A long-time resident of Japan, avid homecook and incorrigible cookbook collector, in daylight hours you'll find me translating Japanese into English. Here, I hope to entwine those two passions and share the bounty of recipes to be found in Japanese with the English speaking blogosphere.
Friday, January 25, 2013
Happy New Year 2013: Osechi Tier 3
Osechi tier 3: Simmered stew
Spicy chicken and root vegetable nishime stew, ninjin no ume-ni plum-blossom carrots simmered in dashi and umeboshi pickled plum, snow peas
1. Koh Kentetsu's spicy chicken and root vegetable nishime stew
Symbolizes family togetherness
Time/Effort: * Cost: * Flavour: ***
Nishime is a kind of stew that is simmered until most of the cooking liquid has evaporated, then given a glossy sheen with a final blast with sugar and/or mirin.
The nishime served as part of Osechi, also called chikuzen-ni, has been a bit of a stumbling block for me for years, as it often contains some of my least-liked Japanese vegetables (satoimo taro, takenoko bamboo shoots and gobo burdock root, which I admit is now growing on me ; )). When I found this recipe, sans all the aforementioned ingredients, from my favourite food writer working in Japanese, Koh Kentetsu, I knew I'd hit the jackpot!
I found I had a lot of liquid left at the end of the specified cooking time (perhaps I messed up my calculations when I doubled the recipe?). But far from a problem, this was a real boon when I couldn't be bothered cooking the next day and had it as soup : D. If this should "accidentally" happen again, I will just remove some of the soup to a smaller pot and reduce it to the right consistency and mix it into the portion of stew that I serve.
This recipe uses the ran-giri cutting technique. This decorative Japanese cutting style increases the surface area of the cut pieces, helping them to cook more evenly. Basically, it involves cutting a long, round vegetable on the diagonal, turning the vegetable as you go, as demonstrated in this video.
For the cooking liquid
2 cups water
1/2 cup sake
3-4 tbsp Japanese soy sauce
3 tbsp sugar
2-3 dried red chillies, or to taste
1 Remove any visible yellow fat from the chicken and cut into large bite-sized pieces. Season with salt and black pepper. Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks. Peel the lotus root and cut into slices 1 cm wide. Peel the carrots and cut into bite-sized ran-giri pieces. Drain store-bought cooked quail's eggs or cook fresh quail's eggs for 4 minutes in boiling water and peel carefully. Cut the stalk end off the chillies. Mix together the cooking liquid ingredients in a bowl. Make a cartouche slightly smaller then the diameter of your pan and cut a 2 cm hole in the middle.
2 Heat toasted sesame oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Place the chicken pieces in the pot skin-side down and cook until on both sides until lightly browned. Add the lotus root and carrot and stir-fry until coated with the oil. Pour in the cooking liquid and bring to the boil, scooping off the scum that rises to the surface.
3 Drop the cartouche on top of the stew and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the quail's eggs and potatoes and replace the cartouche. Simmer for a further 15 minutes, stirring from time to time.
(Adapted from a recipe in the January 2, 2009 issue of Orange Page)
2. Ninjin no ume-ni plum-blossom carrots simmered in dashi and umeboshi pickled plum
Time/Effort: *** Cost: * Flavour: ***
I've often looked at the adorable three-dimensional carrots in the Osechi manuals and thought they would be much too hard to make. This year I took the carrot by the stalk, as it were, and gave it a whirl. Guess what, it's not nearly as hard as it looks (as demonstrated in this video). In fact, there is even a way to make these decorative carrots if you don't have a plum blossom veggie cutter!
Many recipes for plum-blossom carrots just simmer them in a bit of dashi and soy sauce, but the idea of simmering them in actual umeboshi pickled plums appealed to my cheekier side. I used the super-red kindoki ninjin variety here to contrast with the regular carrots in the stew.
1/2 a kindoki ninjin red carrot
400 ml dashi stock
4 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp usukuchi (light) Japanese soy sauce
2 umeboshi pickled plums (low sodium for preference)
pinch of salt
1 Cut carrot into 1 cm-thick coins and cut out plum blossom shapes using a veggie cutter.
2 At the point where the petals join, make 4-5 mm deep cuts into the center, like the spokes of a wheel. Beginning 1/3 of the way between two petals, remove a small piece of carrot by cutting diagonally toward the cut that you made. Repeat with each petal until you have a three-dimensional plum blossom. Repeat with the rest of the carrots.
3 Bring a small pot of salted water to the boil and parboil the carrots. Drain and cool in cold water.
4 In the same pot, bring the dashi, sugar, usukuchi soy sauce to the boil. Add the carrots and umeboshi pickled plums, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 4-5 min. Set aside to cool in in the cooking liquid.
String and cook briefly in boiling water. Make "fans" of three snow peas and tuck into the stew as a garnish. My guess is that this presentation represents either the kadomatsu New Year's entrance decoration or the stylized matsu (pine) motif so popular at Japanese New Year.