The economy of chicken pieces

I prefer chicken pieces to whole chickens as I never feel like breast is indispensable. A packed of what Americans call Maryland pieces, 4 x thigh + drumstick, lasts two of us for several meals.

This last time I’ve made

  • Chicken salad with rocket, walnuts and apple in a yoghurt based dressing (no oil).
  • Japanese soup noodles
  • A variation on each of the above

Because I boil the chicken, I have a good quality stock to do something with as well. It was the basis for the soup noodles on this occasion.

Good quality chicken in Geneva is wildly expensive, so I use bog standard from Manor. (Although in Australia I buy organic, free range.) But that aside, best quality fruit, best quality nuts, and salad greens. I think you get more for your money if you have to make these choices.

And the salad dressing will be happy with types of things in the cupboard and the fridge. This time, some yoghurt, some cumquat chutney I’d brought back from Australia, a little Worcestershire sauce, a little Japanese rice vinegar, some English mustard powder mixed into a paste, and then the main dressing added to it slowly until it was thin enough to add to the dressing without it not mixing in properly. That was about it.

5 minute Japanesy soup noodles

This was so nice at a moment’s notice, from the cupboard.


  • water
  • tamari (or Japanese soy sauce of choice)
  • sesame oil
  • stock cube (I used vegetarian chicken)
  • rice vinegar
  • chili oil
  • noodles, I used udon
  • green vegetables, I used broccoli and asparagus, stems of asparagus cut into about 1.5″ lengths and longwise into about quarters
  • spring onions chopped into fine rounds, though in retrospect these were unnecessary



Bring water to boil, add all ingredients except noodles. Cook for a couple of minutes, don’t overcook the vegetables. Quantities are to taste. As usual with this sort of thing, err on the side of not enough to begin with and adjust.

If using soft udon noodles, put in boiling water to separate, do this gently so you don’t break them. Place in bowls and add the stock and vegetables. Garnish with spring onions if desired. If using other noodles, cook as indicated by the type.

Tailor this to your cupboard, but I really felt like it was the chili oil that added a special touch.

Simple things to do with carrots

I wanted something simple to do with carrots, something that involved no going out into the snow in search of ingredients. It’s snowing here! And it was to go on the side of gyozas, so something Japanesey.

I ended up making Just Bento’s carrot salad. Lime instead of lemon (did I mention not leaving the house until it stops snowing?)

Another one I’ve taken note of for when I want a hot version is her carrot kinpara.

2015 Visit to Australia Part I: the eating winners

Best overall:

Ichitaro King William Road Hyde Park SA

Simply the best Japanese by far either of us have eaten outside a couple of particularly special meals in Hakodate. We went here five times in a week, sampling both the excellent value lunch menu a couple of times and the wonderful, exquisitely presented dinner menu. I’m guessing this is considered a medium-priced restaurant locally. Here in Geneva we’d weep with joy if we had something near us selling this sort of food at near the price. Australians just don’t know how lucky you are.

Best overall ignoring price:

Ezards at the Adelphi in Melbourne

I have wondered if Ezards could be as good as it used to be, but a sampling of their Express Lunch menu knocked those doubts out of my head.


The waiter took care to advise is that the serves were small and that’s certainly the case. Three courses still left room for dessert. I wondered if Ezard has toned down the flamboyance of the desserts, which appealed to me more than they used to in the days I could trot in for a meal on a whim.

You are not only paying for stunning food requiring the utmost expertise to prepare. You are paying for surroundings which permit a civil meeting. No loud music, no bad acoustics. no crammed together diners.

We went to a huge number of restaurants on our trip this year. More to come…

Yakitori Atlantic Salmon with Udon Noodles

Yakitori Atlantic Salmon with Udon Noodles.

I adore this, easy, quick, good for you, yummy. This quantity will serve 3.

Don’t use farmed salmon, the fish doesn’t have a nice life AND it’s probably bad for you.


450gms Atlantic Salmon fillets – the tail has least bones if you need to pull out those the fishmonger missed.
400gms fresh Udon noodles (you may have to rinse or soak a bit, follow packet instructions)
lots of washed baby spinach – a packet per two people
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup mirin
1/4 cup Japanese soy sauce (I use Tamari by preference)
2 teaspoons sesame oil
grated or finely chopped ginger.
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted.


Preheat the oven to 220°C.

Combine mirin, soy, sesame oil and ginger and brush over salmon.

Bake in paper-lined dish for 5-10 minutes, it really depends on thickness of salmon. You want it undercooked for now. Break salmon into chunks.

Stir-fry noodles in a hot wok, adding sesame seeds (reserve some) and remaining marinade.

Cook for 2 mins and add spinach. When spinach has softened add salmon, stir gently so as not to break up the pieces of fish. Serve with reserved sesame seeds on top.

When I last made this I forgot I didn’t have any ginger and added lemon juice ‘instead’ right at the end. A perfectly adequate variation. Nor are udon noodles a deal-breaker here. Tonight I used rice noodles, soaked in boiling water while the fish was in the oven.

Summer days. Soba noodle salad.

Summer? Stephanie A calls this Autumn buckwheat noodle salad but hey. I’m in Geneva and summer here is pretty much autumn back home. Perfect picnic food, I quite often make it with the Japanese spinach dish in the previous post. It is one of those vegetarian dishes that the carnivores won’t even notice is lacking. Not that it couldn’t easily have some chicken (meat to taste) added to it at the end.


225g soba noodles, cooked
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
4 tbsp red rice vinegar
1 tbsp sesame oil
1tbsp mirin
half teasp finely chopped ginger
half a teasp finely chopped garlic
finely chopped fresh chilli to taste

garnish: 2 tbsp finely chopped spring onion


The noodles: bring water to the boil, add noodles. When water comes back to the boil add a cup of cold water; repeat this step. Drain, run cold water through the noodles, drain. Put in fridge to chill.

Mix everything else. Toss carefully with the noodles, serve on individual plates, garnished with spring onion.

recipe from Stephanie Alexander The Cook’s Companion

Variations on Japanese spinach (1) Goma-ae with miso

(1) Goma-ae with miso

2 tblsp miso
2 tblsp sugar
1 tblsp sake or mirin
2 tblsp sesame seeds, toasted somewhere between light and dark according to taste, but DON’T BURN!!! Then grind or crush with whatever your preferred instrument is: I am using an electric coffee grinder, but a good pestle and mortar would do. I leave some texture to the sesame seeds, though this is easier with a pestle and mortar.

For spinach for two people, about 300g before it was cooked, I made a half quantity of those dressing ingredients.

Wash the spinach, discard stems if using large coarse spinach, otherwise you can keep. I steam the spinach in a bamboo steamer for a minute or so, otherwise place in boiling water for 30seconds to 1 minute. Plunge into cold water (which apparently keeps the nice green of spinach intact), squeeze dry and chop the sausage like shape you might have now into chunks, maybe 2 inches long.

Mix the dressing ingredients in a bowl large enough to hold the spinach. Then thoroughly meld the spinach into the dressing.



More to come.