The traditional Japanese way of preparing Kabocha (Japanese Pumpkin) requires a bit of work but is not overly complex. The result is a combination of delicate, fresh pumpkin flavours with clear umami as a result of simmering the pumpkin in a dashi-based stock. You could replace the Japanese Pumpkin with a more common winter squash or with a red Hokkaido pumpkin.
Combining shrimps and pumpkin seems a bit odd, but it’s actually very nice. The combination is colourful and the various flavours come together nicely, also thanks to the dashi. The first time we enjoyed this combination was when we prepared Takiawase, following the recipe from author and Michelin Award winning chef Akira Oshima. The recipe is included in his book Yamazato, Kaiseki Recipes: Secrets of the Japanese Cuisine. It’s a mouth-watering dish but unfortunately fairly difficult to prepare. Typically, Takiawase is a combination of vegetables and fish. Every ingredient requires its own preparation and is simmered in its own dashi-based stock. Indeed: four different kinds of homemade stock. The recipe of Akira Oshima combines kabocha, eggplant, okra and shrimp.
We prefer a glass of sake with our Kabocha with Shrimps, for instance a Junmai sake with fresh aromas and good acidity. The sake must be dry and well-balanced with a clean finish. You could enjoy a glass of white wine with the dish, provided it’s dry and mineral. Or a more adventurous choice: a glass of Manzanilla or Fino sherry. Manzanilla is a dry sherry with a flowery bouquet, a delicate palate and subtle acidity. It works beautifully with the dashi and the sweetness of both the kabocha and the shrimps.
Start by preparing 500 ml of dashi. Peel and devein the six shrimps. We prefer to leave the tail on. Transfer the shrimps to a bowl, add some sake and transfer to the refrigerator for a few hours. Peel the Kabocha, remove the seeds. Halve and then slice in 6 equal parts. Combine 400 ml of dashi with 25 ml of mirin, 25 ml of light soy sauce and a tablespoon of sake. Add the slices of kabocha and let is simmer for some 10 minutes or until nearly done. In parallel heat a heavy iron skillet, add oil, dry the shrimps with kitchen paper and then fry them quickly, let’s say 4 minutes. Transfer to a warm oven. Remove the oil from the pan with kitchen paper. Reduce the heat to low. Mix 50 ml of dashi with 25 ml of mirin and a small spoon of light soy sauce. Deglaze the pan and let the mixture reduce. Transfer the shrimps back the pan and coat them quickly with the mixture. Serve the slices of kabocha with the fried, coated shrimps and the pickled cucumber.
The Lobster Mushroom is, obviously, bright reddish orange like the shell of cooked lobster. Not obvious is the fact that it’s actually a parasite that grows on certain mushrooms, making the host completely invisible and even changing its structure and taste. If you slice a lobster mushroom, you’ll see a beautiful red skin, as if the host mushroom is sprayed. The taste of the Lobster Mushroom depends on the host. The ones we bought tasted fairly bland, but nevertheless the pasta turned out to be very tasteful and uplifting, partly due to the homemade tomatoconfit.
Enjoy a glass of white wine with your Lobster Mushrooms. We drank a Portuguese Vinho Verde, made by Cazas Novas. It comes with floral and fruit notes, has some acidity and a medium body with a good texture and a fresh aftertaste. In general you’re looking for a wine with freshness, minerality and some acidity. A wine that will go well with the intense flavors of the tomato confit and the creamy mushroom pasta.
Clean the Lobster Mushroom. This is a bit time consuming due to the structure of the mushroom. Slice the shallot and the garlic. Strip the leaves of the thyme. In a large iron skillet gently fry the shallot in olive oil until soft. Add the garlic. After a few minutes add the sliced lobster mushroom (chunks). Add the thyme. Leave on low heat. In parallel cook the udon for 10 minutes or until ready. Drain the udon but keep some of the cooking liquid. Add stock, just to have more liquid in the pan. Add the tomatoes, mix gently. Now add the udon to the pan, mix, making sure the tomatoes remain intact. Add cooking liquid to get the right consistency. Finish with a splash of excellent olive oil, black pepper and finely grated Parmesan Cheese.
This year seems to be an exceptionally good year for Matsutake. Antonio Carluccio once described it is a much-overrated mushroom but we dare to disagree. Just smell it! Pine, pine, pine. A unique mushroom. We tried making this soup with shiitake, but the result is not as refined, delicate and well-balanced. The key elements are of course the (home-made) dashi, the matsutake and the shrimps. Kamaboko (made from processed seafood) and Mitsuba (Japanese parsley) add colour (and some extra flavour) to the dish.
What You Need
0,5 l of Water
10 gram of Konbu
10 gram of Katsuobushi
75 gram of Matsutake
Light Soy Sauce
If you want to serve a drink with the soup, then serve taru sake. This is a dry sake characterized by its refreshing taste and the wooden aroma of Yoshino cedar. A wonderful link to the matsutake. And if you bought a bottle of taru sake, then please use this sake for marinating the shrimps.
What You Do
With a damp cloth clean the matsutake. Be careful not to remove the skin. The root should be cut like a pencil. Clean the shrimps and cut lengthwise in two. Let marinade in two tablespoons of sake and transfer to the refrigerator for an hour. Gently warm the dashi, add a small tablespoon of sake and a similar quantity (or less) of soy sauce. Cut the matsutake in 8 similar slices and add to the soup. After a few minutes (depending on the size of the matsutake) add four slices of kamaboko and the shrimps. Taste and add some more soy sauce and or yuzu if needed. Serve immediately when the shrimps are ready. If available add some mitsuba.