Tag Archives: sesame

Meditation: sesame carrot greens from a Japanese temple

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Shōjin ryōri:
Japanese Buddhist temple cuisine. Devotional cuisine.

 

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Sydney CBD and Inner West has a range of places for Japanese cuisine, ranging from high end restaurants, sushi trains (remember when they were all the rage?), izakaya-style bars, to food court vendors famous for their ramen. Yet, I had not encountered Japanese Buddhist cuisine.

When I made a carrot and beet slaw a couple of weeks ago, I ended up with what seemed like a mountain of beet greens and carrot tops. Looking at the carrot tops, I remembered a recipe from Melissa Clark’s website for carrot greens with sesame dressing. The recipe stuck in my mind because it came from a book written by an Abbess from a Zen (Buddhist) temple, featuring vegan recipes in the Zen tradition. 

Melissa described making this dish as an almost an act of devotion or meditation, because it took so long to prepare a small amount of vegetables. It was, indeed, an exercise in patience; along the way, it became also a revelation in finding the perfect balance of flavours in the simplest rituals.

The carrots were pulled from the ground that morning, so the carrot greens had hidden pockets of dirt – healthy, hearty dirt, that played hide-and-seek while I tried to wash them out of the carrot greens. After washing, came blanching. After blanching, a quick bath of iced water. After that, soaking in 2-3 changes of cold water overnight to rid the greens of some of their bitterness.

Finally, a simple dressing of white sesames, soy, sugar and mirin.

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Fig-honey-caramel

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Sometimes, we need very few words to explain. This may be one of those times.

Fig. Honey. Caramel.

I made the fig-raspberry tartlets again, with a few tweaks and in longform. While the tart was baking, I had fig and cardamon poaching liquid sitting in the pan, and a jar of blackbutt honey on the bench. The two came together, simmered, boiled, turned a deeper golden caramel, and fig-honey-caramel was born.

It was the essence of figs and honey. Drizzle the caramel on the sesame-almond tart pastry, drip it onto the tart filling. Watch the caramel form a Jackson Pollock-esque pattern on bits of pastry, before running into sticky, semi translucent pools on nestling fig.

Place the tart under the grill for a minute or so, until the caramel bubbles up. Drop a few sprigs of rosemary on top, so its woody savoury smell mingles with the honey overnight.

My slight obsession with figs continues.

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A Winter’s Tale: sesame-almond, fig-raspberry tartlets

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This week’s Tuesdays with Dorie (TWD) challenge began as a quick fig and raspberry tart, and ended with me as a culinary flaneur, discovering food ideas containing sesame, almond, figs, and raspberries. Oh, I also turned them into tartlets.

Sesame and almond pastry made me wonder. An unfamiliar combination, it looked chunky, flecked with almond and cinnamon, “rustic” (that over-used word). Lightly toasted, a nutty fragrance fills the kitchen and trickles through your lungs. The scent of sesame promised exciting things from exotic locations.

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Then, I looked at the raspberry and fig filling and wondered some more. Figs and sesame, raspberry and fig – I get that. But raspberry and sesame? Delicate raspberries with the bold, strong flavours in the pastry? Curiouser and curiouser.

The recipe for the fig and raspberry crostata asks for fresh figs and fresh raspberries. It’s still winter in our corner of the world, and the fruit shop was charging $4 per fig. Per. Fig. Yikes! Unwilling to spend my weekly coffee budget on a few under-ripe figs, I substituted dried white figs, plumed up in warm water and scented with cardamom and cinnamon. In keeping with the winter theme, I added raspberry jam to the fig compote instead of fresh raspberries, with a generous splash of lemon juice.

Raspberry jam, dried white figs and lemon juice creates a sweet-tart reddish gooey mess, which bubbles up during cooking to leave strands of caramel around the lattice pastry. Its relative simplicity showed off the enriched textures and flavours in the pastry: toasted sesame, toasted almonds, cinnamon. In these tartlets, the pastry wants to be the star.

This mix of textures and flavours make these tartlets grown-up’s treats. Sweet and tart jam and caramel. Crunchy, sesame-fragrant pastry. These tartlets piques your curiosity, then invites you to linger, smell, nibble, and then taste.

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