The Zen Kitchen by Adam Liaw is published by Hachette Australia, $49.99
QUICK SOY-STEEPED SPINACH
IF THERE IS A SINGLE DISH FROM THIS BOOK THAT MAKES THE MOST REGULAR APPEARANCE
ON OUR DINING TABLE, IT’S THIS ONE. WE WILL OFTEN COOK A BUNCH OF SPINACH EARLY IN
THE WEEK AND JUST LEAVE IT IN THE FRIDGE. WE HAVE BOOSTED SOY SAUCE ALWAYS TO HAND
AND THE BONITO FLAKES LIV E IN THE PANTRY. FROM THAT STARTING POINT, IF WE NEED AN
EXTRA DISH FOR THE TABLE, THIS CAN BE READY IN LESS THAN A MINUTE.
SMALL DISH PREPARATION TIME 5 MINS COOKING TIME 5 MINS
1 bunch spinach, washed and soaked in a sink or large bowl of cold water for at least 10 minutes
1 tbsp Boosted Soy Sauce (page 28)
1 tsp bonito flakes
1 Bring a large saucepan of water to a rolling boil. Place the
root and stems of the spinach into the water and hold for about
10 seconds. Then, using a pair of chopsticks, push the leaves
under water and cook for about 1 minute. Drain and rinse in cold
water. You can keep the spinach whole in the fridge, soaking in a
bowl of cold water, for up to a week.
2 When ready to eat, remove the spinach from the water and
squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Cut off and discard the
roots, and trim the stalks and leaves into 5cm pieces. Stack the
pieces in a bowl, pour over a little Boosted Soy Sauce and scatter
with bonito flakes.
Soaking the spinach in cold water before cooking allows it to refresh
and open up, like a bunch of flowers might, allowing any dirt between
the stalks to wash out into the water.
BOOSTED SOY SAUCE
I USE THIS SOY SAUCE IN PLACE OF NORMAL LIGHT SOY SAUCE FOR ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING.
IT’S LIGHTER AND LESS SALTY, BUT HAS A RICHER AND MORE BALANCED FLAVOUR.
MAKES ABOUT 750ML PREPARATION TIME 5 MINS COOKING TIME 10 MINS, PLUS 1 HOUR STANDING
1 tsp caster sugar
500ml light soy sauce
4 dried shiitake mushrooms
Handful of large bonito flakes (about 5g)
1 Place the sake, mirin and sugar in a medium saucepan and
bring to a simmer. Flambé with a blowtorch, match or lighter and
allow to burn until burned out. Add the soy sauce and mushrooms
and bring back to a simmer. Add the bonito flakes and turn off
the heat. Allow the sauce to stand for 1 hour, then drain through a
muslin-lined sieve. Store the sauce in an old clean wine bottle or
soy sauce bottle in the pantry.
Like most umami-rich foods, this boosted soy sauce improves with
age. I usually make a triple or quadruple batch and keep it in a big
sealed jar in the pantry. When stocks are getting a little low, I just
make a new batch and top it up. It will keep indefinitely.