Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Crab, Spinach and Japanese Mushroom Ohitashi

"What's an ohitashi?", I hear you cry (in my head, where else?)!

Well, gather round, and I will tell you. In just one sentence! It's a Japanese dish, consisting of a broth (e.g. dashi stock) containing seasonal ingredients, usually green-leafed vegetables. We don't really have a word or equivalent for it - it's that infamous soup/salad hybrid I spoke of in my welcome - but for most people this probably counts as a soup.

I'm quite proud of my version. I'm a creative soul, and spend far too much time making all kinds of pretties, and thinking of things to do with food to make it look even more appetising, and this is what I did to poor old ohitashi. Don't worry, the ingredients are authentic, but I don't think they're usually constructed within a food ring, with the broth and mushrooms poured around it... but... look how pretty it is, I love how you can see the little assortment of mushrooms, laying in the transluscent broth... but anyway, I digress. The recipe...

Crab, Spinach and Japanese Mushroom Ohitashi

Serves two, 111 calories per serving.

Ohitashi is a kind of seasonal broth incorporating salad-like ingredients, which we don’t have a Western equivalent to. It is served anywhere between warm in winter and chilled in the summer, when the ingredients are almost like having a spinach salad in a broth.  You could choose to serve it hot, which is also delicious, as lukewarm soup is not to everyone’s taste! I must admit, I serve the broth and spinach hot, with the crab meat at room temperature on top of the spinach, then when you stir it all together it is nice and hot all the way through.

Vegetarians could substitute diced tofu for the crabmeat, with an extra splash of soy sauce to season it.

For the Thermomix recipe and method, go here.

  • 200g baby spinach leaves [58]
  • 150g shimeji, enoki or oyster mushrooms (or a mixture – or if you can’t get hold of any of these, just used small, sliced chestnut or button mushrooms) [24]
  • 120g white crabmeat, good quality tinned is fine (fresh for clean eating) [86]
  •  A sprinkling of bonito flakes, to serve (optional) [1]

For the ohitashi broth

  • 300ml dashi stock [3, if home-made - see Notes below for an easy substitute made from chicken or vegetable stock]
  • 25ml light soy sauce (tamari if cooking gluten free), plus extra to taste -f desired [15]
  • 25ml sake (or dry sherry, or dry white wine - be careful if cooking gluten free as some involve barley in the process) [35]

Clean the mushrooms of all dirt/grit, cut off the base (for the shimeji/enoki mushrooms) and separate the individual mushrooms (or if using oyster, then trim the stalks, and tear the large ones into smaller strips).

In a large pan, mix the broth ingredients with the mushrooms (if you are using tinned crabmeat, you could add the juices from the tin, for extra crab flavour), and bring to the boil over a medium heat, then simmer for 2 minutes. Taste, and add a little more light soy sauce, if you feel it needs it.  Set aside to cool a little.

Wash the spinach, then either wilt in a pan (with the water clinging to the leaves), or blanch (or microwave), squeeze excess water out, then set aside*.  Add the spinach and crabmeat to the broth and mushrooms, and serve, sprinkled with bonito flakes if desired.

*If you want to serve this as a starter to impress, then you could put a ring (a half-sized baked bean tin, with the top and bottom taken off with a tin-opener  and washed out will do, you don’t need to buy fancy food rings!) in a nice large soup bowl, put the hot spinach in it, pressing down lightly, put the crab-meat on top, carefully pour the mushrooms and broth around it then remove the ring, and delicately balance some bonito flakes on top of the crab – get your guests to stir it all in together before eating.

See? It's not quite so pretty when you stir it all together, but it still tastes sensational!


Quick and easy alternative to dashi stock:

  • 500ml light chicken (or vegetable) stock (make up about 10% weaker than normal, and try to get a really plain stock/bouillon that isn’t ‘herby’ – I use Knorr ‘Touch of Taste’ Boullion concentrate which comes in bottles) [25]
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce (there are gluten free available, e.g. ASDA own brand, or even vegetarian) [21]
  • 1 teaspoon light soy sauce (use tamari for gluten free) [3]
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce (or extra light soy sauce for vegetarians) [2]
  • 2 small dried shiitake mushrooms (optional) [removed after cooking]

Bring the stock to a simmer in a pan over a low heat. Rinse the dried shiitake mushrooms briefly under the tap (if using) and them along with all of the other ingredients to the simmering stock. Cover, and simmer for 5 to 15 minutes, depending on how much time you have. Remove the shiitake mushrooms (you can strain at this point, if you think the mushrooms have deposited any grit, but hopefully this won’t be necessary) and use the stock as required.

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