Looking for a soup with a difference for these cool winter nights? You can’t go past this wonderful selection from Nancy Singleton Hachisu’s new book Food Artisans of Japan (Hardie Grant Books). Her Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Grilled Mackerel is typical of the healthy and delicious dishes from this “dive into Japan’s diversely rich food landscape.” It features 120 recipes from seven top Japanese chefs and is a must for the kitchen library.
The textures in this soup are surprising, yet satisfying, and each bite is slowly savored while a feeling of comfort washes over. Since no butter or cream are used in the soup, the flavor is intense and clear.
100 g (3½ oz) small clams (such as asari), scrubbed and soaked in several changes of cold water
1 tablespoon sake
500 g (1 lb 2 oz) Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed
2 tablespoons unroasted sesame oil
4 large komatsuna or bok choy leaves, stems removed
4 center pieces of mackerel fillet, skin on, weighing about 30 g (1 oz) each
¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt
neutral oil such as canola, safflower or peanut for deep-frying
To make the clam broth, place the clams in a small saucepan and add 500 ml (17 fl oz/ 2 cups) cold water and the sake. Cover and bring to a lively simmer over medium–high heat. Cook for 3–5 minutes, or until the clams have opened. Scoop out the clams with a wire-mesh skimmer and use them in another dish. Strain the broth through a piece of paper towel or an unbleached coffee filter to remove sand particles.
Do not peel the Jerusalem artichokes. Cut half of one into 1 cm (1/2 in) cubes and set aside. Cut the remaining Jerusalem artichokes crosswise into fine slices. Drop the slices into a medium pot, and add the sesame oil and 250 ml (81/2 fl oz/1 cup) of the clam broth. Bring to a boil over medium–high heat, then adjust to a lively simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the slices are completely soft. Purée in batches in the blender until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve back into the clean pot and keep warm on the lowest heat possible (using a flame tamer if you have one).
Fill a medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Blanch the komatsuna leaves for 30 seconds (or 1 minute for bok choy). Drain and refresh under cold running water until cool to the touch. Shake off excess water and pat dry in a clean dish towel. Chop roughly.
Sprinkle both sides of the mackerel with the salt. Place on a rack set over an oven pan and grill for 2 minutes on each side under a preheated broiler (grill), 10 cm (4 in) from the heat.
Heat 5 cm (2 in) of oil in a small heavy saucepan over medium heat. Once hot but not smoking, deep-fry the reserved Jerusalem artichoke cubes for about 2 minutes, until golden brown and crispy. Drain on paper towels.
Ladle 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) of the soup into 4 wide shallow soup bowls and set a grilled piece of mackerel in the middle of each bowl. Garnish with the blanched greens and fried Jerusalem artichoke. Serve steaming hot.
This is an Edited extract from Food Artisans of Japanby Nancy Singleton Hachisu published by Hardie Grant Books RRP $55 and is available in stores nationally.