Spicy Prawn, Grapefruit and Avocado Salad

I love Japanese food. I mean, really really love it. I could probably happily eat some form of Japanese food for every meal, every day for the rest of my life and be happy. But I won't make any promises. Anyway, of course I love sushi, sashimi, udon, ramen - all that 'proper' Japanese food. But I also love the Japanese take on Western food. Like pasta and salads, etc etc.

A quick Japanese-style salad dressing is a great thing to have in your culinary knowledge pantry. Once you get the basic principles down, you can also tweak it however you like. The most important thing is to preserve the balance of sweet, sour and salty. The recipe below is the most basic one I use, but it's never let me down. As good as it is on this salad, I also dress soba noodles with it. I've also been known to dress up a Caprese salad with it, and it tastes good, I promise.

The key to this salad is the Nanami Togarashi, which is a Japanese blend of seven spices (chilli, orange peel, black and white sesame seeds, Sansho pepper, ginger, seaweed). The generous dusting of it on the prawns creates a spicy crunch that, along with the grapefruit, cuts through the creaminess of the avocado. You can also squeeze the juice from the grapefruit after cutting it, and use it in the dressing - just modify the amount of vinegar and sugar accordingly.

Spicy Prawn, Grapefruit and Avocado Salad with a Japanese Dressing
Serves 2

200g prawns, shelled and tailed
1 ripe avocado, stoned, peeled and sliced
1 large grapefruit, sliced into segments
A large bunch of rocket leaves, washed
1 teaspoon Nanami Togarashi spice

For the dressing: (adjust the quantities to your taste)
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Half teaspoon caster sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
Half teaspoon Mirin - this is sweet Japanese cooking liquor, completely optional
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Dredge the prawns in the Nanami Togarashi. Heat up a frying pan with 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. Over a medium-high heat, fry the prawns until they are lightly charred on the outside and just cooked through inside. This takes about a minute per side, depending how big the prawns are. Let the prawns cool on a plate.

Make the dressing by whisking all the ingredients together. Make sure to taste it, as it's really up to individual tastes how sweet or sour you want it.

Arrange the avocado and grapefruit slices on top of a bed of rocket leaves, place the prawns on top and drizzle with the dressing. Serve!

A while ago, I happened to find some smoked cod's roe in a deli and I was soooo excited. I thought about making taramasalata, but the idea of cod roe pasta was too enticing. It isn't really a recipe, so I've been waiting to tack it onto another post. This is as good as any, I guess.

I just whisked the broken-up cod roe with some miso paste, mirin, chopped spring onions and some sesame oil. I think if I ever make this again, I'd prefer a unsmoked or less smoked roe. It was good, don't get me wrong, but the smokiness was a bit... much after a while. 

I have to admit my favourite pasta sauce is Urchin Cream Pasta Sauce from Muji. Yes, I packed packets and packets in my suitcase when I last flew from Singapore. It is so good, especially for something that is basically instant pasta sauce. I'm running dangerously low on supplies, I wish Muji in the UK would sell food!