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Beef and Vegetables in a Table-top Broth

In Japanese, this dish is called Shabu Shabu, which refers to the swishing sound made as wafer-thin slices of beef, tofu and vegetables cook in a special broth. This is a delicious and easy all-in-one main course for a dinner party.

Tahini paste is a puree of toasted sesame seeds that is used mainly in Greek, Turkish and some Middle Eastern cooking. It makes a quick alternative to using sesame seeds in this recipe and is readily available from large supermarkets and delicatessens.

ingredients

serves 4 - 6
450 g (1 lb) sirloin steak, trimmed
1.75 litres (3 pints) 7 1/2 cups water
1/2 sachet instant dashi powder or 1/2 vegetable stock cube
150 g (5 oz) carrots
6 spring onions, sliced
150 g (5 oz) Chinese leaves, roughly chopped
225 g (8 oz) niooli, shredded
115 g (4 oz) canned bamboo shoots, drained and sliced
175 g (6 oz) tofu, cut into large dice
10 shiitake mushrooms, fresh or dried
salt
275 g (10 oz) udon noodles, cooked, to serve

for the sesame dipping sauce

50 g (2 oz) sesame seeds or 30 ml (2 tbsp) tahini paste
120 ml (4 fl oz) 1/2 cup instant dashi stock or vegetable stock
60 ml (4 tbsp) dark soy sauce
10 ml (2 tsp) sugar
30 ml (2 tbsp) sake (optional)
10 ml (2 tsp) wasabi powder (optional)

for the ponzu dipping sauce

45 ml (3 tbsp) lemon juice
15 ml (1 tbsp) rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
45 ml (3 tbsp) dark soy sauce
15 ml (1 tbsp) tamari sauce
15 ml (1 tbsp) mirin or 5 ml (1 tsp) sugar
1.5 ml (1/4 tsp) instant dashi powder or 1/4 vegetable stock cube

method

1. Place the beef in the freezer for 30 minutes, or until firm but not frozen. Slice it very thinly using a cleaver or large, sharp knife. Arrange it decoratively on a serving plate, cover and set aside. Bring the water to the boil in a Japanese donabe, a fondue pot or any other covered flameproof casserole with an unglazed outside. Stir in the dashi powder or stock cube, cover and simmer for 8 - 10 minutes. Transfer the container to a heat source (its own stand or a hot plate) at the dining table.

2. Meanwhile, prepare the vegetables and bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil. With a canelle knife, cut a series of grooves along the length of the carrots, then slice thinly. Blanch the carrots, spring onions, Chinese leaves and mooli, separately, for 2 - 3 minutes each and drain thoroughly. Arrange the vegetables decoratively on serving dishes, together with the bamboo shoots and tofu. If using dried mushrooms, put them in a bowl, cover with hot water and leave to soak for 3 - 4 minutes, then drain. Slice the shiitake mushrooms.

3. To make the sesame dipping sauce, dry-fry the sesame seeds, if using, in a heavy frying pan over medium heat. Grind them in a mortar with a pestle or in a food processor.

4. Mix together the ground sesame seeds or tahini paste, stock, soy sauce, sugar, sake and wasabi powder, if using. Combine thoroughly and pour into a shallow dish.

5. To make the ponzu dipping sauce, put all the ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake vigorously. Pour into a shallow dish.

6. To serve, arrange the plates of vegetables and dishes of sauce around the broth and provide your guests with chopsticks and individual bowls so that they can help themselves to what they want, cook it in the broth and then serve themselves. Towards the end of the meal, each guest can take a portion of noodles and ladle a little stock over them before eating.

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