If you haven’t used fermented black beans before (we hadn’t), this sauce gives a quick and tasty introduction. Fermentation completely transforms black beans and you don’t need to use many to add their delicious, intense flavour to a dish. It is hard to describe their unique taste, they are very savoury, slightly bitter, rich and musky.

Black bean sauce with broccoli and cashews

2 teaspoons mikawi mirin or rice mirin (see Notes)
2½ tablespoons tamari soya sauce
¾ teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder
½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil
4 floz (110ml) light vegan vegetable stock or water
1 flat tablespoon cornflour
1 scant teaspoon agave syrup, Sweet Freedom, or sugar
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons fermented black beans (see Notes)
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 small heads broccoli, in small-medium florets
2 oz (55g) cashew nuts
4 spring onions, chopped

1. Combine mirin, tamari, five-spice powder, sesame oil, vegetable stock, cornflour, agave and black pepper in a small mixing bowl; stir to mix.

2. Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan or wok over medium-high heat. Add garlic, black beans, ginger and broccoli; cook and stir about 5 minutes, or until broccoli is just cooked.

3. Give the cornflour mixture a quick stir. Add it to the frying pan, together with the cashew nuts and spring onions. Stir continuously and heat for around 1 minute or until the sauce starts to thicken. Serve immediately.

Mikawi/rice mirin is a similar to sherry, so you could replace it with a vegan sherry, or omit. Mirin is found in health food shops and some supermarkets.

Fermented black beans are found in Chinese supermarkets. Before using, soak in water for 10 to 30 minutes to get rid of excess salt.