Fruit Toppings for Oatcakes (Oatmeal Pancakes)

Mark Bittman has continued his healthy breakfast series with recipes for whole grain pancakes. Sprydle’s Derbyshire oatcakes are similar to the cardamon-scented oatmeal pancakes minus the fruit. Since there are usually a few Derbyshire oatcakes in the freezer for a quick weekday breakfast, why not make a delicious fruit compote to top them off with? (These would also work as crepes fillings or even with ice cream.)

Spiced Figs

12 ripe fresh figs
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 to 2 teaspoons orange flower water, to taste

Put the sugar and spices in a pan, add 2 1/4 cups water and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for ten minutes. Add figs and orange flower water. Simmer for five minutes without boiling until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and let cool.

Caramelized Apples with Raisins, Pine Nuts, and Calvados

4 apples, cored, peeled, and sliced 1/4″ thick
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
4 tablespoons Calvados

Heat butter in a heavy skillet. Add apples and sprinkle with brown sugar. Toss to coat. Cook over high heat, stirring often until apples start to caramelize and are easily pierced with a knife, about 12 minutes (add water if necessary). Splash Calvados over pan and cook until evaporated. Stir in raisins, pine nuts, and 2 1/2 cups water. Simmer until you have a thick golden syrup.

Dried Fruit with Almonds

1 cup dried apricots
1 cup dried pitted prunes
1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries
2 tablespoons vanilla sugar
1/4 cup blanched sliced almonds

Cover the dried fruit with warm water and set aside to plump, 20 to 30 minutes. Drain. In a saucepan mix 3/4 cup hot water with fruit and vanilla sugar. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
Let cool. Garnish with almonds.

Dashi Glazed Carrots

Based on french glazed carrots. If you like your carrots less cooked, you could stir-fry them instead. A food mandoline comes in handy for speeding up this recipe, which is super quick if you have some spare dashi on hand. An attractive dish.

Serves 6 sides

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 lb carrots, sliced in 1″ angles
1 cup dashi
1/4 teaspoon mirin
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons kombu relish
2 tablespoons scallions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Heat vegetable oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Toss in carrots with 1 cup dashi. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat. Cook until tender but not mushy, 15 minutes Remove carrots and quickly reduce liquid over high heat until there’s 1/4 cup liquid left. Add mirin and soy sauce. Cook until slightly reduced, 1 minute. Toss carrots in and coat. Add kombu relish. Cook 2 more minutes. Serve on plates topped with scallions and toasted sesame seeds.

Kombu Relish

Kombu Relish

This recipe is from Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East Vegetarian Cooking, a great cookbook to expand your vegetable repertoire.

Covered in a sweet-salty glaze, the cooked seaweed takes on a lovely gelatinous texture. Try it over rice.

1 piece kombu
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
5 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds

Use kombu that has been preciously been used to make broth. Cut into 1/2 inch squares (a sharp pizza cutter does this well). If you wish to start with a fresh piece of kombu drop in boiling water for a minute, cut into 1/2 inch squares and proceed.
Combine the cut kombu, 4 cups water, and 1 tablespoon of the vinegar in a small pot and bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer 2 hours or until kombu is quite tender.
Add the other 2 tablespoons vinegar, the soy sauce, sugar, and mirin. Boil, uncovered, until liquid is reduced to 2 tablespoons. Turn off heat. MIx in the roasted sesame seeds. Put into a small jar and let the relish cool. When it is cool, it can be covered and refrigerated. It should last at least a month.


Just think of it as Japanese stock. And it’s not just for miso soup either. Dashi is excellent with carrots. Or, to make it a light meal, serve it over a fried egg topped with bean sprouts, scallions, and fried shallots.

You can use either dried shitake mushrooms or whatever combination of fresh you have lying around (I had a bunch of stems left over from a previous dish).

Kombu, dried kelp, sometimes called konbu or dashima, is rich in calcium. Do not wash kombu before using it; wipe with a damp cloth if you must.

1 piece kombu, about 4 × 7 inches
1 1/2 cups bonito (dried fish) flakes
1/8 cup dried shitake mushrooms or 1/4 cup fresh mushrooms, rinsed
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon mirin (sweet cooking rice wine)

Boil kombu in 6 cups water. Once rapidly boiling remove kombu and keep for other use (such as kombu relish). Turn off heat. Toss in mushrooms and bonito flakes. Cover and let sit for 30 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth. Add 1/2 teaspoon mirin and 2 tablespoons soy sauce, or to taste.

Serves 4-6

Miso Soup with Tofu and Spinach

I recently came up with this miso soup recipe after following another recipe that came out way too salty.

Play around with the combination of misos until you find what suits your tastes. The white miso is sweeter and less salty. The red miso is aged and has more umami and bite to it.

The spinach is adding an extra nutritional punch, but leave it out if you like.  Also you could substitute bean sprouts,  shaved carrot or daikon, cabbage, or whatever you fancy.

Shichimi togarashi is also called Japanese seven spice seasoning.  It contains red pepper, roasted orange peel, yellow sesame seed, black sesame seed, Japanese pepper, seaweed, and ginger; it is delicious sprinkled on many dishes.  You will find it at Asian supermarkets.

The miso will separate so stir before serving and stir occasionally while eating.

The end result is a delicious layering of umami, all without msg or any gimmick squeezed from a tube.

Miso Soup

Serves 4-6

6 cups dashi
1 cup spinach leaves
5 ounces medium or firm silken tofu (about 1 1/2 cups), cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 scallions, finely sliced, including both white & green
3 tablespoons red miso
3 tablespoons white miso
1/4 teaspoon shichimi togarashi, or cayenne pepper

Bring dashi to simmer and add spinach leaves.  Once the leaves have wilted (1 to 2 minutes), add the scallions and tofu.  Simmer for half a minute.  Turn off heat.  Allow to cool to 100 degrees (about 15 minutes).  Put misos into bowl and ladle in one cup of dashi.  Whisk together.  Add miso to soup and whisk until smooth.  Return to low simmer, but do not boil.  Serve in bowls sprinkled with shichimi togarashi.