Sunday 19 September 2010

Japanese Nourishment

Clockwise from top left:
Hijiki & roast pumpkin, seared scallops, kale and miso dressing,
turnip & wakame, green mooli, aubergine & white miso

My dear friend Yuka has just had her second baby, so I offered to visit and prepare some home cooked Japanese food for her and toddler Skyler.

Feeding Mummy, feeding baby Cosmo

Japanese cuisine, particularly traditional Japanese held a deep fascination when I first discovered it 17 years ago. I obsessively practiced classic dishes, reading and researching traditional recipes and finding authentic ingredients in pre internet days.

Every time I dip my toe into its Zen like waters I am reminded of this fascination. If I need a pick me up or I'm feeling particularly ungrounded and manic (as caterers can get), a bowl of miso soup will recalibrate the senses and restore calm almost instantly.

Namayasi, a Japanese grower based in East Sussex produces traditional Japanese vegetables and now runs a London box delivery service. Namayasi were exhibiting at the Japanese festivities at Matsuri held in London's Spitalfields. The vegetables had been harvested that morning at 2.00am. That is crazy dedication for you. The produce was so booming with vitality it was enough to make a cook weep with joy at such beauty.

Clockwise from the top left
Green mouli, red shiso leaves, Japanese turnip, chili, aubergine, edible chrysanthemum

My store cupboard is well stocked with Japanese condiments, such as shoyu, mirin, sesame oil, rice vinegar and miso, so this meal was very easy. A trip to the farmers market this morning to buy some hand dived scallops from Dorset and some lovely pumpkin and kale meant that nearly all my fresh produce was little more than 24 hours from harvest.

Farmer's Market shop

I took these beautiful Japanese turnips, so fresh with their vibrant green leaves still attached, and wanted to do as little as possible to them. Slicing them paper thin and marinading in a few spoons of ume seasoning (Japanese plum condiment) with some leaves of wakame seaweed. The acid of the ume softened the turnip without losing any of its delicate young flavour. The fresh green stalks and leaves were put into the miso soup.

Sliced thinly, wakame and ume seasoning - so simple
Green Mooli

Grated finely

Hijiki seaweed with sesame roasted pumpkin

Hijiki is my favourite seaweed with a very strong taste of the sea, this dish is an old classic which I've been making for years. The Japanese consider this seaweed a tonic for strong and shiny black hair.

  1. Soak in water for about 15 minutes (reserve the water), squeeze the water out as much as possible.
  2. Fry briefly in sesame oil, add a little shoyu and mirin and allow to nearly evaporate, then add a few tablespoons of soaking water and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the seaweed feels soft.
  3. The pumpkin has simply been roasted in sesame oil and salt in a hot oven for about 15 minutes.

Simply show scallops a smoking hot pan with some butter, sear until caramalised, serve with lemon and seasoning

Kale with Miso Dressing

A few stalks of kale shredded finely
2 Tbsp sunflower oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp miso paste melted with a 2 Tbsp of hot water
1 tsp honey

Blanch the kale in boiling water for just 1 minute. Drain and plunge into cold water and drain again. Mix the dressing ingredients and add the kale.

Aubergine & white miso
  1. Place the aubergine in the flame of the gas until blistered and soft all the way through.
  2. 1 Tbsp white miso paste mixed with 3 Tbsp hot water.
  3. Peel the aubergine of its charred skin and chop the flesh. Add the miso paste and blend.
Serving suggestion

Take a tablespoon of everything and place on an oblong plate or any regular plate, giving space to each dish. Grate some of the mooli, which in this case was a variety of green mooli. Mooli is palate cleansing and holds remarkable health benefits, aiding digestion. The finest grate is best, so that the mooli is a puree. Serve with a bowl of steaming miso soup and finish with some pickles.

Steaming miso


  1. I love Japanese food as much as I'd love to have a very generous foodie friend like you who is so thoughtful ;o)

    Love the photos...very representative of our summer farewell.

    BTW...I've never used Miso...I think it's time.

    Flavourful wishes,

  2. How lovely of you to make Japanese food for your friend and her adorable toddler. It looks looks delicious....

  3. Very healthy food! Everything looks delicious. A beautiful meal.



  4. Yes, I can't thank the universe enough for me to have a friend liike Sarah! All the dishes she made for me were very beautiful and so authentic. I could taste the love like in my mother's food...Thanks again!!


Please leave a comment.