It’s easy to be complicated, but simplicity – that takes discipline, restraint, and skill. You’ve got to really know what you’re doing in order to make the simple remarkable.
It all starts with fantastic ingredients – processed bread and poor-quality cheese is never going to make a great cheese on toast – but fresh artisan sourdough with some Keens cheddar and a few extra flourishes elevates the dish to a completely new level (you can’t go wrong with a splash of Worcestershire sauce and a hint of freshly chopped chilli).
You also need an eye (and a palate) for composition – the ability to blend flavour, texture and colour in order to create a satisfying whole.
A cuisine that seems unstoppable and that is rooted in masterful simplicity is the food of Japan – a region I glean much inspiration from.
In traditional Japan, there is such an intrinsic connectedness and reverie to nature, to the seasons, and to the fruits of those seasons that ingredients become symbolic – to be cooked and enjoyed with pride, as, it seems, an act of gratitude and celebration.
In sharp contrast (and perhaps rebellion) modern Japanese and the age of the izakaya emphasises bold flavours, BBQ, and attitude – definitely not delicate and reserved, and far from pious. The Bone Daddies group in London have this style down-pat – served with a heavy, irresistible helping of rock ‘n’ roll.
Armed with my new Big Green Egg BBQ (!), I’ve again created a veg-centric dish that combines that masterful simplicity of traditional Japanese with the attitude, flavour and grill-loving style of the modern izakaya – using some of my favourite ingredients of the moment; umami-rich miso butter and super seasonal British asparagus. Grills at the ready.
Asparagus, Miso Butter & Grilled Sweet Potato Recipe
4 x sweet potatoes
12 x asparagus spears
125g x soft unsalted butter
2 x tablespoons of white miso
Freshly ground black pepper
Shiso cress for garnish
1.) Make the miso butter by creaming the soft butter with white miso and seasoning with freshly ground black pepper.
2.) Roll the miso mixture into a log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for cutting into slices later.
3.) Bake the sweet potatoes whole in a pre-heated oven (180/200 C) for 45 minutes or until soft.
4.) Heat a griddle pan until very hot, then cut the sweet potatoes in half, brush with sunflower oil, and season with sea salt then grill until burnished with grill marks.
5.) Meanwhile, peel the asparagus spears and blanch in boiling salted water until cooked, this will take 3-4 minutes.
6.) Serve 3 cooked hot asparagus spears on top of a grilled hot sweet potato and finish with a slice of miso butter which should melt over the asparagus. Add some shiso cress to garnish.