Rust Rescue 101: Saving your cast iron or wok

The blight happened.

My beautiful cast iron griddle and grill, along with my new-ish Chinese wok both got rust. It certainly makes a case for remembering to heat up your cast irons and woks after washing to make sure ALL the water is evaporated off.

Luckily, it’s not too difficult to get rid of rust from your cookware. The bad news is that once you do, you will have to go through the lengthy process of reconditioning your pan, grill, or wok all over again.

Below is my 3-step process of how to get rid of the rust. The fourth step is thrown in for good measure.

  1. Put about a tablespoon of sea salt and oil onto your cast iron cookware or in your wok.
  2. With a piece of steelwool, work the salt and oil around the rusty areas of your cookware and scrub it off
  3. Rinse off the salt and oil. Don’t use soap. Just rinse it off so all the salt is gone.
  4. Follow the instructions for reconditioning your cookware.

Happy cast iron or wok cleaning!

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Bouquet garni

IMG_9318A bouquet garni is a bundle or sachet of herbs that you assemble and add to something you’re boiling or stewing for a prolonged period of time like a soup, stock, or stew. The bundling or sachet allows you to remove the herbs quickly and easily once what you’re making has enough flavour – not unlike a tea bag. French stocks in particular strive to be crystal clear, and so the bouquet garni is key in helping to achieve this.

Ingredients:

What you include in a bouquet garni will depend on what you’re making, but generally, thyme and bay leaves are used as a base. Other herbs that can be added or asked for in a recipe include:

  • Rosemary
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Tarrgon

Some recipes also ask for certain vegetables like carrots, celery, and onions to also be included in the bouquet garni. For those recipes, it’s better to use a sachet method as the vegetables can break down over the course of cooking. Some also wrap everything up inside a few layers of leeks that have been halved lengthwise and tie it together.

Preparation:

Assembling a bouquet is very easy. There are two main methods:

1) Stack and bundle your herbs together and tie it tightly together with a string

2) Place them into a tea bag or cheese cloth and tie that tight with a string

Voilà, You’re ready to go!

Mentsuyu: a multipurpose base

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If you’ve ever had Japanese tempura, udon noodle soup or zaru soba, you’ve had mentsuyu. It’s a multipurpose soup base that is used in two ways: either cool as a “dipping soup” (tsuketsuyu) for chilled noodles such as zaru soba, or warm as a soup base (kaketsuyu) for hot noodles like udon. If you are using mentsuyu as kaketsuyu, the hot form, you will need to dilute it even further than the cool tsuketsuyu type.

Mentsuyu is flavourful and can either be purchased ready made from your local Japanese grocery store, or can be easily homemade as well. It gets its flavour from bonito flakes, kelp, soy sauce, mirin, and sake, and as with any sauce or soup base, you can adjust the proportions of the ingredients to your liking, depending on what you’re making. You may want it a touch sweeter with a stronger sake flavour for your zaru soba, but saltier, with more emphasis on the kelp for your udon soup.

The recipe here is one I like as a base, and you can adjust from there.

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup of bonito flakes, packed
  • 1/2 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup of mirin
  • 1/3 cup of sake
  • kelp (a small cut piece, approximately 2 inches wide)

Preparation

1. Place your sake into a medium-sized saucepan and bring it to a boil, let it reduce slightly and add your other ingredients. Give everything a quick stir.

2. Reduce the heat to a medium low heat and let the mixture simmer for a few minutes. Leave the cover off.

3. Remove your pot from the heat and let everything cool to room temperature.

4. Strain your mixture through a sieve. (You can keep your kelp and bonito flakes to use for onigiri or as a rice or noodle seasoning by dry roasting it in a pan with some sesame seeds. Yum!)

5. You can now use your mentsuyu right away or bottle it. It should last in the fridge for about a month.

My father’s daughter: A heart for sushi rice

sushi

I acquired an early love and appreciation for sushi from my father when I was growing up. At the heart of sushi making, the most important aspect of it is the rice. Luckily, if you know how to make steamed rice, sushi rice is very simple and easy to make. The trick is to use a little less water, so it’s less moist, and to mix the sweetened vinegar mixture into the rice as soon as the rice is cooked and is still hot. (More on this below.) The recipe I use is the same one that my father used whenever he would make sushi for us. Do note that the yield is quite a lot, so if you’re preparing sushi for fewer people, you can use the second ingredients list.

Ingredients: (makes 6 cups of rice, good for 4-6 people)

  • 3 cups Japanese sushi rice
  • 3-1/4 cups of water (note, you may need to adjust the water levels depending on your rice cooker)
  • 1/3 cup of rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • Optional: 3 tablespoons of sake

Smaller serving to make 2 cups of cooked sushi rice (good for 1-2 people): 

  • 1 cup of Japanese sushi rice
  • 1-1/4 cups of water (note, you may need to adjust the water levels depending on your rice cooker)
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1/3 teaspoon of salt
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons of sake

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The basics: Soup stocks

I consider my mother the goddess of all things soup – especially Chinese soups. When I moved out many years ago, this was one of the things I missed the most: her delicious, nutritious homemade soups.

One of the things she has taught me over the years is that every good soup starts out with a good soup base. And by “good”, we mean fresh, homemade, and healthy. It may take a little more time, but in the end, it’s worth it. Your soups will taste better, and your body will thank you for it too. So you don’t need to buy those artificially preserved broths – you can make your own!

As an aside, of course sometimes the reality is that when you have no time, you just have no time. If you’re in a crunch and need a quick soup stock solution, we always recommend the Campbell’s broths in the carton over any of the canned varieties. Most of the canned soups, including Campbell’s, have MSG in them, whereas the cartons are MSG-free.

Ultimately, all soup stocks are the same. They are made by adding ingredients like meat, bone, and/or vegetables to water and simmering them to extract the flavour and nutrients from them. Continue reading