I was lucky to be introduced to healthy plant based cuisine by Velentina Nelissen, a great chef, cooking teacher, dear friend and back then, 10 years ago, a classmate at the dance academy where we were studying.
One of the first dishes Valentina would cook for me was a miso soup. It was way before I knew I am going to be a chef and way before I knew anything about healthy eating. But what I did get also back then is the very satisfying feeling when I ate her miso soup. As if my engines were filled again. It felt like this is just the right thing I needed to eat at the moment, like she could read and cook for my thoughts, feelings and depths of my soul.
Later I learned and studied from her that you should cook for each person individually. And I learned and noticed that a good cook knows intuitively what his guests need, what they crave for and what their strong and weak points are.
This idea of adjusting the cooking to the person you’re cooking for became later one of the main principles which my cooking is based upon. I am so happy that today I can share all these cooking principles, recipes and culinary experiences in my new cookbook Vegan for Friends.
I have been cooking for so many people, in so many different countries for so many years. In pop-up events, cooking classes, caterings, as a private chef, for my family, my roommates and for so many different friends. After all these years, I keep on coming back to this simple, basic and modest dish. A miso soup. The first dish of mine that spread mouth to mouth among my family and friends and that everybody loved and still make. It is the dish that makes everyone feel good instantly. It represents the cooking that I love, simple and delicious, traditional with a modern twist, healthy, delicious and feeling so good.
Miso is a paste made from fermented soy beans. Due to its fermentation process, it contains enzymes and bacteria that help to nourish our intestinal bacterial environment (flora) and help our digestion. In eastern traditional medicine miso soup associates very strongly with strong and healthy intestines. Strong intestines correspond with sound mind and mental health. Maybe that is the reason why everyone feels so good when they eat a miso soup.
Here is the recipe from my new cookbook.
Miso soup with crispy tofu
For 4 portions
20 minutes working
1 liter deep frying oil
150 gram tofu, cut into thin slices, 3-4 cm in lengh
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 onion, cut into thin half moons
2/3 carrot, cut into matchsticks
3 mushrooms, cut into slices
4 cups of water
5 full tbsp sweet corn
1 ½ tsp dashi (Japanese bouillon powder)
2/3 celery stalk, cut into thin slices
2 ½ tbsp instant wakame
3 full tbsp shiro miso
5 cm piece of ginger, grated
1 spring onion, cut into 1 mm round slices for garnish
Preheat a pan with 4cm height of deep frying oil to 180 degrees. Deep fry the tofu for 2-4 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. Discard from the oil and let rest on a kitchen paper that will absorb the rests of the oil.
Preheat a cooking pan with sesame oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion for 1-2 minutes. At any point, if the bottom of the pan gets too dry add 1-2 tbsp of water. Add the carrot and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 1 minute. Add the water and bring to a boil. Add the tofu, sweet corn and dashi and bring to a boil. Add the celery, lower the fire, and simmer for 1 minute. Add the instant wakame. With your hand squeeze the juice from the grated ginger into the soup and throw a way the dry grated left overs of the ginger.
Dilute the miso into the soup. Because the miso paste is thick you can’t just add it to the soup as it will not mix in well. What you can do is to add the shiro miso to the soup by placing it in a strainer and diluting it slowly into the water of the soup through it. Another way is to mix the paste with a small amount of water from the soup in a separate bowl until you get a smooth mixture that can be added to the soup. After adding the miso let the soup simmer for 2 minutes on the lowest fire without boiling.
Serve garnished with spring onion.
Photos: Lize Jansen, Wouter can der Wolk