Dashi — making it, and a couple of simple uses

I have always had a great fondness for japanese cuisine; it’s combination of simplicity in presentation and depth of flavour to bring out the best in fresh produce. Whether it’s the simple grilling of a Robatayaki or the warming oily depth of ramen (like this, not like this), there is just something so cleansingly right about the food. And then there’s Dashi. It’s a smoky fishy stock that forms the basis of things like miso soup, simmering broths and many other parts of Japanese cuisine. 

Dashi in a dash

Making Dashi

I had thought Japanese food was too much work to make at home, requiring more of a delicate hand than this Englishman was capable of. That was until I got my hands on what was perhaps my favourite cookbook purchase of last year: Japanese Farm Food by Nancy Singleton Hachisu. The book is wonderfully written and is not only simple to follow but also puts you in touch with the daily rhythms of farm life in Japan. To that end, this book fits perfectly in the Gentleman Grocer’s library and I hope that you will consider adding it to yours. Here, I use Nancy’s method of preparing dashi as well as a variation on her bitter greens with dashi. If you enjoy them I encourage you to hunt down her book; you will not be disappointed.

In the second dish, I present a variation on a recipe for Japanese turnips with miso first published by Gourmet magazine in 2009.  By using dashi to simmer the turnips we add an extra layer of flavour (but you have to cut back the miso soas not to overwhelm).

And lastly, just because I like completeness, I’ll give you my foolproof way of making plain white rice. I used Basmati rice today because tomorrow I’ll be making Kedgeree and will need some, but if you don’t have the same needs, I would make this meal with Japanese short-grain rice.

Dashi
Simple and fast to prepare, I encourage you to try making your own dashi at least once. As it's ingredients are both dry goods, this is a perfect store cupboard supper base.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 piece of Konbu seaweed, about 6 inches long
  2. 1 small packet of Bonito flakes, a small handful
Instructions
  1. Pop the konbu into a pan and add a pint of cold water. As it heats up towards a boil, take out the seaweed just before you actually get there. add the bonito flakes and simmer for 8 minutes.
  2. Turn the heat off and set the timer for another 8 minutes, then pour the dashi through a fine strainer to remove the bonito.
Adapted from Japanese Farm Cooking by Nancy Singleton Hachisu
Barnes and Hoggetts http://barnesandhoggetts.com/
Red Russian Kale with Dashi and smoked salt
Serves 1
A take on Nancy Singleton's simple bitter greens with dashi (Komatsuna no ohitashi). Instead of using soy, I add smoked salt to season the dish. If you don't have smoked salt, I would fall back on the orignal preparation, which calls for a couple of tablespoons of soy.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. a handful of young kale per person - it will cook down
  2. 1/4 cup dashi
  3. a large pinch or two of bonito flakes
  4. a large pinch of smoked salt
Instructions
  1. wash the kale thoroughly and tie it together with a piece of string or a rubber band.
  2. Bring a pot of water to boil on the stove. If the kale stems are thick, lower the kale stem first and give the stems a little longer then the leaves. As the leaves start to go vibrant green in the water, fill a bowl in the sink with cold water. When the kale is just cooked (about 2-3 minutes total) take the kale out and dump them in the cold water. Lift them out of the water and squeeze as much moisture out as possible.
  3. Lay the kale bunch flat on a chopping board and chop into even two inch lengths. Stand them upright in a bowl and sprinkle generously with the smoked salt. Gently pour over the dashi, some of the salt will dissolve and be drawn down into the leaves; that's a good thing. Leave for a few minutes for the salt to infuse.
  4. Just before serving, scatter the bonito flakes over the top of the greens and enjoy!
Adapted from Japanese Farm Cooking by Nancy Singleton Hachisu
Barnes and Hoggetts http://barnesandhoggetts.com/
Hakurei Turnips cooked in dashi with a miso glaze
Serves 1
Quick, simple and earthy, I often make these as a standby lunch snack. The turnips love the buttery miso flavour and the dashi adds a nice smoky, fishy note. Enjoy with simple rice on a cold day.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
15 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. a bunch of turnips you can hold by the greens in one hand per person
  2. 2/3 cup of dashi
  3. 2 teaspoons of butter
  4. a glug of mirin (you can leave this out if you don't have any at home)
  5. 1/2 teaspoon mild miso
Instructions
  1. Cut off the spindly roots of the turnips and then cut them from their stems. Give them a good scrubbing and half or quarter them if they are large. Put in your broadest pan with a lid along with the dashi, half the butter and the mirin if you're using it. Turn up the heat to medium and when the liquid starts to boil cover and set the timer for 8 minutes (If you are making a larger batch, give it an extra couple of minutes).
  2. Meanwhile, chop the green leaves and if the stems are a little thick and woody give them up to the compost. Add the greens to the pot and pop the lid back on for a minute or so. Remove the lid and let the liquid reduce until it just coats the vegetables; about 4 minutes.
  3. Mix together the last teaspoon of butter and the miso and stir it into the turnips. Enjoy!
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
Barnes and Hoggetts http://barnesandhoggetts.com/
Plain white rice
Serves 2
Because frankly, it's one of those basics we all need and it's good to have a recipe on file for it; simple as it is...
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Cook Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/2 cup rice
  2. 3/4 cup water
  3. pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Wash the rice! I know it seems like a hassle, but seriously, your rice will be an order of magnitude better if you do so.
  2. Put the rice and water in a small pan with a pinch of salt and heat on a medium heat until just starting to boil. turn right down low—the lowest simmer you can achieve—and put a lid on it. After 12 minutes take a look and see if there is any water left. taste a grain or two for done-ness. It might need another minute or two but no more.
  3. Turn off the heat and leave for a few minutes. Now fluff with a fork or better yet, chopsticks and serve.
Barnes and Hoggetts http://barnesandhoggetts.com/

Pairing

If I were to drink with this meal, I would make the obvious choices of sake, a simple rice beer (Asahi or Sapporo for example). To be honest though I prefer this with a glass of ice-cold water.

Provenance

Konbu: Sunrise Mart

Bonito: Sunrise Mart

Red Russian Kale: Lani’s Farm

Smoked Salt: Kalustyans

Hakurei Turnips: Lani’s Farm

Butter: Kate’s of Maine

Mirin: Sunrise Mart

Miso: Miso Master Organic

 

 

 

 

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  • By Seasonal Produce Report — What's Fresh December 15th 2013 on 6th of December, 2013 at 2:25 pm

    […] to the vegetables with these Hakurei Turnips from Migliorelli Farm. I love these as a standby lunch cooked in dashi with a miso glaze. It sounds complex, but it’s actually a simple and deeply satisfying […]

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