Whirlwind trip around Ja­pan Mag­gie delves be­hind the scenes

Cook­ing icon starts her ad­ven­ture in the hus­tle and bus­tle of Tokyo then vis­its ru­ral home­s­tay

Central and North Burnett Times - - SPORT - Seanna Cronin

MAG­GIE Beer is syn­ony­mous with the flavours of Aus­tralia, and the Barossa wine-grow­ing re­gion in par­tic­u­lar. But the ac­claimed cook has been hav­ing a se­cret love af­fair with a very dif­fer­ent cui­sine for the past 20 years, and fi­nally it’s a se­cret no longer.

The 72-year-old threw her­self into a 12-day, whirlwind trip around Ja­pan with a cam­era crew in tow for the Foxtel spe­cial Mag­gie In Ja­pan.

It’s a full cul­tural im­mer­sion as she goes into the kitchens and homes of Ja­panese chefs, lo­cals take her to their favourite eater­ies and Aus­tralian ex-pats re­veal what they love about liv­ing in Ja­pan.

View­ers will dis­cover an­other side to the Great Aus­tralian Bake Off judge as she gets her hands dirty and even hops on the back of a mo­tor­cy­cle in her pur­suit of great food.

“I’ve been to Ja­pan many times and loved ev­ery sin­gle thing about it,” she tells Week­end.

“This was a gift to be with the lo­cals and be be­hind the scenes in kitchens and meet the chefs.”

The cook­ing icon ad­mits while she loves eat­ing Ja­panese food, she has been hes­i­tant to take on the cui­sine her­self. “I’m in awe of the fine­ness of some of their cui­sine,” she says. “There is so much that is ac­ces­si­ble to me and ev­ery­one else, but there are parts that I wouldn’t even try.”

Mag­gie starts her ad­ven­ture in the hus­tle and bus­tle of Tokyo, where she meets Kane­jiro Kanemoto of No­daiwa – who has been cook­ing eel, and just eel, for the past 60 years.

“He had no English and I had no Ja­panese and yet he had the most beau­ti­ful smile be­cause of my ex­cite­ment about what he was do­ing,” she says.

“I was in awe of his tra­di­tion and the patina of age in his kitchen. I came home and I cooked eel, bar­be­cued it and made a sauce, but it didn’t match his.

“It was still beau­ti­ful, but there are other lay­ers that aren’t ac­ces­si­ble to me.”

Koji Fukuda – once head chef at Luke Man­gan’s Salt and now owner of an Aus­tralian-in­spired restau­rant in Tokyo – also in­vites Mag­gie into his home to cook her a tra­di­tional week-night din­ner.

“He made cold fried chicken and I didn’t be­lieve it could work,” she says. “He also showed me how beau­ti­ful a mushi (savoury egg cus­tard) is, and that’s in ev­ery­one’s scope. If you make your own broth it’s so sim­ple and beau­ti­ful, and you can Mag­gie Beer’s miso and gin­ger chicken thighs with buck­wheat noo­dles. put al­most any­thing in it. I think that could be­come a sta­ple (in Aus­tralia).”

In Osaka Mag­gie also learned about tra­di­tional sashimi, and how to eat it, from sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion chef Osamu Ueno. The del­i­cate, care­fully han­dled pieces of raw fish, served over a bowl of ice, look like a work of art.

“You don’t do sashimi un­less you know your fish is re­ally fresh,” she says. “From a Ja­panese store you can get lovely ac­com­pa­ni­ments. It’s my fam­ily’s favourite food. I re­mem­ber my grand­chil­dren start­ing on raw sashimi and lov­ing it.”

But the most eye-open­ing scenes of the TV spe­cial come from Mag­gie’s ru­ral home­s­tay on the Noto Penin­sula with Aus­tralian chef Ben and his wife Chikako.

“We wanted to go into coun­try Ja­pan, not just be in the city,” Mag­gie says. “As won­der­ful as Tokyo is, I wanted to show other sides of Ja­panese life.”

Feel­ing right at home in Ben and Chikako’s gar­den, Mag­gie dis­cov­ered the many uses of the yuzu citrus fruit as part of the Ja­panese art of “mot­tainai” – mean­ing noth­ing goes to waste.

She also delved into the art of fer­men­ta­tion and the im­por­tance of the “fifth flavour” umami.

“It’s amaz­ing how it takes three years to get the Ishiri (squid) sauce,” she says.

“Just be­ing there and see­ing it hap­pen made me more open to do­ing fer­men­ta­tion at home. I’m not go­ing to store squid guts for three years. I’ll leave that to Ben and Chikako.”

Mag­gie then re­turned home to the Barossa to cook up her own Ja­panese feast in­spired by her trav­els. She hopes to show view­ers how they can in­cor­po­rate Ja­panese food into their ev­ery­day cook­ing.

“It’s about sea­son­al­ity and qual­ity side-by-side; if it’s not in sea­son, it’s not avail­able,” she says.

“There’s this re­spect for the sea­son that even goes to the point of the plates in a restau­rant, the dec­o­ra­tions on the wall will match the sea­son. It can be mid­night in a beau­ti­ful lo­cal fish restau­rant in Osaka and the per­son who de­liv­ers the fish is just as proud as the chef who uses it for the next course. That to me speaks vol­umes as to how im­por­tant food is in Ja­pan.”

Miso and gin­ger chicken thighs with buck­wheat noo­dles

In­gre­di­ents: ◗ 2 x 220g bone­less chicken thighs, skin on ◗ 2 bun­dles (170g) buck­wheat noo­dles ◗ 2 spring onion green tops, finely cut on an­gle ◗

Mari­nade: ◗ 4 tb­spn miso paste ◗ 60g gin­ger, peeled and grated ◗ 2 lemons, zested ◗ 4 tbs Mag­gie Beer Ex­tra Vir­gin

Olive Oil ◗ 2 tbs Mag­gie Beer Ver­juice

Plum paste dress­ing: ◗ 50g Mag­gie Beer Plum Paste ◗ 1 tbs soy sauce ◗ 2 tbs Mag­gie Beer Ex­tra Vir­gin Olive Oil ◗ 2 tbs Mag­gie Beer Ver­juice Method: Pre­heat oven to 200C.

In a food pro­ces­sor, whiz the mari­nade in­gre­di­ents un­til they form a paste. Toss chicken thighs through the paste and re­frig­er­ate for 2 hours. Pat dry.

In an oven-proof fry­pan, seal chicken care­fully on skin side then place into the oven in the pan. Bake for 8 min­utes, re­move from oven and rest for 5 min­utes.

Warm dress­ing in­gre­di­ents in a pan un­til plum paste is melted, then al­low to cool.

To pre­pare the buck­wheat noo­dles, cook to pack in­struc­tions, then toss with plum paste dress­ing and an ex­tra dash of olive oil.

To serve, place buck­wheat noo­dles in cen­tre of plate, top with sliced chicken thighs and gar­nish with spring onion.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.