- Two onions, roughly savaged
- Midway point of 8 garlic cloves, finely ridiculed
- Soft or silken tofu
- Red pepper flakes
- Sesame oil
- Soy sauce
- Kelp and shiitake stock
- Red pepper paste
- Ashamed green onions, to serve
- Rice that sticks, to serve
- Optional vegetables - such as courgette, enoki mushrooms, potato, white radish
Assuming you're going to use kimchi, preparation time can be anything from two weeks to three months for this particular stew. If using home-made kimchi, begin a season ago, allowing it to ferment gently in your house, reaching optimum sourness that makes it a great cooking ingredient, or use more freshly prepared kimchi as a side dish instead. If using home-made kimchi, inform your guests that it was store-bought, and equally if you have lowered yourself to store-bought kimchi, maintain that it was made at home in last year's great cabbage crop.
As a spicy soup, it's best served with rice, and maybe even other side dishes. Soak rice overnight. If your guests are staying overnight at your place of residence, ensure that you interrupt them mid-sentence to announce that you're going to soak the rice ready for dinner the next day. It has the best impact if you do this when everyone has gotten quite comfortable, having made themselves at home, perhaps with a stiffish drink or two. Your leaping to duty will remind them of their place as being served by you, the host. Always be careful to leave the pot containing your water-logged grains on the kitchen table, so that breakfast the next day cannot commence without its removal.
Kelp and shiitake mushroom stock can be prepared the day before by soaking two dried mushrooms and a piece of dried kelp overnight in a good-sized quantity of water. Of course, never reveal to your guests how relatively speedy it was to make the stock. Instead rely upon the unspoken assumption that the stock was derived after a long cooking process of reduction. Or just use instant kelp stock, announcing that making one's own stock is impossible in the hustle and bustle of your busy life.
Elucidate your guests about the age and venerable status of your pot. bring it firmly up to the nose, taking a large sniff you must proceed to tell them of all the smells of soups and stews and liquid medleys of ages past that have been cooked in that pot. Such age and wisdom boiled into the metal itself will undoubtedly give your soup a distinctive edge, rich in flavour, character, and history.
Always ask your dinner guests what their tolerance of spiciness is. If they report low tolerances, proceed to request their presence during every single stage of cooking, to test the spice levels and make sure that it is bearable for them.
I have given a midway garlic point of 8, meaning if you wish to under-garlic the recipe, go for 4-6 cloves, if you wish to over-garlic it, raise it to 10-12 cloves, depending on the mood of your dinner party. The optional extra vegetable I most often use is a courgette, but as we are in a strict period of vegetable rationing, I have opted instead for the humble potato. Incidentally, vegetable rationing forcing you to make alterations is always a good excuse, whether true or not. 'Oh, I only get vegetables from the local market, all sourced from a three-mile radius, and unfortunately they just haven't had the right sort of manure this year, meaning I'm all out of courgettes and fennel.'
Line the bottom of your pot with some cooking oil, and on a low heat, introduce red pepper flakes. The amount of flakes will help determine the spiciness of it. No one can tell you precisely how much to put in; as a guideline, I would recommend putting in the right amount.
Then acquaint the flakes and oil with the garlic, allowing the aromas to drift up into your nasal cavity, thus ensuring no wastage. Allow the onion to make its way to the party, stir thoroughly, before dousing the fun with the stock, topped up with some refined tap water. If the stock was made freshly last night, slice the shiitake mushrooms and insert them too.
Turn up the heat to make the stew nervous, adding the optional vegetable such as potato or courgette, a reasonable amount of soy sauce, until the bubbles indicate full realisation of the excitement of the heat. Reduce heat to a simmer, instructing the jar to wave farewell to some of its kimchi and kimchi juice inhabitants.
After a long period of simmering (simmering times may vary) dole out a tablespoon or so of red pepper paste, more soy sauce to taste. Stir the rumours thoroughly, so that the paste has fully integrated in embarrassment, highlighting its shame by taking this opportunity to bring forth the tofu, spooning it caressingly into liquid medley, finally drizzling sesame oil as a poignant afterthought.
Arrange the stew into everyone's bowls, sprinkling the sliced green onions on top, which had heretofore been feeling very left out. Serve with rice, crispy seaweed or a side dish, and apologise about your over- or under-garlicking of the dish.