Pimp your miso - clam soup
Japanese ingredients can seem bewildering and I find the Japanese-style of cooking, at first, very alien to the western palate. By alien, I mean god damn tasty but hard to recreate. Clams in miso soup is one of the easiest things I have ever made and gives a lot of bang for your buck once you have the base ingredients in stock. Back to the bewildering part, the miso itself. It seems like there are thousands of different varieties and until I have read more - bedside book of the moment is "Preserving the Japanese Way" - I'll leave it at that. The miso for this soup is white miso.
The other key ingredient in the clam miso, alongside, of course, clams, is dashi. Dashi, both a soup and a stock, is a cornerstone of Japanese cookery. I put my hands up and admit that I still haven't made dashi from scratch. While it isn't necessarily tricky, there are so many boullion-type powders that taste amazing and present a far easier option to begin with. We grabbed one stick of these and mixed it up with a pint of boiling water in a pan.
Now on to the clams. A word to the wise, grit in soup is really not what you are after. Stick a large handful of clams (this is really all you need for two) in a colander and rinse thoroughly, observing the rules on throwing away dodgy ones. Soak them in salted water (same salinity as sea water) for half an hour, causing the clams to expel any sand still inside their shell. This is literally the only time consuming bit. Cut spring onion parallel with their length - with a knife or one of these beauties.
Put the dashi onto the heat and add a slosh of sake. Add the clams and cover. When the clams are all open (literally a minute or so), take it off the heat and add two tablespoons of miso into a ladle. Put the ladle into the soup and slowly dissolve small amounts of miso within the ladle using chopsticks, this can be slowly bled into the rest of the stock.
Dish up and top with the spring onions. Voila. Or, as they say in Japan, douzo!