Friday 11 February 2011

Some Asian Influenced Vegetables

We have just had that fantastic mackerel again for dinner but Hugh, the other half, said that he wanted something a bit more substantial than cucumber salad and why did I not make the Char-grilled Broccoli with Chilli and Garlic, which is always a favourite in our family.  I first made this at Baker and Spice, which unfortunately has now been bought out by Patisserie Valerie and has gone hideously downhill, so don't go there! But it was famously where Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi of Ottolenghi met each other ,so it is no surprise that you can find the recipe in their first book.  It really is one of those recipes that somehow manages to taste so much more than its sum of ingredients.  I wish there was a term for that!  Although I am not one to change a classic recipe, I have often made a little addition to this recipe by adding a little sesame oil and a dash of soy, and for this occasion I thought the oriental flavours would lend themselves to the mackerel.  The adapted recipe is below. 
I also have been on a mission to find other uses for the large tub of beautiful Miso in my fridge, so I was thrilled when I discovered IngĂ©nue no goma-ae.  This is a Japanese recipe for green beans in sesame and Miso dressing and is delicious.  I also have a huge supply of sesame seeds, so this is a great way of using them up too.  Incidentally both white and black Sesame seeds are meant to be wonderfully good for you and have made it onto "TheWorlds Healthiest Foods" website!
Next, a very simple dish of Wok-fried Choi Sum is really delicious. Chop the Choi Sum, flowers and all and fry in a little oil. You can add garlic, ginger or chilli to the pan before hand, if you like. Finish with a drizzle of Tamari. Really lovely with some Soba noodles dressed lightly with sesame oil.
Finally, I did mention earlier that I had once had Aubergine baked with Miso. This actually was at a restaurant in Willesden called Sushi-Say, and was a very long time ago, but I still remember it and have been working hard to recreate it for you.  It is well worth the effort.
Char-grilled Broccoli with Chilli, Sesame, Garlic and Soy.

You can try this with purple sprouting broccoli but it does not grill quite as well.  You can toast the broccoli in a hot pan if you do not have a griddle pan or barbeque.

2 heads of broccoli
Glug of olive oil
4 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
2 mild red chillies, thinly sliced
Coarse sea salt and black pepper
Soy sauce to finish
Few drops sesame oil

Prepare the broccoli by cutting lengthways through the stalk in wedges.  This is important as when you char-grill the pieces it needs to have the most surface area possible.

Fill a very large saucepan with plenty of salted water and bring it to the boil. Throw in the broccoli and blanch for 3 minutes only. Don't be tempted to cook it any longer! Using a large slotted spoon, quickly transfer the broccoli to a bowl full of ice cold water. Drain in a colander and allow to dry completely. In a mixing bowl, toss the broccoli with 45ml of the olive oil and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Place a ridged griddle pan over a high heat and leave it there for at least 5 minutes, until it is extremely hot or use your barbecue. Depending on the size of your griddle, cook the broccoli in batches. Turn them over so they get char marks all over.
 While grilling the broccoli, place the rest of the oil in a small saucepan with the garlic and chillies. Cook them over a medium heat until the garlic just begins to turn golden brown. Be careful not to let the garlic and chilli burn - remember they will keep on cooking even when off the heat. 
Pour the oil, garlic and chilli over the hot broccoli and toss together well. Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Now drizzle with Tamari Soy and Sesame oil to your taste.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Asian Cabbage and Sesame Slaw

I love all sorts of "slaws", especially with barbecued food.  This salad does not look that beautiful but it really tastes great.  I like to use Savoy Cabbage when in season but you can use Pointed Cabbage, White Cabbage or Chinese cabbage.

1 small white cabbage or 1/2 a large one, finely shredded
6 shallots, finely sliced
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Handful of finely chopped coriander
3 tablespoons Tahini (sesame paste)
1 tablespoons sunflower oil
2 teaspoons wasabi paste
2 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
1 inch ginger, peeled and grated
1 small clove garlic, crushed
1.5 tablespoons sesame oil
5 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Marinate the shallots in the wine vinegar in advance, ideally for 1-2 hours. Mix together all dressing ingredients except the water - a blender or electric beater is useful - then adds the water to thin. Mix dressing into salad, add the marinated shallots and sprinkle over sesame to garnish.

Ingen no goma-ae
175g / 6 oz green beans
A pinch of salt
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 tablespoon caster sugar
2/3 tablespoon Dashi stock
1/2 tablespoon Miso paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Toast the seeds for this recipe. Simply put them in a frying pan without oil then heat while stirring until the seeds have puffed up and you can smell the distinctive aroma of sesame. Sometimes they make a popping sound.  Grind the sesame seeds in a pestle and mortar or in a coffee grinder. Add the sugar, Dashi, Miso paste and soy sauce and mix together well. Boil the beans in a pan of salted water for 5 minutes or until tender. Finely toss the green beans in the sesame dressing and serve.

Aubergines Baked with den Miso
3 medium aubergines
200g shiromiso (white Miso)
4 tablespoons sake (Chinese rice wine is good here if you have no sake)
4 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons Mirin
Sesame oil
Sesame seeds

Start by slicing the aubergines into two lengthways. Cut the surfaces diagonally as far as you dare, without cutting the skin. Brush with Sesame oil and bake for 15 minutes at 170C.  While the aubergine is baking, make the den Miso by combining the Mirin, sugar, sake and Miso.  Stir well to make a thick paste.  Spread this on the cooked aubergines, all over their upper surface, making sure the paste gets into the slashes. Sprinkle with Sesame seeds. Return to the oven for a further 10 to 15 minutes making sure that they do not burn. You can eat hot or cold.   It is delicious both ways but very rich.


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