Monday, 8 September 2008

Tofu & chicken hamburg steak with Japanese mushroom sauce

The weather is a little more autumnal now, so the timing is perfect for this scrummy and healthy tofu burger and fungi combination that I made earlier this month as part of a week of Japanese food to celebrate the Young Man's return from travels in Oz.

I don't tend to be overly adventurous with Japanese cooking on weeknights because it can be quite involved and not likely to result in dinner on the table in less than an hour. These "hamburgs," with their subtle ginger back-note and moreish mushroom topping, are both very tasty and perfectly doable in much less time than that. We had them with a decidedly summery salad; a jolly way to get two seasons in the same meal.

If Japanese mushrooms are not to be found in your neck of the woods, substitute at will. Around 250 g of 2-3 varieties will do . I also don't suppose it will matter if you substitute chicken stock for the dashi. You can adjust the amount of soy sauce in the mushroom sauce depending on whether you use a powdered dashi, which contains salt, or dashi from a teabag-like dashi pack, which does not. Mirin is a sweet sake used extensively in Japanese cooking. If you can't get it, you could try this substitute, just a plain sugar syrup or a dash of sugar at a pinch.

Tofu & chicken hamburg steak with Japanese mushroom sauce

1 x 350 g block regular (non-silken) tofu
200 g chicken mince
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 Japanese leek ( or 1/4 Western leek), chopped very finely
1/2-3/4 tsp juice from grated fresh ginger
1 x 100 g pack shimeji
1/2 x 250 g pack enoki
4 shiitake, sliced
1 cup dashi stock
1 tbsp mirin
1 tsp Japanese soy sauce
3 tsp potato starch or cornstarch, dissolved in 3 tsp water
4 spring onions, sliced in 2 cm lengths
1 tbsp oil
steamed snow peas, to garnish

1 Squeeze some of the moisture from the tofu by placing between 2 plates, with a weight on the top plate (a couple of small cans work).

2 Cut of ends of shimeji and enoki and break into individual stalks. Bring dashi stock to the boil and add shimeji, enoki and shiitake. Add mirin, soy sauce and a pinch of salt. Thicken with potato starch (you may not need it all), and scatter spring onions over the top.

3 In a large bowl, work mince, egg, ginger juice, 2 pinches of salt (or to taste) and pepper together until smooth. Crumble drained tofu into the bowl, add the Japanese leek and mix thoroughly with your hands.

4 Divide tofu and meat mixture in 4 and form into oval patties, making a slight indentation in the middle of each to help cook evenly. Heat oil in a large frying pan and fry patties on both sides until cooked. Serve topped with mushroom sauce and steamed snow peas.


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