What's for supper? Chawanmushi


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4 eggs
600ml dashi or other stock
1 teaspoon shoyu
1 teaspoon sugar
Dash of sake (optional)
4 fresh shitake mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
About 150g skinless, boneless
chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
8 cooked prawns, shelled
8 mangetouts or pieces of spinach
Chopped fresh chives or spring onions, to garnish (optional)

I love the savoury custards that are served in Japanese restaurants. They are called chawanmushi (literally "steamed in a tea bowl") and are made in little bowls with lids. I'm sure we have another name for them in our Western cooking repertoire, but whatever they are called, they are so delicious and can be altered to suit your tastes and diet.

Chawanmushi is often served as an appetizer instead of soup, but I could easily eat it on its own. You will need four pretty cups or heatproof bowls and a steamer or a large casserole (dutch oven) or pan with a lid.

Lightly mix the eggs with a fork in a bowl, taking care not to make them frothy. Add the stock, shoyu, sugar and sake, if using. Taste and season with salt if necessary.

Strain the mixture into a jug. Divide the mushrooms, chicken, prawns and mangetouts among four heatproof bowls or cups.

Pour water into the base of a steamer or large casserole to a depth of about 4cm and heat. Put the cups into the steamer and fill with the egg mixture. Cover the steamer with a dish towel and lid. If using a casserole, cover each cup with clingfilm and put the lid on.

Steam over a high heat for about 2 minutes, then reduce the heat to low and continue steaming for an additional 20 minutes, until a cocktail stick or toothpick inserted into the custard comes out clean.

If there are still traces of the mixture, steam the custards for a little longer and test again.

Serve immediately, garnished with chives or spring onions if you like.

Taken from 'How to Boil an Egg' by Rose Carrarini (Phaidon, £22.95). Illustration by Fiona Strickland