The transition from Autumn to Winter is a tricky one. Few of us want the cold weather to really arrive so we’re a little inclined to pretend that it isn’t happening. Considering the risks of serious contagious illness (without mentioning the C-word) my feeling is that this kind of wishful thinking could be a big mistake in 2021.
Beyond throwing on a warmer jacket, giving a little extra thought to your eating is a good way to manage this seasonal transition.
DAIKON IN TRANSITION
This pungent, white, intense root vegetable that makes your nose run and your eyes weep is the Autumn vegetable par excellence. It is highly contractive and encourages strong elimination. Many recipes use raw daikon. At this time of year, however, I would suggest that your daikon should be either well-cooked or pickled. The only way to eat it raw at this season is to grate it onto your soup or casserole.
Here are a couple of tried and tested (by me) recipes for cooking daikon. If you scour my Facebook Page you can read the positive responses from my family!!
So please put aside what may well be a bias against this vegetable and give it another try. You could find yourself very pleasantly surprised.
DAIKON STEAK – serves 6 (pictured above)
- About 20 cm of daikon
- Some melting-type cheese – I used haloumi to very good effect
- Some wakegi green onions – or spring onions, parsley & or coriander – for garnish
- Two tablespoons of soy sauce
- Some butter Some dashi (Japanese stock), vegetable or chicken stock
- Scrub or peel the daikon then cut it into 6 even disc shaped pieces.
- Put some stock in a pan and simmer the daikon pieces in it
- Do NOT let them get too soft
- Drain the daikon then wipe off the excess soup.
- Melt some butter in a frying pan and fry both sides of the boiled daikon pieces.
- Add some soy sauce and keep stir-frying both sides until the sauce gets thick.
- Place some cheese on the daikon pieces and put the lid on the frying pan to allow the cheese to melt.
- TRANSFER the dish to a plate and garnish to SERVE as a side dish or double your quantities and use it as a centerpiece.
SPICY ROASTED DAIKON (chips) – Serves 4
- ¼ cup grape seed oil – sesame will also work well
NOTE: I use rather less oil than this but tastes differ
- 1½ teaspoons chili paste (I like Sambal Oelek)
- 1 teaspoon low-sodium Tamari or soy sauce
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated ginger pulp
- ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon sea salt 5 cups prepared Daikon (see instruction below)
- Preheat the oven to 220 C and adjust a rack to the center.
- Prepare a baking dish / tray with a sheet of baking paper
- Cut the daikon into sections approximately 8cm long. Then cut each section into chips about between 0.5 & 1 cm thick. Put all the daikon on the baking paper.
- In a small bowl, combine the oil, chili paste, Tamari or soy sauce, ginger, sugar and salt.
NOTE: practice will teach you the various quantities that deliver for your taste buds
- Drizzle this over the Daikon slices and then use your hands to toss them until they’re all evenly coated and in a single layer.
- Wash your hands very thoroughly afterwards.
- Place the baking dish/tray in the preheated oven and roast until the chips are golden brown on all sides, about 30 minutes – or until they are nice and crispy
- NOTE: You should gently toss/flip them about halfway through the cooking time.
- Put a double layer of kitchen paper onto a large plate and, when the chips are done, put them on top to drain for a minute
- SERVE alongside your casserole, grilled haloumi, steamed greens or whatever
SIDE NOTE #1 – A DIFFERENT CHIP
Slow baking is a great method for the colder months.
If chippy-type things are your thing I cannot recommend too highly
Yotam Ottolenghi’s Sweet Potato Wedges with Lemongrass Crème Fraiche.
I have been baking them for years now (with & without the crème fraiche) and they are always an amazing success.
GINGER – Another amazing Autumn vegetable
Ginger is similar to daikon in its qualities as an Autumn vegetable. Unlike daikon, it doesn’t really lend itself to being the center of a dish – or even a side dish. However it does lend itself to transition eating. A “to-your-taste” dose of grated ginger will deliver a delicious spike to your soup, casserole or sauce. Alternatively, ginger works well as a major flavor component. Try this terrific Carrot & Ginger soup which uses baked rather than boiled or fried carrot.
THE ULTIMATE TRANSITION COMPONENTS: MINERALS & MISO
Building your minerals and enhancing your nutritional uptake are essential both in seasonal transition and through the Winter.
Generally speaking, minerals are most easily found in (dark) leafy greens & seaweeds, grains, seeds and salts. Gomasio, made with sesame seeds and rock salt, is a great mineral supplement. It can be bought but is super easy to make. All you need is the means to grind it up: a suribachi (from an Asian grocer) or mortar & pestle is perfect. You can put this condiment on anything – savoury or sweet – and it actually makes the dish taste better.
Miso is marvelous for priming the intestines, enhancing uptake of nutrients and boosting your minerals. In one form or another, it can definitely be consumed daily. Basic miso soup is so easy to make that you cannot go wrong: just add hot water or stock and mix it in. From there you can add in whatever you like. A perfect transition choice would be grated ginger &/or daikon. Mineral loaded (washed) seaweed is also a particularly good addition. However, it all depends on what you have to hand. You could also try spring onions, last night’s baked veg, a bit of chopped tofu, etc.
ESSENTIAL NOTES ON MISO
- Best to use organic, NON-pasteurized miso paste – choose the paler, shiro miso or the orangey-coloured barley miso (avoid the darker ones).
- Do NOT boil the miso (it will, however, cope with a short-term VERY low simmer)
MORE ON MISO
Miso can also be used as a bit player in a more complicated (i.e. multi-ingredient) transition dish. It is still a flavorsome and nutritionally positive addition. This soup, from good old Yotam, doesn’t just look great. With miso, carrot, barley, cabbage and onion – to say nothing of fresh feta – it is perfect for the increasingly colder evenings.
NOTE: he also waxes lyrical about cabbage in a way that is not to be missed … or resisted!!!
TRANSITION #2 – Coming soon
Part 2 of this TRANSITION FOODS post, WINTER TAKING OVER will look at slow cooked food for the really cold months. We’ll re-visit some old favourites, throw in some new things and probably borrow ideas from people who have made it their profession to know much more about cooking than I ever will.