The George Blog – Early Summer Stew & Comments

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Early Summer Stew

A perfect main meal for early summer, when young vegetables are available at the farm stands (farm shops). Miso, Tofu and Seaweed give this a somewhat Japanese flavour.

You can really use what vegetables you fancy – but here is my selection:

3 young onions usually about 40mm (11/2") diameter.
6 young turnips, usually about 30 - 40mm (11/2") in diameter.
2 - 4 young carrots, depending on size. Not too small. (say 125mm - 5" long).
2 - 3 young leeks (or 1 large leek).
200g - 250g (about 1/2 lb) green beans (in Europe these can be french beans or young runner beans).
A small cauliflower (or about 6-8 florets from a larger one).
250g - 350g peas in the pod (1/2 to 3/4 lb).
2 - 3 small courgettes (zucchini) – about 75mm - 100mm (3" - 4") long
450g (1 lb) tofu.
2 tbsp miso (sweet white, brown rice, or whatever you fancy).
2 tbsp mirin.
4 tbsp rice wine or dry white wine.
A piece of Wakami (or bordering the Atlantic - use Alaria) about 125mm (5") long.
3 - 5 bay leaves.
Olive oil.

I know it looks a lot, but actually it's not too bad to cook and it provides a meal for two people for two days.

Method:

I cook this in an electric wok - but a good heavy-bottomed pan on the stove top is fine.

Drain and rinse the tofu. If possible, wrap in paper kitchen towel and press between two wooden boards for 30 minutes (pile a few heavy books on top). If you can't do this (i.e. no time) then wrap the tofu in paper towel and press gently to remove as much moisture as possible.

Cut the tofu into 20 - 25mm (3/4" - 1") cubes – probably about 24 pieces.

Heat the wok and add about 150ml - 200ml (1/2 - 3/4 cup) olive oil. When the oil is hot, gently add the tofu. Leave on high heat, turning the tofu from time to time, until it is light golden brown. Remove the tofu with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel. Reserve until later. Turn the wok off and scoop out most of the oil (you can use it again) – leave about 1 tbsp in the wok.

Slice the onion fairly fine (10mm – 3/8"). You can use the green parts – just discarding any that are yellowy or tired looking. Wash the sliced onions as the top parts can be gritty.

Trim the roots off the leeks and strip off any green that is yellowy or tired looking. Make one lengthways cut up the leeks and then slice (12mm – 1/2"). Wash the cut leeks well as they tend to be gritty.

Cut the greens off the turnips (make turnip top soup with these - see recipe). Peel the turnips and dice into 12mm (1/2") cubes.

Peel the carrots and slice (about 10mm - 3/8"). If the carrots are pretty fat, make a lengthways cut first.

Top and tail the beans and cut into about 50mm (2") lengths. Wash.

Cut the cauliflower into florets. You can also use most of the stalk - cut into 25mm (1") lengths and then slice lengthways into 10mm (3/8") sticks.

Slice the courgettes about 6mm (1/4") slices.

Slice the seaweed into short pieces (about 6mm - 1/4").

Shell the peas.

Reheat the wok and add the onion and leek. Cook gently on medium heat for about 10 -15 minutes until they are getting soft. You can put the lid on for the last half of the time.

Add the turnip and carrot and mix in. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes, adding the mirin and wine part way through. Leave the lid on.

Add the seaweed and green beans; continue to cook, turning the ingredients over gently to mix.

Add the cauliflower and courgette, the cooked tofu and the bay leaves. Add enough water to cover about 2/3rds of the vegetables. Mix gently and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 20 - 25 minutes until most of the liquid has gone – but not dry – add a little more water (or wine) if necessary during the cooking. The vegetables want to be cooked but still hold their shape and be just nicely al dente. I usually cook it with the lid on for about half of the time.

Put the shelled peas in a small pan with a little water, bring to the boil and cook for 4 or 5 minutes until the peas are just cooked. Drain and add to the stew with the miso (below).

Mix a little of the stock with the miso (or heat a little extra water and mix) and add to the stew. Heat gently for a couple of minutes and serve. You should end up with a little "gravy" in the stew.

To persuade ourselves that this is a Japanese dish, we eat it with chopsticks and a spoon to get the last bits and the miso gravy.

It is very good the next day and microwaves well. I like a simple soft organic red wine with this dish, but pretty much anything is OK.


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