Mekabetsu shiraae

With Christmas being a week away today, the time is just right for cooking up something using some festive ingredients, namely the much maligned Brussels sprout and that street vendor classic, roast chestnuts.  Sprouts aren’t that common in Japanese cuisine, but being from the cabbage family they fit into the flavour palate beautifully, and when paired with a classic shiraae dressing and the rich flavour of chestnuts they make a fantastic aemono dish.

Aemono translates roughly as ‘harmonised food’, and refers to dressed vegetable dishes, rather like cooked salads, eaten as accompaniments to main meals.  The different dressings used in aemono range from mustard or vinegar to miso and sesame paste; we’re pairing our vegetables with a shiraae dressing based on tofu and white miso, to give a smooth, cool, creamy side.

shiraae
Shiraae sprouts with chestnuts, a perfect accompaniment to your Christmas bird.

Ingredients.

  • 312g tube of extra soft tofu
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 heaped tablespoon shiro miso
  • 3 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds, toasted and lightly crushed
  • 350g prepared Brussels sprouts
  • 10 large, raw, unpeeled chestnuts
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

 

  1. Preheat your oven to 200ºC.  Prick the shell of the chestnuts with the point of a sharp knife, then place on a tray and roast for 15 minutes.  Allow the chestnuts to cool just enough so you don’t burn your hands while holding them, peel, then break each nut roughly into thirds.
  2. Cut the sprouts in half lengthways, toss them in the vegetable oil and roast them for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When they have cooked for around 20 minutes, add the pieces of chestnut and allow to finish cooking with the sprouts.
  3. While the sprouts are cooking you can make the shiraae dressing.  Mash the tofu in a bowl with the back of a wooden spoon, or if you have a large enough pestle and mortar or suribachi, use that.  Make it as smooth or as coarse as you like before stirring in the rest of the ingredients.
  4. When the sprouts have developed a slightly scorched exterior and are just about cooked on the inside, remove them from the oven.  Lightly and unevenly dress the sprouts and nuts with the dressing before serving; there will be too much dressing for this amount of sprouts but it keeps for at least a week in the fridge and works well on all green leafy vegetables, particularly on broccoli and spinach.

 

Serves 4-6 people as a side dish.

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