by Yvonne Stenlake

The time has come to pack our bags, and leave this fascinating land of the Japan archipelago. Leaving is proving to be rather more hectic than arriving ever was. It is difficult to remember those early days, knowing so few people and only being able to count to five in the Japanese language. At that time it was a great challenge to take a taxi, buy groceries or even order a meal in a restaurant. Overcoming those chal­lenges I think is what makes Japan such a fascinating experience for the newcomer, especially one of mature age whose ability one’s children at times seemed to doubt. Sons visiting Japan these days however do seem impressed when being shepherded around by mum, who obviously knows where she is going and how to get there. Great for the old ego!

Mostly thanks to the Japanese people. Where else in the world would you be guided to the front of a long queue to purchase a ticket—with the agreement of every one waiting?

I could go on and on, however the packers are arriving tomorrow, and so before we go let’s have a party, and as it’s a very special party—and there’s just one piece of beef left in the freezer—let’s have beef. And what better way to serve beef than that spectacular dish Boeuf en Chemise (Beef in a Shirt) also known as Beef Wellington… A dish that will stamp you as a fabulous cook forever. For dessert, with diets forgotten for a while at least, an equally spectacular Strawberry and Chocolate Hazelnut Ga­teau. To begin, let’s finish off the whisky, with Prawns in Whisky. Now we shall have to leave! So, Sayonara, demo, mata aimasho ne?

Prawns in Whisky

500 grams frozen or fresh prawns
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots (or onion)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped salt and freshly-ground black pepper cayenne pepper
6 tablespoons whisky
6 tablespoons dry white wine
1 teaspoon cornflour
4 tablespoons double cream
1 pinch dried tarragon
1 egg yolk
boiled rice

Combine butter and olive oil in a frying pan; add finely chopped shallots (or onion) and garlic, and saute until vegetables are transparent. Add prawns, chopped tomatoes and salt, pepper and cayenne pepper, to taste; saute gently for a few minutes. Pour over 4 tablespoons whisky and flame.

Add dry white wine and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove prawns and keep warm. Combine remaining whisky, cornflour and fresh cream; add to sauce and beat vigorously over a high flame until sauce comes to the boil. Boil for 1 minute; remove from heat; add dried tarragon and pour a little hot sauce over egg yolk. Mix well and then stir egg mixture into sauce. Pour over prawns and serve immediately with rice.

Boeuf en Chemise

1.25kg fillet of beef
freshly ground black pepper
60g butter
250g pate de foie
125g small mushrooms
500g pkt puff pastry
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons water

Remove all fat and gristle from meat. Tie securely with string, this holds the fillet in good shape. Grind black pepper over meat, pressing in firmly. Heat butter in baking dish. Add meat, sear meat on all sides until dark golden brown; do this over high heat. Put meat in moderate oven for 10 minutes. Remove meat from pan, allow to become completely cold. Reserve pan drippings for Madeira Sauce.

Remove string from meat. Beat pate de foie in bowl until it is just soft enough to spread. Spread a thin layer of pate over entire surface of meat. Sprinkle over a little salt. Press thinly sliced mushrooms on top of meat.

Roll out pastry to rectangle approx. 35cm x 25cm; pastry size needed will depend on length and thickness of meat. Turn meat over and put it top side down in center of pastry. Fold two outside edges of pastry over meat. Seal with combined beaten egg yolk and water. Don’t have pastry too thick at joins or pastry will not cook through.

Press ends together, press with fingers to thin out the joined pastry so it is not thick; trim ends, brush ends with egg yolk mixture then fold ends towards the center join, press down firmly. Turn right side up again. Decorate top, if desired, with thin strips of pastry. Brush with egg yolk mixture. Bake in very hot oven for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to moderate. Bake further 15 minutes for medium rare; for medium, allow an extra 10 minutes.

Madeira Sauce:

2 tablespoons flour
3 cups water
3  beef stock cubes
1/4 cup madeira
salt, pepper

Put baking dish with pan drippings over very high heat until drippings are very dark golden brown; do not allow to burn. Reduce heat, add flour, stir until flour is golden brown, remove pan from heat. Add water, stir until combined. Return pan to heat, stir until sauce boils and thickens. Add crumbled stock cubes and madeira. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered 10 minutes. Strain.

Strawberry Hazelnut Gateau

4 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cups castor sugar
90 grams ground hazelnuts
1 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
185 grams dark chocolate
1/4 cup water
1 cup cream
1 carton strawberries
1 1/2 cups cream, extra

Step 1.

Beat egg whites with salt until soft peaks form, gradually add the sugar, beat until sugar is dissolved and mixture is of a meringue consistency. Stir in vinegar and vanilla. Line the base and sides of two springform pans with greased greaseproof paper which has been lightly dusted with cornflour. Spread meringue mixture into the two pans evenly and sprinkle in the ground nuts, and with a knife mix lightly through meringue. Smooth the top and bake in a moderate oven 35 to 40 minutes or until crisp to the touch; release sides of pan and cool on base of pan.

Step 2.

Chop chocolate and combine with water and stir in a double saucepan over simmering water until melted, cool. Remove cakes from bases. Place a layer of meringue on a serving plate. Spread with a thin layer of chocolate spread with a layer of cream, arrange strawberry halves on top of cream, reserving a few whole ones to decorate top of Gateau. Spread under­side of second meringue with chocolate, place on top of strawberry layer, whip extra cream, and cover sides and top of cake. If desired pipe cream decoratively on top and arrange with reserved strawberries, refrige­rate until required.