brush - a recent acquisition from Amazon – is now my best friend.
There you have it. I timed it and this really did take about 15 minutes to put together. Granted, clean up took about 10 minutes, but isn’t it satisfying knowing that you’re putting something healthy on the table for your loved ones?
With some careful planning and perhaps a teeny bit of effort on weekends, it really is possible to have home-cooked food more regularly than you’d expect.
My pet peeve with chefs saying how easy it is to cook at home is they don’t have to do the washing up. At least I have a wife who makes great meals.