Adzuki beans with miso and greens

Pulses are good for many things, chief among them their ability to help you find your balance again.

Two hours ago I was squashed on a flight from St Petersburg to London.

This was what they served us for ‘breakfast’.

Two stumpy, flabby berliner sausages and some powdery wedges of potato. Because I was starving I ate some of it (DIY plane-gazpacho of tomato juice with ice can only get you through so far).

Twelve hours before that, in the midst of a Russian white night I was drinking vodka and eating plate after plate of these.

Confession; there were many pelmeni dumplings consumed over our three days in St Petersburg. These stodge laden, satisfying love children of a meatball, dumpling and veal tortellini are designed for long cold winters and best eaten gilded in sour cream. They’re irresistible to a carb lover like me.

And tonight, we will be eating a version of this.

After airplanes, late nights, drinking and saying ‘yes’ to most things while travelling (bar folk dancing and narcotics), when we return home this is what a small voice inside me pipes up and asks for.

Beyond the necessary inclusion of greens, this dish makes a hero out of adzuki beans. It’s yet another chapter in my efforts to get evangelical about pulses.

These small brown wonders are often found in Japanese cooking, particularly in sweets when they’re cooked with sugar and mashed into a paste called “anko”. They may resemble black beans, but their flavour is milder and naturally  sweeter.

Dried, they don’t require pre soaking before boiling. But you should be able to find some quality organic ones in a tin- and if you’ve just come home from travelling, it’s a solid option.

Continuing down a cleansing Japanese path adzuki beans pair well with miso. The genius thing about miso paste is that it’s already fermented- so it’s well worth keeping some tucked away for when you arrive home to an empty fridge and need a quick meal. Beyond that it’s salty, which is exactly what I crave when I’m a little dusty. And it’s built from that mysterious base note of umami which makes everything taste a little more interesting.

If you were in a slap dash hurry you could pull this together with a tin of beans, a knob of ginger you’ve got stashed in the freezer, a teaspoon of sugar and two tablespoons of miso dissolved in a little hot water, along with some wilted spinach and greens.  My preference is for tenderstem broccoli/broccolini and fresh baby spinach, though frozen spinach and peas would suffice if you were facing a very bare larder.

If you have the time, use scallions, fresh ginger and garlic. Add a splash of sake instead of water to the miso and sugar. And top the end result with some protein- whether a slow cooked egg, a piece of fish or chicken, or some seared scallops (as above).
Tonight this dish is penance for pelmeni and pastries and vodka and blinis. It’s enough to make one forget that you were taken to the wrong airport in St Petersburg by the taxi driver, or that accompanying you on both legs of the flight were four 40 year old British men, still sculling vodka from a shared bottle and chortling about things their wives should never hear.
For me, it’s a dish that helps reset the clock and remind my body that that while the immediate party is over- there are still plenty of promising things around the corner*
*(a trip to the gym tomorrow being first among them).
Adzuki beans with miso and greens

Serves 2
1 400 gram tin of adzuki beans, rinsed (you could substitute with black beans, or white beans)
1 tablespoon of neutral tasting oil
1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced or minced
1 knob of ginger, size a wine cork, peeled and minced
4 scallions/shallots, sliced thinly
8 stems of broccolini/tenderstem broccoli (stems sliced thinly, tops roughly chopped)
2 tablespoons of miso paste (white/shiro miso paste is sweeter, so you will need less sugar. Brown is a little more pungent).
1 teaspoon of white sugar
2 tablespoons of water or sake
1 large handful of baby spinach leaves
Optional: sunflower or sesame seeds to sprinkle over the top. Pan fried scallops, egg, tofu, chicken fillets of fish to serve with.
Here’s how we roll
1) In a heavy bottom casserole dish sautee the garlic, ginger and the white and firm pale green parts of the shallots/scallions over a medium heat until the scallions soften- take care not to scorch the garlic.
2) Add the thinly sliced broccolini/tenderstem broccoli stems and sautee for two minutes over a medium heat,  until the coins of green have softened.
3) In a small bowl combine the miso, sugar and water or sake and stir to combine. Taste it. Depending on how salty your miso is, adjust the sauce. Brown miso is much saltier and more pungent than white miso. You want  to temper the saltiness of the miso with the sugar. Think about the flavour of nasu dengaku- the Japanese eggplant that is smothered in miso and grilled- that’s the flavour you’re after.
4) Add the beans and the miso sauce to the vegetables. Stir to combine and coat the beans.
5) Turn up the heat and add the florets of the broccolini and the spinach. Stir until the spinach has wilted, the greens softened and beans are warmed through. Be careful not to scorch the beans on the bottom of the pot. If it looks a little dry, add a splash more water.
6) Top with some sunflower or sesame seeds, or some tofu, chicken, egg or fish. I find the sweetness in just seared scallops works well.
  1. Ok now I am jealous you were in St Petersburg – I can remember being a bit underwhelmed by the food in Russia but I am with you on the pelmeni – addictive.

  2. I’ve never tried adzuki beans- must seek them out. Love all the Asian flavors in this recipe, and how it’s so unique/healthy, but still larder friendly.

  3. So many delicious flavours in one healthful bowl – nice one!

  4. Pioneer Mama on 5 June 2012

    Thank you Tori for a highly satisfying meal. Chuffed that I now have a great way to use adzukis and miso. After cooking up a huge pot of adzukis and black beans, I wasn’t feeling at all inspired with what to do with them. For that amount I’d make a lasagne, but not up to the production and didn’t have the cheese nor gluten free pasta…. nor care for the heaviness. Instead I’m trying new dishes. Yesterday was baked patties; okay if I slather with a condiment and after all the work/wait, no energy to do a side salad. Too often my energy is so low I’m not up to standing and chopping anything.

    Then I found your wonderful page and was excited to get started for a change! In the allium family I had garlic chives and the little purple onion-y shallot as well as the garlic. In the brassica family I had sugarloaf cabbage needing to be used. I forgot the mental note to use mirin or rice vinegar instead of water (or sake that I don’t have) – next time. Subbed a cheap maple syrup for the sugar. This combined beautifully texture and flavour wise with my brown miso, not noticing the distinct maple taste at all, given it’s stretched with sugar water anyway. I had rocket instead of spinach – and while I was drooling over your final note of scallops – topped off with a poached free range organic egg. Which I forgot about as I kept tucking in around and under it for the beans/veges. 😀

Leave a comment


{ 4 Trackbacks }