Casual Sunday Lunch


It all started when S wanted me to make Uni Pasta.

We’ve started cooking weekend lunch for each other, alternating turns. She’d do a White Truffle Ravioli with a Black Truffle Sauce and I’d do a 6-course Izakaya-inspired meal. It was during one of these lunches when I made her my Mentaiko Pasta, she proposed the idea of Uni Pasta.

I was a little taken aback because while Mentaiko is not cheap, it is not near in the same league as Uni. It’s amazing how expensive the gonads of a dioecious echinoderm are. (Don’t you just love Wikipedia?)

Also, for a while now, I’ve been racking my head on what to cook for two friends with diet restrictions. So I decided to kill two Pescetarians with a box of gonads.

Mushrooms baked in butter and lemon

Doing Uni Pasta for two is not cost-effective because fresh sea urchin is sold by the box hence a group lunch would make more sense. Also, I’ve been wanting to invite my two dinner-mates for a home-cooked meal for a long time now but I’ve not mastered the art of cooking seafood.

Fast-forward a month later, I began researching online for recipes on Uni Pasta. They are legion but I turned up 2 very interesting recipes that were as different as chalk and cheese. One was Eric Ripert’s butter-based recipe which most of the Internet is following and the other was Rick Stein’s garlic and chili version.

Admittedly, Rick Stein’s recipe of Italian Uni Pasta appealed to me more because of it’s rustic spicy flavors, but I thought it would be safer to do something less spicy since both S and the Imp aren’t fans of spicy heat.

I quickly wrote up a lunch menu but S, darling that she is, worried that I may be doing too much, volunteered to do a salad. I was grateful because, to me, salads are very tedious because of all the prep. And her salads are usually very good. πŸ™‚

Lightly-cured Hamachi without Edamame Wasbi Sauce

The Imp spotted me tweeting a photo of a bag of baked mushrooms and said that she’d like to have that, so in it went onto the lunch menu.

Unconsciously, I would usually do modern Japanese meals because I like the simplicity and the clean flavors. And yes, I’m a fan of Harumi Kurihara. So I decided to include the Momofuku Cured Hamachi and an Eggplant Gratin with a Miso Tofu sauce.

I also decided to throw in a roast leg of lamb. I think it was because the menu looked decidedly limp on the meat side. But in the end, because the Nasu Gratin took up all my cheese, I couldn’t do the roast lamb stuffed with Parmesan and Mint. Alas.

Gorgonzola Salad that didn't have Gorgonzola in it... :)

So with the menu written and sent out, I am reminded of the old adage: Man plans, God laughs. Tweaks to the menu were made but for the better I hope.

The Gorgonzola Salad didn’t have Gorgonzola in it because S decided that the strong cheese would overpower the tofu and the herbs so she used Fourme d’Ambert, a creamy softer blue cheese that went very well with the salad.

I baked Shiitake, Bunashimeji, White Enoki and Hiratake (Oyster Mushrooms) in a foil bag with butter and lemon slices and allowed the resulting lemon-butter liquor to braise the mushrooms a little. I was surprised that it was well-received because it’s a very easy thing to make: just mushrooms, butter, lemon slices and salt & pepper to taste and finally, 25mins in a 200°C oven. πŸ™‚

The cured Hamachi was also another surprise hit. Well, it was a surprise to me because I thought everyone’s tried it before and hence it would be meh. I’ve always resisted making the Edamame Horseradish sauce in the recipe because I thought it’s a distraction to the lovely flavors of the cured fish that’s already boosted by the Furikake. I sliced the Hamachi thickly because too thin and the cured texture of the fish would be lost but this resulted in about 2-3 slices per person. The feedback was that it was too little. But that’s the secret to being a good cook: always leave them wanting more. πŸ™‚

Eggplant Gratin (with secret Tofu Miso sauce)

The Nasu Gratin was the most problematic of all starting with the fact that I wasn’t sure how to serve a large clay-pot of Gratin. Should everyone just dip their spoons in? In the end, I served them individually in ramekins that S had me buy a few months back. I was gratified when I felt a tiny crack as I tapped on the cheese crust and everyone liked the Miso-Tofu sauce and praised the cheese crust. πŸ™‚ Sadly, I over-cooked the Eggplant which didn’t sit well on the palate.

Then came the Uni Pasta. I was a little taken aback when most of them couldn’t taste the Uni in the pasta because I felt the sweet briny Jasmine flavor was robust. In the end, I think a little less butter would be better. But the Uni-buttered toast was tasty! πŸ™‚

An aside: 205°C for 7 minutes will result in a nice evenly-browned cracking toast.

Upon request, the Imp provided a very interesting caviar substitute called ArΓ«nkha MSC. I tasted it and I thought it was good unfortunately, it didn’t quite have a bright enough spark to counterpoint the rich Uni Pasta.

Dessert was by M. It was a crumbly Pear and Hazelnut cake (recipe here). M was generous with her chocolate sauce and organic ice cream. Her plating skills were outstanding. And yes, her pears could be eaten with a spoon. πŸ™‚

Uni Pasta...

Lunch was most enjoyable. Having done all the prep the night before, it was just a matter of heating up and assembling the food. And I designed menu such that the hot items cooked at the same temperature but different times, so I just had to keep an eye on the timings and pace the courses accordingly.

The company was sparkling and S was surprised that the men could cook, judging by their comments and analysis of the food. Yes, I do host a very discerning company of friends for lunch.

I was also happy that Whisky connoisseurs were present as I’ve some whiskys to share but I felt they would be misunderstood by others. It was instructional to hear their opinion and to share a dram or two with them.

The Imp surprised me by bringing her personal rubber gloves to wash up. She also co-opted her Man to dry the dishes. I was mortified at first but she said that washing up my dishes was easy and enjoyable because my “sponge was very big”.

When I’m cooking, the first and foremost on my mind are the people that I’m cooking for: S and Imp doesn’t like spicy; they all like cheese etc; flavor! Basically, what can I do to make them happy. That, I think, is what they mean when they say cooking with love.

But don’t take my word for it:

Making Uni Butter

Making Sea Urchin Butter

Posted on 7th Jun 2012 in Food and Drink, Lunch Bunch, Makankaki


There Are 5 Comments


DSD commented on June 7, 2012 at 10:37 pm

Wah, I’m so jealous! Miss dining with you all!


matilda commented on June 7, 2012 at 11:47 pm

can kindly share the recipe for the tofu tomato salad?


Su-Lin commented on June 8, 2012 at 1:48 am

I’m gonna make those mushrooms!


alkanphel commented on June 14, 2012 at 6:56 am

Argh I really have to make that cured hamachi someday! And the making of the uni butter reminds me of gazpacho LOL!


carrie commented on July 26, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Breezed in here and cracked out a smile – some things don’t change – you’re still whipping up a storm in your kitchen!


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