Books – JapanEasy by Tim Anderson

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Tim Anderson won BBC’s Masterchef in 2011.  He went on to become a freelance chef, food writer, and consultant based in London. Tim’s cooking is primarily informed by his American heritage and his love for regional Japanese food, but it also draws on a personal history of worldwide culinary tourism and a keen interest in food science and modernist cuisine.

In an extract from his new book, JapanEasy, Tim talks of the joyful simplicity of Japanese cooking, and gives us a recipe for sweet miso-glazed aubergine.

One of the wonderful things about Japanese cooking is that in many cases, simplicity is inherent. So many traditional Japanese preparations are actually quite minimal: fresh produce, simply prepared, seasoned with just a few highly flavourful ingredients, and cooked quickly – or not cooked at all. A classic example of this is sashimi: top-quality seafood, sliced, served with soy sauce. That’s it! How lovely.

In fact, whenever I get my hands on a really beautiful piece of fish, I can’t resist slicing off a tiny bit to enjoy raw, dipped in a spot of soy sauce. It is one of life’s simplest, purest gastronomic pleasures, like burrata with sea salt and olive oil, or really potent French cheese with really old French wine.

Of course, Japanese recipes aren’t always as simple as sashimi, but more often than not they start with a similarly short list of ingredients. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty intimidated by cooking Thai or Indian curries at home, mainly because they often require a huuuuuge amount of herbs, spices and other seasonings. Japanese food is rarely like that. Mainly it is about a handful of fresh ingredients being introduced to a handful of amenable seasonings and just letting them mingle. And there aren’t too many of those amenable seasonings that you’ll need to have on hand to cook a very wide range of dishes.

 

NASU DENGAKU

SWEET MISO-GLAZED AUBERGINE

SERVES 4

So many people I speak to name this absolute classic as one of their favourite Japanese dishes, which makes me very happy. It’s not sexy like sushi, it’s not complicated like ramen, and in fact it is even a little ugly. So I love that people get so excited about it – it’s got none of the pretence or the showiness that Japanese food is often expected to have. It’s just pure, concentrated deliciousness: fudgy aubergine (eggplant) with a profoundly delicious caramelised miso sauce.

 

2 aubergines (eggplants)

oil, for shallow-frying

toasted sesame seeds, to garnish

 

120–150 ml (4–5 fl oz/½–²∕³ cup) Sweet Miso Sauce

 

SWEET MISO SAUCE

SMALL BATCH MAKES ABOUT 180 ML (6½ FL OZ/¾ CUP)

100 g (3½ oz) miso

2 tablespoons mirin

2 tablespoons caster (superfine)

or granulated (raw) sugar

1 tablespoon water or sake

½ teaspoon vinegar

Stir all the ingredients together until the sugar has dissolved. This will keep in the fridge more or less indefinitely.

 

METHOD

Cut the aubergines in half lengthways and score the flesh in a diamond pattern, about 5 mm (¼ in) deep (this will help them cook evenly and absorb the glaze).

Pour the oil into a deep frying pan (skillet) to a depth of about 1 cm (½ in) and heat over a medium heat. Add the aubergines and fry for about 5 minutes on each side, until the flesh has browned and softened and the skin has become glossy and brittle. Carefully remove from the oil and drain well on kitchen paper. Spoon the sweet miso sauce onto the scored side of each aubergine and place under a hot grill for 5–10 minutes; the glaze should bubble and brown and fuse with the aubergine. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve.

EXTRACTED FROM JAPANEASY BY TIM ANDERSON (HARDIE GRANT, £20)  PHOTOGRAPHY © LAURA EDWARDS

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