This is a variation on a traditional Japanese dish, using pine nuts instead of sesame seed. The dressing can be made with practically any kind of nut or seed, but I had some pine nuts to use up, and they worked really well.
A bag of spinach (200-250g)
30g pine nuts
1 tbl shōyu
1 tbl mirin
Toast the pine nuts in a frying pan, no oil, until mid-brown. Grind them as fine as you can and mix in the shōyu and mirin. Put to one side.
Thoroughly rinse the spinach and wilt by boiling it in as much water as sticks to it. Rinse in cold water, and gently squeeze out as much liquid as you can. You will probably have a sausage shaped lump of spinach at this point. Cut it into short lengths of about 2cm, and separate the pieces as you put them in a bowl. Mix in the dressing and leave for a while before serving at room temperature.
This recipe can be made gluten-free by using proper tamari instead of shōyu. You should use a high quality mirin, such as Clearspring’s Mikawa Mirin, for this dish – it’s worth it.
This is a really simple recipe, that can be made to look incredibly posh.
Ingredients (four servings)
One cake firm silken tofu (e.g. Mori-nu)
8 tsp white sesame seed
4 tsp soya sauce
4 tsp sake
8 tsp mirin (use an expensive one, like Clearspring’s Mikawa Mirin)
2 tsp white sesame seed
A sprinkle of nori flakes, or perilla if you can get it.
Blend the sauce ingredients together and divide between four small bowls.
Cut the tofu as shown below and place one piece of tofu in each bowl.
Toast the other sesame seed in a heavy pan and put approximately ½tsp on top of each piece of tofu. Sprinkle the nori or perilla on top of this. Serve as one element of a Japanese meal.
This dish is made chilled. It could be heated in a microwave before the toppings are added, but I haven’t tried this. Adding brown rice syrup to the sauce would turn it into a dessert.
There I was, innocently doing a puzzle in Irasutorojikku (a Japanese puzzle monthly), when I noticed a recipe printed beneath. Closer investigation revealed that it was vegan, and I proceeded to impress my partner no end by translating the important bits there and then. Tonight I had a go at making it, and it was lovely. According to the blurb, it’s a Tokyo dish.
1 very large aubergine (originally three small, or two Japanese large)
A blend of sunflower and sesame oil, for frying the aubergine.
For the sauce:
2 tbl mirin
2 tbl water
1 tbl miso (type not specified – I used a dark, evil barley miso, which worked well)
Soy sauce to taste
sugar to taste (I used rice syrup)
Cut the aubergine into (UK) chip shapes 5cm by 6mm square (about 2″ by ¼” – yes, it was that specific). Heat up the oils in a large frying pan, add the aubergine and fry until soft. Mix the sauce ingredients and add to the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes then add the soy sauce and sugar. And that’s it.
I served it with brown rice and grilled tofu. The omnivorous one ate it really quickly and urged me to post the recipe so that I have a record of it other than my pencilled notes in the puzzle book! One day, he will add up what he’s spent on Japanese lessons for me, and then he might be less impressed.
I’ve been bashing on at the cookbook in fits and starts, and today have added a couple more recipes. I’ve been experimenting with using parsnip to replace burdock, because the quality of burdock available here is awful. This recipe, based very loosely on a beef fried with burdock recipe, was particularly successful:
Saute shiitake and parsnip
1 small, ideally long and thin, parsnip
1 large shiitake mushroom
2 tsp mirin
2 tsp sake
2 tsp shōyu
Scrub parsnip. Cut off shavings, like sharpening a pencil with a knife (this is easier if you put the parsnip flat on your chopping board and, surprisingly, use a large knife). Alternatively cut into julienne strips.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan or frying pan, add the parsnips and fry them while you cut the mushroom up into julienne strips. Add the mushroom to the pan and continue to fry for a minute or so. Add the mirin, sake and shōyu mixture and simmer until the parsnip is just tender – probably only another minute at most, depending on the size of the pieces.
Notes: This recipe is based on one that originally featured burdock. If you are able to get hold of a nice, fresh burdock root, this will need about a 20cm length and will take slightly longer to cook. Either fresh or dried shiitake can be used, as can any mushroom with a strong flavour.
The recipe below is sort-of translated from 野菜ごはん (“Vegetable Meals”) by 月森紀子 (Noriko Tsukimori), published by Bunka last March. Ms. Tsukimori runs a macrobiotic restaurant in Tokyo, and her cookbook is entirely vegan.
1 red chili pepper
1 cup dashi
1 tbl brown rice miso
1 tbl white miso
2 tbl mirin
2 tsp shoyu
1 tbl sweetner
1 tbl sesame oil
Cut the cucumber into even bite-size pieces and place to one side.
Heat the sesame oil in a saucepan and add the chili pepper. When the aroma rises, take it out (if you must – I didn’t!). Add the dashi and cucumber to the pan. Mix the ingredients for A, and add to the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened.
If it didn’t thicken nicely, drain it!
* Japanese cucumbers are very small. I used one Western one.
* There is recipe in the book for a konbu and shiitake dashi. I just used my faithful vegan instant konbu dashi. In future, when using western cucumber, I will halve the quantity of dashi.
* The recipe uses beet sugar for sweetening. I used brown rice syrup.
* My partner thinks this recipe turns cucumber into aubergine. It would work well with aubergine or courgette instead of cucumber. It should be quite nice cold, too.
* I’d also add half the miso at the end of cooking.
* A kanji meaning “strong” is used with the sesame oil. I take this to mean a nice, flavoursome one.
The veg box this week included an enormous cabbage, so I’m very interested in your cabbage recipes. Last night, I made a recipe from Japanese Vegetable Cooking by Asako Tohata, and I’ve added my notes to it:
4 large cabbage leaves (3 will be more than enough if your cabbage is the size of mine!)
2 sheets abura-age (deep fried tofu – obtainable in the freezer section of anywhere selling Japanese food)
40cm (16″) kanpyo (dried gourd strips) – (actually, twice as much is needed)
broth: ½ cup konbu dashi;
1-1/3 tbsp sake;
1-1/3 tbsp mirin (left out due to it hiding);
1-1/3 tbsp soy sauce; salt (omitted – there’s enough in the soy sauce!)
Put cabbage leaves in boiling water until tender, cut out stem portion of leaves and discard (put into soup or something).
Rinse abura-age in boiling water to get rid of excess oil. Slit around three sides opening the abura-age out into a single sheet. Rub kanpyo with salt until soft (not necessary; didn’t bother) and boil in water (just long enough to soften – a couple of minutes).
On a cutting board, place abura-age inside up and spread cabbage leaves on it. Roll together (so the abura-age is on the outside and the cabbage inside) and tie with kanpyo in two places (a quarter of the way along from each end).
Cook in broth slowly (about 15-20 mins, less if you like your cabbage crunchy). Cut into two (between the tied parts).
I served this with chestnut rice.