Japanese breakfast

Photo: by Armelle Habib (courtesy Plum)

Steaming bowls of miso soup, grilled salmon, Japanese omelette, pickles and rice: this is a breakfast that weekends were made for. 

“This is my dream breakfast, which luckily we eat most weekends,” writes Julia Busuttil Nishimura in her new book A Year of Simple Family Food.

“Breakfast is a lovely ritual in our family and I really treasure slow mornings when we can sit and eat and forget the busyness of everyday life. I always feel so nourished and warm after this meal and it’s something that I make as simple or as elaborate as I want. Sometimes it’s just the rice, miso soup and pickles, while other times, salmon and tamagoyaki (a rolled Japanese omelette) make it to the table, too. My husband, Nori, usually makes the omelette – he’s faster and it’s no trouble for him – but I have been practising and improving every time. If you don’t have the special square or rectangular tamagoyaki pan, the mixture can be used to make scrambled eggs or a regular omelette instead."

You will need to begin this recipe the night before to soak the mixed grains.

Ingredients

Mixed-grain rice

110 g brown rice

110 g mixed grains, such as barley, chickpeas, black rice, millet, etc.

220 g white short-grain rice

Miso soup

10 g bonito flakes (katsuobushi) 

60 g miso paste 

250 g soft tofu, cut into cubes 

1 tablespoon wakame

2 spring onions, finely sliced

Grilled salmon

Sea salt

2 x 150 g skin-on salmon fillets, halved lengthways

2 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil

Tamagoyaki

4 eggs

1 teaspoon caster sugar

1 tablespoon mirin

Method

1. To make the mixed-grain rice, combine the brown rice and the mixed grains in a large bowl or container. Cover with cold water and soak overnight. Rinse, agitating the grains with your hands, and drain. Place in a large saucepan along with the white rice and cover with 810 ml  of cold water. Bring to the boil over high heat, reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Cover and reduce to low, cooking for a further 10 minutes. Try to avoid lifting the lid at this stage as you want to keep all the steam in. Allow the rice to sit, covered, for 15 minutes. Alternatively, cook in a rice cooker.

2. Meanwhile, for the miso soup, first make the dashi (stock). Bring 1 litre of water to the boil in a saucepan and add the bonito flakes. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and allow to steep for 5 minutes. Strain the dashi into a larger saucepan, reserving the bonito flakes for another use (they can be stored in the fridge and used one more time to make dashi).

3. Bring to a simmer over a medium–high heat and add the miso paste. This is traditionally done through a small coarse strainer called a miso koshi, which comes with a wooden pestle to break up any lumps as the miso goes into the soup. If you don’t have one, press the miso through a fine-mesh sieve using the back of a spoon, then ladle some dashi through the strainer so you don’t leave any miso behind. (Alternatively, mix some of the dashi into the miso or just break up any lumps before adding.) Add the tofu and wakame, turn off the heat and cover to keep warm while you prepare the rest of the breakfast.

4. For the salmon, generously salt the salmon. Heat the oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat and cook the salmon, skin-side down, for 2 minutes, followed by another minute on each side. Allow to rest.

5. For the tamagoyaki, whisk the eggs, sugar and mirin in a bowl. Heat a tamagoyaki pan over a low–medium heat and add enough egg mixture to cover the base of the pan in a thin layer. When the egg has cooked on the bottom but is still slightly wobbly on top, use chopsticks to roll up the omelette, starting from one short edge and rolling to the other short edge. Now you should have a rolled omelette at one end of a mostly empty pan. Pour in some more egg to cover the base of the pan and, once cooked, roll again, this time starting from the already-rolled omelette. Repeat until all of the egg mixture has been used. Transfer to a board and slice into roughly 2.5 cm thick pieces. Depending on how large your pan is, you may need to make two batches of omelette.

6. Divide the rice among four small bowls. Ladle the miso soup into four other bowls and sprinkle with the spring onion. Arrange the pieces of salmon and tamagoyaki on small plates and serve. We eat this breakfast with pickles and finish with a piece of orange, mandarin or grapefruit.

Notes

I love mixed-grain rice; it’s more substantial and provides interesting texture and nuttiness, depending on what grains you use. I tend to make a jar full of the uncooked grains and just store them in the pantry.

With the miso soup, the base is a simple dashi made from katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes). There are so many ways to make dashi – shiitake, kombu, chicken – it is simply a type of stock. Powdered dashi is available at Japanese grocers and if you don’t want to make the soup from scratch, instant miso soup can usually be found in supermarkets now. Once you have all of the ingredients though, it is really little effort to make it from scratch.

I use a stovetop clay pot to cook rice at home, so exact cooking times may vary depending on the size and kind of pot you use. If in doubt, follow the packet directions or the instructions on your particular rice cooker.

This is an extract from A Year of Simple Family Food by Julia Busuttil Nishimura, published by Plum (RRP $39.99). Available now from all good booksellers, online and in-store.

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