Japanese Pumpkin with Shrimps

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.

Drink Pairing

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.

What You Need                                                                         

  • For the Dashi
    • 10 grams of Kelp
    • 10 grams of Katsuobushi
  • For the Kabocha
    • Mirin
    • Light Soy Sauce (Usukuchi)
    • Sake
  • For the Shrimps
    • Sake
    • (Olive) Oil
    • Mirin
    • Light Soy Sauce (Usukuchi)
  • Pickled Cucumber

What You Do

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.

Duck with Soy Sauce and Mushrooms

In his book Yamazato, Kaiseki Recipes: Secrets of the Japanese Cuisine, author and Michelin Award winning chef Akira Oshima includes a recipe for breast of duck, marinated in a soy-based sauce, served with Belgian endive (chicory) and karashi (Japanese mustard). A mouth-watering dish. The book contains some 20 recipes that are technically challenging (at least, we think so) and well written.

In general the combination of duck and soy sauce works really well. It’s all about sweetness and umami. The Japanese mushrooms (shiitake, enoki, nameko and/or shimeji) add nuttiness and texture to the dish.
We use soy sauce and tsuyu: a mix of soy sauce, mirin and dashi, ideal for making a tempura dip and great to give extra flavor to the sauce.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our duck with a glass of gewurztraminer (full bodied and long lasting with aromas of lychees and roses) but there are many options in this case. Perhaps a nice rosé or a sake with a touch of sweetness?

What You Need

  • Breast of Duck
  • Japanese Mushrooms
  • Soy Sauce (preferably with less salt)
  • Tsuyu
  • Chicken Stock
  • (Olive) Oil
  • Mirin
  • (optional) Sake

What You Do

Start by cleaning the breast of duck and then fry it, straight from the fridge, for 12 minutes on the skin-side and 2 minutes on the meat-side in a non-stick pan. Wrap in foil, making sure the skin is not covered. Clean the pan with kitchen paper and fry the sliced mushrooms for 5 minutes or so in oil until ready. Set aside and keep warm. Add soy sauce, tsuyu and chicken stock to the pan and reduce. Add a splash of sake and some mirin. Add cooking liquid of the duck. Let simmer for a few minutes, add the mushrooms and make sure they are coated with the sauce. Slice the duck, add liquid to the sauce, stir and serve.

Duck with Soy Sauce and Mushrooms ©cadwu
Duck with Soy Sauce and Mushrooms ©cadwu

Red Mullet in Miso

It’s Tuesday morning and we are on our way to our favourite fish monger. No doubt we will be inspired by the fresh fish and seafood on offer. It all looks delicious and yummy, especially the red mullet looks wonderful. It’s such a beautiful fish; red, nearly crimson, with a lovely taste and a very delicate skin. There are actually two very similar kinds, the striped red mullet (rouget de roche) and the red mullet or goatfish (rouget de vase). Don’t worry too much, just go for it.

We will marinate the fillets in miso and then enjoy on Sunday evening as a starter. This technique is called Saikyo Yaki. Best to use is Saikyo miso which is a white, slightly sweet, low sodium miso from Kyoto. The marinated fish is grilled and served with pickled ginger. Originally a way to preserve the fish, it’s now much liked because of the umami and the intriguing combination of flavours and aromas.
We use a standard low sodium white miso and add a bit of sake. This makes the mixture easier to use and supports the flavour.

Sake Pairing

Best served with dry sake. We bought a bottle of  traditional Gekkeikan sake. This is a medium bodied, fresh sake with light floral aromas. In general you’re looking for a touch of acidity, freshness and not too much alcohol.

What You Need

  • Two Fillets of Red Mullet
  • White Miso (preferable with less salt)
  • Sake
  • Pickled Cucumber
  • Karashi (Japanese mustard, optional)

What You Do

Start five days in advance. Mix the white miso with sake, creating a thinner mixture. It must coat the fish for a few days, so don’t make it too thin. Put the fillets in a shallow plate and cover the fillets with the mixture making sure the fish is fully coated. Cover the plate with foil and transfer to the fridge. Check on a daily basis if the fish is still covered.
Using a small spoon carefully remove most of the miso. Rinse the fish with water and dry with kitchen paper. The white flesh should now be slightly orange. Heat a non-stick frying pan until warm, but not hot, through and through. If too hot, the fish will burn. We set our induction hob to 6 (where 9 is the maximum). Add a generous amount of olive oil. Fry the fillets on the skin side and try to keep the fish moving. This way the delicate skin will remain in tact. Turn and fry the meat side, also for 1 or 2 minutes. Serve on a warm plate with pickles and perhaps karashi.

Dashi with Nameko and Shrimps

Nameko (or Pholiota Nameko) is a very popular, cultivated mushroom in Japan. It’s used in stir-fries and miso soup. The taste is nutty, the color amber brown and the texture is firm, also after cooking. The flavor combines very well with (home-made) dashi and shrimps.  The kamaboko (made from processed seafood) and the mitsuba (Japanese parsley) add colour and extra flavour to the dish. Light, delicate and refreshing: a memorable starter.

Sake Pairing

If you want to serve a drink with the soup, then serve taru sake. This dry sake is characterized by its refreshing taste and the aroma of Yoshino cedar. The sake was stored in a barrel (taru) made of cedar. Taru sake is about skills, history, dedication and refinement. Yes, you guessed right, we simply love it. Our choice? The one made by Kiku-Masamune.

What You Need

  • For the Dashi
    • 500 ml Water
    • 10 gram Konbu
    • 10 gram Katsuobushi
  • 100 gram Nameko
  • 2 large Shrimps
  • Sake
  • Light Soy Sauce
  • Yuzu
  • Kamaboko
  • Mitsuba

What You Do

Clean the shrimps and cut lengthwise in two. Let the shrimps marinade in two tablespoons of sake and transfer to the refrigerator for an hour. Clean the mushrooms with kitchen paper if necessary. Prepare the dashi; add a small tablespoon of sake and a similar quantity (or less) of soy sauce. Add the mushrooms to the soup. After a few minutes (depending on the size of the mushrooms) add four slices of kamaboko and the shrimps.  Taste and add some more soy sauce and or perhaps yuzu if necessary. Serve immediately when the shrimps are ready. If possible add some mitsuba.

Dashi with Nameko and Shrimps ©cadwu
Dashi with Nameko and Shrimps ©cadwu

Matsutake with Ginger and Spinach

Autumn

A very special mushroom, to say the least. Well known throughout Japan, China and South Korea as a true delicacy.  Matsutake smells like a pine wood forest and its taste is intense, aromatic, lasting and unique. As if you could taste Autumn.
It’s an expensive mushroom (around 110 euro per kilo) with very limited availability. But if you happen to find it, be sure to buy it. Between 75 and 100 grams is fine for two.
The Matsutake makes this into an unforgettable dish. It will bring you back to earth in a split second. Smell it, taste it and feel how satisfying and relaxing it is.

Wine pairing

Best served with a dry sake. We prefer Junmai Taru Sake as produced by Kiku-Masamune. This fine sake is matured in barrels made of the finest Yoshino cedar. The aroma has indeed clear hints of cedar. The sake will clear your palate and allow for a more intense taste of the Matsutake.

What You Need

  • 75 – 100 gram of Matsutake
  • Some Spinach (preferably what is called the ‘wild’ version, cleaned and without the stem)
  • Ginger
  • Soy Sauce (reduced salt)
  • Olive Oil
  • Sesame Oil

What You Do

Clean the Matsutake and cut in small dices. The size you would like to eat them (Matsutake doesn’t shrink like many other mushrooms; it remains firm). Warm the soy sauce, add a touch of sesame oil and flavour with very small cubes of ginger. Fry the Matsutake gently in a skillet in some olive oil, no longer than 3 minutes. In parallel blanch the spinach in the liquid. Quickly drain the spinach and set aside. Reduce the liquid and taste. Add some excellent sesame oil and whisk. In parallel chop the spinach.
Put spinach on a plate, gently add some sauce and then sprinkle the Matsutake over the spinach..