Adventures in Miso

Miso aubergines and brown rice. Chopsticks from my trip to Tokyo

Miso aubergines and brown rice. Chopsticks from my trip to Tokyo

Relax, I won’t be posting yet another recipe for pumpkin-shaped biscuits or ‘spooky’ cupcakes.

I have had quite a few conversations about Hallowe’en this week, mainly asking me what I am doing.  Well, actually… absolutely nothing.  Being a 30-year-old childless woman with a flat quite inaccessible from the street, it seems that Hallowe’en is not meant for me.  That being said, I do rather like seeing all of the neighbourhood kids walking about all dressed up with their little bags of swag.  When we were children, we loved Hallowe’en, despite the fact that we were forbidden by our parents from going trick or treating.  We had a party at school with fancy dress, apple bobbing and ghost stories.  My mum would dress me up as a witch and my brother as a devil.  I think she may have been trying to tell us something.

So my week has actually been rather normal.  No quest for orange food colouring (completely unobtainable in the second half of October) or joining the everlasting queue outside the Angels fancy dress shop on Shaftesbury Avenue.  During this very normal week, however, an unexpected parcel arrived at my desk:  a jar of Yutaka miso paste.  Something I had actually been meaning to buy for some time, but had not got around to.

Sure, something that has been made by fermenting soya beans with salt and fungus doesn’t sound appetising, but it is one of my favourite flavours.  I first fell in love with it when I travelled in Japan, and this intensified when I went on a Japanese food-binge on my return to London.  In the west, we most commonly encounter it in miso soup, but is used in a range of other Japanese and fusion dishes.  It’s umami flavour with a slight hum of fermentation, lends itself well to a range of fish, beans and vegetables.

Aubergine works especially well with miso as it soaks up flavour when cooked.  Some recipes advocate grilling or roasting the aubergines with a miso glaze, and others recommend marinating the aubergines in the miso sauce to maximise the flavour.  The recipe I have been working on is far quicker, and therefore very suitable for a speedy weeknight supper.  The aubergines are fried; first in sesame oil and then in a miso sauce that also combines rice wine, mirin, sugar and vinegar to provide a balance of flavours.  A few dried red chillies provide just enough heat without overwhelming the other flavours.  I served mine with brown rice and sugar snap peas for a healthy vegan supper.

Miso Aubergines

2 large, or 3 medium, aubergines
5 tbsp sesame oil
2 dried red chillies
4 tbsp Shaoshing rice wine
4 tbsp mirin
4 tbsp caster sugar
3 tbsp rice vinegar
4½ tbsp red miso (I used Yutaka)

Cut the aubergines into bite-sized pieces and lay out on a tray.  Sprinkle with salt to draw out some of their liquid and leave for ten minutes.  Wipe away any moisture with kitchen paper.

Heat the sesame oil in a wok and, once hot, crumble in the red chillies and add the aubergine.  Stir fry for about eight minutes until the aubergine is tender and starting to brown.  Turn the pieces occasionally with tongs.

Meanwhile, combine the rice wine, mirin, caster sugar, rice vinegar and miso in a bowl and whisk together to a smooth sauce.  Lower the heat under the wok and add this sauce.  Cook over a medium heat for a further eight minutes.  In this time, the sauce will reduce and thicken and form a glaze for the aubergine pieces.  Serve right away.

One Year Ago:  Gingerbread Cake