Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Kudzu? You do!

Do what? remind me of the babe*

I went bumbling around Tai Sun, the Oriental wholesale store tucked away in an industrial estate in Doncaster the other week (if you're ever in the area, track it down, it's well worth a visit), mostly to stock up on jars of stuff, congee & kimchee, and dissuade MikeyFox from buying sushi rice by the 25kg sack, when I spotted this mystery tuber.

The nice lady there called it 'Yam bean', which could be any of a dozen different root veg (bless you, Linnaeus, for having the whole biomial nomenclature idea. Even if you were a bit of a perv), after some lengthly googling, it turned out to be Kudzu root.
Kudzu root (Pueraria lobata) is most famous for being The Vine that Ate the South (though I know it best as the cover of the first REM album Murmur). It was introduced from Japan to the USA in 1876, and now is reputed to cover 3 million hectares of the Southeastern area. Ouch.
But the young leaves & roots are edible. In China it's used to make slow cooked soups, usually with pork or chicken.
So I decided to make Sancocho.

Sancocho is a traditional Latin American soup that varies from country to country (in Panama it's made with chicken & yam, in El Salvador it's made with tripe & other leftover bits of cow. In the Canary islands it's made with fish. So huzzah, a recipe that allows for some rejiggering). If you don't have any kudzu root, then yam, sweet cassava, eddoes or taro root are all good. Or you can use potato. If you don't have any plantain, you can make it without, but I really recommend trying it with. It's also a delightfully easy recipe, you just throw everything in the pot & then go potter around the garden for half an hour.

Sancocho (Vegetable & Plantain soup) serves 4-6, depending on how gluttonous you feel.

1tbs vegetable oil
2tbs annatto seed, crushed (or annatto oil. Or achiote paste)
1 red chilli, chopped
1 leek, sliced thinly
1 red onion, sliced thinly
2 tsp oregano
1tsp cumin
1 kudzu root (or 1 sweet cassava, 3 eddoes, or 250g of yam or waxy potato)
1 carrot, sliced
500g butternut squash, peeled & roughly chopped (depending on how big you like your chunks)
1 plantain, sliced
2 corn of the cob, cut into thick slices (you could use frozen sweetcorn, but I really recommend trying this. If you get a bag of frozen corn cob pieces, you can use them too)
1 ltr vegetable stock
1 tbs tomato puree (or 2 ripe tomatoes)
sprig of fresh thyme
juice of 1 lime
bunch of coriander, chopped

In a large pot, heat the oil & add leeks, onions, chilli & annatto & fry until the onion becomes translucent (4 or 5 minutes). Add herbs, vegetables & stock, leaving only the lime & coriander. Bring to the boil & simmer for 30-40 minutes (less if you're cooking potato. Check after 15 minutes, and simmer until tender, but not a collapsing mess). Stir occasionally. If it looks a little dry, add more stock. Remove from heat & stir in the coriander & lime, and add salt & pepper to taste.
Serve in bowls, making sure there's a few chunks of corn in there)

You can serve with boiled white rice, or add some chunks of seitan, TVP or cooked chickpeas, but I like it just as it is.
Inspired by, but not entirely based on, Terry Hope Romero's Viva Vegan. If you don't own it, then get thee to a bookshop & buy it!

Om nom nom!

*Ah, Labyrinth. You were an awesome film. Even with David Bowie & his mad hair & Disturbingly Tight Trousers.


MorningAJ said...

Scarily I recognised the quote. It's the only time I've ever understood the attraction to Bowie. (Big sigh.............)

Shaheen said...

You remind me I need to visit SeeWoo in Glasgow, for Tofu - if for nothing else.

You know I do love your blog, you always, always amaze me with your knowledge of food and ingredients. Yours is one blog that always introduces me to ingredients that I am unfamiliar with. I'll have to look out for kudzu.

Your Sancocho looks wonderful blazing fiery colours that are making my mouth water.

Other than the Seitan Chorizo sausages I haven't made anythign else from Viva Vegan, so should flick through it again for culinary inspiration.