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MibunaOriental Brassicas in the Kitchen

Oriental vegetables can be cooked in a number of ways, but stir-frying is one of the best, as it is fast, healthy, and preserves their flavour. Although it is easiest to stir-fry in a wok, any large frying pan, such as a deep sided sautéing pan, or even a reasonably heavy saucepan, can be used if necessary.

Stir-fry vegetables

  • Cut leafy parts into pieces roughly 2-3in (5 to 7.5cm), and stalks and any podded or root vegetables being included into pieces about an inch (2.5cm) long.
  • Heat the wok or pan until it starts to smoke.
  • Put in 2-3 tablespoons of oil. For leafy greens, use approximately a tablespoon of oil per handful of greens. As a general rule, use an oil without a strong flavour of its own, such as a good blend vegetable oil, groundnut oil or sunflower oil. Avoid strong flavoured oils such as walnut or olive oil. A possible exception is good quality sesame oil; its distinctive flavour marries well with oriental vegetables.
  • Swirl the oil in the base of the work or pan, and up the sides.
  • Sliced garlic and sliced ginger add a unique quality to the greens, and can be added at this stage. Add garlic first, cooking gently until it sizzles, and then the ginger, similarly heating it until it sizzles.
  • Pak Choi
  • Add the prepared vegetables, putting the stalks, root vegetables and pods in first, and then the leafy parts. Toss them around for 30-60 seconds until they are well coated in oil and partially cooked.
  • Add any other seasoning being used, such as sea salt, ground pepper, sauces, herbs, chopped onions, add garlic and ginger at this stage if you prefer.
  • If the mixture is dry add a little moisture. This could be water, white wine, stock, or Soya sauce diluted in a little water.
  • Cook until the vegetables are tender, but crisp. This normally takes no more than a few minutes, depending on the vegetables and the quantities involved. If the vegetables are thick and bulky, cover the pan for this stage. It is unnecessary for small quantities.

N.B. Succulent vegetables such as cucumber help in the cookery as they add their own moisture to the vegetables. Nuts, such as cashews, can be stirred in just before serving.


Soups

Many of the oriental vegetables are used in soups, especially the leafy greens. The following recipes are for four people.

Basic Western Recipe for Greens Soup

  • 2 handfuls chopped greens
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped carrots
  • 2 tablespoons radish or white turnip
  • oil for cooking
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ordinary or Chinese chives
  • ½ tablespoon fresh tomato purée
  • grated hard mature cheese
  • spring onion, Mitsuba or chervil
Mustard

Soften the vegetables by cooking gently in a little oil in a large pan. Add salt, pepper, garlic, chopped chives, tomato puree. Mix together well.

Add 2 pints (1.2 litres) water. Simmer until the vegetables are just cooked.

Check seasoning, serve with crisp croutons, grated cheese and chopped spring onion or fresh herbs.

Chinese BroccoliChinese-style Basic Soup for Leafy Greens

  • 2 pints (1.2 litres) clear stock
  • a few mushrooms
  • 1 clove garlic
  • handful of greens
  • sesame oil or soy sauce (optional)

Bring the stock to the boil, and simmer briefly.

Stir-fry the mushrooms and garlic together; add the greens and stir-fry for another minute.

Add the vegetables to the soup and simmer for about 5 minutes. Season with a little sesame oil or soy sauce if liked



Salad Ideas

Young oriental brassicas, especially cut-and-come-again seedlings, make excellent salads, either mixed with other salad vegetables or on their own. Any standard salad dressing can be used, or a 'Chinese' salad dressing. They also make excellent 'hot salads'.

Chinese dressing

Mizuna
  • 2½ tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Soya sauce
  • sea salt and ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots or green onion
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced sweet peppers
  • 1 tablespoon ground sesame seeds
  • 1 finely chopped garlic clove

Blend the oil and vinegar together first, and then gradually stir in all the other ingredients.

Sesame Seed Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons white or brown sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Soya sauce
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Crush the sesame seeds, and add all the other ingredients to them.

Chinese Hot Salad

Komatsuna

Stir-fry the vegetables very briefly to take the edge off their rawness, i.e. for about 30 seconds. Use a mixture of cooking oil and a little sesame oil.

While still in the pan pour the dressing over the vegetables and toss them around thoroughly for another 30 seconds.

Serve immediately. This method preserves their colour and flavour beautifully

(Recipes taken from a Henry Doubleday leaflet based on the book 'Oriental Vegetables' by Joy Larkcom.


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