In cooking, sometimes convenience is key. I now focus about 25 per cent of my time in the kitchen on building a larder of fermented, dried and smoked goods that add depth of flavour in varying forms of acid and salt. The result yields a benefit not only in flavour but also in time and nutrition. The addition of indirect salt through preserved goods – think anchovies – instead of direct salt, or acid through fermented goods, will lift the most humble of base ingredients.
So many cultures use examples of this style of cooking, but for me the No. 1 in this department has to be Japan with the hero use of furikake. Furikake varies in its content but most are based on dried and roasted seaweed, sesame, dried fish of some form and often the addition of chilli.
Furikake tends to be a store-bought item, but it is simple to make. Wakame sea vegetable has become prevalent in Tasmania and into parts of Victoria, so it is available commercially and can be gathered from high tide lines for non-commercial use. (Legality varies on location so stay informed.) Simply wash it in fresh water to remove sand and pests, then hang it over the clothes line for a few days until it dries out.
Furikake can be used as seasoning on grilled vegetables or fish, but my go-to is to have it on steamed rice with pickles and raw egg.
– 100g dried seaweed (I prefer wakame)
– 80g sesame seeds
– 10g fried garlic
– 10g fried shallots
– 5g sweet variety chilli powder
Toast the wakame and the sesame separately in a heavy-based pan over low heat. The key indicator for the seaweed being ready is smell; for the sesame it is colour. Basically you want to get the seaweed smelling nutty and the sesame golden brown.
Once they are both toasted, place the wakame in the oven at 160ºC for a further five minutes or so to fully remove any moisture.
Grind the sesame using a mortar and pestle to bruise the seeds and release the oil. Don’t be tempted by the convenience of a food processor or grind them too far by hand – the aim is to retain some texture.
For the final couple of minutes of the seaweed in the oven, add the rest of the ingredients to dry out further.
Remove the seaweed and grind to a size similar to the sesame.
Sieve to remove the large pieces, then add the rest of the ingredients and work them together using the mortar and pestle. Once the desired texture is achieved, let cool and store in an airtight container.
Remove from the container using only a dry spoon and this mix will be good to keep for several weeks.
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 3, 2018 as "A man for all seasonings". Subscribe here.