Winter Stew

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This is loosely based on Kenchinjiru – a recipe for that is at http://www.justhungry.com. For Japanese recipes, I highly recommend that site and the sister site, http://www.justbento.com. Unlike Kenchinjiru, this has neither burdock root nor taro root, and is served over noodles. If you prefer taro root or potatoes to noodles, you can certainly do that instead. We discovered we’re not burdock root fans, so we don’t use it either. If you like burdock root, by all means, use it. It is said to have “warming qualities,” so it’s popular in winter dishes apparently. Hey, it’s a stew. Put whatever you like in it.

File:Winterstew1.jpg

  • 4-5 cups of light vegetable stock or vegan dashi stock (see instructions)
  • 2-3 medium carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 8” piece of daikon radish, peeled and sliced into 1/4” slices
  • 1 fresh raw lotus root, peeled and cut into 1/4” slices (Or one can of lotus root slices.)
  • 6 to 8 raw shiitake mushrooms, stems removed (Fresh, not dried! Portabella works nice too.)
  • 1-2 cups shredded cabbage (any green or white cabbage type will do, bok choy, etc.)
  • Seaweed, several strips of a large type like kombu or a small handful of the pre-shredded type (see instructions)
  • Noodles – whatever you like, cooked and drained, about 4 servings worth
  • 1-2 tbs. sesame oil
  • soy sauce to taste
  • sea salt to taste
  • sansho or black pepper to taste

1. The stock – There are plenty of instructions online for making vegan dashi stock. I don’t bother usually. I use my own vegetable stock, in dilute quantity, with a tablespoon or so of powdered dried porcini. Of course, you can make the stock as heavy as you like, but traditionally, it should be a light stock, and take care that it isn’t too salty. For when I can’t be bothered with stock from scratch, I use 3 Telma vegetable stock cubes and the powdered porcini. I like Telma because it has good flavor without being too salty, a problem that stock cubes always seem to have.

2. Heat your stock up in a large pot, keep it at a simmer. If you made vegan dashi, you already have some seaweed strips in your stock pot. If you made stock the other way, cut up some seaweed strips and put them in hot water to soak a while until they’ve softened. If you used the shredded stuff, pop that in some hot water to soften a bit. (Procedures are usually on the package.) Once the seaweed has softened, toss it in the stock. There’s been some concern over contamination in seaweed sources – do your own research on which seaweeds and seaweed sources are safe or not – or just leave it out.

3. Preparing the carrots should be fairly straightforward. Ditto the lotus root and cabbage. Lotus root has the lovely design to it when you slice it – automatic eye appeal. As for the daikon root, I like to make snowflakes – and yes, I realize my snowflakes aren’t very good. Whatever - it was my first time. LOL You could use a knife to cut out notches, but that’s a drag. I took a cheap star-shaped cookie cutter – the flimsy kind that always bends out of shape – and used just the tip of one point to cut out notches – some deeper/narrower, some shallower/wider. For the mushrooms, angle the knife and making 2 cuts to cut out a vee wedge. Repeat to make intersecting lines of wedge cuts. (See photos.) Oh, and the bits that get cut off of the daikon and mushrooms - throw those in the pot too.

4. Heat the oil up in a pan and lightly sauté all of the veggies except the cabbage for just a few minutes, then toss in the cabbage and sauté one or 2 more minutes. Toss it all in the stock. Simmer the soup until the veggies are the doneness you like – I prefer tender, but not mushy, so usually about 15 minutes at a high simmer.

5. Add a splash of soy sauce if you like, but don’t go crazy with it. It should just give a little flavor and salt. It should not taste like soy sauce soup. Taste the soup, add sea salt to taste. Again, use restraint. Finally, add sansho or black pepper to taste. It’s not meant to be a very spicy soup, but no one will arrest you if you like your winter stew peppery. Another option is to not add any pepper and just let people sprinkle it on their bowls as they like.

6. Plating (Or would it be bowling?): Put a serving of noodles in the bowl, scoop some veggies in, ladle in the broth, and then grab a few strips of seaweed (chopsticks work well) and pop them on top like a garnish. Skip that step if you used the tiny shredded seaweed – it will be everywhere.

Variations: This kicks ass with miso soup stock. If you do use miso, you won’t need to add the soy sauce or sea salt. You can also use other root veggies with or instead of the daikon and lotus root. Turnip, potatoes, sweet potatoes, whatever. Chopped green onion is a nice garnish and gives it a nice little bite.

I think that’s it. Here are some pix…

Lotus root:

File:Winterstew2.jpg

Lotus root slices:

File:Winterstew3.jpg

Daikon:

File:Winterstew4.jpg

Daikon "snowflakes":

File:Winterstew5.jpg

Mushrooms:

File:Winterstew6.jpg