Of the five different tastes the tongue can detect, umami is perhaps the hardest to describe or define. It is often called the meat taste or the savoury taste, but this is kinda hard to pin down. The only concrete definition is that umami is the taste of glutamates, such as MSG. I guess in the end umami is kind of like pornography; you know it when you see it (or in this case taste it).
Miso paste is an excellent way to add some umami taste to your cooking. It’s also a great investment as a student, since a tub will easily last a whole year. This recipe also uses aubergine and soy sauce, which both have strong umami flavours. The addition of chilli and garlic helps give this dish a more complex flavour.
- 1 Aubergine
- 1 Tbsp Miso Paste
- 1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
- 1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil (Sesame if you have it)
- 2 Cloves of Garlic
- 1-2 Small Chillies
- 1 Tbsp Oil
- ½ Cup Pearl Couscous
- ¾ Cup Cold Water
- 1 Stock Cube
- Handful of Chopped Dates
Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Slice your aubergine into slices lengthways, about ½ a centimetre thick. Finely chop or crush the chilli and the garlic. Mix together with the miso paste, soy sauce and oil in a bowl. Lay the aubergine slices on a baking tray (best with some non-stick paper underneath) and then spoon the miso mix onto the top of the slices and spread evenly. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the miso covering is dark brown and starting to crack.
While the aubergine is cooking add the oil to a saucepan and warm up. Add the pearl couscous and cook, stirring often, until the pearl couscous starts to darken slightly. Then add the cold water and crumble the stock cube in. Stir regularly to prevent the couscous sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook for about fifteen minutes or until the pearl couscous is soft. Take off the heat and mix in the handful of dates.
Serve the aubergine slices on top of the couscous.