Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!
According to the lunar calendar today is Setsubun- the day before the start of spring, a sort of New Year’s Eve. It is believed that at the start of a new year, the mortal world and the spirit world move closer together than normal, so spirits can wander more easily into our world. Because of this, people all over Japan take part in purification rituals to ward off bad fortune for the year to come, traditionally using fukumame (‘lucky beans’, roast soybeans) to chase demons and evil spirits from their homes and invite good luck in. These beans are either thrown out of the door or at a representation of an evil spirit- normally a member of the family, wearing an oni mask- whilst chanting “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” or “Demons out! Luck in!” It is also traditional to eat a roasted soybean for each year of your life, plus an extra one for the coming year, to bring good health.
Soybeans are a ubiquitous part of Japanese cuisine, used in the production of tofu, soy sauce and miso amongst other foodstuffs. To commemorate Setsubun we’ve combined puréed soybeans and miso paste to make gojiru, a thick warming soup, full of vegetables, that’s sure to bring you health for the whole of the year.
- 1 litre rich chicken or pork stock
- 150g cooked soybeans
- 3″ square piece dried kombu
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 carrot
- 1/2 a leek
- 1 medium potato
- 2″ piece of daikon
- 50g brown shimeji mushrooms
- 1 sheet aburaage
- 2 heaped tablespoons shiro miso
- shichimi togarashi to serve
- Peel the carrot, daikon and potato, and chop into bitesize chunks. Wipe the mushrooms clean of any dirt and cut each one free from the mass, then slice the leek finely. Cut the aburaage into long strips, and set aside for later.
- Measure the vegetable oil into a large saucepan, and place over a medium heat. Once it is hot enough, add your chopped vegetables and sauté them for about five minutes, until they have started to soften.
- Pour the chicken stock into the pan with the vegetables, and bring the broth to a gentle simmer. Rinse the dried kombu under a cold tap, then add this to the simmering stock.
- Put the cooked soybeans into a blender with a cupful of your warm chicken stock, and blend until it makes a smooth paste. Scoop the bean purée out of the blender and stir it into the rest of the stock in the saucepan.
- Cook the soup for a further ten to fifteen minutes, until the vegetables are tender and fully cooked, then rinse the prepared aburaage strips under hot water to remove excess oil and add them to the saucepan. Mix the miso with a tablespoon of warm water to loosen the paste, then add it to the soup and stir well to incorporate. Simmer for a minute more, then ladle into individual bowls and sprinkle the soup with shichimi togarashi before serving.
Serves 4 to 6 people.